All politics aside, it is hard not to feel that Canada has been falling apart at the seams the past few weeks. We are seeing the result of ongoing, massive environmental flux in Manitoba and Quebec due to flooding, and recently the news that a massive wildfire rages out of control in northern Alberta. The fire, which is still burning out of control as of Monday afternoon, had destroyed at least one-third of the town of Slave Lake where 7,000 people reside.
The Vancouver Sun is reporting that hundreds of firefighters on loan from Ontario, Saskatchewan, and British Columbia have been deployed to Slave Lake to help local authorities combat the fire and assist in the mandatory town evacuation. The cause of the fire is as yet unknown, yet 100 km/hour winds helped the fire spread to a larger area.
All this while in Manitoba, the latest good news coming out of the flood-ravaged province is that the massive, intentional breaching of the Assiniboine River has gone according to plan. You know things are bad when the good news is that your decision to intentionally flood a large part of your province did not generate any further problems.
According to the Winnipeg Free Press, “the province let loose the swollen Assiniboine to ease pressure on weakened dikes and prevent more widespread flooding if a dike blew.” 3,600 Manitobans have been displaced by the flooding, which has been the worst on record in some parts of the province since 1882. 1,500 Canadian Forces personnel are on hand in Southern Manitoba to assist with flood control.
Quebec has also seen extensive flooding this past week, which has been dwarfed by the overwhelming extent of the flood damage in Manitoba.
This is a causal link, to be sure, but my first thought when I see these stories is that this is how climate change will manifest itself. Not in the The Day After Tomorrow movie-style where in the halls of American power an underling Army personnel shows a map of North America to the president that indicates all of Canada is inevitably frozen, flooded, or otherwise completely obliterated. I think these are the gradual, systemic changes we can expect whose impact will only become more powerful as GHG emissions continue to rise and alter the climate further.
Unbelievably hotter summers as was seen in Russia recently. Rain dropped in record-breakingly short periods of time that leads to large-scale flooding, as opposed to moderate amounts spread out over longer periods of time. Small fires that become large fires spread by dry trees that see less consistent rain, stronger-than-expected winds, and bug infestations that weaken and kill whole forests that proliferate because of warmer winters that fail to kill off the previous season’s predators.
Taken individually, none of these is especially devastating at the macro level. But added up, and they pose a much more significant problem. One that we have not done nearly enough to address in Canada. So, needless to say, my heart does not bleed when I hear CTV announce that ‘Alberta fires halt some energy operations.’
I hope this doesn’t come across sounding like a conspiracy theory, or that I am cavalier about any threat to the lives of Alberta energy workers. I am not. But every example I gave is of an actual event that has happened within the past 16 months. What remains to be seen is the nature of the link(s) between them.
And there are links between them.