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B.C. could see ‘catastrophic’ consequences from climate change-related events in 30 years: report

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From increased wildfires to frequent local flooding to sustained periods of drought, B.C. is already feeling the effects of climate change.

But a startling new report from the provincial government suggests those effects will only get worse over the next 30 years, leading to the loss of lives, natural resources and billions of dollars from the economy.

The preliminary provincial climate risk assessment released earlier this month evaluates the risks of 15 specific events that are being driven by climate change, and what the consequences could be by 2050.

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Each event is weighed on various scales, from “low” to “catastrophic,” including its future risk and likelihood. The report also considered its effects in various categories, such as “loss of life,” “loss of natural resources,” “loss of infrastructure services” and “cost to the provincial government.”

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All but four of the 15 events could have “catastrophic” consequences in 30 years, the report found. Worse yet, the executive summary says “nearly all risk event scenarios … would have major province-wide consequences in at least one category.”

READ MORE: Environment Canada: High likelihood of a warmer, drier summer than normal in B.C.

Unsurprisingly, the events that would lead to the most catastrophic consequences are a severe wildfire season, a heat wave of at least three days, a severe coastal storm surge or a long-term water shortage.

In each of those cases, the report suggests the province could see a loss of social cohesion, loss of life and severe economic losses.

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Besides the storm surge, the report says B.C. is already at a medium-to-high likelihood of experiencing each of these events anyways, as back-to-back record-setting wildfire seasons and devastating flooding in Grand Forks and other communities have shown.

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But the likelihood is only set to increase by 2050, while other events that are highly unlikely today — including glacier mass loss, saltwater intrusion in the province’s rivers, and loss of forest resources — are only expected to become more likely, the report states.

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The report also goes on to showcase how a combination of events — say, a severe wildfire season coupled with a water shortage, which could help create a severe landslide after heavy rain — could even further impact the province.

Only one event, an increase in Lyme disease, has a “low” risk and likelihood, according to the report.

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The report’s authors, including the Climate Action Secretariat and members of multiple provincial ministries, admit the findings do not fully reflect what the province could see as climate change continues to make its mark on the planet.

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For example, the authors say First Nations communities were not properly engaged to include their perspectives, which could end up informing a later report.

The province is expected to use the findings to inform a new report that will highlight steps the government is taking to prepare B.C. for climate change.