Climate change is changing Earth in ways that are “unprecedented” in thousands of years — and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of years

U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
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‘Bad year for the glaciers’: Climate change threatens glacier behind Edmonton’s water source

The province is long past the oppressive “heat dome” that caused cities to swelter last summer, but warmer temperatures this year had a lasting effect on the glacier that feeds Edmonton’s water supply.

The Saskatchewan Glacier terminus saw 10 metres of thinning this year, said Brian Menounos, an earth sciences professor at the University of Northern British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in glacier change. It’s also the glacier that feeds the North Saskatchewan River, Edmonton’s sole source of drinking water.

“We’ve known for a number of years that — largely due to greenhouse gas emissions — we have accelerated the melt of the cryosphere,” he said, referring to the part of the planet covered in ice or snow. “It’s a symptom of a larger problem in that it was an exceptionally bad year for the glaciers by and large.”

In a social media post, Menounos shared an image of the Columbia Icefield that shows a change in elevation over the past year measured by laser altimetry. The technology uses an aircraft to bounce laser light off the surface of the ice field about once a year. The time it takes for light to reflect back to the aircraft and trip a sensor allows scientists to measure the change in surface elevation.

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Energy sector tries to show next generation it’s more than pumpjacks

Teenagers are concerned about climate change and can be hesitant to pursue a career in energy

There are a lot of conversations happening in Alberta these days about climate change and the future of energy. Some of them are happening around the kitchen table.

Dagmar Knutson was taken aback when her Grade 9 son came home from school and declared Alberta was the worst in the world.

“What?” she asked.

“Our oilsands, they are the worst in the world,” he responded.

“I know our emissions always haven’t been the greatest but do you know that they’ve come down?” she asked.

He hadn’t heard that, nor had he heard of how the sector aims to use carbon capture to further reduce emissions.

“But our teachers say that our textbooks are at least five years out of date,” he told his mom, who works as an accountant for an oilpatch equipment company in Red Deer.

Knutson is using this exchange with her son two years ago as a launch point to help the next generation learn about the future of the energy sector, from geothermal energy to utility-scale batteries to plastics recycling, as it confronts climate change.

Later this month, she’s organizing the 10 Peaks Innovation Xchange, a student conference about the energy transition with more than 30 speakers including oilpatch executives, academics, renewable energy officials and environmental advocates, among others. More than 1,000 students have already signed up.

These are the types of discussions happening around the world, especially in the lead up to the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow at the end of the month. U.S. climate envoy John Kerry has described the event as “the last best chance” to avert the worst environmental consequences for the planet, as world leaders will gather to discuss and negotiate how to tackle climate change.

The burning of fossil fuels is always a focal point in the climate discussion. In Alberta, climate change can be a contentious debate as many in the oilpatch feel their livelihoods are under attack.

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Canadians are unknowingly buying homes in climate change danger zones, report finds

Climate change could boost damage costs by billions; more risk disclosure needed for adaptation

Canadians are unknowingly buying and building homes and other infrastructure in areas at high risk of flooding, wildfires and other climate change impacts. That could lead to billions of dollars in damage each year, says a new report from the Canadian Institute for Climate Choices.

Investing in adaptation could slash those costs — but just about no one has the information they need to be able to adapt, according to the report released last week from the federally funded think-tank

“There’s pretty poor understanding of climate risks and really poor risk-disclosure practices across the country,” said Dylan Clark, a senior research associate at the institute and co-author of the report, during a media briefing.

There’s little to no public information on current flood, wildfire or permafrost thaw risks, he said, let alone taking into account the future of climate. 

“Information that’s readily available to most decision-makers and investors and consumers does not provide enough information to make informed decisions — and that’s a key barrier here to adaptation.”

For example, publicly available government data from local conservation authorities generally show only areas at risk of flooding due to rivers and coasts, the report said.

Researchers were able to obtain data — available for a fee from a private company, JBA Risk Management — that showed 325,000 buildings in Canada are at risk of flooding from heavy rainfall and another 625,000 are at risk from flooding due to rivers breaching their banks, whose owners “have no way of knowing that their properties are at risk of flooding” the report said.

Even JBA’s maps don’t have enough detail to identify individual homes at risk. However, the maps do “highlight that there is that [information] gap,” said Ryan Ness, the report’s lead author.

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Life at sea by world’s largest offshore wind farm in North Sea

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Ahead of the COP26 summit on climate change, the BBC’s Ros Atkins looks at the world’s biggest emitters of CO2 – what they’re promising, what they’re doing, and whether climate scientists think it’s enough.

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Google prohibits ads that promote or make money from climate change denial

Ban applies to claims that climate change is a hoax, content that denies human activity contributes

Google is cracking down on digital ads that promote the idea that climate change is a hoax or make money from that kind of content, hoping to limit revenue for climate change deniers and stop the spread of misinformation on its platforms.

The company said in a blog post on Thursday, Oct. 7 that the new policy will also apply to YouTube, which last week announced a sweeping crackdown of vaccine misinformation.

“We’ve heard directly from a growing number of our advertising and publisher partners who have expressed concerns about ads that run alongside or promote inaccurate claims about climate change,” the statement posted on Google’s AdSense page said.

“Publishers and creators don’t want ads promoting these claims to appear on their pages or videos.”

The company said the restrictions will prohibit ads that promote or monetize content that contradicts well-established scientific consensus around climate change. That will apply to claims that climate change is a hoax or a scam, that deny long-term trends show the global climate is warming, or that deny greenhouse gas emissions or human activity contribute to climate change.

Google said it would use both automated tools and human reviewers to enforce the policy, which takes effect in November for publishers and YouTube creators, and in December for advertisers.

Advertisements will still be allowed on content that’s about related topics like public debates on climate policy or the varying impacts of climate change.

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