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Complicit and Culpable

May 24th,2023 | Valley Voices

By Andrew Henry

The last three have been girls, and now a boy is expected, likely a difficult arrival.

If you have ever looked at a global temperature anomaly chart that indicates monthly El Niño status, what immediately pops out is that each new occurrence of the El Niño pattern is the start of the next ratchet up in global temperatures. We have been somewhat blessed by three years of La Niña and the cooling effect it has on global temperatures, and yet the last three years have been some of the hottest years on record. It is pretty clear to scientists that we are headed into an EL Niño period, and the only question is whether it will be super-sized.

We are now at, as they say, in the ‘find out’ stage of decades of failing to rapidly reduce carbon emissions. The U.S. winter wheat crop has failed for the second year in a row – it is so bad that producers have abandoned 23 per cent of the acres they have planted, which is to say they won’t even try to harvest. Argentina’s soybean and corn crop was severely damaged by drought; Reuters reported the soybean harvest was the “worst in at least 45 years.” Europe is in drought. Farmers in Spain are looking over un-harvestable winter wheat fields that haven’t seen rain in a hundred days. The Canadian Prairies were in drought even before the heat wave, as this piece is being written. And the Rocky Mountain snowpack that replenishes Alberta and Saskatchewan’s rivers was one of the lowest seen. To the South, the snowpack in California is off the charts. With much of the snow still in the mountains, California’s agricultural lands are already flooded.

So how are we to survive? Thankfully, Glen Peters, the climate scientist who is the go-to for insight on carbon budgets, recently put together a two-step survival guide.

Step 1: Stop putting CO into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels and chopping down forests.

Step 2: Did you ignore step 1?

Here we are in the Gatineau Hills, where multi-day power outages from extreme weather are now a semi-annual occurrence. It is also where there are proposals to clear forested areas for housing developments. Step one of Peters’ survival guide makes it clear that forest cover is essential. It’s the only thing that is sucking back the carbon that has been put in the atmosphere. There is no herd of carbon- sucking magic unicorns on the horizon. Despite the billions in financial incentives thrown at it, carbon capture machinery has proven a failure.

With the mono-culture spruce plantations in Canada’s boreal prone to wildfire and presently burning, the fire-resilient hardwood forests of eastern Canada are a lifeline that we can’t afford to destroy.

At this point, the region’s mayors, municipal councillors, and senior municipal administrators should be denying any housing proposal that leads to the felling and fragmentation of the remaining forested areas in the Gatineau Hills. To not do so at this stage is to be just as complicit and culpable to the misery and destruction of the climate crisis as the petroleum industry executives who delayed emission reductions by manufacturing doubt about climate science.

Andrew Henry is a Chelsea resident.

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