Calgary Floods: An act of God or proof of climate change?

Julian Wolfe
June 24th, 2013

Climatologists have been warning the world for years about the ramifications of climate change. It is no secret global temperatures are on the rise and as the earth continually tries to regain equilibrium, climatic anomalies will continue to stagger in severity. Is the recent flooding, crippling Calgary, simply an act of god, or an example of what climatologists have long been predicting?

Stronger hurricanes, extreme temperature shifts, abnormal precipitation patterns, rising ocean levels and localized flooding are all on the list of short term consequences due to a changing climate. While the cause is split between natural cycles and human activity, one thing is clear: something is happening – something that was predicted.

The recent flooding in Calgary is unprecedented and deemed as a once in a century event; crippling the down-town to a point its mayor says may not return to normal for another several weeks or months. The flood became devastating, moving to Medicine Hat as we speak – only to eventually find itself in Saskachewan. Fuelled by saturated soil from a winter jam packed with snow and recent rainfall, the water simply had no other place to go.

While not measuring in magnitude, Manitobans and Quebecers know what it’s like – both experiencing their own floods two years ago.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was quick to tour Calgary with Alberta Premier Alison Redford, but some may take notice his reluctance to aid those in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec when then-Premier Jean Charest and locals were left to clean up the mess on their own – some even called his absence “an insult.”

The Calgary floods have postponed the Conservative Party convention, which was due for later this month, showing that no man can be superior than the power of nature. The floods have brought our focus to the region in condolences, but it’s also brought attention to its oil – one that is up for controversial debate.

The Conservatives are pushing one of the largest oil development projects in Canadian history – one that is centred in Alberta. Destined to trade in Asian markets, and a push for it to enter American and European markets, the oil is worth billions in an era of growing energy shortage. As countries catch up to the industrialized world, demand for our limited resource, one that is growing scarce across the world, is on the rise.

But while oil poses a great economic benefit to Canada, it’s other consequences may bear the ultimate price. Further growth in carbon emissions, further trapped rays of light will add to the planet’s thermometer and to the changing climate that will act to punish those in its wake.

But it seems climate change is unavoidable, and but an inconvenient truth we have to face.

Immigration Minister Jason Kenney was asked on CTV’s Question Period yesterday if he thought the floods were caused by climate change. Kenny said, “Well no, this is a once in a century event, and there was no one talking about man-made climate change in 1892 when we saw the last flood of this nature. We haven’t had a warm spring here, we had some rain for three days and a heavy run off that lead to this situation and the stuff that I’ve read and commentary from scientists says that there is not a connection between weather events of this nature and broader climate issues.”

The narrative is consistent with the Conservatives who have been dismissive of climate science. In fact, our current Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver went on the record to insult well-known award-winning climatologist James Hansen in his visit to Washington DC, saying he should be ashamed of speaking out against the oil sands.

Kenney pegged the cost of the damages at more than $1 billion in losses to the Canadian economy, in addition to an expectedly hefty bill to repair Canada’s energy capital. While Kenney says the Canadian government will be there to help Calgary, it is worth noting the military now charges communities, and provinces for their aid in disasters such as flooding and wildfires as part of cuts to the Department of Defence.

As the Conservative war on climate scientists wages on, Calgarians pick up the pieces of their town, ravaged by a once in a century flood, caused by abnormal weather patterns. So that leaves one question, was the flood in Calgary an act of God or proof of climate change?

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   Categories: Alberta, Environment, Oil


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