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'The predictions are quite dire' calls for climate action escalate as local mountains remain bare
VANCOUVER - It’s hard to imagine by looking at the North Shore mountains that ski season is just around the corner. The peaks are bare and even Whistler Blackcomb is hurting for snow.
"We are very hopeful that we’re going to be good to open for our target date November 28," communications director for west coast Vail Resorts Marc Riddell told CTV News. "The snow will come."
But typically by this time of year, the snow line along the North Shore is visible. Right now it’s absent.
"It’s not looking like it should," said UBC political science professor Kathryn Harrison. "Small changes especially at the tail end of the distribution can have exaggerated impacts and we’re already starting to see those in many places including I think our own backyard."
Metro Vancouver put out a robust 70 page report in 2017 that studied climate change in the region. They used 2050 and 2080 as benchmark years with predictions on temperatures, precipitation and snow pack to name a few.
"We commissioned that report from a local agency," said Jeff Carmichael, division manager, utility research and innovation for Metro Vancouver. In its findings, Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium predicts winters will be warmer and wetter, and summers will be warmer and dryer.
Carmichael said the region is getting prepared, and planning on how to deal with potential flooding by “incorporating that by thinking about how we build our pipes and manage that rain.” As well as preparing for less snow, and a higher snow line.
"Smaller snow pack and an earlier melt could impact our water supply," Carmichael explained. "We have concerns on how we’re going to continue to meet the region’s needs."
Carmichael described climate action as "a slow moving ship." Action now will only do so much because he warned, "many of the predictions we’ve been describing will come whether we reach net neural by 2050 or not."
Carmichael said the region is preparing a 2050 strategic framework, to set goals and plans on how to both prepare for and slow climate change.
That’s perhaps a lesson for the new federal government. Harrison told CTV News, "we don’t have a plan to meet our 2030 Paris agreement target, the existing one, let alone the more ambitious target that Mr. Trudeau has talked about."
During the 2019 federal election campaign Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised net zero emissions by 2050. A lofty goal, and one Harrison said needs a plan on top of the promise. Especially as Trudeau’s government purchased the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project.
"I do think there’s a contradiction there," she said, "economically we’re still counting on failure of the Paris agreement in our domestic policies and in buying and building a new pipeline."
Meanwhile the ski community is trying to do what it can to bring attention to the changing climate, and reverse the negative effects themselves.
Professional skier Mike Douglas is the chair of POW Canada which stands for Protect Our Winters.
"What we’re pushing from protect our winters Canada side is let’s get more aggressive, let’s take some real action here," said Douglas.
The organization was founded in the United States in 2007 but Douglas is now running the Canadian chapter out of Whistler. As he spends much of his time in the B.C. backcountry, he sees the effects of climate change in our backyard.
"We’re starting to see these really radical shifts," he said, "there’s a lot more crevasses opening up. We’re starting to see increased rock fall."
In the spring of 2019 Joffre Peak located near Pemberton, crumbled causing a massive landslide.
"The thoughts are that the permafrost is melting that was holding the mountain together," Douglas told CTV News.
POW works with the University of Waterloo and Douglas explained their scientists aren’t only warning that climate change will increase the temperatures.
Jet streams are also shifting, "now we’re seeing these big loops and waves," he explained. "The effects of climate change are going to be felt much more in the mountains and the arctic than in the more temperate regions."
The climate change effects are also resulting in some good news for skiers.
"Whistler Blackcomb for example for the last 10 years we’ve seen a greater increase in our snow fall totals," said Riddell. But they are weary with warming temperatures it may not always be good news, so Vail has adopted a Commitment to Zero” program.
It started in Whistler and has been adopted by all 37 Vail properties around the world.
"It focuses on zero net emissions from our resorts and zero net waste landfill all with a focus of a 2030 target," he explained.
The resort is very careful with how waste is taken off the mountains’ restaurants and, "we work with our suppliers for example where we want to cut down on things like packaging."