B.C. forest fires, climate change, and the Kinder Morgan pipeline
There are now more than 500 forest fires currently burning out of control in BC. Apparently almost the entire province is now blanketed in smoke as well as parts of Alberta and Washington State. What is happening there is unprecedented but people are calling it the new normal with climate change. Is it the new normal or will the normal just keep getting worse? For years, this is what scientists have been telling us would happen if we didn’t do something to reduce carbon emissions. And that future has no arrived as we’re seeing around the world with extreme flooding in India, fires in California and Sweden, extreme heat in Japan and parts of Europe, and so on. The fires in BC are harmful to everyone, particularly the elderly, children and those with respiratory issues, but no one really knows what the long-term health implications will be for residents of BC, some of whom are already complaining of difficulty breathing and excessive coughing.
This all got me thinking about the irony of the ongoing battle over the controversial KM pipeline. Yes, one pipeline will not make much difference in the struggle to reduce emissions but it is striking that a project designed to increase the production and export of oil sands bitumen is going right through the heart of a province that is right now suffering the extreme effects of climate change. Isn’t this taking Canada in precisely the wrong direction and sending the world precisely the wrong message about Canada’s intentions on reducing our emissions? The government’s paradoxical position seems to me like lighting up a cigarette in a room already full of smoke, while trying to tell others in the room they can’t light up. You might say, well, my cigarette isn’t making much difference here, but it certainly isn’t helping the problem and, worse, it strikes of blatant hypocrisy. Doesn’t everyone have an obligation to do their part?
Alberta premier Rachel Notley likes to say that the pipeline is needed for all the oil sands workers who need the jobs. But what about all those people in BC, especially young children, whose health may be impacted by the forest fires, which we know are a result of climate change or are at least being exacerbated by climate change. How long can we continue to justify this kind of business as usual thinking about pretending that nothing really needs to change? This is not the right approach if we are going to have any chance of solving the climate change problem.