This spring marked the release of yet another report by the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the AR6 Synthesis Report. In the third and final installment of the 2021 Sixth Assessment Report, the international panel of scientific experts broadly conclude:
- Humans are unequivocally responsible for climate change.
- Some dangerous climate impacts are unavoidable and irreversible.
- There is a rapidly closing window to act.
The report also outlines the significant costs that human societies–especially those in the global south–will be forced to pay as a result of climate disasters.
These conclusions are grim. Hopelessness, grief, and uncertainty are understandable emotions in light of the report, yet, the authors of AR6 are staunch in their argument that avoiding the worst impacts is possible. To do it, humanity needs to act definitively and immediately.
But where to start? Given our ever-shortening window of opportunity, what actions should be undertaken first, and which will have the most impact?
The role of natural ecosystems
In the section Climate Mitigation of AR6, the authors compile 30 different greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction measures ranging from switching to solar power to reducing food waste. For each measure, the authors calculated the lifetime cost, feasibility, and potential emissions reduction, ranking measures from highest to lowest impact.
Of the measures, preserving natural ecosystems was identified as having the second-greatest potential for greenhouse gas reductions, only below solar energy. Ecosystem restoration, particularly reforestation, ranked fifth.
Intact ecosystems are places where species have spent millenia locally adapting to their surroundings and forming tightly woven food webs. They are places with a diversity of species and habitat types, a key to resiliency in the face of a changing climate. They are places that we strive to protect.
This year, Raincoast, in collaboration with the Pender Islands Conservancy, achieved a major goal toward our ongoing efforts to further land protection in the Coastal Douglas-fir biogeoclimatic zone: the protection of KELÁ_EKE Kingfisher Forest. In a region with less than 1% of its historic extent of old growth remaining, it is essential to safeguard the maturing old growth forests of the future. Shauna Doll, our Forest Conservation Program Director, spearheaded the acquisition of the 45-acre property on S,DÁYES (Pender Island) to protect it in perpetuity. This effort was made possible by the exceptional support of our donors and supporters. Going forward, Science and conservation staff from Raincoast and the Pender Conservancy will be further assessing the land and making plans for its ongoing restoration and ecological management.
Last month, we received news of a proposed waste facility within Burnaby Fraser Foreshore Park, one of the last vestiges of intact wetland habitat along the Fraser River in Metro Vancouver. During the public engagement process, research scientist (and Burnaby resident) Allison Dennert from our Wild Salmon team and I published an Op-Ed in Burnaby Now, bringing to light how the project would cause irreparable harm to wetlands important to Fraser salmon, of which many populations are already threatened. Our voice added to the large-scale opposition to the project by Burnaby residents and local conservation groups who turned out en masse, filling council meetings, and bombarding the local newspaper with letters in a powerful display of public mobilization. On March 20th, Burnaby council voted to reject the project, saving 21-acres of habitat in the park.
We’re also working to restore degraded habitat in the Fraser Estuary, reconnecting tidal marshes and eelgrass habitat through our Fraser River Connectivity Project. Through this project, led by our Fraser Estuary Research and Restoration Director Dave Scott, we are creating breaches in man-made structures that block the natural migration of juvenile salmon. As part of our project, we have monitored juvenile salmon at our breach locations over the last three years as they have been developed, and ever since the first breaches were made, we have seen high levels of juvenile salmon passing through the breaches. The breaches also allow sediment to flow freely throughout the estuary, providing a better foundation for marsh plants to establish.
Staying grounded on an unstable planet
Throughout Raincoast’s history, we have countless other inspiring examples of our work advancing habitat and wildlife protection.
News about climate change and the environment seems to skew towards negativity. We think it’s important to highlight, celebrate, and share the often unseen progress that is being made. These wins help us stay focused on our goal to see thriving ecosystems along the pacific coast.
Our annual report is out now!
Get highlights from the year, our science, flagship projects, staff and volunteers, as well as a peek at what’s in store for the coming year.