BC’s Climate Crisis – a First Hand Perspective

Recently my wife and I spent 10 days in B.C. visiting family, first in Victoria and then in Kelowna.  The news upon our arrival was focussed almost entirely on the disastrous flooding of the Fraser Valley around Abbotsford, the total evacuation of Merritt because of flooding, the mudslides that took five lives, the loss of over 500 cattle around Abbotsford and the desperate attempts to rescue so many others, the flooding near Hope and Princeton that led to the cutting of the three major highways that connect the Vancouver area to the BC interior–and the news that the damage had an estimated cost (likely to be exceeded) of at least one billion dollars.

One consequence became quickly apparent.  Supply lines had been cut.  Gasoline and diesel were rationed by the BC government, food and staple shelves in some stores became empty, and long lines developed at every gas station that was showing they had gas. Though family members were confident that things would get better, they were clearly worried.

Upon return, while catching up on local news via Orillia Today, I came across the editorial cartoon of November 25th.  It showed two frames—the first showing the Canadian taxpayer (shown as a beaver) tied to a post over a fire labelled “INFLATION” while PM Trudeau looked on.  The second frame showed Trudeau ostensibly pouring gasoline on the fire (labelled “CARBON TAX”) much to the concern of the taxpayer figure as the flames rose higher.

I couldn’t help noticing how out of touch the cartoon was.  Yes, I know it was a political cartoon aimed at the Liberal Prime Minister—but the message was also that a carbon tax would hurt Canadian consumers by increasing inflation.

I couldn’t help but wonder if “inflation” was uppermost on the minds of those people in BC affected by the destructiveness of the huge storms (a month’s worth of rain fell in 48 hours). The carbon tax is, of course, one of the weapons governments can use to try to cut emissions that produce climate change—or rather, the climate crisis—that virtually all commentators blame for the “atmospheric rivers” that led to the destruction in B.C. 

My guess is that, to the farmers that lost cattle to the flood, to the residents of Merritt that saw their homes and their downtown wiped out by flooding, to the families of the five people who died in mudslides and to the hundreds and thousands of others worried by the shortages the heavy rains had caused—what was top of mind was not inflation, but how to emerge from the destruction and chaos caused by the continuing rain.

Yes, inflation does appear to be rising, though many predict that it will be temporary once supply chains cut by COVID-19 are restored. The inflationary costs of the climate crisis might be much more difficult to counter.  Insurance rates are climbing, gas prices in BC went up (supply and demand, you know), food prices in BC may well increase because of the loss of agricultural land and production in the Fraser Valley area. 

How do we counter these climate-caused inflationary pressures? One way is to encourage all of us to reduce our carbon emissions. How does one do that? Well, one way, at least, is a carbon tax.

So perhaps the cartoonist should re-think his logic a bit. And perhaps Orillia Today, along with other media throughout our region, needs to reconsider their responsibility to reflect the realities of our current time.  The “climate crisis” is upon us—and if we are going to restrict its damage to us and to future generations, we must take action.  That action may increase our cost of living—but not as drastically as the storms and destruction that climate changes are bringing our way.

Food for thought? Food for action, I hope.

Fred Larsen, Oro-Medonte


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