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Climate change and wildfires … yes, they are connected

What a crazy August. Half the time it’s too hot to go outside and the other half it’s too smoky.

However, I’ll take the heat and the smoke ahead of wildfire ripping through town any day. Touch wood, throw some salt over your shoulder, rub a shiny penny, or do whatever you need to do to prevent a wildfire from scorching the area.

The scenes coming out of the Okanagan are truly horrific. But we’ve seen these before … in Lytton, in Williams Lake, in Barriere, in Fort McMurray, and in Kelowna 20 years ago.

Here it’s fires. In other areas of the country it’s floods and severe weather. And the common denominator, for anyone who wants to pay attention, is climate change. And you don’t have to take my word for it. Earlier this week the U.K.-based World Weather Attribution group says greenhouse gas emissions made Quebec’s overall fire weather about 50 per cent more conducive to fire between May and June. It’s likely similar here.

“Fire weather risk is increasing due to climate change,” said Dorothy Heinrich, one of the report’s 17 co-authors. “Adaptation strategies are going to be required to reduce the drivers of risk and decrease their impacts.”

The report, undoubtedly, will languish while we obfuscate.

So who is fiddling while we burn? Leaders who refuse to acknowledge that human activity is causing climate change.

Chief denier in this country is Alberta Premier Danielle Smith who, when pressed on the issue, said most of the fires in that province are human caused, as if that, somehow, changes anything. She also promised to hire more arson investigators.

OK, everyone all together, can you say “gaslighting?”

Twenty years ago, when we were first focused on Kelowna burning, the Chilko Lake fire was the biggest in the province at just over 20,000 hectares. Today, a 20,000-hectare fire is a campfire.

Currently the Donnie Creek fire is listed at 583,153 hectares.

The problem is drought caused by climate change. Everything is tinder dry.

Climate change, as the scientists told us decades ago, has moved us into extreme weather patterns … drought, followed by torrential rains etc. Most of B.C. has been experience drought conditions for some time.

It’s important to point out there is a difference between climate change and weather. Weather is short term, what’s happening today; climate is long term, what’s happening over time. The two are connected, but not the same.

If we want to prevent wildfires from ravaging our forests and our communities, if we want to stop torrential downpours that wipe out homes, roads, and bridges, if we want to escape the smoke, if we want to change the path we’re on, we have to tackle the core issue … climate change.

Until we do that, things will only get worse.

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