Saturday, May 21, 2011

Predictably Unprecedented

A waterfall in the interior of BC, near Salmon Arm. It's not the Assiniboine, but that's ok: Water systems are connected.

The unprecedented flooding of the Assiniboine River in Manitoba is certainly making life difficult for the people who live there.
The decision to intentionally spring a leak in a dike in order to save other houses is a tough call, but you make the best decision you can with the information you have.
People on the scene seemed confident that the plan will work great as long as nothing unforeseen happens.
It's unpleasant, it's expensive, and it's an example of consequences of climate change.
The cycle we're used to is that snow falls in the mountains, freezes into the snowpack, and melts slowly and steadily all spring and summer long. This gives our rivers a nice even water flow.
With climate change, the snow that falls in the mountains melts sooner, and comes down more as rain. It doesn't stay put, much more of it heads straight for the rivers.
This gives us the unpleasant situation where we get more water than we can handle right at the beginning of the season, and then diminished water as the season wears on, to the point where we don't have the water we have learned to count on in the late summer.
This is only one example. These unprecedented events are only going to get more and more likely in the future. Don't fool yourself into thinking there's an upside. It's all downhill. How far down? Depends. On us.
There are lots of advantages to transitioning to cleaner sources of energy. Clean air. Reduced pollution. Opportunities to develop a new industry. Opportunities for self reliance. Freedom from unpredictable fossil energy prices.
This flooding is actually pretty tame compared to other potential consequences. It's also more dramatic than the reduction in river flows we should expect later in the season. As time goes on, unprecedented events are becoming more and more likely, and not in a good way.
Mother nature is in charge. She's slow to anger, but we'd do better to stay on her good side. If we avoid the unprecedented disasters we won't know it, but continuing with the business as usual approach makes those expensive disasters much more likely. Ounces of prevention are cheaper and much more effective than pounds of cure.
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