Canada and Global Warming: A State of Denial

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Canada and Global Warming: A State of Denial

On May 10th, the BC NDP government released The BC Flood and Wildfire Report on the wildfires and floods of 2017. The Report concluded: 

Disasters such as last summer’s wildfires, floods, lightning storms and landslides are “the new normal” consequences of climate change and British Columbia is ill-equipped to protect the public, according to an external review in response to last year’s floods and the wildfires that tore through the province.

The report dropped the same day that thousands of people were ordered to evacuate from South Central B.C. due to flooding.

Former cabinet minister George Abbott, who co-authored the report containing 108 recommendations on how to prepare for future devastation, said the province would need to allow the public to join the fight in future disasters....

The effects of the fires can still be seen — and felt — this year as residents are forced to evacuate due to flooding that’s been exacerbated by water-absorbing plants being wiped from the landscape. Already, thousands of people have been forced from their homes to escape rising waters and the flood risk has increased through April as more snow fell at higher elevations. ...

Warming temperatures and more extreme weather are predicted to increase the number of major wildfire-starting lightning storms — at the same time the changing climate causes more landslides, more wildfires and greater ice melt flowing over drier land that’s more susceptible to flooding. The fires torch water-absorbing plants from the landscape, worsening floods.

While no single forest fire can be 100% directly attributed to climate change, the pattern seen in the 2003 Barriere wildfire that burnt the entire community down; the Slave Lake, Alberta, fire that burnt one third of the town down in 2011; Saskatchewan wildfires that created 13,000 evacuees in 2015; the 2009, 2011 and 2017 Kelowna wildfires that threatened the homes of thousands; and the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire that caused the evacuation of 88,000 people and destroyed thousands of homes, leaves no doubt about how global warming is increasing the length of the fire season, the number and intensity of forest fires, as well as their social and economic costs to communities. 

Flooding has also become much more common as torrential downpours, as predicted by global warming models, and warmer spring temperatures lead to faster snow melts and flooding. This year there has been major flooding in central BC, the Chatam-Kent region of Ontario, and in New Brunswick and more is expected as the spring melt continues. Last year Ontario, Quebec faced major flooding. In 2015, 100 mm of rain in one day led to major flooding led extensive flooding in southwestern Alberta. 

In 2017, wildfires in BC burnt an area larger than PEI and caused the evacuation of 65,000 people. This year thousands have had to be evacuated in BC due to flooding, and thousands more in New Brunswick have suffered the same fate, with many homes in both provinces destroyed. 

Yet we continue down the fossil fuel road having already blown past our 2011 carbon dioxide emission targets, having had to admit we cannot possibly meet our 2020 targets, and most experts agreeing their is little chance we will meet our 2030 targets under both Conservative and Liberal governments. When NDP candidate Linda McQuaig said some of our oilsands, the second largest oil reserves in the world, may have to be left in the ground to prevent global warming, she was criticized extensively, including by some members of her own party. 

While I have focused on fires and flooding in this post, there are many problems associated with global warming. I submit that the entire country, not just BC, is ill-prepared to deal with the problems associated with climate change. At least BC has begun to look at mitigating some of these problems. It's not enough but it's a start.




Here is the full BC Flood and Wildfire Review, in case you are interested.


Rev Pesky

One quibble with the report. Several times they refer to 'Western science'. There is no such thing as Western science. There is science, and there is non-science. That is not to say that non-science cannot be useful, it is merely to point out that science is an activity carried on by people all around the world. And that science is the same, all around the world.

Perhaps it is more correct to say Western technology, which I'll grant is closely allied with science. On the other hand, science is also closely allied with mathematics, and we still use Arabic numerals, , as well as Arabic concepts such as algebra and algorithms.


A second wave of flooding is now hitting the Sothern Interior of BC near Grand Forks due to the very hot weather melting the snow rapidly and rainfall. Similar flooding is also hitting the Fraser Valley near Vancouver and the Okanagan Valley. 

Melted snow brought on by unseasonably hot weather and sporadic rain is streaming into the Granby River at about four times the average rate, 30 to 40 millimetres per day.  At the crossroads of the Granby and Kettle Rivers is Grand Forks. It’s geography is one of the factors that makes it one of the province’s worst-hit areas this spring. ...

Around 1,500 homes in the region remain evacuated. More than 2,600 other homes are on evacuation alert throughout the province.  ...

Similarly, the Fraser Valley is waiting to see how it will be affected by high water that is making its way down the Fraser River. The Township of Langley has now placed an evacuation alert for unprotected flood plains. A high streamflow advisory is still in place for the Fraser River, which was measured at 5.5 metres in Mission. ...

Water levels on Okanagan Lake rose to 17 centimetres below full pool last week. Full pool is defined as the water level during normal conditions, anything above full pool is considered a high water event. Local emergency operations expect the lake to exceed those levels by the weekend, and are urging residents in low-lying and waterfront areas to take proactive and precautionary measures.



Experts are warning that the record-breaking flooding now occurring in New Brunswick foreshadows the province's future in a world that facing global warming. Too much of our federal, provincial and municipal planning is planning by disaster - start planning after a disaster occurs, followed by relaxing shortly after the emergency has passed. In a world of global warming where climate change caused disasters are becoming increasingly frequent, the costs of doing this in terms of the environment, economy, homes and lives is growing exponentially. 

New Brunswick's record-breaking floods are a jarring reminder climate change is bringing a watery future that will wash away old patterns of life and force many to higher ground permanently, say environmental scientists and hydrologists.

"The reality is that people expect the world to be the way it was, but it's not," said Louise Comeau, a professor at the University of New Brunswick and member of a national panel on climate change adaptation.

When the waters recede, the provincial and federal governments must frankly inform homeowners the future holds more of the same, says hydrologist John Pomeroy, director of the global water futures program at the University of Saskatchewan.

"Sometimes people, when they've been flooded out, it's a good time to offer to buy them out and remove the homes from the dangerous location," Pomeroy said in an interview.

New Brunswick is suffering through record flooding, with rising waters forcing the closure of the Trans-Canada Highway between Moncton and Fredericton and many people being forced out of their homes.

"The floods look like they're getting larger," said Pomeroy, who is working on a fresh models for mapping future floods, in tandem with a network of university scientists studying the nation's largest rivers.

The hydrologist says the public needs to understand historical levels of water flow are no longer guides to the future.

Sudden temperature flips from frigid April snowstorms to 26 C, as occurred during the spring runoffs in parts of New Brunswick, are a feature of climate change that encourage flooding, he said. ...

By 2100, New Brunswick's mean annual temperature will increase by as much as 5 C, while more intense rain and snow will increase the amount of moisture hitting the ground.

Those trends aren't the sole causes of river flooding, but higher seasonal temperatures and precipitation increase the risks, says Al Pietroniro, a senior hydrologist with Environment Canada. "Across the country there's an acceleration of what we call the water cycle, which means because the atmosphere is warming, we're seeing increased precipitation," he said in a telephone interview. ...

Comeau, who has authored studies on the impact of climate change in her province, says she suspects that floods once expected every 30 years are now more likely to be "once every five years or even every two to three years." Every region of New Brunswick now has flooding stories to share describing dislocation and disruption, she says. In addition, an ice storm on the Acadian Peninsula in January 2017 caused power, communication and transportation disruptions. ...

Blair Feltmate, the head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, says that "New Brunswick has an attitude of management by disaster. New Brunswick seems to rush to address risk when it's happening, and then, after the event subsides, the province relaxes and waits for its next disaster."

Martin N.

Fossil fuel demand is expected to surpass 100 million barrels per day soon and keep expanding. What is your solution to wean the world off fossil fuels, bearing in mind that eliminating all fossil fuel use in Canada will make no difference to climate changes globally.

Given the enormous cost, how will your solution be funded?

Mr. Magoo Mr. Magoo's picture

One quibble with the report. Several times they refer to 'Western science'. There is no such thing as Western science.

Agreed.  "Western science" is a dogwhistle for "corrupt, profiteering, did-I-mention-corrupt" science.  The way "Western" medicine means uninterested and unworthy doctors selling ineffective (or even harmful!) Big Pharma snake oils to the sick.

Rev Pesky

Mr. Magoo wrote:

Agreed.  "Western science" is a dogwhistle for "corrupt, profiteering, did-I-mention-corrupt" science.

I don't disagree with your statement, I think it is often used in that sense. But I also believe there is a more nuanced interpretation. That is, 'Western science' is offered as an opposite to 'folk lore, etc.', but the fact is, science accepts any and all knowledge, no matter the source. Science doesn't care where the original idea came from. If it works, it works, and that's that.

After all, aspirin, the most common pain killer on the planet was first known of by ancient Sumerians roughly 5000 years ago. They wouldn't have had any idea of why it worked, but it did. It took a few thousand years for someone to find a way to manufacture it, but originally it was a product of 'folk lore'.

So folk 'ways' and science are not opposites. The only real difference is that science asks for further proof, or at least a path to follow to further proof. When someone says something like, 'on this hand we have the folk knowledge and on this hand we have Western science' they are creating a rift that doesn't exist in reality.