Human-caused climate change is already having an impact here in the Strait of Georgia and its watersheds. In the last few years we have experienced:
- higher average air and water temperatures, including record high temperatures in the Fraser River, contributing to a significant decline in salmon survival.
- changing patterns of precipitation, including the 2014-2015 dry winter that led to closures of local ski resorts.
- extreme or unusual weather events, such as the summer 2015 drought and wildfire season, and the high winds that caused major losses of trees in Stanley Park and on southern Vancouver Island.
- significant decline in average snowpack, which means less water in the rivers and streams that returning salmon depend on.
One of the most serious impacts of the climate crisis for coastal regions like ours is sea level rise, caused by thermal expansion of ocean waters and melting of glaciers and ice fields.
According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), sea level rise will bring flooding, shoreline erosion, seawater intrusion into groundwater, and the loss of up to one quarter of the world’s wetlands in this century. The impacts of sea level rise on our region may be dramatic.
But the most worrying change being brought by global warming is something that scientists worldwide became aware of only recently: ocean acidification.
There is mounting evidence that acidification is already threatening marine life around the world. The impacts of ocean acidification on our region could be profound – for marine species, our economy and our way of life here on the coast.