This week, the IPCC came out with its most recent check-in on progress on climate change.
Unfortunately, the news is… not great.
What is the IPCC?
It stands for the International Panel on Climate Change. It is a group of scientists working with the United Nations. First, they review the best climate science published in the past few years. Then, they write reports based on that science to predict what climate change will look like in different parts of the world.
For Vancouver Island, climate change will mean more heatwaves, stronger storms, and harsher droughts.
Unfortunately, drought is something Islanders are getting familiar with. The eastern part of Vancouver Island has been in Drought Level 4 for more than a month. In the Comox Valley, it’s so dry that it’s illegal to wash your car in your driveway or water your lawn.
It’s hard to think that in the near future, droughts here will be even worse.
But why does the IPCC think that drought here will get worse?
Here is the short version.
As we burn fossil fuels (and by this, we mean gasoline, natural gas, and coal, among others), we put heat-trapping gases into the air, making it tougher for the sun’s energy to escape the earth’s atmosphere. That’s why they’re called greenhouse gases—they’re like an invisible bubble that surrounds the planet to keep the heat in like a greenhouse.
And when the atmosphere gets hot, it gets thirsty.
Think of it this way: have you ever visited family in Alberta in the winter? You leave our lovely rainforest for Edmonton at Christmas time, and your lips crack within an hour of getting off the plane.
That’s because Edmonton’s freezing air holds less moisture. Cold air is dry. Warm air is damp.
This is okay when you’ve got periods of nice weather mixed in with rainy weather. There’s lots of moisture to go around. It might not feel great to us. It can get muggy like southern Ontario in August (yuck).
But for crops and forests, it’s awesome.
Here’s the problem. Climate change is bringing more heatwaves to VanIsle. And we already don’t get a lot of rain in the summer.
So those heatwaves, with that thirsty atmosphere, suck all the moisture out of the soil. The hot atmosphere wants to hold more water. So it sucks it out of the ground like a ShopVac on a wet carpet.
That’s why droughts could get worse on Vancouver Island. Climate change might bring more rain in the winter months, but those summer heatwaves will come along and mop it all up.
This all sounds like terrible news. What can we do?
First, we need to burn less fossil fuels. That means finding ways to use less gas, and replacing the natural gas plant in Campbell River with renewable energy.
Second, we need to find ways to live with drought. Lots of things still grow without a lot of water. We could learn a few things from our neighbours in Osoyoos—they live in an actual desert!
Third, and most importantly, we need leaders who care about climate change. We know we can take care of each other in hot, dry weather. But we need politicians who give a damn about the climate on Vancouver Island.
There might be an election coming up. Ask your candidates what they will do to protect VanIsle from the worst of climate change. Ask them what they’re doing to keep this place lush and beautiful for our kids and grandkids.
And if they don’t have a good answer? Tell them that’s not good enough and vote for someone else.