Hamilton: Russia's climate problem is our problemCanada
The Toronto Star
Ontario cottage-goers were forced to cancel vacations in Muskoka this month after record-high temperatures sparked massive forest fires in the region.
Dozens of cottages have been destroyed and smoke from the affected regions has engulfed Toronto. Premier Dalton McGuinty declared a state of emergency and warned residents to stay indoors.
Meanwhile, low water levels and unprecedented power demand from air conditioning have forced rolling electricity brownouts across the province, with Ontario’s coal fleet – scheduled for complete shutdown by 2014 – operating at full capacity and making the pollution much worse.
Ontario is in no way alone. Heat and drought have devastated this year’s prairie wheat harvest, causing market prices to double on fears there will be a global wheat shortage.
“What’s happening with the planet’s climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate,” Prime Minister Stephen Harper declared during a rare televised speech to the nation.
Now, before you spill your morning coffee or afternoon Bloody Caesar, please note that most of the above “report” is fictional – today, at least. But insert “central Russia” where you read Ontario, “Moscow” where you read “Toronto” and “Russian President Dmitry Medvedev” for Stephen Harper and the story is pretty much bang on.
Medvedev did make the above comment, and he’s serious. The temperature in Russia has reached a record high of 44 degrees C, hundreds of forest fires rage across the region, and there’s no end in sight for what is being called the worst heat wave to hit Russia since record-keeping began during the rule of Alexander II in 1880.
Seven regions are under a state of emergency, and the fire and heat are punishing the wheat harvest so much that there are calls to implement export bans. Water levels are at record lows. Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest freshwater lake, has reportedly dropped by more than one-third since the beginning of July.
A top United Nations economist warned last week that the impact on grain prices is likely to be dramatic in 2011 and that the world should expect higher prices for bread and other wheat-based foods.
These are the economic and environmental consequences of human-caused climate change left unchecked, and we can only expect them to intensify over the years.
Our seeming inability to slap a meaningful price on carbon – among other initiatives that would help—will only make matters worse.
This is a story of unfolding extremes. Extreme high and lows, heat and cold, rain and drought – however you want to measure it. So as central Russia and Ukraine (and earlier India) burn, we have Pakistan and parts of China dealing with the worst flooding in 80 years.
That’s just in parts of the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, Argentina, Peru, Brazil and Chile are experiencing record cold and snowfall.
But even with these cooler temperatures in the south, 2010 is on track to surpass 1998 as the world’s hottest year on record. This has been confirmed by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Spaces Studies and the U.S. National Climatic Data Center. Who knows what the rest of the year, or the new few years, will bring now that the sun is entering a period of higher solar activity?
Sitting at the cottage this August, watching the kids water ski while you read about oil spills in Michigan and the Gulf of Mexico, it can all seem a bit abstract, far away and, well, unreal. Why spoil a perfectly good summer in Muskoka worrying about it?
Besides, there’s more important stuff to get flustered about – like that invasion of privacy that comes with the long-form census, or having to pay the true cost of clean electricity, or the fact we don’t have enough prison cells to accommodate all those unreported crimes.
Question: If the crime goes unreported, how do we catch the criminals that we’d put in those new cells?
Never mind. Time to drown my passive aggressiveness. Could someone pass me a beer?
El contenido de las noticias que se presentan en esta sección es responsabilidad directa de las agencias emisoras de noticias y no necesariamente reflejan la posición del Gobierno de México en este u otros temas relacionados.
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