Climate scientist Greg Utzig gives an overview of the potential impacts of climate change at the community centre on Thursday, 10 March 2016. Photo: Melissa Jameson

By Melissa Jameson
14 March 2016

(BC Local News) – Simply put, says Kootenay scientist Greg Utzig, climate change is about air.

“What we’re talking about in terms of climate change is air,” said Utzig at a talk on climate change in Revelstoke last week. “That is what this issue is all about. You wouldn’t think about throwing pollutants in the river, but every time you drive your car or start your lawnmower you’re polluting. What we’ve been doing to the air effects the other elements in every way.”

Utzig, along with Cindy Pearce of Mountain Labyrinths Consulting, presented the talk on Thursday, Mar. 13, at the community centre. It was hosted by the Columbia Mountain Institute of Applied Ecology as part of a two-day workshop on the issue, and focused on how climate change could impact various areas of the local environment including fish and wildlife habitat, glacial retreat, and local flora.

“I’m going to talk about climate change, but in a way that applies to you in your own life,” he said to an audience of approximately 30 people.

He then let the audience know just how many emissions of C02 the Columbia Basin is contributing  — 3.4 million tonnes annually.

“We are contributing a substantial mount. We are part of the problem,” said Utzig. “Carbon emissions have been increasing each year since the 1970s. The earth is essentially breathing, but we’re covering it in emissions.”

What does this mean for the future? For Utzig, it’s first important to distinguish between weather and climate change. He describes weather as ‘what it’s going to do tomorrow’, while climate change is a long term average.

“We’re talking about trying to predicate major changes that occur over decades or centuries. We’re talking about major changes of long term conditions,” he said. “The curve is changing and it is getting warmer, which is closer to what we are seeing today, which is why we are still getting cold weather but not as much as we used to get. We are getting more hot weather and record hot weather."

Utzig further pointed out that we are getting more unusual weather, and that it’s getting warmer. Some of the climatic extremes being seen are unusual heat waves, droughts, hail storms, high-intensity rain storms and flooding, windstorms/tornadoes, lightning storms, ice storms, hail storms, and early springs.

So, what’s happening more locally? Projected changes for the 2050s include a 2–3 C increase in summer temperatures; a 10-15 per cent increase in winter, spring and fall precipitation, and decreases in summer precipitations.

“That’s a fairly ominous change, especially when you think about fire. We’re already locked into a certain amount of heating by what we’ve done in the past,“ said Utzig, who also pointed out that projections could be different if we get rid of emissions. [more]

Climate change could lead to changes in ecosystems, lifestyles



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