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'Dangerous' climate milestone surpassed

Summary

Preliminary data suggests last month was the warmest February on record in the Northern Hemisphere

Apparent breaching of two-degree mark underscores importance of acting to reduce GHG emissions: environmental scientist

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – While the official numbers have yet to come in, preliminary data suggests we just saw the warmest February on record in the Northern Hemisphere — by a long shot.

There are warnings we have hit a “dangerous” milestone with temperatures apparently surpassing the two-degrees-Celsius above-normal mark for the first time in recorded history.

Two degrees is the target nearly 200 countries don’t want to see surpassed as they try to avert the worst consequences of climate change.

“I think it is consistent with what we have been seeing over the past 10 years — they’re the warmest on record except for 1998 — and 2015 was the warmest year on record,” says Dr. Sybil Seitzinger, an internationally renowned environmental scientist and executive director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions based at the University of Victoria.

“If we look at it even more closely, it was just the warmest January on record with the smallest extent of Arctic sea ice on record for the month. It will not surprise me if the final February statistics break records because, unfortunately, it’s a trend we’ve been seeing and we need to act urgently.”

Dr. Seitzinger believes the apparent breaching of the two-degree mark underscores the importance of acting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Also, we have to be prepared for adapting to the climate change that is here now and that will be before us moving forward,” she tells NEWS 1130.

While Seitzinger believes there is no evidence yet that climate change has crossed a “tipping point,” she believes the continual warming trend and the effect it is having on climate systems must be closely monitored for sudden changes.

“A tipping point could be an abrupt change in ocean circulation. As we very well know here in British Columbia, that can be a very important controller on our local climate. We need to be sure we have the right monitoring systems in place to be watching for unexpected changes.”

Seitzinger says it commitments made at international environmental talks in Paris last year are more critical than ever.

“Countries around the world came together at COP21 and agreed to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions and to develop adaptation plans. This continues to underscore the urgency of action, the urgency of countries meeting their commitments and the need for countries to increase their ambition in those commitments as we move forward.”

Seitzinger says if you want a voice in how BC will attain its COP21 commitments, there are a few weeks left to make submissions on the provincial government’s next Climate Leadership Plan.

The consultation period closes March 25th and afternoon in Vancouver, the public is invited to hear an expert panel discuss the options for moving toward a low-carbon economy.

“The Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions is hosting the event. We’ll be providing information about what is on the table for the BC government and what individuals might consider in their contributions in the online consultation,” says Seitzinger.

The panel discussion begins at 5:30 p.m. at the Wosk Centre for Dialogue at 580 West Hastings Street, followed by an opportunity for questions from the audience.