2018 was a milestone year for climate science (if not politics)

The devastation from Hurricane Michael over Mexico Beach, Fla. A massive federal report released in November warns that climate change is fueling extreme weather disasters like hurricanes and wildfires.
The devastation from Hurricane Michael over Mexico Beach, Fla. A massive federal report released in November warns that climate change is fueling extreme weather disasters like hurricanes and wildfires. AP

…Many in the [climate scientist] community met in Washington, D.C., in December at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union. “We’re not seeing cycles” in which warming is likely to go back down, says climate scientist Martin Hoerling. “We’re not seeing things that are going to revert back,” as long as greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continue to increase.

What about that idea that the climate has changed from the dawn of time? Climate scientist Stephanie Herring says sure, that’s technically true, but it misses an important difference happening now. “The current change that we are experiencing now is particularly alarming,” she says, “and that’s because in the history of human civilization the climate has never changed this rapidly.” For example, 20 of the warmest years on record around the planet occurred in the past 22 years, according to the WMO. MORE

The year in carbon politics (and what to expect in 2019)

David Coletto, chief executive of Abacus Data, sees election year potential for the New Democrats or the Green party to make the case that the Trudeau government’s climate plan isn’t strong enough.
David Coletto, chief executive of Abacus Data, sees election year potential for the New Democrats or the Green party to make the case that the Trudeau government’s climate plan isn’t strong enough.  (ADRIAN WYLD / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILE PHOTO)

OTTAWA—If you look back to this time last year—before Doug Ford and the carbon tax resistance, before the Trans Mountain purchase and the alarm bells from the United Nations—climate politics in Canada look calm, even quaint.

At the start of 2018, more than 85 per cent of Canadians already lived with a price on greenhouse gas emissions. British Columbians had been paying a carbon tax for 10 years. Ontario’s nascent cap-and-trade regime was set to be linked with programs in California and Quebec. Even Alberta, home of the carbon-belching oil sands, was on board with its own fuel levy and tax-free emissions allocations for heavy industry. MORE

80% of mountain glaciers in Alberta, B.C. and Yukon will disappear within 50 years: report

Combination of less snow and rapid melt causing glaciers to recede at dramatic rate, researchers say

The Wedgemont Glacier, north of Whistler, B.C. Of the estimated 200,000 square kilometres of Canadian glaciers, one quarter is found in the west of the country, with the remainder in the Arctic. (Steve Hamilton)

Climate change is causing glaciers in Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon to retreat faster than at any time in history, threatening to raise water levels and create deserts, scientists say.

David Hik, an ecology professor at Simon Fraser University, said the region is one of the hotspots for warming and the magnitude of change in the glaciers is dramatic. MORE

Year In Review 2018: It was another year of climate extremes

But pressure to build more pipelines to develop tar sands crude is fuelling a political calamity between Alberta and the rest of the country

Toronto Island flood-1-3.jpg
Flood that hit Toronto Islands in 2017 has been followed by more climate extremes.

The forest fires, floods and drought that destroyed the continent in 2017 were no anomaly, as Naomi Klein wrote here for us. But a year after the year from hell, nothing could have prepared us for 2018.

Hurricanes crushed the Carolinas causing an ecological emergency, contamination from flooding flowed into water supplies in New Brunswick, and in Ontario temps eclipsed 40°C more often than at any other time in history. Other parts of the country, meanwhile, shivered as British Columbia choked once again on ash from forest fires that blotted out the sun for weeks on end.

Closer to home, an ice storm packing 100-kilometre winds knocked out power for thousands and raised waves higher than any measured before on Lake Ontario a year after floods cut off the Toronto Islands. That was followed in September by a string of tornadoes in the Ottawa area. MORE

 

Ten Ways 2018 Brought Us Closer to Climate Apocalypse

A line of burned out abandoned cars sit on the road after the Camp Fire moved through the area on November 9, 2018, in Paradise, California.
A line of burned out abandoned cars sit on the road after the Camp Fire moved through the area on November 9, 2018, in Paradise, California. JUSTIN SULLIVAN / GETTY IMAGES

The 20 warmest years ever recorded have been within the last 22 years, and the four warmest of those have been 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The WMO has stated that if these trends continue (and there is no reason to believe they won’t), global temperatures may rise from between 3-5 degrees Celsius (3-5°C) by 2100. The organization warned that if humans exploit all known fossil fuel reserves, “the temperature rise will be considerably higher” than even those catastrophic levels.

“It is worth repeating once again that we are the first generation to fully understand climate change and the last generation to be able to do something about it,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas announced in a recent WMO press release. MORE