Climate Change and the Fort McMurray Wildfires

To: CBC Radio’s The House:

You asked listeners to write in regarding their opinion about whether the Fort McMurray disaster is related to climate Change. I agree with Premier Christy Clark of B.C. that there is a connection. First though I do not in any way blame the victims of this terrible tragedy, some of whom work in extracting bitumen to be used as a fossil fuel. My local newspaper tells me that spring came a month early this year in the west (and has been doing so) largely due to the warm water of the Pacific Ocean. Along with the early warming, there has been little or no rain, so the boreal forest is  tinder for fire. Along with that came the high winds which fanned and fed the fires. However I do think that the Earth’s climate is warming, with consequent disasters like Fort McMurray due to around 250 years of carbon dioxide emissions, from the burning of fossil fuels, into the Earth’s atmosphere from the industrial revolution. The carbon emissions have accelerated perhaps close to exponentially over the past 30 to 50 years, which of course has alarmed climate scientists and the U.N. panel on Climate Change. So the people of Fort McMurray are suffering due to 250 years worth of carbon emissions. Scientists and writers like David Suzuki and Bill McKibben have warned us repeatedly that the northern hemisphere will suffer greater temperature changes than more southern regions with consequent drying and more wildfires. We are seeing this as the north is warming already far more than the 2° C ceiling agreed to at COP21, so we are going to see more of these wildfires as Christy Clark agreed is happening in B.C. I also agree with Premier Clark that the Federal government (and we as taxpayers) are going to have to greatly increase funding for adaptation procedures such as clearing brush ahead of the dry season to slow down fire danger. I disagree with Premier Clark about her wish to build LNG plants in B.C. to liquify natural gas to sell to China and other places. The liquification process itself is carbon intensive as will be the burning of the natural gas at the end markets. We as Canadians have to come to grips with the fact that we can no longer dig up or drill for fossil fuels that are only going to add to the burden of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and we need to stop using and building pipelines that are only going to continue  increasing carbon emissions for at least another generation. We must move to renewables and conservation. Bill McKibben and others have already described the scenario that seems to be what Christy Clark described. Wildfires and floods are no longer 100 year events; they are happening every few years. Predictions of the insurance costs for the Fort McMurray disaster have reached $9 billion. Civilization will eventually be unable to cope with the string of disasters that are going to occur due to Climate Change. We must reduce our use of fossil fuels by 80 to 90 % starting now.

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About Murray Lumley

Board member of Conscience Canada; Christian Peacemaker Teams Reservist; retired teacher; grandfather
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