"Wildfire smoke is so thick in Prince George, it looks like night, after the sun has risen." That's a quote from Global News describing noon in the northern B.C. city of 74,003. Evacuations, damaged health, Beijing-like fog, nightmarish infernos. Welcome to the new normal.
It's a scary new normal where a churning tornado filled with fire the size of three football fields whipped up, raging out of the largest wildfire in California history. Extreme conditions and intense heat fueled the plume, Time Magazine writes. "It launched power line support towers, cars, and a shipping container into the air." It left "not a living branch for kilometres." A thousand feet wide, it shot seven and a half miles into the sky, reached speeds of up to 165 miles per hour with temperatures that likely exceeded 2700 degrees Fahrenheit, according to a report by the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. It took the life of a firefighter who was trying to help people in Redding, California, on July 26th.
It's absurd for ministers to meet in a province where nearly 600 wildfires are burning and to leave climate change off the agenda. #cdnpoli #bcpoli
It's easy to feel like the world's coming to an end when the landscape you love is going up in flames. Dark humour can be momentarily uplifting. "We'll all leave Earth in a spaceship to settle on Mars! It'll be fun!" But dark humour isn't going to solve things. Reducing global warming is.
With this as the context, I was pretty surprised, and disappointed, a few days ago when I read that the prime minister and his cabinet members would be meeting in Nanaimo this weekend, and that their agenda – as outlined in an initial media advisory – made no mention of climate policy. Even while British Columbia is burning.
According to the advisory, cabinet ministers will discuss, "ways to deliver economic growth and create good, middle class jobs for Canadians," and especially focus on trade and border security.
On Twitter, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau similarly emphasized the goals of the meeting.
Next week, the Cabinet is heading to Nanaimo, BC for meetings focused on our plan to keep growing the economy and creating good, middle class jobs. Get the details: https://t.co/48TipMgjnd— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) August 14, 2018
It's absurd for ministers to meet in a province where nearly 600 wildfires are burning and to leave climate change off the agenda. It's an international problem that requires relentless, focused global effort and Canada should not only participate in this effort, Canada should lead.
Meanwhile, in Prince George, the biggest fire in British Columbia continues to rage and the air quality was so poor in the area it broke all previous records today.
Scientists have warned for years that climate change would bring disastrous instability and suffering to all living beings. As their warnings prove true, those of us breathing the smoke in B.C. can only shake our heads and hope that tomorrow, or soon, the winds will shift and climate change will take the central position on this cabinet's agenda.