Another Katrina moment

Former Vancouver city councillor Gordon Price coins a new term, the “Katrina moment”, of which Vancouver has had a few this Fall. The latest was a fiece windstorm that passed through early Friday morning. Almost everyone I’ve talked to was awakened around 3:30 am by the howling wind, which approached but just fell short of the all-time wind speed record (that happened during a hurricane). Awoken, I went to check for tidbits online only to have our power go out.

There is an economic cost associated with Katrina moments, in this case tens of millions of dollars damage to homes, cars, boats, hydro wires (mostly due to fallen trees), plus the associated costs of a power outage affecting a quarter million, closures of transit routes, schools and businesses, and the unmeasurable impact on trees in parks and on streets.

The ugly part is that even if we were to stabilize the total amount of CO2 in the atmosphere next year, there is still more warming built in because these are effectively movements towards a new equilibrium and it takes time. And of course, we are far from even reducing the net annual flow of CO2 emissions, never mind the total stock of CO2.

So get ready for more Katrina moments, and hope our politicians can get it together in the next few years. Here’s Price:

KATRINA MOMENTS

I think we just had a Katrina Moment.

Weather so sudden, so severe, it scares you.

The TV News called it the ‘wicked wind’ – a haunting scream at 3 am in the morning.

The damage wasn’t just physical – though the losses will be deeply felt.  I just saw a downed oak, majestic and aged, ripped up by the roots in Stanley Park.

Maybe the wind storm exposed more than the usual fear, that our technological web is vulnerable.  There’s more a fear of retribution, that nature’s roaring back as a consequence of our actions of the last two and a half centuries.  What’s next?  Because it sure seems likely, as we personally experience what is happening to our planet, that something else is in the works.

More and more, people wonder: How are our leaders going to respond to our anxiety.  One or two Katrina Moments and the agenda changes.  It already has, if Marc Jaccard’s op-ed in the Sun today is any indication.  The author of “Sustainable Fossil Fuels,” an SFU prof in resource management, confronts our provincial politicians: “What did you do for the Atmosphere, Daddy?”

 … my bet is that B.C.’s cabinet ministers will avoid telling their children about the difference they could have made.

That’s a pretty tough charge.  ‘You don’t care about your own kids?  About our future?’

Jaccard is looking at their decision to allow coal-burning power plants with no carbon capture.  He argues that the technologies exist, so is the Provincial Government really going to allow two coal-burning power plants without requiring carbon capture and storage?  That’s like saying, ‘I’m not taking climate change seriously, even in this new climate of anxiety.’

“Climate of anxiety” were the words they used to headline Pete McMartin’s column, also in the Sun today.  He too got the spooky implications of our Katrina Moment; he even connected it to that “End of the World” headline a few weeks ago – with a McMartin twist.  Mother Nature is more a ‘vengeful bitch.’

It really isn’t surprising that politicians would prefer to avoid addressing climate change, given that they have to balance all the issues, find a way to respond credibly to the science, craft policy, approve legislation and allocate dollars for a danger that is distant.  But Katrina Moments require that our leaders respond, that they find the right words, and lead us in time when we don’t know what the wind will bring.

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