B.C. VIEWS: When weather becomes climate

My summer road trip to the B.C. Interior began as soon as the Trans-Canada Highway reopened at Chilliwack. The crew had worked through the night to clear a mudslide studded with rocks the size of Smart cars, along with a couple of actual cars.

Highway 97 north of Prince George is undergoing major repairs after a rainstorm in late June forced closure in 16 places.

VICTORIA – My summer road trip to the B.C. Interior began as soon as the Trans-Canada Highway reopened at Chilliwack. The crew had worked through the night to clear a mudslide studded with rocks the size of Smart cars, along with a couple of actual cars.

We headed up the historic canyon route from Hope to Yale to Cache Creek, the Fraser River still surging a month after it should have settled back. At Ashcroft, river rafters bravely bobbed on the brown torrent.

The Williams Lake Stampede went ahead between rain showers, bull riders benefiting from soft conditions while barrel racers struggled.

We drove to Prince George and then Vanderhoof, the geographical centre of B.C., where the Nechako River looked ready to climb out of its banks. As we arrived news came that all this thundering water had done its work, toppling a hydroelectric tower at Surrey, briefly closing the Trans-Canada Highway again.

One family member was unable to come down from Chetwynd for a visit. He was cut off by a staggering 16 washouts of Highway 97 north of Prince George in the Pine Pass, which winds through the Hart Range. This stretch of road has long been a contender for the most extreme mountain conditions in B.C., but one night of torrential rain tore it up beyond anything seen in my lifetime.

This pass is the only road link from southern B.C. to the vast Northeast. The rains would keep coming around Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, disrupting farms, natural gas development, a coal mine and a wind farm with floods and washouts.

The transportation ministry and its contractors had a winding track open through the Pine Pass construction zone within days, an amazing effort to restore essential freight traffic into the region that has emerged as B.C.’s main economic engine. But reconstruction will likely take the rest of the summer.

We were back in Victoria by the time the Fraser River finally crested at the Mission gauge after six weeks of high water, its latest peak since 1920.

During the trip, gasoline prices reached a high of $1.31, nudged up slightly by the latest increase in the carbon tax as well as political turmoil overseas. This is B.C.’s largely symbolic nod to the concern that extreme weather events are accelerating due to huge consumption of fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases.

I’ve been careful not to make any sweeping statements about the evolving science of climate change. But the sheer power of recent weather events, and the scars left by bark beetles and fires, are difficult to ignore.

Australia has just taken bolder steps than those of B.C., imposing a carbon tax on the country’s 500 largest carbon emitters. The government proposes to collect the revenues for three years and invest them in renewable energy, transition for coal and steel industries and tax cuts for consumers who will have industrial carbon taxes passed on to them in the price of goods.

Then the Australian carbon tax is supposed to convert to an emissions trading system designed to push industry into a cleaner future.

B.C.’s carbon tax doesn’t exempt industry as its critics sometimes claim. The tax is imposed on all fuels used in industry, but hasn’t been extended to industrial process emissions.

By far the largest greenhouse gas source in B.C. remains vehicles, at around 40 per cent of the total.

• Another highlight of the trip was the visible resurgence of the forest industry. May’s trade figures show B.C. lumber sales to China have surpassed the U.S. for the first time.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

twitter.com/tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Red Cross Workers to visit Bella Coola January 23 – 25

Red Cross workers will be at the Moose Hall Jan 23-25 to meet one-on-one with individuals

Bella Coola to benefit from massive investment in coastal internet

A combined investment of $45.4 million will bring new and updated high-speed internet on the coast

Nearly $500,000 available for internships with First Nations government

Funds announced through partnership with Northern Development and Government of Canada

O’Reilly trial scheduled to start January 15 for Anahim Lake murders

O’Reilly is charged with first-degree murder

School District 49 to re-open Nusatsum Elementary in September 2018

SD49 says increasing enrollment is driving its decision to re-open the school

B.C. cougar kitten rescued after mother struck by vehicle

Conservation Officers find home for young kitten found dehydrated and frostbitten near Williams Lake

World’s fastest log car made in B.C. sells for $350,000 US

Cedar Rocket auctioned off three times at Barrett-Jackson Co., netting $350,000 US for veterans

Bad timing: Shutdown spoils Trump’s one-year festivities

Trump spends day trying to hash out a deal with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer

RCMP nail sex toy thief

Shop owner plays a role in arrest

Ice-cream-eating bear draws controversy

An Alberta Wildlife Park posted a video this week of one of their bears going through a Dairy Queen drive-through

Fernie, RCMP go to court over city log books in fatal ammonia leak probe

Log books center stage in clashing of investigations between the city and RCMP

B.C.’s biggest pot plant planned for Oliver

Co-founder Tony Holler said the 700,000 sq. ft. facility would produce 100,000 kg of pot per year

High-end whisky seized in B.C. bar raids

Raids end in seizures at Victoria, Nanaimo and Vancouver whisky joints

Double-doubles and demonstrations: Employees rally outside Tim Hortons

Protests held in response to Ontario franchise owners cutting employee benefits and breaks

Most Read