Climate experts study extreme weather

Environment Minister Terry Lake welcomes weather and climate experts to Victoria Monday. Lake is now in charge of B.C.'s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by one third in the next nine years.

Weather and climate experts from across Canada are gathered in Victoria this week to share their latest findings on the extreme events they expect to increase as industrialized societies continue to pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Scientists are presenting papers that examine all sorts of extreme weather events, including high winds, blizzards and tornadoes. Studies also examine ocean effects such as increased acidity and lower oxygen content.

B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake welcomed delegates Monday to the 45th annual meeting of the the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. Lake reminded delegates of B.C.’s “aggressive” target to reduce B.C.’s greenhouse gas emissions 33 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050.

B.C.’s carbon tax on fossil fuels is about to increase for the third time since it was introduced in 2008. On July 1 the tax goes up just over a cent to 5.56 cents on a litre of gasoline, 6.39 cents on a litre of diesel and similar increases for natural gas, jet fuel, coal and other carbon-based fuels.

B.C. Premier Christy Clark has committed to follow through with another round of carbon tax increases in 2012, and is continuing former premier Gordon Campbell’s policy that all government operations should be “carbon neutral.”

That proved controversial this spring as the provincially-owned Pacific Carbon Trust chose what projects it will fund with carbon credits that school districts and health regions are required to buy. Among the recipients is EnCana Corp., whose natural gas wells and facilities in northeastern B.C. put it among the province’s largest greenhouse gas emitters.

Opposition critics pointed out that companies such as EnCana are exempt from carbon tax on their industrial process emissions, and school districts end up subsidizing their cleanup efforts while struggling to balance budgets.

Lake said B.C.’s 60 school districts paid a total of $5 million to be come carbon neutral in 2010.

NDP education critic Robin Austin said the B.C. government should use the carbon offset payments to upgrade the energy efficiency of school facilities, rather than giving the money to profitable corporations.