Greenland is experiencing a heat wave and the melting of its ice shelf. Paris recently sweltered in 40-degree heat and it now looks like this past July may have been the hottest month ever recorded.
All of this makes a report quietly released last month by the B.C. government - predicting what this province can expect from the effects of climate change - even more alarming.
Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment for B.C. was made public without fanfare - not even an accompanying news release – and it is bad news all around.
Frequent flooding. More wildfires. Long periods of drought. Sustained heat waves. Long-term water shortages.
Dealing with these potential disasters is going to cost a lot of money, which means more of your tax dollars will be needed to minimize the damage and pay for clean-up costs.
This grim scenario is supposed to unfold in B.C. over the next 30 years or so. Some of this is already happening with wildfires, of course, and it looks like things are just going to get worse.
What is truly unsettling is the prospect that some of these events could occur simultaneously. An out-of-control wildfire, coupled with a prolonged heat wave and flooding could lead to everything from loss of life to community breakdowns to the loss of an energy or water supply.
The report evaluated 15 specific “climate risk events” driven by climate change and rated them from “low” to “catastrophic” and considered their likelihood and impact on infrastructure, human life, and “cost to the provincial government.”
In terms of costs, a bad wildfire and flooding season can easily approach $1 billion drained from the provincial treasury. However, that will not necessarily be the “new normal.”
If we start seeing events considered unlikely today, but quite possible down the road, the costs will soar well beyond what they are right now.
As an aside, the NDP government’s handling of this report was puzzling. There seems to be a consensus that the general public needs more information about climate change and its destructive impact and this report seemed like the perfect tool to accomplish just that.
Unfortunately, the government chose to simply post the report online without announcing anything and, as a result, there has been relatively little media coverage of its startling conclusions. I only discovered its existence courtesy of Burnaby NOW/New West Record reporter Dustin Godfrey’s Twitter feed.
This was only the preliminary report. The final report will be released next year.
It is unlikely the final report will pull any punches and it will no doubt contain the same nightmarish predictions of what lies ahead.
If so, here’s hoping the government will put it in front of as many British Columbians as possible, rather than burying it on a website.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.