University of Victoria

Collaborative Consent: What Next Generation, Indigenous-Inclusive Water Management Looks Like in B.C.

Coho fry, Cowichan River

B.C. hasn’t been particularly good at including Indigenous populations in the decision-making process. First Nations are often brought to the table after high-level political decisions have already been made — leading to significant social and legal conflict over consultation, consent and the management of natural resources.

Legal challenges of Site C, the cumulative impacts of B.C.’s sprawling oil and gas operations and the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline are all current examples of what these conflicts look like.

But it doesn’t have to be so, say a team of researchers from by the University of Victoria’s POLIS Water Sustainability Project and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources in a new report, which proposes B.C. manage water resources via a co-governance model based on a principle of collaborative consent.

Imagine Indigenous people being involved at the highest level of policy-making and reaching an agreement that is good for everyone,” said Merrell-Ann Phare, founding executive director of the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources and lead author of the report.

Scientists Map Full Scale of B.C. Wave Energy Potential For First Time

Wave energy

This article originally appeared on The Climate Examiner

British Columbia now has sufficient detailed information about the height, frequency and direction of its coastal waves to start developing and testing wave energy converters in the ocean, according to a new report.

Quantifying the amount of energy contained in waves as they propagate — or more simply, the ‘wave energy transport’ — is more complex and intricate than assessing the energy contained in wind, tidal or solar resources. In general, these energy sources can be described using a single variable; air speed, water speed and incoming solar irradiation, respectively. In contrast, wave energy transport is multi-dimensional and depends on a variety of factors.

Five Ways to Fix Environmental Reviews: Young Scientists to Trudeau

Mount Polley Mine Spill

Fallout from environmental assessments or development decisions that don’t meet the highest scientific standards will land on the shoulders of the younger generation, which is why Canada’s lack of scientific rigour and transparency must be addressed now, say more than 1,300 young scientists who have written an open letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and six cabinet ministers.

As the next generation of scientists in Canada, we are professionally and personally affected by how government evaluates the pros and cons of development, especially large-scale infrastructure and energy projects,” said lead author Aerin Jacob, a University of Victoria postdoctoral fellow who specializes in tradeoffs between conservation planning and sustainable development.

Reviews based on limited or biased scientific information potentially put the environment and the well-being of Canadians at risk,” she said.

Temperatures Could Rise Far More Than Previously Thought If Fossil Fuel Reserves Burned

Flooding in south Yorkshire, England.

Imagine a world where average temperatures are almost 10 degrees Celsius higher than today, an Arctic with temperatures almost 20 degrees warmer and some regions deluged with four times more rain.

That is the dramatic scenario predicted by a team of climate scientists led by the University of Victoria’s Katarzyna Tokarska, who looked at what would happen if the Earth’s remaining untapped fossil fuel reserves are burned.

Tokarska, a PhD student at UVic’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, used simulations from climate models looking at the relationship between carbon emissions and warming — including the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report — and concluded that known fossil fuel reserves would emit the equivalent of five trillion tonnes of carbon emissions if burned.

That would result in average global temperature increases between 6.4 degrees and 9.5 degrees Celsius, with Arctic temperatures warming between 14.7 degrees and 19.5 degrees, says the paper published Monday in the scientific journal Nature Climate Change.

These results indicate that the unregulated exploitation of the fossil fuel resource could ultimately result in considerably more profound climate changes than previously suggested,” says the study.

Think 2015 Was Hot and Weird? Get Ready for Worse, Experts Say

B.C. faces a future of disappearing salmon runs, more wildfires and dying forests with a temperature increase of two or three degrees and it is time to adapt to a new reality, a panel of experts told a packed audience at the University of Victoria’s Ideafest.
The weird weather of 2015 broke records, but it is a harbinger of the future, said Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium climate scientist Trevor Murdock, adding that models showing a two degree temperature rise are probably optimistic.
By the end of this century, if greenhouse gas emissions are not curbed, there could be a temperature increase of six degrees Celsius, Murdock warned.
“With zero net greenhouse gas emissions and with some pulled out of the atmosphere — so pretty much what was agreed to in Paris — we are still looking at about two degrees of warming,” Murdock said.
“For the 21st century it looks as if 2015 is our way to the new future.”

Islands in the Sky: Chopping Ancient Walbran Valley Forest Spells Extinction for Treetop Species

Central Walbran Ancient Forest

High in the trees that have been growing in the Walbran Valley on Vancouver Island for up to 1,000 years, unique colonies of insects and invertebrates are thriving.

Carpets of soil which develop in the massive branches of the old-growth trees contain a plethora of species not found anywhere else on Earth and, since 1995, University of Victoria entomologist Neville Winchester has climbed more than 2,000 trees to document and catalogue this life in the tree-tops.

These ancient forests are a repository of biodiversity,” said Winchester, who has had more than a dozen beetle mites, aphids and flies named after him and who is giving a public talk this Friday at 6:30 p.m. at the University of Victoria.

Together with UVic graduate students, Winchester has conducted one of the most extensive canopy research projects in North America, using ropes to scale trees the equivalent of 18-storeys high in the Carmanah and Walbran valleys.

UVic Report Calling for Updates to Charities Law Creates Stir

CRA charity audit charity chill, UVic, ELC report

The release of a University of Victoria study calling for updates to Canadian charitable law created quite a stir last week.

The study, prepared for DeSmog Canada, was covered by the Toronto Star, Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times Colonist, Canadian Press, Macleans, The Tyee, Yahoo! News and CFAX.

The report called for the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to clarify rules around “political activities” — defined as any activity that seeks to change, oppose or retain laws or policies — and to provide a more generous limit on allowable policy advocacy in line with other common law jurisdictions such as Australia and New Zealand. It also called for the creation of a politically independent charities commission to remove the potential for political interference in audits.

The findings were raised in the House of Commons by Victoria NDP MP Murray Rankin, who stated the report “analyzes the alarming lack of clarity in the rules governing political activities for charities.”

Canada’s Charitable Law Urgently Needs Reforming: New UVic Report

Calvin Sandborn

A report released today by the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre calls for sweeping reform of Canadian charitable law in line with other jurisdictions such as the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and England.

Current rules around “political activity” — defined by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) as any activity that seeks to change, oppose or retain laws or policies — are confusing and create an “intolerable state of uncertainty,” the report says.

This has created a confused and anxious charitable sector and detracts from them carrying out their important work,” Calvin Sandborn, legal director of the Environmental Law Centre, said.

The report — prepared for DeSmog Canada — comes as 52 charities are being targeted in a $13.4 million audit program launched by the federal government in 2012 to determine whether any are violating a rule that limits spending on political activities to 10 per cent of resources. Those charities include Environmental Defence, the David Suzuki Foundation, Canada Without Poverty, Ecology Action Centre and Equiterre.

“There is No Them, Only Us”: Perspectives Collide at University of Victoria Climate and Divestment Forum

Pressure is mounting on the University of Victoria Foundation’s board to rid itself of investments in fossil fuel related stocks, but, for now, the board is continuing to gather information and is sticking with the investing approach it fine-tuned last year.

Divestment supporters turned out in force Monday evening for a forum on climate change and divestment, organized by UVic and Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions, with speakers ranging from Suncor Energy Inc. vice-president Steve Douglas to Malkolm Boothroyd, a spokesman for Divest UVic, and wild applause for those in favour of immediate divestment showed where the sympathies lay.

If it’s wrong to wreck the Earth’s climate, it is wrong to invest in fossil fuels, Boothroyd said.

Responsibility means leaving those fossil fuels in the ground. We can’t have it both ways. UVic has got to make a decision and I believe it is UVic’s responsibility to divest from fossil fuels,” he said to a standing ovation from some of the audience.

Canada Failing to Protect Habitat of Imperilled Species: New Report


Official recognition that a Canadian species is in trouble is no guarantee that the slide towards extinction can be slowed or halted, a new study has found.

A paper by Raincoast Conservation Foundation scientist Caroline Fox and co-authors from the University of Victoria, published Monday by the scientific journal PLOS ONE, looks at species assessed by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and concludes that, instead of recovering, many have become more endangered.

Using the COSEWIC assessments, obviously we are not doing as well as we would like,” Fox said in an interview.

The study, Trends in Extinction Risk for Imperiled Species in Canada, aimed to assess the effectiveness of Canada’s biodiversity conservation and the report card is not good. 

Fox and her colleagues looked at 369 species and found that 115 had become more endangered, 202 were unchanged and 52 improved in status. Only 20, amounting to 5.4 per cent, improved to the extent that they were no longer at risk of extinction.


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