We Albertans have received three powerful, powerful messages from Mother Nature. Plain, undeniable lessons. Well, not quite undeniable. In the face of all reason and common sense, we do in fact deny them. You may not be surprised to know that these messages relate to global warming.

The first was the Fort McMurray fire, the costliest disaster in Canada’s history. It forced 88,000 people from their homes, destroyed 2,400 buildings, burned 1.5 million acres of forest, and required assistance from the RCMP, the Canadian armed forces and firefighters from other provinces and South Africa to be brought under control.

The location of the fire could hardly have been more symbolic, right at the centre of one of the biggest greenhouse gas producing regions in the world. Mother Nature couldn’t have stated her message more eloquently. An ironic footnote: the fire forced the evacuation of 19 oil sites and camps with approximately 8,000 workers.

The second message was the 2023 fire season, during which we saw ten times more area burned in the province than the five-year average, the most ever. Calgary experienced 500 hours of smoke-filled skies, another record. Across the country, about five percent of the country’s entire forest burned, an area double the size of Portugal. Dozens of fires in Alberta have carried over the winter, smouldering in wait for spring.

The third message is drought. Alberta suffered its worse drought in 60 years in 2021, worse than the Dirty 30s. In 2023, a low snowpack over the winter and low precipitation resulted in water shortages in many areas and the declaration of agricultural disasters in 15 regions.

In early 2024, the sad story continues. A number of water management areas are already experiencing water shortages with snowpacks below average and reservoirs at a fraction of their capacity. The government is preparing a “2024 Drought Emergency Plan” and the Minister has asked all Alberta municipalities to develop water shortage plans. A Drought Command Team will work with major water licence holders to “secure significant and timely reductions.” Over 50 water shortage advisories are already in place and we are only in March.

The province has always relied on the mountain glaciers to maintain water levels in rivers and reservoirs in late summer and fall. That security net is threatened. Alberta’s glaciers are shrinking—some will be gone in a decade.

Scientists consider global warming to be a major factor in all three events. U of A professor Mike Flannigan points out that rising temperatures lead to drying soil and vegetation, increased lightning strikes, and longer fire seasons. The result is both more frequent and more intense fires and droughts.

One might think that when Mother Nature delivers warnings with such clarity and ruination, even right to the source of our folly, we might finally awake to the threat and shift with all due haste toward a renewables future.

But the good lady can shout as loud as she wants. The mass of us hardly hear. Our government even less. It listens instead to the siren song of the oil industry and its promises of riches.

Our premier, the former oil lobbyist, listens particularly close. She is completely boxed into the industry and cannot think outside that box. Yet she is the people’s choice. The messages, therefore, go unheard.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Discover more from Views from the Beltline

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading