If Justin Trudeau didn’t know before. He does now. If Canadian’s Prime Minster could blame ignorance before, he can’t now.
Every day brings reports of new deaths and disasters as the intense heat-wave which has gripped much of the Northern Hemisphere continues.
The numbers do not lie. Some fifty dead in Greece, at least 44 dead in Japan, at least 70 dead in Canada. Sweden alight. Numerous other parts of the world are scorching, too.
Let’s start with Greece. Many people will wake this morning to the distressing news that at least 50 people have been killed, including a six-month old baby and many children, with dozens more injured and hundreds rescued as devastating wildfires swept through a small resort near Athens. The authorities have called a state of emergency, and has asked for international help.
Twenty-six people had reportedly died huddled together close to a beach in a town called Mati. Nikos Economopoulos, head of Greece’s Red Cross, told the country’s Skai TV, “They had tried to find an escape route but unfortunately these people and their kids didn’t make it in time”.
One Mati resident, Kostas Laganos, said that he escaped by diving into the sea. “Thankfully the sea was there and we went into the sea, because the flames were chasing us all the way to the water, it burned our backs and we dove into the water.”
Greek authorities urged residents at the coast west of Athens to abandon their homes as the tinder dry conditions continued, with temperatures over 40 (104F).
Greece is not alone. Yesterday, I blogged on the heatwave in Japan. Today, the country’s weather agency has declared the heatwave a natural disaster, saying that at least 65 deaths had been recorded in the past week. Experts believe there will be many more.
Meanwhile in Sweden, where the country is experiencing the hottest July for 260 years, the country has asked for international help to put out wildfires in the Arctic.
In Canada, the hot weather has reportedly caused the deaths of at least 70 people in Quebec alone. Earlier this month, in Ottawa, in Ontario, the humidity index – the method used there to measure the combined humidity level and temperature – hit 47C (116.6F) on 2 July.
But the hot temperatures are back. Early this morning, the Canadian Government issued another heat warning for the Montreal area, advising people that the so-called humidex values are expected to reach the high thirties.
“Heat warnings are issued when very high temperature or humidity conditions are expected to pose an elevated risk of heat illnesses, such as heat stroke or heat exhaustion”, it said.
Parts of Canada too are alight. As of last weekend, there were over one hundred fires burning in British Columbia, and a further 118 burning in Ontario, with 29 of them considered “out of control.”
Finally, some in the media are waking up: One BBC journalist tweeted: “Climate change. It’s here. It’s catastrophic. This month alone: — ’50 dead’ in Greece wildfires — Arctic Circle ablaze — Japan heatwave, flooding and landslides kill hundreds — Record temperatures in Algeria, Morocco, Oman — Drought squeezes US lemons”
Climate change. It's here. It's catastrophic.
This month alone:
— '50 dead' in Greece wildfires
— Arctic Circle ablaze
— Japan heatwave, flooding and landslides kill hundreds
— Record temperatures in Algeria, Morocco, Oman
— Drought squeezes US lemons
— James Cook (@BBCJamesCook) July 24, 2018
But not it seems Justin Trudeau, who is asleep in the heat. All he has to do is switch on the news to see what is happening. As people die across the globe his government has been searching for a buyer for the controversial Trans Mountain pipeline which will triple the amount of dirty tar sands that will be exported from Alberta to Vancouver to 890,000 barrels a day.
The pipeline has become the most toxic political issue in Canada. It is vehemently opposed by the Government of British Columbia; and a coalition of First nations, community and environmental groups.
Despite all the warnings about the climate impact of the pipeline, Trudeau’s Government offered to buy it from Kinder Morgan after the company froze investment, to keep contruction continuing. They had hoped to sell the pipeline on quickly to a new buyer.
But that has not happened and no buyer could be found before the deadline, which was on Sunday. So Trudeau’s Government has no option now but to be the full-time owner of the tar sands pipeline.
As the Canadian Star states: “But with that date set to pass without a deal, it was expected the pipeline company will now take Ottawa’s $4.5-billion offer to purchase the project to its shareholders.”
On Saturday, the day before the deadline, protesters amassed in Parliament Hill wearing hazardous-materials suits and carrying a fake pipeline. One of the protesters Aaron Thornell said “I think that this investment sets us down a completely wrong and long path that will not lead to the [clean energy] transition. Another Pat Taylor added “It’s just crazy. And you know, I have a son. I think about my grandchildren to come and it just breaks my heart.”
The formal sale now looks likely to be approved next month, or in September. It is undoubtable that more people will die from the global heatwave in the meantime. But that won’t worry Trudeau who is on holiday. Ironically in British Columbia.