We Are Running Out of Time

Did you know that Amarillo, Texas received 48 cm of snow this week? The previous record? 25 cm in 1903.

One of the frustrating things about climate change is both how hard and how easy it can be to see the impacts of our changing climate in our own backyards. Amarillo, Texas is a long way from British Columbia and one freak snowstorm is simply one event, not a trend. And yet, when we begin to aggregate the now numerous and more frequent extreme weather events we are seeing, it seems clear than our climate is changing and changing dramatically. What is not clear, is how those changes will affect the landscapes and communities in our own backyards.

On one hand, it can be simple to point to a weather event such as Hurricane Sandy or snow in Texas and draw a direct correlation to the alterations we have made to our atmosphere. However, on the other hand, it can be difficult to accurately illustrate what the future impacts will be.

A new report, titled “Vulnerability, Resilience and Climate Change: Adaptation Potential for Ecosystems and Their Management in the West Kootenay” seeks to predict the ecological future for the West Kootenay under climate change. In doing, a radically different landscape emerges. Increased summer temperatures will likely result in drought conditions, changing the well-forested West Kootenay to an open grassland ecosystem.

The report also projects that both forests and local communities will be affected by larger and more frequent forest fires. Given the frightening impacts that British Columbia is already seeing from forest fires, any increase in size and frequency of these events should give us all pause to consider how we want to respond to climate change.

No scientist would claim to be Nostradamus and predicting the future can be fraught with peril, even when based on the best scientific information. Regardless of whether our future holds more forest fires, more droughts or more hurricanes, one thing is clear: we must act now, we are running out of time.

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