There are many truths today that, thanks to the almost reflexive, visceral response of an often vitriolic social media, few dare to speak. Most recently, linking the terrible fires in Fort McMurray with climate change has been one of them. Is it insensitive and opportunistic to draw such a connection, or is it only stating the obvious?
In a recent column, Thomas Walkom did just that:
If the world’s leading climate scientists are correct, global warming raises the probability of extreme weather conditions occurring – from drought to ice storms to floods to the kind of unseasonably high temperatures experienced this spring in Fort McMurray.Fortunately, Toronto Star readers show no such squeamishness, as the following letters amply demonstrate:
To say that the inhabitants of Fort McMurray brought this disaster on themselves is dead wrong. But to say that climate change played a role is not.
The Fort McMurray wildfire is not just a freak accident. Neither was the 2013 ice storm that crippled much of Toronto.
True, these things can happen without global warming. But climate change dramatically increases the probability of their occurring.
So perhaps the politicians should get over their squeamishness and begin to ask the tough questions.
I’ve been accused of being insensitive for talking about the climate irony of the Fort McMurray wildfire, which continues to dominate the news in Canada. Many people have argued that now is not the time to discuss global warming and climate change.
I insist that now is precisely the right time to make the link between epic wildfires and climate change. Once the fire is over it will be too late. People will move on with their lives and the Fort McMurray climate disaster will be remembered as just another freak of nature as were the 2013 floods in Calgary.
Experts believe that the Fort McMurray blaze could be the new norm for wildfires as global warming continues to heat up the planet causing earlier and longer fire seasons with more severe and destructive fires. A warming climate has extended the duration of fire seasons – now 78 days longer than in 1970 according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Fort McMurray exists because of the tar sands, which produce a carbon-intensive bitumen that is adding to the world’s carbon problem. We are all consumers of oil products. This means we are all responsible for this raging inferno that has produced 88,000 climate refugees.
The climate irony continues to build. Premier Rachel Notley is now calling for the fastest possible return to full oil production by oil companies that have temporarily suspended operations. The circle is complete.
Rolly Montpellier, Ottawa
Congratulations of the highest order are due to Thomas Walkom for this column. At last we have a prominent journalist acknowledging that climate change “played a role” in this disaster.
Why political leaders, Elizabeth May excepted, have failed to admit the link is best known to themselves, but one wonders if Justin Trudeau fears that pressure may be brought to bear on him to get on quickly with transitioning from fossil fuels to electricity. This would put him at odds with the “international community,” which has, against common sense, agreed to delay action on climate change until after 2020.
What we must, regrettably, bear in mind is that the Fort McMurray fire is not a unique incident. It is part of a chain of disasters, some past, with many more to come. It seems that we cannot reduce the global temperature.
Even if the entire world switched to sustainable electricity at once (impossible), the Earth would go on warming for two more decades, then remain at the elevated temperature for 1,000 years, according to the Australian Academy of Scientists.
That’s all the more reason for drastic action, right now!
Ken Ranney, Peterborough
This discussion also begs the question of whether tar sands oil production is causing the temperature in that region to soar so high in the spring. I bet native groups would have an interesting opinion on this.
Rather than spending billions to rebuild Fort McMurray, so tar sands oil production can start up again, perhaps the federal government should be investing that money in renewable energy, wind and solar power.
Max Moore, Toronto