Expert sounds climate alarm

Colton Davies

One of the world's top climate scientists was in Penticton on Friday to talk about where the planet is heading with climate change.

SFU professor Kirsten Zickfeld met with local planners from around the Okanagan before doing a presentation to residents at the Shatford Centre.

Zickfeld was one of 90 scientists worldwide — and one of two from Canada — who authored the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was released this week.

The IPCC said the earth’s temperature has risen 1.1 degrees celsius since the start of the industrial era, and outlines the consequences of global warming reaching 1.5 C above. 

"We're already seeing a lot of impacts from that. We're seeing an increase in heat waves, flooding, heavy rainfall, we're seeing damage to ecosystems.

"Just for a little bit of context, on a 'business as usual' trajectory we're headed to 4 C warming above pre-industrial by 2100. And 4 C globally means 6-8 C in the Arctic and probably around 6 C in Canada. So this would be huge changes with catastrophic impacts."

Zickfeld says one main issue she heard from planners in the Okanagan was on transportation, specifically a lack of transit options and choices other than vehicles.

"And most households owning two cars, sort of a very car-centred culture. So some ideas of how this could be changed and what we've been thinking about is how to give people alternatives," she said. "So if there's transit that takes them from A to B and works relatively fast... is there a chance people would actually leave their cars?"

She said urban planning was another widely-discussed topic, mainly with Kelowna planners who said they expect the city to grow by close to 80,000 people in the next 20 years.

"The question is how are people going to live? Does it mean more dense communities... Does it mean more sprawling communities, which means a greater greenhouse gas emission footprint? And also less nature, and less of the things that actually drive people to the region. So this is sort of actually a crucial moment that sets a path to where the region is going."

Zickfeld’s lecture on Friday, called “Keeping Climate Warming Below 1.5°C,” focused on climate change effects currently being felt, what can be expected this century if climate targets aren’t met globally and what people can do in their daily lives to be greener.

The lecture was sponsored by First Things First Okanagan, a non-profit group that promotes climate change awareness. Admission was by donation.

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