A new report with climate projections for southern Vancouver Island and some southern Gulf Islands suggests considerable changes to British Columbia’s capital region by the 2050s, with more extreme weather, hotter, drier summers and warmer, wetter winters in store.
The new report, which uses high-resolution climate projections and interpretation provided by Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium (PCIC), is the latest in a series of regional analyses that bring together scientists and local governments, to help communities prepare for the changing climate.
Assuming a “business as usual” greenhouse gas emissions scenario, the Climate Projections for the Capital Region report paints a picture of a region that will become much warmer, overall, over the next few decades.
Compared to the climate over the 1971-2000 period, the Capital Regional District (CRD) can expect triple the number of summer days above 25 °C, from an average of 12 to 36 days per year. The 1-in-20 year hottest day is projected to jump from 32 °C to 36 °C by the 2050s, alongside a growing season duration extended by 22% due to the prolonged warmer temperatures. The summers are projected to be drier on average, with a 20% reduction in precipitation. The opposite is true of the other seasons, which are projected to get wetter, especially fall, with 68% more rain falling during very wet days. An overall average annual warming of 3 °C for the region is also tied to 69% fewer frost days.
Obtaining the climate projections is just the first step. Senior manager of CRD Environmental Protection, Dr. Glenn Harris explains, “we take the findings that PCIC supplied and apply them to the public services that we at the CRD provide.” The projections allow planners and engineers to prepare the region for the impacts that climate change might bring.
While some of the projected changes could lead to positive impacts, such as extending Greater Victoria’s summer tourism period and its growing seasons, others present challenges. Changes to wildfires and rainfall could affect erosion in the CRD’s watersheds, increasing the need for water treatment. Shifting ecosystems and migrating pests would bring new concerns for forest management and agriculture. The region’s energy needs would also change, with less heating demand likely in the winter while more energy would be needed for summer air conditioning, when hydro dams could be most under pressure for water supply. This shift in temperatures is important for designing energy efficient buildings and changes to heat stress may have public health implications.
Trevor Murdock, the Lead of Regional Climate Impacts at PCIC explains, “what is novel about this approach is that by working directly with local governments to produce their own climate impacts report, it actually ends up getting used for adaptation planning, instead of being a technical climate science report that just sits on a shelf.”
Energy economist Mark Jaccard helped design BC’s carbon tax, and he still supports it. But he questions just how politically viable a stringent tax—at the level needed to meet climate targets—can really be. So he also continues to explore how other policies that the public find more acceptable could work.