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The small town of Lytton, British Columbia, has always been one of the hottest places in Canada. But this week, with the temperature hitting a high of 49.6 C, it’s one of the hottest in the world — and it’s giving the rest of the country a preview of what our climate future might look like. In the midst of a brutal heat wave that has engulfed the Pacific Northwest this week, and killed nearly 500 people already in Canada alone, Lytton’s record-breaking heat and the subsequent wildfire that destroyed much of the town and surrounding First Nations stands out as a terrifying reminder of just how deadly-serious climate change can be.

B.C. Premier John Horgan seems to need that reminder more than most. Earlier this week, he told reporters that “fatalities are a part of life,” a comment that he was forced to walk back almost immediately. But this heat wave is another indication that climate-driven fatalities are going to be an even bigger part of our lives going forward. And as bad as it is in places like Kamloops and Lytton, it’s worse in other parts of the world. Take the approximately 200,000 people living in Jacobabad, Pakistan, where, as The Telegraph’s Ben Farmer wrote, “its mixture of heat and humidity has made it one of only two places on Earth to have now officially passed, albeit briefly, a threshold hotter than the human body can withstand.” That list of places is sure to grow in the years and decades to come, and while Canada won’t be on it any time soon, we will have to contend with the impact of hotter and more humid summers.

Vancouver's scorching hot temperatures this week were hard on people and pets. Devon O'Donnell kept her cats cool with wet towels frozen in the fridge. Photo courtesy of Devon O'Donnell

Unfortunately, the worst may be yet to come for Western Canadians with this particular heat wave. That’s because B.C. and Alberta’s forests getting put under the broiler has massively increased the risk of forest fires, which could very quickly send Jason Kenney’s “best summer ever” up in smoke. As Yan Boulanger, a forest ecologist for Natural Resources Canada, told the Canadian Press, Western Canada’s wildfire risk maps are “extremely extreme right now.”

Once this so-called “heat dome” lifts and we can all get back to thinking a bit more clearly, we need to ask some pointed questions about how we’re going to adapt to this new normal — and what it means for climate policy going forward. The federal government’s decision to move up the timeline on the phaseout of fossil fuel vehicle sales by five years, to 2035 from 2040, is a step in the right direction. But it should be clear to all but the most stubborn holdouts that we need to be taking bounds, not steps, if we’re going to get ahead of this slow-motion disaster.

That means a hard stop on catering to climate skeptics who have retrenched from outright denial to now accepting the science but ignoring its conclusions. They will point to China or the United States or some other actor’s behaviour as an example of why we don’t need to act decisively, move quickly or behave boldly. And while it might be tempting to assume the evidence right in front of our sweating faces will be enough to convince them to abandon this sort of climate filibustering, it’s far more likely they will double down on their logical fallacy of choice. If they insist on living in the past, so be it.

It will be left to the rest of us to push the broader climate conversation past promises about net-zero emissions targets that are 20 or 30 years in the future and focus far more on what we can do today to actually reach them. We’re at the point where that doesn’t just mean other people making sacrifices. We all have to entertain the possibility of changes to our own lives, whether it’s giving up some long-distance travel, getting rid of a car, or finding ways to use less energy.

The choice on the table isn’t between making sacrifices and maintaining the status quo, much as some people might want to believe otherwise. It’s between making relatively small sacrifices now or much bigger ones in the future — or worse, saddling our children and grandchildren with our sorry legacy. The sooner we come to terms with the reality we’ve helped create, the better we’ll be able to adapt. If there’s one thing that’s a near-certainty, it’s that the records getting broken this week won’t be the last of their kind.

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Yes, I agree. I live in the Cariboo region of BC's interior and we are just coming out of the oppressively hot Heat Dome. In the last 45 years, the hottest temps I remember were about 35 C. The last few days we hit 41 C. Unbelievable and unbearable.

Now we have forest fires. We had a bad fire in 2017 and now people are having to evacuate again.

The poor people of Lytton are climate refugees. The people who have had to evacuate from Deka Lake and other areas are climate refugees. We might as well call it what it is.

More action is needed NOW!

100% agree with you post and the loss that you feel in your part of the country is an awful feeling. I wish you the best and hope that you too do not become a climate refugee.

Max Fawcett: "… But it should be clear to all but the most stubborn holdouts that we need to be taking bounds, not steps, if we’re going to get ahead of this slow-motion disaster.… That means a hard stop on catering to climate skeptics who have retrenched from outright denial to now accepting the science but ignoring its conclusions."
Has Mr. Fawcett reconsidered his support for politicians pushing new oilsands export pipelines?
Only four months ago, Max Fawcett was siding with the AB NDP and its reckless climate/energy policies against the federal NDP's more responsible, science-based stance against fossil fuel expansion and new pipelines. He conveniently forgot about Rachel Notley's unrelenting attacks on environmentalists and federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh.
"Rachel Notley's NDP is poised to win in 2023. There's just one problem: Jagmeet Singh's NDP"
Disastrously, Notley led a sizable contingent of progressives like Max Fawcett to support Big Oil's priorities: low royalties, new pipelines, and a predatory "climate plan" that sabotages Canada's climate efforts for decades.
Notley did what Kenney could never dream of doing: lead progressives off the climate cliff. Notley acolytes now embrace an essentially denialist position.
The 2018 IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C warns that the world must nearly halve GHG emissions by 2030 and eliminate them by 2050 to keep warming below the danger limit of 1.5 C. Doubling down on fossil fuels today is insane.
Notley's neoliberal energy/climate policies represent a clear departure from traditional NDP territory.
Mr. Fawcett can support Notley's neoliberal energy/climate policies or the federal NDP's science-based policies. Not both. They are irreconcilable. Mutually exclusive.
NDP Deputy premier Sarah Hoffman: "I recall many times Jagmeet Singh has not been a friend to Albertans, to working people or to our nation when it comes to energy policy."
Notley called the Leap Manifesto naïve, ill-considered, and tone-deaf.
Premier Notley: ""Here in Alberta we ride horses, not unicorns, and I invite pipeline opponents to saddle up on something that is real."
"'In Alberta we ride horses, not unicorns': Rachel Notley calls pipeline opponents unrealistic" (CBC, Oct 13, 2018)
Reakash Walters, federal NDP candidate in Edmonton Centre 2015: "As one of two people who nominated Rachel in 2015, I am truly disappointed in the direction the provincial party has taken and that they have chosen to prioritize oil extraction in the middle of a climate crisis."
"What was Rachel Notley suggesting when she said she’s not committed to voting for Jagmeet Singh’s New Democrats?" (Alberta Politics, 2019)
Former AB Liberal leader Kevin Taft: "Through her whole career and her whole party, up until they became government, [Notley and the NDP] were very effective critics, counterbalances to the oil industry. As soon as she stepped into office, as soon as she and her party became government, they've simply became instruments of the oil industry."

I've said since BC launched its case against Trans Mountain that Rachel Notley and Jason Kenney are twins, given their joint subservience to the fossil fuel industry. They are lapdogs. The only difference between them are their pouf bouffants and the sarcastic tone in their respective barks.

Mark Carney made an unusual comment in his recent book 'Value(s)', citing Adam Smith's warning about "merchants" seizing control of governments. Funny, Smith is the favourite historic economist of right wingers, but that is definitely a poke in their eyes. I immediately thought of how Big Oil made its most important investment of all time: the purchase of the worldwide political class over the last 75 years. It was Kevin Taft who said oil industry executives (I'd add union reps too) are interchangeable with Alberta government caucus members and cabinet.

Meanwhile, the biggest solar farms and most competitive wind power auction prices are mushrooming in Alberta while the primary target market for bitumen (vehicles) is inexorably going electric.

I think Notley was in an impossible position. Alberta is in an abusive relationship with Big Oil and most Albertans don't know it. She knew what must be done climate-wise but going there immediately would have stopped her government dead in its tracks. I can only speculate that her plan was to get the oil economy moving and use that money to shut down the oil business. Of course the great irony was that decades of subservient Conservatives drove the Alberta bus into the ditch and that's when they tossed the keys to Rachel Notley...and then promptly blamed her for crashing the bus. Of course the solution was to replace her with the very same people that crashed the bus in the first place.

Let's hope that the combination of the heat dome and the pranked Exxon lobbyist who spoke the quiet parts out loud will have the effect of waking everyone up to the very unpleasant reality we all face.

Facing off against a united conservative party, Notley was always a one-term premier -- but her alliance with Big Oil did nothing to help the NDP. History will judge the Notley era as a setback to the progressive cause in Alberta.
With no hopes for re-election against a united Conservative party, the NDP had nothing to gain by shifting right. The NDP was always going to be a one-term government. Stoking Albertans' perennial resentment over pipelines and everything else under the sun only helped the UCP. Albertans who support neoliberal energy policies will just vote for the real thing.
Notley's attempt to out-conservative the conservatives on pipelines was a gross miscalculation. No one did more to fuel pipeline hysteria in this province than Notley. The same hysteria swept the NDP away in the 2019 election.
The more Notley fought for pipelines, the more she fanned the flames of anger among Albertans. A pipeline project became the rallying flag for Albertans, whose sense of grievance against Ottawa burns eternal. Fuelling the right-wing rage machine. Notley's push for pipelines won the NDP no electoral advantage. Pipeline boosters would not give Notley credit even if she built a billion pipelines.
It was up to Notley to stand up to Big Oil, reject petro-politics, put AB on the right track, and show Albertans what principled progressive govt looks like. A lost opportunity.

Notley's supporters still defend her policies: "Politics is about the art of the possible."
A slogan, not an argument. An excuse for failed leadership. An attempt to lower expectations and diminish responsibility. Echoed by the party faithful to discourage voters from holding elected leaders accountable.
Politics is the art of the necessary. Anybody can do the politically expedient. Anybody can govern by poll. Anybody can follow the parade. Anybody can kowtow to industry. True leaders do what is necessary, even if unpopular. They persuade people to follow.
If NDP politicians are not willing or able to defend the public interest, why run for public office?

Some praised Notley's "pragmatism".
Our house is on fire. "Pragmatic" is putting the fire out.
Oilsands expansion and new pipelines are not "pragmatic" politics — just plain lunacy. Doesn't matter what your policies are on farm labor, GSAs, childcare, etc. If you're not progressive on climate, you're not progressive.
Scientific reality is non-negotiable. Either you accept the science and respond accordingly, or you don't.
Political parties who ignore scientific reality do not deserve the votes of responsible citizens.
Rapid man-made global warming is a disaster.
So are govts that fail to address it.

David Climenhaga: "Indeed, the more [Notley] fights for the pipeline, the stronger Mr. Kenney seems to get because the file is seen, however wrongfully, by too many voters as a United Conservative Party strength.

Markham Hislop: "Exploiting industry difficulties for political gain helps no one but Kenney and the UCP."

UCP Leader Jason Kenney: “I’ve never believed there is a large number of Alberta voters whose ballot question is energy or pipelines who are likely to vote for the NDP. The NDP electorate is not people who get up in the morning passionate about pipelines and energy.”

Very good points. Thanks.

It is near to impossible to stop big money, jobs, and provincial profit, from showing the way the province is headed. You put a lot of time and effort into your post but, unless the message is part of a campaign for a viable candidate you and I and thousands of others will just be sideline cheerleaders on a losing team. You post is wonderful but i wish it could be much louder.(seen by millions)

From what I have read over the past few years is that we can't stop something that is already here. We missed the 450 ppm for atmospheric carbon a while ago. So now we have to learn to adapt to the new rules the earth has given us. We will never succeed with change with the governments of the world controlled by lobbyist and billionaire's.
The only ones that can win this fight will be the consumers and voters to break the 200 year lock on how things get done. I will be watching the climate refugee totals as this decade moves along.
I feel very bad for the children of the world at this time, their chance to make change may come to late.

All one has to do is look at the Canadian budget to see where our government interests are. 31.5 Billion for the Military budget that is set to increase to 45 billion. 19 Billion to buy 88 fighter jets and 77 Billion to support the life span of these jets. The Environment budget is frozen. Does that sound like a budget from a government that cares about climate. The trouble is what alternative do Canadians have, all the parties support this.