Cancelled trips and climate change: Backcountry enthusiasts notice impact on B.C.

Extreme weather events like wildfires, heat waves and flooding have ravaged the province of British Columbia this year and forced over 30 provincial parks to shut their doors, leaving backcountry enthusiasts to notice first hand, the effects climate change has had.

North Vancouver resident Ian Lipchak says unprecedented climatic events have stymied his B.C. wilderness adventure plans two years running now.

Last year, Lipchak and his wife had planned a trip to do the Bowron Lake Canoe Circuit in the province’s Cariboo Regional District. Due to flooding damage, the trail was closed until mid-August putting a wrench in his plans.

“It was very frustrating and stressful last year when we’re kind of like, well, I hope it opens. And I hope we can do this trip that we planned,” he told CBC News. 

This year, Lipchak hoped to try for Bowron Lake once again but, after the previous year, made a back up plan to head to Ontario, just in case.

Smoky skies pictured from Ian Lipchak’s previous trip in Yoho Park near Golden, B.C. (Submitted by Ian Lipchak)

Multiple heat waves this summer, caused flooding, wildfires and poor air quality and ultimately resulted in the closure of over 30 provincial parks. After hearing this, Lipchak says they decided not to take the risk and went with their alternative.

“Normally, what you worry about is what the weather is going to be like. Is it going to rain? Is it going to snow? Things like that,” he said. 

“The reality is that there are these other impacts as well. You can’t go and do the hike that you like to do because it’s too hot or it’s too smoky or the place is on fire or the access is flooded.”

Impact of climate change

Lipchak says it’s really opened his eyes to the impact climate change is having on B.C., especially this summer.  

Dr. Charles Curry is the acting lead of regional climate impacts at the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium in Victoria. 

He says the last decade saw some of the warmest years in many regions across the globe and B.C. is not an exception. The extreme heat wave events the province experienced this summer go beyond normal weather fluctuations, said Curry.

“The average person who wants to plan a trip to the Interior to go canoeing or to go hiking is now having to sit down and look at a map of fires and so on,” he said. 

Flooding on the famed Berg Lake Trail caused the park to close for the rest of the season. (Sean Allin)

Avid hiker Amber Turnau also had her trip cancelled this summer after the famed Berg Lake Trail was closed due to flooding. 

She says it was disappointing but it made her think about the underlying problem of climate change.

“It’s really impacting tourism and just everyday lives now more than it has been in the past,” Turnau said. 

With many tourists confined to travel within their own countries due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Curry says the “pure inconvenience” of these climatic events getting in the way of plans, has finally gotten people’s attention. 

“It’s causing them to ask questions about what’s really behind all this and most importantly, is there any hope of this changing in the future if we go on as usual, or is there something we can do?” Curry said. 

Report warns of dire future

This month, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued a dire report warning that without a radical reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions, we are on a course for global warming that will have grave consequences.

The reality lies that unless something is done soon, visiting parks across the province could be virtually impossible in the future. 

Curry says there are small things every person in B.C. can do to reduce their carbon footprint.

For Lipchak, he says he’s doing his part by driving his electric car from Vancouver to Ontario for his big canoeing trip this summer.

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