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Climate impacts on BC to be 'substantial' by 2100: IPCC scientist

Warmer summers, rainier winters and less predictable river-flows. Those are just some of climatic conditions British Columbia should expect if current global warming trends continue, predicted one of the planet’s leading climate scientists.

"In your backyard it's going to be hard to see these things," said Francis Zwiers, vice-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group I. But, he added, the "impacts will be substantial."

Zwiers addressed his remarks to a Vancouver audience Monday morning only hours after the IPCC fully released its fifth and latest climate change report -- a 2,041 page summary of the latest scientific knowledge about rising global temperatures.

"Warming of the climate system is unequivocal," the IPCC report concluded. "Since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia."

How Earth's changing climate will affect B.C. is difficult to predict. Hit by warming and cooling cycles from the tropical Pacific Ocean, the province's climatic trends "vary enormously from year to year," Zwiers said.

Nonetheless, B.C. should prepare for winters nearly three degrees Celsius warmer in the year 2100 than they are now, Zwiers said, along with a comparable temperature increase in the summer.

The province might also experience seven weeks less frost in 2100 than in 1900. Winter rain and snow could increase 10 per cent from current levels. And B.C.'s rivers may flow less strongly in the summertime.

"What does happen is [climate change] alters the frequency of events that are currently considered to be extreme," Zwiers said.

So why should the average British Columbian care about all this?

"I think you could point to impacts that we've already experienced," he said. "Like the pine beetle infestation that has devastated the province's forests. That's one impact that has been linked to a changing climate."

Geoff Dembicki reports on climate change and energy for The Tyee.

Funding for this article was partially provided by the Climate Justice Project of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, with support from the Fossil Fuel Development Mitigation Fund of Tides Canada Foundation.

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