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Pants on fire

05 Jun 2024 | News Roundup

Justin Trudeau says Canada is on fire. That no one in Canada had noticed the flames only proves that climate change can do anything including burn invisibly… or that alarmists have reached a tipping point where they no longer need evidence. Thus on May 16, responding to a call from federal Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre to give Canadian drivers a summer holiday from the carbon tax, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau snarled “the country is burning” and that his partisan adversary “would rather watch the country burn and Canadians suffer than continue to fight against climate change”. Coming from a man who flew in his government jet 20 times in May alone you would think he might be reticent to harangue Canadians for wanting a summer car trip. But his Health Minister Mark Holland, having himself flown back and forth across the country a lot lately, went even further by declaring that such holiday outings amount to forcing kids to endure 10 hours stuck in a car just “to let the planet burn.” In other news, Trudeau’s party took another hit in the polls and is now projected to hit third place in the Ontario seat count were an election to be held today.

People who are slightly less untethered, and hypocritical, merely said the country was going to be burning soon. For instance the CBC hectored back in April that:

“The federal government says Canada could face another destructive wildfire season because of an unusually warm winter, widespread drought conditions and a forecast of above-normal temperatures in the months ahead.”

As usual we say the notion that something “could” happen isn’t very interesting or useful especially if, for instance, you live on a planet where there are roughly 70,000 wildfires a year. (A number the US EPA shows is declining, before trying to blame an increase on relentless global warming because the largest area burned on record was in 2015, nearly a decade ago.) But it’s habitual with the climate news-of-the-future. Thus the insider Hill Times said back in March:

“‘Be prepared for the worst’: governments, Indigenous leaders receive ‘alarming, but not surprising’ wildfire forecast/ As drought continues across much of Western Canada, governments at all levels are preparing for a potential repeat of last year’s record-breaking wildfire season.”

As for the CBC, it went on to make a bold pseudo-prediction:

“Several regions, including southern Quebec, eastern Ontario and Western Canada, have higher than usual likelihood of fire in April.”

But did any of these regions ignite in April? Um no. Even if the PM hallucinated a blazing mass from sea to sea to sea and the hapless Harjit Sajjan, who has inexplicably held six ministerial portfolios in nine years including defence (despite telling fables about his service in Afghanistan), sneered:

“The wildfires burning in Canada are more intense, frequent + dangerous because of climate change. Pierre has no plan to deal with climate change and everyone should know about his recklessness. As we saw last record fire season, this impacts all of us.”

Well, again, no. The wildfire trend in Canada has been downward for decades, not upwards toward Armageddon. And it doesn’t impact all of us; most Canadians feel no wildfire heat in any given year. But Sajjan was Xing out a column by a premier columnist in the staid Globe & Mail, who sneered that in fact the country was on fire despite the lack of unusual fire activity:

“For weeks now, forest fires have been raging in many parts of the country. This isn’t new, of course. But the fact so many are already lighting up northern skies is unusual. Or at least, it was. Parts of Fort McMurray, Alta., were evacuated just over a week ago, reviving grim memories of the wildfire that destroyed much of the city in 2016. More than 4,000 residents of Fort Nelson, B.C., were also recently ordered to flee their homes amid a fire closing in on that community. This is the new normal in Canada, and a bracing reminder of the effects of climate change.”

Then rain came and the fires turned out to be normal and manageable. The Globe, having taken its best shot at the opposition, promptly stuck out its hand for another subsidy from the government.

The Economist, meanwhile, had it both ways by conceding that “Despite California’s inferno, global wildfires are fizzling out” and then blaming climate change anyway with “Climate change makes fires worse, but agricultural development limits them”. Which combines to statements of such amazing generality that “journalism says things happen” would be a model of precision.

What kind of “climate change”? Where? Over what period? And what kinds of agricultural development? Certainly some in the Amazon was recently being blamed for more fires not less but that was then.

The piece is crammed with pseudo-science and mathiness, sneering that “President Donald Trump says that poor forest management is the sole cause of the blaze” in California before burbling “Scientists beg to differ.” Oh, scientists do, do they? Well, two of them:

“John Abatzoglou and Park Williams, two academics, have shown that temperature and dryness exacerbate wildfires in the western United States. Without global warming, they reckon, only half as much woodland would have burned between 1984 and 2015.”

But after marshalling this massive blip of proof, a paper that has “shown” rather than merely argued what some computer model said, they agreed that:

“despite the attention paid to such disasters, their rising frequency in parts of the West is an exception to the global trend. Most wildfires occur in developing countries, where they are declining.”

And apparently they’re declining because people have stopped doing dumb stuff that had been a long-standing habit:

“Two-thirds of the world’s burned area is in Africa, a dry, hot continent where pastoralists have often used fire to clear land. Slash-and-burn methods remain common in parts of Asia as well. The growth of modern farming is helping to put blazes out: dividing land into pastures and fields breaks up terrain and makes it harder for infernos to spread. Settled people who have things to lose prefer fighting fires to starting them. This trend is so robust that fire is expected to keep fizzling out.”

So what’s left for climate change? Well, the usual rubbish. They produce a chart showing that the total area burned globally has declined slowly but steadily since 1900, so long before climate change was a “thing” although the climate was, as always, changing, and in this instance generally warming. Then the chart projects that the trend will continue, but adds one of those typical climate-scenario speculative lines shooting up called “Simulations based on the effects of global warming alone”. (Which evidently used the “moderate” scenario RCP4.5.)

So we know global warming increases wildfires whether wildfires increase or not because we know that global warming increases wildfires because we said so.

Then in another piece The Economist howled “Canadians are taking dramatic steps to avoid more ruinous firestorms/ The focus is as much on mitigation and preparation as on suppression”. Firestorms? Isn’t that word more often used of, say, Dresden or Tokyo in 1945? But this is 2024 and the media are ablaze; by the fourth paragraph they have mutated into “alien monsters”. But luckily:

“Canada’s fire services are mustering drones that drop ‘dragon-egg bombs’, summoning the long-ignored wisdom of indigenous peoples and heeding the ancient counsel of an admonishing cartoon bear. That means relying on mitigation and preparation, rather than mere suppression, to deal with firestorms that many fear are Canada’s new normal.”

Welcome to the new stupid. The land is ablaze with it.

10 comments on “Pants on fire”

  1. We're all going to burn to death. Tomorrow we're all going to drown from sea level rise. Time to run ads for Noahs and Red Adairs.

  2. In my part of the BC interior it has rained almost every day for the past six weeks, and temperatures have generally been about 12C. That's my anecdotal evidence of climate change. Call Noah.

  3. Here in Wisconsin we are having a cool, wet spring, everything is growing like a bat out of hell and we have yet to see our first 90 degree day this year....not a record but a typical spring in this region goes from 45 degrees and raining to 93 and dry in a 3 day span. If this is global climate warming change I'll take it!

  4. Just love the Noah and Red Adair analogies above!And southern Ontario has seen lots of rain and heat so far in May and June,great for agriculture.
    Can't wait to buy locally grown strawberries!

  5. They never mention arson as a primary cause of last year's wildfires . That doesn't meet the narrative.

  6. I recently finished reading the book "The mysterious Case of Rudolph Diesel" which I highly recommend. It was interesting that during his tour of North America pre WW1, probably 1912, he was on a train through Oregon and Washington and he was aghast at the huge forest fires where vast tracts of forest were burning out of control. Fires are not new, it is just that many more people now live in harms way.

  7. Once again you highlight the curious obsession of the Economist with "global warming".
    As I have said before, the Economist is on virtually every subject a model of good sense. But when climate rears its head, it just goes crazy.

  8. I read that Gary Mason article from the Globe & Mail. Which used to, a few decades ago, be my main daily read. This reminded me how deranged it has become.

  9. I just watched CTV news weather in Calgary. The T was 20 degrees. The weather map had everything at 20 and over in red. Go figure. (Nothing subliminal here folks!)

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