“The pine beetle infestation is the first major climate change crisis in Canada” notes Doug McArthur, a professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.
The pests are “projected to kill 80 per cent of merchantable and susceptible lodgepole pine” in parts of British Columbia within 10 years — and that’s why the harvest levels in the region have been “increased significantly.” One analyst calls the devastation “probably the biggest landscape-level change since the ice age.”
It is slamming this country too:
The largest infestation of mountain pine beetles in 20 years has hit more than a million acres of forest in northern Idaho and Montana, while 2.5 million acres in Washington face disease and insect problems.
Climate change is the culprit. Milder winters since 1994 have reduced the winter death rate of beetle larvae in Wyoming from 80 percent per year to under 10 percent. Alaska is also being hit hard:
In a May 2006 speech on climate change, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska pointed out that the tremendous recent warming had opened the door to the “voracious spruce bark beetle,” which devastated over three million acres in Alaska, “providing dry fuel for outbreaks of enormous wild fires.”
And this catastrophic climate change impact was not foreseen even a decade ago — which suggests future climate impacts will bring other equally unpleasant surprises, especially if we don’t reverse direction soon.