When I was in high-school (which wasn’t that long ago) (fine… it was), teachers talked about climate change as if it was something distant, in the future, and it didn’t seem that the effects would be so harmful in the short term.
Well, the reality is proving to be a little different. We are already experiencing the effects of climate change, and they are certainly not subtle.
In the Fraser River, the run size estimate of 853,000 returning sockeye is the lowest on record since 1893. This represents one third of the 2.3 million salmon that had been expected to come back this summer.
Some will argue that we cannot blame climate change for inconsistent salmon returns, but wildly inconsistent salmon returns seem to be increasingly prevalent.
In 2009, millions of Fraser sockeye unexpectedly went missing and triggered the Cohen Inquiry. In 2010, the Fraser welcomed back a record 30 million sockeye. But only twice before in the past century has the Fraser run dipped below one million.
Mike Lapointe, the chief biologist for the Pacific Salmon Foundation, said these patterns raise many questions.
“Is this a pattern that’s going to become more frequent because the ocean is becoming less of a favourable place for juvenile salmon?”
Last week Lake Babine Nation Chief Wilf Adam was kind enough to take me on a tour at the Fort Babine fence so that I could take a closer look at the salmon count and learn more about the salmon return. Chief Adam said that over the years he has noticed a considerable reduction in salmon return and that he has no doubt it’s due to climate change.
If we’re already seeing the effects of climate change, why aren’t we doing more? Why isn’t climate change a priority for our governments?
In many parts of B.C., snow packs are projected to decrease and snow is projected to melt earlier. This means less runoff in summer and less water for agriculture, hydropower, industry, communities and fisheries. And although it is currently not possible to link individual extreme wildfires to climate change with precision, fire seasons are nevertheless expected to be longer in the future.
B.C. was recently criticized after releasing its long-awaited climate-change plan in which the province holds off on increasing its carbon tax. Watershed Watch Salmon Society executive director Aaron Hill said the province has “abdicated its responsibility” to initiate more aggressive climate action to help reduce impacts on the fishery. Other environmentalists say this decision hurts Canada’s 2030 reduction goals made at the Paris climate summit. Canada’s federal minister of environment and climate change Catherine McKenna has said she’s working with provinces and territories to develop a national carbon tax, which is expected to be introduced before the end of the year.
Although a federal carbon tax is a step in the right direction, we need to do more, and B.C. and Canada need to be global leaders on climate change. The world expects more from Canada, and we can do more.