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Half of BC pines dead from fossil fuel pollution. Is it over?

Our earth is overheating at a rate unprecedented in geologic history. BC is overheating twice as fast. The decimation of our pine forests is one of the many eco-collapses emerging from our overheating landscape.

Half our pine trees have been eaten alive in just the last nine years. An area five times the size of Vancouver Island is being attacked by a killing plague of billions of native pine beetles. Nothing like this has ever been witnessed. A study published in the journal, Nature, concluded that "the current outbreak in British Columbia, Canada, is an order of magnitude larger in area and severity than all previous recorded outbreaks." One analyst calls the devastation "probably the biggest landscape-level change since the ice age."

The force that unleashed this wholesale collapse is simple -- humans chose dirty and deadly fossil fuels instead of cleaner, sustainable energy sources. Fortunately we have easy ways in BC to quickly switch much of our dirty energy to cleaner, hopeful alternatives that will never run out. But if we don't switch soon then such eco-collapses will broaden and accelerate, threatening our way of life, our economy and our security.

A recent government-NGO study of BC biodiversity bluntly states that if we continue the path we are on,  "the rate of climate change will exceed the ability of most species to migrate and adjust."

For millennia, pine forests flourished in BC and across western North America in areas with deeply frozen winter nights.

But in the last decade, our fossil fuelled warming passed a tipping point in the pine forests preventing the long hard frosts of -40C that kill most of the native beetles.

Every corner of BC is heating up. Our winter nights are heating fastest of all. While the planet has warmed 0.6C in the last century, BC winters have overheated +1.7C along the southern coast to +4.5C in the north. In the heart of our pine strongholds winter heating is now rising +1.0C per decade.

The very coldest points of the year just aren't as cold as they used to be. For an ever growing chunk of our forests, the life-sustaining cold snaps are too rare to stop the ravaging hordes.

Our fossil fuelled beetle mania has clear cut more BC timber volume in the last seven years than human loggers.

Throughout the 1990s, BC forests removed an average of 30 megatonnes of CO2 from the air each year - a seven tonne CO2 reduction per BC resident per year. Despite a robust industrial logging industry, BC forests still sucked up more CO2 than they gave off. Our forest's carbon account was in the black.

Then in 2000, our winter nights warmed past a tipping point where pine beetles suddenly started surviving in much greater numbers. They also started breeding faster and maturing quicker in the longer growing seasons. The pine slaughter began.

By 2003, for the first time recorded, BC forests had shifted to net emitters of CO2.

By 2007 the beetle kill was on such an epic scale that our BC forests were hemorrhaging 50 megatonnes of CO2 - an CO2 increase of 19 tonnes per British Columbian per year, just from our forests.

Humans are no longer the only force dumping megatonnes of climate destabilizing CO2 into the air.  We've inadvertently cooked up a new climate for BC in which a single species of beetle can kill 675 million cubic meters of mature forests and release an average of 70 megatonnes of CO2 year after year.

This is the kind of dangerous climate warming feedback loop that our earth has excelled at in the past. If enough feedback loops get started again, we humans will lose control of both the rate and the magnitude of climate destabilization.


The BC pine death toll is now up to 150 telephone poles of beetle killed pine per BC resident. Imagine a pile of 600 dead trees this size stacked in front of every family-of-four home. How big do we want this pile to get before we take the simple steps to cut our climate damaging pollution? The collective pile for Vancouver-area residents is an 150,000,000 tree heap. A logging truck would have to dump a new load every minute, 24/7, to keep up.

More in Climate Snapshot

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