Is global warming a myth? Canadians don’t think so, as they sizzle to death in heatwave temperatures not even found in Death Valley, California.
A wildfire has burned 90% of the village that recorded Canada’s highest ever temperature, the local MP says.
Brad Vis said the fire had caused extensive damage to Lytton, in British Columbia, and to surrounding critical infrastructure.
Lytton’s mayor earlier ordered people to evacuate, saying flames had spread through the village in just 15 minutes.
The village this week recorded the country’s highest ever temperature of 49.6C (121.3F).
Abnormally high temperatures have been recorded in swathes of North America.
British Columbia, in western Canada, recorded 486 deaths over five days compared with an average of 165 in normal times.
Many of those who died, Ms Lapointe said, had been living alone in unventilated homes.
Temperatures have been easing in coastal areas of Canada but there is not much respite for inland regions. The weather system is now moving eastwards over the Prairie provinces – Alberta and Saskatchewan and parts of Manitoba have been placed under Environment Canada heat warnings.
Climate scientists are still trying to determine to what extent climate change may have aggravated the heatwave. One scientist, Zeke Hausfather, said the unprecedented weather was almost certainly a consequence of global warming.
“Climate is sort of steroids for the weather, it’s loading the dice to make these sort of extreme events be more common,” he told AFP news agency.
What is happening in Lytton?
Residents fled on Wednesday, many without their belongings, as smoke and flame engulfed the village, which is home to about 250 people and located about 260km (162 miles) north-east of Vancouver.
“The whole town is on fire,” Mayor Jan Polderman told CBC News after signing the evacuation order at 18:00 on Wednesday (01:00 GMT Thursday).
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This personal account presents a more alarming perspective:
It was my lovely doctor wife who leaned over to me and said: “Did you know scores of people in Canada are dead because of the heat? Near Vancouver?” Suffering a severe case of brain fog thanks to being in a pandemic for a year and counting now, I was tuned out.
Canada’s not exactly a place you associate with “people dead from the heat.” And yet it’s a grim tale of what’s to come.
This isn’t a heatwave. It’s a dying planet.
More than 200 dead
Much of the Pacific Northwest is trapped under what climate scientists are calling a “heat dome.” It stretches up and down the coast. Temperatures have rocketed off the charts. It was 115 degrees in Portland, Oregon. That’s hotter than Cairo, Egypt, or Karachi, Pakistan.
This is a region of the world that should be temperate and cool — not boiling hot. But it’s trapped under a “heat dome,” which is a huge region of high pressure, that creates an effect literally akin to a pressure cooker. Yesterday’s “heat waves” — a few days of higher than normal temperatures are giving way to “heat domes” — something much more catastrophic, as the planet warms beyond all recognition, in ways profound hostile to us.
Why do I say “dangerous”? Well, what is life under extreme heat like?
The day before, I’d read an article about the hottest place on earth, which is Jacobabad, in Pakistan. It claims that title because average temperatures go beyond 52ºC. Remember, the heat dome in the Pacific Northwest has already pushed temperatures there almost within striking distance of that — the 115 Fahrenheit is 46 degrees Celsius. Portland and Seattle reached temperatures that are approaching the hottest city on earth.
That’s “climate change,” or far more accurately put, global warming. We are beginning to be boiled alive.
If you think that’s an exaggeration, consider life in Jacobabad. People don’t leave the house much when it’s that hot. They stay inside, trying to stay cool however they can. Business, commerce, trade, social events — all these things come to a halt. What does that sound like to you? It sounds a lot like lockdown.
Jacobabad broils for months. Portland and Vancouver and Seattle’s heat dome will go away. But that’s a distinction without much of a difference. Because chances are the heat dome will be back next year, for longer. And so too the year after that. This is what living on a planet that’s heating rapidly is.
What happens when Jacobabad gets even hotter? What happens as the Pacific Northwest experiences heat domes for longer, more frequently?
We don’t have a technology that’s going to allow us to live comfortably on a boiling planet. I know that you might think we do, because, like me, you’re used to the luxury of air conditioned bliss. The truth is that technology only works in a profoundly narrow range of environmental conditions, maybe from 50 to 100 Fahrenheit, with relatively low humidity. We aren’t going to be able to air-condition our way out of being boiled alive.
Instead, entire regions of the planet will simply become unlivable. Some place will suffer regular heat domes. Some, like Jacobabad, will just be too hot, period, year round. And some will have a drier heat that produces megafires, over and over again. There a lot of ways — too many — that you get to “unlivable.”
Those places are also going to be a lot more numerous than we think. All those air conditioned glass towers in Miami? Good luck with that as the planet warms. All those steel and glass luxury skyscrapers in Manhattan? Have fun with a power grid that needs more juice than the entire East Coast can supply.
What happens as a place becomes unlivable? Massive levels of disruption occur. People have already fled Jacobabad. As “human capital flight” ensues, disruptions happens on three levels. The place people are fleeing from gets poorer and more unstable. The place they’re fleeing to usually doesn’t want them there, especially if they’re coming with nothing.
And they will be coming with nothing, all these climate refugees and migrants, because, well, most of us have just one real asset, if we’re lucky, and that’s our homes. But if you have to leave a place because it’s gotten too hot to live there…nobody’s buying your home. It’s worthless. Congratulations, now you’re something like a war refugee — fleeing with the clothes on your back, and the money you can take with you.
We are now living on a dying planet.
It’s not dying in an ultimate and final sense — probably not, anyways, although there’s still some chance we end up with a cycle of runaway warming so severe we end up like Venus. We’re living on a dying planet in the sense that it’s heating up incredibly fast, faster than it has for hundreds of millions of years, quite possibly the fastest it’s ever heated up.
And as the planet continues warming, faster and faster, living things are going to die. Lots and lots of them. Trillions upon trillions of them. Trees, insects, animals, fish. Rivers, oceans, skies, if you think of those as living things, too. And us.
What’s certain not to survive is this way of life.
We can’t use the technologies we have now to fight the Existential Threats already on our doorstep. You can’t air condition way out of a boiling planet.
Where does that leave us?
You probably already suspect my answer. This isn’t a heatwave — it’s a dying planet.
Our civilisation is now beginning to collapse. When Portland and Seattle are almost as hot as Jacobabad — the hottest place on earth — which itself is becoming so that that soon it will literally be unsurvivable…then, my friends, we are a civilisation that has literally cooked itself alive. Us.
CANADIANS KEEPING COOL
We’re living on a dying planet.
I guess the question then is: who gets to survive?
VIDEO : 6.40 mins