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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.

In July, the St. Mary’s River wildfire roared into the B.C. First Nations community of Aq’am, where residents and Cranbrook Fire Department personnel raced from door to door, telling people to flee. Driven by strong winds, the fire destroyed seven homes within hours. It also put more than 500 homes under evacuation alert and sent plumes of choking smoke into the summer sky.

But the St. Mary’s fire is also notable for what it didn’t destroy.

Months before the blaze, Aq’am had carried out a prescribed burn on its biggest reserve, Kootenay 1. That action offers a glimpse at firefighting’s future. Read our story about why Canada should be making fire our friend.

Now, let’s catch you up on other news.

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Fire Fighter Chad Koran lights prepared piles of deadfall and forest debris during a prescribed burn in the Kimberley Nature Park just outside of Kimberley, B.C. on November 8, 2023.Gavin John/The Globe and Mail


Noteworthy reporting this week:

  1. Listen to The Decibel: Can carbon capture solve emissions problems for oil and gas?
  2. In-depth: Many have tried to harness the Bay of Fundy’s tidal power. Are they all doomed to fail?
  3. EV battery plant: Environmental group loses bid to stop Northvolt work in Quebec
  4. Retrofits: Infrastructure Bank, BMO join forces to try to kick-start decarbonization of Canada’s buildings
  5. Wine: What’s behind the wine trade’s resolution to reduce the weight of glass bottles?
  6. Electric vehicles: How EVs compare with gas cars on emissions over their total lifespan
  7. Analysis from The Narwhal: Ontario sides with Enbridge Gas in fight to connect new homes to natural gas

A deeper dive

Yes, there is less snow than you remember from your childhood

Sierra Bein is the author of Globe Climate. For this week’s deeper dive, she talks about the ways a warming climate is changing winter.

Is winter, as we know it, dead? This a question Globe reporters asked at the end of 2023, while Canadians across the country experienced one of the warmest Decembers on record. Instead of snow, many were seeing heavy rains, flash flooding, green lawns and record daily highs.

The unusual weather is being largely blamed on the El Niño phenomenon, a massive weather system that occurs every two to seven years when warm ocean water develops in the central part of the Pacific Ocean. Scientists are trying to anticipate what El Niño, which already amplifies severe weather events across the world, might do to an ever-warming planet

So the good news – depending on your perspective – is that this particular warm spell is temporary. But when it comes to the changing face of winter, El Niño isn’t the only thing to blame.

There has been a significant change in snow accumulation over the years. A recent study has linked an overall reduction in snowpack – the volume of snow that is present on the landscape – to human-caused global warming, and points to the likelihood that more dramatic changes lie ahead. The results forecast implications for watersheds that are supplied by melting snow every spring, and a change in how people who live in northern countries such as Canada come to experience winter.

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Bein, Sierra/The Globe and Mail

Ivan Semeniuk, The Globe’s science reporter, was on The Decibel podcast to explain how this loss will affect not only ski season but also water supplies and agriculture. Since snow acts as a natural storage system for water, the loss of snowpack means much more for our ecosystems than less shovelling.

“If you’re anywhere the temperature can be below freezing, it can snow. So it’s not the end of snow. But it’s a different kind of snow. I’m sure that, for example, people who run ski resorts that depend on a certain amount of snow falling on average over a certain period of time over the winter – there are very real economic consequences,” Semeniuk said on the show.

He continued: “It’s another effect of climate change that we have to plan for and get used to, and make sure that our systems are set up for where and when the water is going to be.”

So no, you’re not wrong, snowy winters aren’t like they used to be.

“I think that for some of us, the idea of a lot of snow persisting on the landscape for most of the winter is maybe become a memory for certain parts of the planet,” Semeniuk said.

- Sierra

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A skier walks down a patchy ski slope at Whistler, B.C., on Friday, December 29, 2023.ETHAN CAIRNS/The Canadian Press


What else you missed


Opinion and analysis

Barry Dewitt: The carbon tax is good for the climate and our wallets, but can you believe it?

Kelly Cryderman: The power of fossil fuel is enough to turn any progressive politician into a hypocrite

Editorial board: End the runaround on the Ring of Fire

André Picard: What Paris can teach us about taking back public space from cars


Green Investing

Teachers pension fund invests in portable battery company aiming to replace gas-powered generators

Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan is leading a US$95-million funding round for Instagrid GmbH, a German maker of portable battery systems designed to replace gas-powered generators. The venture capital investing arm of the $250-billion pension fund is the lead investor in Instagrid’s Series C funding round and gains a seat on the company’s board. Instagrid also attracted an investment from Morgan Stanley Investment Management through its climate-focused private equity fund, 1GT.


Making waves

Each week The Globe will profile a Canadian making a difference. This week we’re highlighting the work of Tovah Barocas, who is helping educate children on climate.

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Tovah BarocasHandout

Hi, I’m Tovah Barocas, 40, president of Earth Rangers, a charity that transforms children’s concerns about the environment into positive action.

In 2023, Google searches for eco-anxiety increased by more than 60 per cent. Understandably, it’s commonly perceived as a negative concept. But Earth Rangers is taking a different approach with our 2023 Eco-Anxiety Index, a follow-up to a 2020 study we developed with Ipsos. The key to overcoming eco-anxiety, the results show, is engaging in eco-action.

While more children are experiencing the emotional response compared with 2020, they are also using it more to drive change. Kids with environmental concerns take proactive steps to address them when given the resources to do so, the study reveals. They organize local cleanups, advocate for sustainable practices in schools and more.

Earth Rangers plays a role in this by providing children with fun and informative environmental activities and resources to help them make a difference. What can parents do to help? Validating kids’ feelings about the environment and sharing your own is a great place to start. You can also encourage your child to be responsible for household tasks that have environmental value, such as recycling or turning off the lights. Kids love to “teach” adults something we don’t know!

- Tovah

Do you know an engaged individual? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? Email us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.


Photo of the week

French farmers aim to put Paris ‘under siege’ in tractor protest as activists hurl soup at Mona Lisa

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French farmers demonstrate with hundreds of tractors in downtown Nantes on Jan. 25, 2024, part of a nation-wide day of action called by several farming unions. The farmers are awaiting a response from the government to their request for immediate aid worth several hundred million euros. The European Commission is due to begin strategic talks with workers' federations, agri-business firms, NGOs and other experts on ways to assuage farmers' ire in several countries.LOIC VENANCE/Getty Images


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