Climate change really is global

Assuming they could see through the thick haze of wildfire smoke, British Columbians might well cast their gaze to the southern and gulf coasts of the United States and think, “Well, at least we’re not being blasted by 200-mile-per-hour winds.”

But you can be pretty sure that somewhere on the planet, somebody’s looking at B.C. and thinking, “Well, at least our land isn’t burning down and leaving our air unbreathable.”

At this point, it’s hardly worth arguing whether extreme global weather and storms are the result of anthropomorphic climate change, which a preponderance of scientists agree is real, or are merely part of a natural planetary cycle. The heating is real, and we’re all going to have to come together on some ways to deal with it in the coming years.

The year 2016 was the hottest on record, and it was the third straight “hottest on record” year. According to some wild-eyed, tie-dyed tree-huggers? Actually, that’s from the combined research and data of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) of the U.S., as well as the U.K.’s Met Office.

A three-year anomaly? Actually, 16 of the 17 hottest years have occurred since 2000. The other was all the way back in the dark ages of 1998.

To those who would argue that the fires, droughts, floods and hurricanes currently taking place — this is just in North America, mind — are isolated events and are unconnected, we refer you to your neighbourhood gas station. The new, unimproved price you see at the pump is, we’re told, the result of Hurricane Harvey knocking out much of the oil refining capacity of southern Texas. How’s that for a connection?

Wildfires in interior B.C. and in Washington state? Oh, wait — that’s all one thing. Large-scale climate and weather events respect no boundaries. Add the effects of industrial globalization of the past 40 years or so, and you’ve got a perfect storm of potential economic tsunamis, with production and supply line disruptions in one area capable of impacting humans across large swaths of the planet.

Closer to home, Vancouver Island is still alleged to be a temperate rainforest. The recent winter and spring were a seemingly unending series of rain and snow events, right? Well, “unending” ran into the terminus of July, and much of B.C. has been burning since. What isn’t burning is under a burn ban — and you can toss in water restrictions, for good measure.

A one-time, “bad” season? Where did you just move in from? The recent winter, with its riches of snowpack and rainfall, seemed to portend the end of what had been three straight years of warm, dry winters and hotter, drier summers. Yet this summer is producing heat records and B.C.’s worst wildfire season. Ever.

Does this mean those calling for upland storage of winter rainfall for Parksville and the immediate area should be heeded? Should the proposed bitumen refinery at Kitimat be constructed to mitigate the impacts of damage to refineries thousands of kilometres away? Resurrect the LNG dreams of the exiled B.C. Liberal party, despite a global glut and depressed price?

Or should we scrap fossil fuels altogether to stop pouring greenhouse gases into the atmosphere?

These decisions will need to be made at the local and regional levels, as well as provincial and federal. This is not the time to look to the empire to our south for a single big, global fix. Besides the fact that there is no single fix, the current “leaders of the free world” are conspicuously not seeing any problem at all.

Even as parts of Texas are still in recovery mode from historic levels of rain dumped by Hurricane Harvey just over a week ago, Florida and the southern U.S. are bracing for the imminent arrival of Hurricane Irma and her Category-5 winds. We can rejoice that those winds aren’t battering our own coast.

Then again, just maybe they are.

— Parksville Qualicum Beach News