Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Wildfire in Heart of Oilsands Country Serves as Latest Climate Change Flashpoint

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Wildfire in Heart of Oilsands Country Serves as Latest Climate Change Flashpoint

Article excerpt

Fort Mac fire latest climate change flashpoint


OTTAWA - The raging forest fire that's forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray, Alta., has brought out the worst on social media, with sanctimonious eco-trolls posting incendiary, insensitive and unhelpful barbs describing the conflagration as climate change "karma" for a city that is synonymous with oilsands development.

"Karmic #climatechange fire burns CDN oilsands city," former Alberta NDP candidate Tom Moffatt of Lethbridge posted on Twitter, prompting such a firestorm of criticism that he appears to have deleted the post.

"Burn, tarsands, burn!" offered up Quebecker Edouard Dugas.

"I hope everyone gets the irony of a massive fire in the heart of big oil country," posted Jim Ray of Guelph, Ont.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, whose Liberal government has made combating climate change a central theme, was having none of it Wednesday.

"It's well known that one of the consequences of climate change will be a greater prevalence of extreme weather events around the planet," Trudeau said at a news conference in Ottawa.

"However any time we try to make a political argument out of one particular disaster, I think there's a bit of a shortcut that can sometimes not have the desired outcome."

"There have always been fires. There have always been floods," said Trudeau. "Pointing at any one incident and saying, 'well, this is because of that,' is neither helpful nor entirely accurate. We need to separate a pattern over time from any one event."

It was a prudent -- and political -- response.

The sobering fact, however, is that scientists have been warning for at least two decades that a changing climate is contributing to an increase in global wildfire risks and Fort McMurray fits the pattern.

That does not make the city of 80,000 deserving of environmental scorn.

"I find it offensive for people to refer to what's going on to Fort McMurray as some sort of come-uppance," said Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist who now sits as a Green party member of B.C.'s provincial legislature. "The reality is we are all consumers of products that come from oil."

Weaver was part of a research team that in 2004 published a study establishing the connection between a warming climate and increased Canadian wildfires. …

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