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Is B.C.'s 'dangerous long-duration heatwave' due to climate change?

Last Updated Jun 25, 2021 at 10:49 pm PDT

Summary

Most of B.C. is being warned of a 'dangerous, long-duration heatwave' over the weekend and into next week

The extreme heat forecast in the Pacific Northwest is unprecedented, but hotter summers are likely in store

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — As B.C. braces for record-setting heat over the next few days, experts say soaring temperatures are part of a pattern of extreme weather brought about by climate change.

Most of the province is being warned of a ‘dangerous, long-duration heatwave’ over the weekend and into next week — with daytime highs hitting 40 degrees in some parts of Metro Vancouver, and overnight lows not dipping down enough to bring any real relief.

NEWS 1130 Meteorologist Michael Kuss says this heatwave can’t just be analyzed as a single event, it needs to be put into context.

“We have extreme highs and extreme lows all the time, and we have throughout history. It’s when we have a series of these events, that’s what signals or indicates that the climate is changing. And this isn’t just a one-off event, it’s a pattern,” he says.

UBC Professor Steven Sheppard, who studies climate change, agrees.

“It’s pretty clear that this is part of the trend. It’s been projected and expected, and quite frankly we’re seeing around us — this decade especially — heatwaves, droughts, things like that are becoming more frequent. It’s very consistent with the climate change projections,” he explains.

“B.C. is already up over one degree, on average, and we’re warming faster than some other parts of the world. So it’s going to get pretty hot on a regular basis, and much more than we’d known from the past or our childhoods.

Sheppard says while governments in B.C. — both municipal and provincial — have seen fighting climate change as a priority, a lot more work needs to be done.

“We’re not seeing action on the ground, that anything like the level that we need. The United Nations tells the whole world, and this applies to Canada as well, that we have to cut our carbon footprint in half by 2030. It’s massive, much bigger than anything we’ve done before. So, even the policies we have probably aren’t enough,” he says.

“We have to try new things and we have to try them a lot faster and at a much larger scale, to get people more engaged.”

Shepherd says individuals can also do more, and suggests finding a way to pitch in locally is a good start for anyone who is concerned about climate.

“They should talk to the community centres, their libraries, go to their local politicians and find out what programs are going on,” he says. “I think we need a lot more of that.”