Tim Louis: Unprecedented heat wave demands unprecedented action

To date, the federal government has not given any indication that it will take the climate emergency more seriously

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      Wow, has it ever been hot! Past temperature records throughout the province are being surpassed. The town of ‘Q’əmcín (also known as Lytton, B.C.) broke temperature records three days in a row, reaching an all-time high of 49.6° C on June 30, which was the highest ever recorded anywhere in Canada since record keeping began. In Vancouver on Monday (June 28), we reached a high of 31.7° C, which broke Vancouver’s record temperature for that date.

      This heat wave had tragic consequences for B.C. residents. Between June 25 and 1 p.m. June 30, an unprecedented 486 sudden and unexpected deaths were reported to the B.C. Coroners Service—a 195% increase over what would be the norm for those five days. This number is preliminary and is expected to increase.

      The extremely hot and dry conditions also led to an outbreak of quickly moving wildfires in the B.C. interior. Lytton was once again victimized as a fire swept through the village overnight on June 30, destroying an estimated 90 percent of the entire community. It is a devastating loss. (There’s now a GoFundMe to benefit Lytton residents mobilized by Indigenous-led nonprofit Savage Society and the 2 Rivers Remix Society. Donate anything you can.)

      But the real takeaway is not the weather in and of itself. Of greater importance is the question of whether this unprecedented heat wave will motivate our federal government to take decisive action, so desperately needed if we are to avert a complete collapse of the earth’s ecosystem—and with it, the loss of tens of millions of innocent lives.

      With this takeaway in mind, I was pleased and at the same time utterly infuriated by Stephen Quinn’s June 30 interview on CBC’s Early Edition with the federal Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson.

      I was so very pleased because, as always, Quinn gets it. No more banal talk about the weather in and of itself. Instead, Quinn posed all the important questions to Mr. Wilkinson.

      I was infuriated by Mr. Wilkinson’s answers.

      For instance, Quinn asked what was going to be done by the federal government to bring an end to the massive amounts of money that you and I as taxpayers are donating every year to the oil and gas industry. Even absent the climate crisis, how is it possible that every day Canadians are asked to turn over part of their income to such a wealthy and deep-pocketed industry?

      Given the climate crisis, these subsidies should have been brought to an end years ago. Wilkinson indicated that these subsidies will continue until at least 2025. This is incomprehensible.

      Quinn also asked how, if at all, the federal government’s Climate Plan will be adjusted as a result of the heat wave we are experiencing. Mr. Wilkinson replied with words to the effect "not at all".

      Quinn asked about the life expectancy for the Trans Mountain Pipeline. Wilkinson replied with words to the effect "many, many decades".

      He went on to say something so unbelievable it was clear to the listeners that he was spouting nonsense. He said that down the road, the pipeline would no longer be used transport dirty bitumen to the coast for shipment to Asia where it will very significantly increase gas emissions. Instead, the pipeline will be used to transport hydrogen. There is absolutely no realistic possibility of this ever occurring.

      Let’s take advantage of the unprecedented heat wave we have all been experiencing. Email your MP now to demand decisive action. The House of Commons website enables you to find the name and contact information for your MP just by entering your postal code.

      The Citizens for Public Justice website provides tips on what to write and other relevant advice as well as a sample letter.

      If nothing changes, this past heat wave will be just the first of many we can expect in the future.

      Daily atmospheric CO2 [Courtesy of CO2.Earth]

      Latest daily total (June 30, 2021): 418.56 ppm

      One year ago (June 30, 2020): 415.72 ppm

      Tim Louis is a Vancouver lawyer and former city councillor and park commissioner. This article first appeared on his blog, which lists the daily carbon dioxide count in parts per million in the atmosphere at the end of every post. The Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.