MICHAELS: Fires take climate change off the back burner

But now, as we watch our valley swallowed by flames yet again, let’s at least feign interest in saving the world. It’s just a click away.

Kathy Michaels

Unless they’re there to hand out paycheques, thank-you gift baskets or actually swing an axe and hold a hose, I could do without ever seeing another politician at a fire.

It’s obviously contrived. But there’s something unsettling about watching  one roll in to an ongoing crisis wearing their man/woman-of-the-people wardrobe.

They speak to the front line workers, brow appropriately furrowed and ask, loudly and awkwardly, questions they’ve likely already read the answers to in 15 previously published press releases.

Then, as camera flashes pop, they invariably say, “You’ve done a great job. You’re brave. Marvelous. I could never do what you’re doing”

Of course, all those things are true. But I can’t help but wonder what these politicians are doing in their real arena of change that would help those brave men and women not be where they are, i.e. not be in harm’s way.

For example, what exactly is being done by Canada and B.C. to combat climate change?

Premier Christy Clark pointed out that’s the heart of the problem herself, when she was at the fire scene Wednesday—these fires are the “new normal” and she has concerns that forest fire season won’t give us a break.

“We’re going to see more homes threatened, more people’s livelihoods threatened, more forest resources lost,” Clark said. “Climate change has altered the terrain and it’s made us much more vulnerable to fire…The earth is very dry and I think that we have to be planning with the knowledge that this isn’t going to be an unusual year. These things are going to happen more often.”

So what does that mean?

Are we just going to get more funding to clear underbrush or will the governments that are watching the Okanagan turn into a bonfire year after year going to do something to really douse the blaze?

I have no hope for the current federal government. They don’t seem to value scientific evidence.

But B.C. was once praised for going green with its carbon cutting measures.

In 2007, B.C. set greenhouse gas reduction targets based on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Since then, they introduced North America’s first revenue-neutral carbon tax and achieved carbon neutral government every year since 2010.

Lest the backslide be forgotten, Clark’s government froze the carbon tax in 2013, and moved climate leadership to the back burner.

And emissions have been rising whether it be in the area of transportation, industry, or natural gas production.

The good news is that our smoke signals have put the climate on the front burner again, so to speak.

There’s now an avenue to weigh in on what we all think should be done to fix things.

The province has launched the Climate Action Consultation. It’s open now and ends on Aug. 17.

Head over to http://engage.gov.bc.ca/climateleadership/ and click on ‘Take The Survey.’

“It only takes a few minutes and “your input can help ensure a better future for all British Columbians,” reads the site.

That’s politician speak, of course. There’s a good chance it won’t amount to anything—certainly not a photo op. But now, as we watch our valley swallowed by flames yet again, let’s at least feign interest in saving the world. It’s just a click away.

Kathy Michaels is a reporter with the Kelowna Capital News, a Black Press newspaper.


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