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July 27, 2004

Burning Columbia

Despite a dry, hot, low-snow-pack summer so far, the fire season has not been extraordinary south of the 49th parallel. But north? It’s been an inferno.

The Vancouver Sun covers the story:

Forest fires have exploded across the province this summer, consuming more than 10 times as much land as at this time during last year's devastating fire season.

And later:

87 new fires started Sunday because of lightning strikes.
The long-range forecast is for three weeks of hot, dry weather with little or no rain. As a result, firefighters are bracing for the worst.

Later still:

Since April 1, the province has had 1,467 fires . . . . During the same time last year, 842 fires had burned.

Fires are not a bad thing for many forests. They recharge the ecosystem.

But fire seasons are growing in intensity in part because of climate change, as we've been discussing (e.g., here), and in part because of the related phenomenon of beetle infestations. (More on that in another post.)

Posted by Alan Durning | Permalink


Reading both the press and watching the TV news here in B.C., one thing stands out by its absence: there is almost no linkage of forest fires and climate change.

Why are the forests burning? In part because of the impact of the mountain pine beetle and spruce budworm. Why are there such infestations? Because we're not having the cold winters that typically kill them off. And why are we not having cold winters? Well, they just don't go there.

Nor is there a linkage between the changing ecology and government priorities. The provincial government aggressively promotes offshore drilling, promotes natural-gas development in the northeast, considers the possibility of coal-fired power plants, and pushes forward with widened highways and bridges. And it generally dismisses climate change as speculative the few times it comes up in debate.

The mainstream media, in turn, pretty much leaves them alone on this topic, so hence there is little public discussion. Just a sense of dread.

Posted by: Gordon Price | Jul 28, 2004 3:28:40 PM

Speaking of global warming and the media, Ross Gelbspan (author of The Heat Is On) has a new book called Boiling Point that manages to point a finger of responsibility at nearly everyone. I haven't read it yet, but the PR for it indicates that, at the very least, he lays to rest the notions that a) global warming is "arguable" and b) that its effects are warm and fuzzy.

Personally, I think the story on global warming, as Gordon illustrates, is more of a "slow" news item, involving systems thinking and analysis, and isn't likely to make it into newspapers (with their bias for "fast," digestible news) until they start having to review more books like Boiling Point. Or, happily, the work of NEW.

Posted by: Michael Baker | Aug 6, 2004 11:23:26 AM

Farting cows are actually the biggest cause of global warming.

Posted by: rose | Jan 2, 2005 8:01:30 PM