I believe the Alberta floods were driven by climate change
In performance-enhanced baseball, no single record-breaking home run is directly due to steroid use. But the chances of a powerful hit at bat are far higher. By radically changing the chemical composition of our atmosphere we’ve changed the likelihood and strength of extreme events like these floods. If we don’t urgently reduce our greenhouse gas emissions we’ll face the consequences of our “juicing” in uninsurable homes, damaged communities, and public expenditure for disaster response.
But don’t take my word for it. Just last month the Insurance Bureau of Canada told Albertans to prepare for more floods and other disasters as a result of global-warming. In 2010, the Bureau linked the rise in flood damage claims to climate change. Their research director at the time said, “municipal infrastructure has not been designed to withstand what we are experiencing, and the fact that the climate has changed.”
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities at the time urged cities to adapt to climate change:
“For most of the country, the infrastructure is not built for the climate that we are now starting to see… Climate change is on our front steps. It’s in our communities. We see it. We have to adapt. We can’t wait for some global agreement and we can’t just try to reduce greenhouse gas emissions only.”
Just last month, John Pomeroy, the Canada Research Chair in Water Resources and Climate Change told the Calgary Herald:
“[Multi-day rain events] are increasing in their intensity and frequency and we’re fast learning that our roads, our bridges and even some of our towns aren’t any match for the rainfall and the overflow that results.”
Pomeroy pointed in particular to climate-driven flood risk at Cougar Creek–the very creek that forced my father and so many others from their homes in Canmore last week.
There should be no optimism about the safety and resilience of our communities. Fatih Birol, chief economist at the International Energy Agency, warned last week that if we let the coal, oil and gas industry implement their business plans, the increase in global temperature would be as high as 5.3 degrees Celsius. Two-thirds of all proven fossil fuel reserves need to be left in the ground, he said, to avoid “devastating effects on all of us.”
It’s difficult to even imagine the dangers that a world 5.3 degrees warmer will pose.
What is to be done?
If you live in Alberta, obviously focus on the immediate safety of your family and neighbours and restoring your homes and communities. But after the waters recede and the dehumidifiers are returned, we must not forget this catastrophe.
Call your city councillors, MPs, and MLAs and insist they act urgently to repair and upgrade our infrastructure and continually develop climate change adaptation plans. Acknowledge that preparing for and responding to climate emergencies requires collective action and we need taxes to fund it. Governments are being starved of urgently needed resources to protect our communities by corrupted elected officials, harmful memes about austerity and deficit reduction, and aggressive tax avoidance by global corporations and the super-rich. Canadians must immediately price carbon pollution and eliminate fossil fuel subsidies, then put these funds to work protecting our communities.
And most importantly–and I understand that this will be very difficult for many Albertans to hear–we must leave two-thirds of proven fossil fuel reserves in the ground and immediately stop exploring for new oil, gas, and coal deposits.
The first rule of holes is that when you’re in one, stop digging.
Alberta’s flood emergency will soon pass; the global state of emergency won’t. Climate change is the emergency we’ll be dealing with for the rest of our lives. We must all quickly wake up to the dangers of our warmer planet.