When Calgary was inundated last summer by its second "once a century" flood in eight years, Conservative federal and provincial politicians parroted the line about how 'no one could have seen it coming.'
Now as the Polar Vortex of 2014 is on the cusp of receding from the American south to be replaced by seasonal temperatures, it'll be another 'no one could have seen it coming' moment. Hurricane Katrina - no one could have seen it coming. Superstorm Sandy - no one could have seen it coming.
Maybe it's time we asked ourselves some hard questions about how our political leadership never sees these things coming.
I was drawn back this morning to a 2013 publication from the U.S. National Research Council entitled, "Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change, Anticipating Surprises." It can be yours for sixty bucks in printed form or you can download it free in .pdf.
I won't try to summarize the report but the title is pretty descriptive. We're now in a world of abrupt impacts of climate change. They're hitting us fast and hard. Based on what we're now experiencing and what we can reasonably expect in the future, it's our responsibility to anticipate surprises and prepare for them so they don't catch us with our pants down.
We have to break the stranglehold of partisanship. We have to accept that environmental policy must trump energy policy. As fossil fuels are driving these "surprises" we really should tie their production to the consequences we're facing - at least to our own country and people. If the profit margins on products like high-cost, high-carbon are so meagre that we must subsidize production by keeping environmental costs off the books, then maybe it's time we thought twice about closing up that shop for now.
You know that old line, the one that George w. Bush couldn't remember? Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. It's the same sort of thing when it comes to surprises. When a surprise happens often enough it transforms into a possibility and then into a probability and eventually into a certainty.
Speaking of surprises. In the wake of the lac Megantic disaster, there's a lesson to be learned from yesterday's CN derailment near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. Of the 17-cars that derailed, five were loaded with oil, four with propane. The response of emergency crews spoke volumes of a problem we need to address.
A fire broke out among the derailed cars. The response of firefighters was not to go in and attack the fire but to establish a large cordon, around 1-mile, and wait overnight for the fire to run its course. That was probably a wise decision. After lac Megantic who wants to risk being consumed in an explosive fireball?
The question, though, is what are we doing transporting products through populated areas that are so potentially dangerous that emergency crews won't go near them?