B.C. VIEWS: Making sense of climate policy

Flood and fire predictions have poor track record so far

Whenever I write about climate change, a topic that is difficult to avoid in B.C. these days, I get two kinds of responses.

The majority express relief that someone is questioning the religious dogma that surrounds this issue, where people are instantly labelled “believers” or “deniers” and debate is not tolerated. A dwindling minority still defend this tired “science is settled” position, ignoring conflicting evidence that continues to come in.

Here’s an example of the latter responses: “I look forward to your next column where you discuss the different interpretations of gravity.”

If weather and climate were as predictable as gravity, making policy choices would be less risky. But they’re not, as we are seeing with the second year of severe spring flooding around B.C.

This flooding is mainly a result of snowpack as much as twice the average, continuing to accumulate later than usual and then melting rapidly as winter abruptly transitions to summer. Obviously two years is not necessarily a trend, whether it’s snow accumulation or dry summers that bring volatile fire conditions.

Four years ago I sat down with climate adaptation experts from Simon Fraser University, who had just produced a book about the Columbia River Treaty and the implications for flood control in southern B.C. and the U.S. Pacific Northwest. They assured me the trend was clear: our region was moving into a period of less snow and more rain, due to a general warming pattern.

So much for that prediction, at least in the short term. It joins the pile of failed forecasts that includes Al Gore’s warning that the Arctic would be ice free by 2013. The arrogance of university climate experts would be easier to take if they were right once in a while.

Disaster preparation is a daunting task for B.C. The latest effort is an independent report released this month on the traumatic flood and fire events of the spring and summer of 2017. It was prepared by former B.C. Liberal cabinet minister George Abbott and Chief Maureen Chapman from the Sto:lo Nation in the Fraser Valley.

Here are some highlights from the report and presentation by provincial officials, which focused on practical options rather than sweeping statements about planetary ecology.

Shoring up the Fraser River dike network for events in the range of the 1948 flood would cost $9 billion. That would leave little or nothing for other activities, such as forest fire mitigation.

The price of dealing with massive accumulations of forest fuel, piled up since the forest fire suppression policy that began in the 1940s, hasn’t even been calculated.

B.C. Auditor General Carol Bellringer issued a report on the subject in February, quoting forests ministry estimates that 11,248 hectares of wild land-urban interface have been treated or are planned to be treated so far. That’s less than one per cent of the total area considered high risk for interface fires.

The Abbott-Chapman report has more than 100 recommendations, many having to do with communication and prevention. Among them is a central website for new information, to counter the fog of inaccurate social media claims the reviewers heard about repeatedly while touring last year’s fire zone.

Another one is to change traditional land use policies. The forests ministry has spent decades protecting views along highways and around communities, because logging is unsightly.

Burned and evacuated communities aren’t so pretty either. It’s time to get serious about 60 years of fuel accumulation, and to study the actual history of flooding in B.C. instead of fashionable climate theories.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Rocky Mountain high: Surrey’s Burzan picked in NHL draft by Colorado Avalanche

Guildford-raised forward currently in WHL with Brandon Wheat Kings

Delta to charge for on-site parking at this year’s Boundary Bay Airshow

Organizers are selling on-site parking passes for $10; free off-site parking, shuttle also available

VIDEO: Surrey’s former Flamingo Hotel goes out with a bang

The Flamingo opened in July 1955 as a motor hotel with 20 rooms

Delta police committed to ‘authentic inclusion’

Authentic inclusion not about diversity, but creating an environment of acceptance, writes DPD Chief Neil Dubord

Protesters rally in Victoria over newly approved Trans Mountain pipeline

The Still No Consent! No Trans Mountain! 20 kilometre march will end at Island View Beach

Air Canada reviewing how crew left sleeping passenger on parked plane

In a Facebook post, the woman said she woke up ‘all alone’ on a ‘cold dark’ aircraft

Crews fight wildfire along Sea-to-Sky Highway

A cause has not been determined, although a downed power line is suspected

PHOTOS: Event marks one year since soccer team rescued from Thai cave

Nine players and coach took part in marathon and bike event to help improve conditions at cave

Rock climber dies after fall at Stawamus Chief in Squamish

The man had fallen about 30 metres while climbing in the Grand Wall area

Five B.C. students taken to hospital after playing with vaping device

School district said students were taken to hospital ‘out of an abundance of caution’

Being a pot dealer is not what it used to be

Sunday Big Read: the business of selling marijuana in B.C. is a slow bureaucratic slog

VIDEO: Two more pride flags have been stolen from Langley woman

Lisa Ebenal was “angry” and “fed up” after the latest theft. Then people started showing suppport

B.C. couple who has raised 58 children turns to community amid cancer diagnosis

Family who raised, fostered and adopted many kids hoping to gain some precious together time to fight cancer

Most Read