Sorry, Calgary, but when once-a-century floods begin turning up once-a-decade (or even less) you need to realize that either climate change is very real and here to stay or that God just really hates you. Okay, or both.
Calgary is, of course, Canada's oil town which I suppose lends a bit of support to the Hand of God argument if you're the
In the course of civilization, mankind has settled in low-lying areas along waterways. It's just easier that way not to mention all the side benefits like, well, water - something most of us like, a lot. It's just that what was a fine idea for the stable climate conditions of the past two thousand plus years might not work so well for the next thousand or two.
It's not like the flooding Calgary and the rest of southern Alberta is experiencing can't be handled. Of course it can. Here I like to use my boxer analogy. In a prize fight the question is never whether a boxer can take a punch. Of course he can. The question is how many punches can he absorb before he's flat out on the mat. That's what you're betting on.
It takes time to get over a severe weather event. Actually it takes time and money, and sometimes an awful lot of the latter. But you put in the time and you put in the effort and all that money to make everything right again based on some reasonable expectation that you won't have to do it all again for a good, long time. That's what you're betting on, that expectation you won't have to go through this again for decades, generations.
In recent years you might have noticed photos like the one above showing picturesque little British towns awash in flood waters. They've been getting once in a century floods every year or two lately. And now some of those towns are warning they can't take more than another one or two before they'll simply have to be abandoned. It's not just the costly damage to those quaint buildings although that's bad enough. It's also the costly damage to all that supporting infrastructure that's becoming too expensive to be made good again and again and again.
Abandoning little towns like the one in the photo is itself an extreme form of climate change adaptation, climate change dislocation. You adapt by giving up and moving. That could never happen here, right? Wrong.
We're just beginning the process of dislocation. Alberta's Tory government, as we now know, commissioned a flood mitigation study in 2006, right after the First Great Flood, and then sat on it until last year, just in time for the Second Great Flood. The report identified flood plain risks and recommended a ban on development there. "What? No development? Are you out of your frackin' mind? This is ALBERTA for f--k sakes. Ditch that report."
Well that 2006 study is probably useless now anyway. It was based on the 2005 flooding, back when they thought that really was a once-a-century event. By some estimates the 2013 floods could be three times worse and so "flood plain" has taken on a much larger dimension. And that once-a-century business is now pretty much debunked.
Will the Alberta government do a new flood mitigation study? That would involve thinking the unthinkable, the great conundrum that climate change forces on us. How do we persuade people to prepare for things far outside of our experience? Today's political classes don't work that way. They don't have the political vision or the moral courage.
How will Alberta's municipal, provincial and federal representatives deal with this? That is anybody's guess. Climate change denialism is a powerful force in the Wild Rose territory, especially with the religious fundies, and loyalties are split between fealty to the Oil Patch and the well being of ordinary Albertans. I'm pretty sure they won't be calling David Suzuki or Maude Barlow for advice.
Oh well at least the people of Calgary can look to their federal representatives to do what's right. Oh, that's right, Harper's one of them. Okay, forget it.