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These young Canadians are banging down the government’s door asking for climate jobs

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This week:

  • These young Canadians are banging down the government’s door asking for climate jobs
  • Introducing the CBC News Climate Dashboard
  • How wildfires are changing in Canada

These young Canadians are banging down the government’s door asking for climate jobs

A group of people stands outside the office of a B.C. MP.
(Rachel Sanders/CBC)

What On Earth12:40They’re banging down the government’s door to get climate jobs

Manvi Bhalla wants to spend her life working on climate change. 

The PhD student at the University of British Columbia has a summer internship with the Northern Health agency assessing the health risks posed by climate change in northern B.C. 

She’s grateful for the opportunity and the living wage she’ll be earning, “but this is a summer-term job,” Bhalla, 25, told What On Earth. “I want this to be a long-term job.” 

To make her point, Bhalla and a group of her peers recently delivered manila envelopes with mock job applications to the Delta, B.C., constituency office of Carla Qualtrough, the federal minister of employment, disability inclusion and workforce development. 

The stunt had a theatrical flair but was intended to convey a serious message: young people want green jobs, and those jobs could help Canada meet its climate commitments. 

“We want to do jobs that we know are good for society, for the planet,” Bhalla said.

The group is calling on the federal government to spend $1 billion to create a “Youth Climate Corps,” a program that would offer two-year paid placements for Canadians under the age of 35 to train and work at climate-related jobs.

The campaign, based loosely on historic efforts to address other crises such as the Great Depression, originated with the Climate Emergency Unit, a project of the David Suzuki Institute aimed at pushing Canada to confront climate change. 

Shake Up the Establishment, a climate justice non-profit co-founded by Bhalla, has been backing the Youth Climate Corps campaign, soliciting cover letters from young Canadians for jobs they believe are needed in their communities to help cut emissions and adapt to the changing climate.

Among the approximately 100 submissions the group delivered to Qualtrough were applications for “aspirational” jobs across the country in conservation, clean energy, wildfire response and transit infrastructure. 

Bhalla said the range of jobs needed to address climate change is broader than some might imagine. 

“A lot of the kind of work that really needs to be done, it doesn’t always look like a climate job,” she said. “It looks like something that’s helping build resiliency within our communities … that could look like working on issues like poverty, racism and other societal inequities. Those kinds of jobs maybe don’t scream ‘climate,’ but they’re what’s needed to ensure no one gets left behind.”

One group that supports the campaign is Youth Climate Corps BC, which has been doing exactly this kind of work since 2020. Run by an environmental non-profit, the program pays young people a living wage to work at climate-related summer jobs. 

The program has hired youth in smaller B.C. cities such as Nelson and Cranbrook and is working toward hiring a cohort in Vancouver for the first time this summer. 

Sam Kutyauripo, the program’s Vancouver co-ordinator, said many young people are experiencing high levels of climate anxiety — something she believes the climate corps program helps manage. 

“I think the good thing about this program is giving young people tangible ways to make meaningful changes in communities,” she said. “In turn, that is actually going to make them feel much better.” 

Kutyauripo said the small B.C.-based program is “proof of concept” that a larger national campaign would work.

Qualtrough and Marci Ien, the federal minister for women, gender equality and youth, declined a CBC interview request about the Youth Climate Corps campaign. 

But the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change sent a statement highlighting several federal programs aimed at getting young people jobs, internships and volunteer opportunities. 

“We applaud these individuals for their commitment to change,” the statement read, in part. “We need youth perspectives to ensure Canada’s transition to a prosperous and low-carbon future is sustainable and inclusive.”

— Rachel Sanders

Reader feedback

Last week, we wrote about recent protests at Geneva Airport over the continued use of private jets. Bern Classen responded:

“This planet has finite resources, and the rich are taking far more than a fair share! There should be limits on how much of the planet one person can own (for personal living space) and how much of its resources they can consume (for personal pleasure). If we get their WASTE under control … the rest of the world doesn’t need to do much of anything!”

Write us at whatonearth@cbc.ca.

***Do you have a compelling personal story about climate change that can bring understanding or help others? We want to hear from you. Here’s more info on how to pitch to us. Specifically, we want to hear how you’ve been directly impacted by the changing climate and how that experience has affected the way you approach life now. Here are some examples.***

Old issues of What on Earth? are right here

CBC News has a dedicated climate page, which can be found here.

Also, check out our radio show and podcast. This week, we head to India to find out how the country’s many outdoor workers are coping with extreme — and sometimes deadly — heat. What On Earth airs on Sundays at 11 a.m. ET, 11:30 a.m. in Newfoundland and Labrador. Subscribe on your favourite podcast app or hear it on demand at CBC Listen.

Watch the CBC video series Planet Wonder featuring our colleague Johanna Wagstaffe here


The Big Picture: The CBC News Climate Dashboard

Do you often ask yourself if the past few weeks have been hotter than usual? We certainly do, and to answer that question, we published a new project pulling current and historical weather data for around 500 locations in Canada. We’re calling it the CBC News Climate Dashboard.

On your first visit to the page, you can set your default location by typing in your postal code or searching for a city. This location will then be shown first the next time you visit the page. The dashboard continuously updates with real-time data.

At the top of the dashboard, you will find an interactive globe showing the temperature records for the day across Canada. The content below will give you more information on a specific location: current conditions as well as hourly and daily forecasts.

If you keep scrolling, you will see the historical trends. How many days were above 0 C last winter? Are the number of days above 30 C above average this spring? Were the previous 30 days extremely hot compared to the historical average? The answers are in the dashboard.

And at the bottom of the page, you can explore the latest temperature projections up to the year 2100, with different scenarios.

For now, the Climate Dashboard focuses on temperatures. But we will add more variables, like precipitation, in the coming months — so it’s worth adding the page to your favourites.

Naël Shiab, senior data producer for CBC News

A screen shot of an online interactive featuring a spinning globe.
(CBC)

Hot and bothered: Provocative ideas from around the web


How wildfires are changing in Canada

A forest after a wildfire.
(Jason Franson/The Canadian Press)

The wildfires that have ripped through parts of the Maritimes and Western Canada this spring are part of an overall rise in more powerful fires, experts say. 

But the details behind this trend are more complex than just counting the fires, or damage done, per year. 

CBC News reviewed historical data to get a sense of the changing nature of wildfires, and the role of climate change, in the country. (Canada started collecting wildfire data in 1950, although the first decade’s figures are thought to be less reliable.) 

The chart below shows that the number of annual wildfires has, in fact, been declining since the 1980s.

Experts attribute this to improved fire prevention — so the number of human-caused fires is going down.

This is thanks to better education and fire bans, says Mike Flannigan, one of the country’s foremost experts on wildfires, who also reviewed the data.

At the same time, the fires that break out now tend to burn more territory. Overall, the area burned annually by wildland fires has more than doubled since the 1970s, according to a recent federal report. 

The next chart shows the number of burned hectares by decade.

The trend is “not just a straight line. It’s a bumpy path,” Flannigan says. “There is a large year-to-year variability because of weather and ignition.” 

The recipe for a wildfire has three ingredients — ignition (either lightning or humans), fuel (dried grasses, shrubs, trees and other vegetation) and dry weather, he says.

But the particulars of those three ingredients are changing, along with the climate.  

In Canada, roughly half of all fires are now caused by lightning. But lightning strikes are on the rise and expected to further increase with climate change.

Because of climate change, the vegetation is more likely to be dry and more flammable.

“As the temperature increases, the ability of the atmosphere to suck moisture out of the fuel increases almost exponentially,” says Flannigan. “Unless you get more rain to compensate for this drying effect from the warming, you end up with drier fuels. And this is a really critical aspect of the fire world.”

Finally, that same hot and dry weather — particularly on windy days — contributes to the likelihood of wildfire spreading more widely. 

The disastrous 2016 fire in Fort McMurray, Alta., for example, came as an unusually hot and dry system settled over northern Alberta that May.

The opposite is also true. For instance, between 2000 and 2009, it was unusually cool in the Northwest Territories, which led to a lower overall burned area, Flannigan says.

In general, fires are also happening earlier in the year because of the increasingly early spring thaw, and ending later in the year, Flannigan says.

A rise in major fires has also led to more evacuations, given the fires’ growing size and the growing population. The next chart shows the rise in people displaced by fires.

The Fort McMurray fire displaced 80,000 people — one of the largest evacuations in Canadian history.

Such fires can also threaten critical infrastructure, such as power lines and major industrial sites like the oilsands, says Kelsey Copes-Gerbitz, a postdoctoral fire researcher at University of British Columbia who also reviewed the data.

Experts use another category, “fire disasters,” to indicate especially significant fires. A fire disaster must meet at least one of these conditions: 

  • 10 or more people killed.

  • 100 or more people injured, relocated, infected, displaced or homeless.

  • Authorities appeal for national or international assistance.

  • Historical significance.

  • Causes significant damage to a community.

Fire disasters are on the rise.

Overall, the period covered by the data was when Canada tried, for the most part, to suppress all wildfires, Copes-Gerbitz says. Now, she says, “climate change is really pushing us to a place where we can no longer suppress all fires and be guaranteed in our success for suppression.”

Experts say improved fire management — for instance by allowing some fires to burn and increasing the number of prescribed burns (such as Indigenous cultural burns) — would help reduce the number of out-of-control, large-scale fires.

An increased emphasis on community-level fire safety, and better oversight of what kind of trees are planted — some are better able to resist or recover from fires — would also help. 

“That kind of approach will help us reduce the area that a fire can burn,” said Copes-Gerbitz.

— Benjamin Shingler and Graeme Bruce

Stay in touch!

Are there issues you’d like us to cover? Questions you want answered? Do you just want to share a kind word? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at whatonearth@cbc.ca.

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Editor: Andre Mayer | Logo design: Sködt McNalty

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