Homeless people are vulnerable during extreme heat. (The News files)

Homeless people are vulnerable during extreme heat. (The News files)

TOp 10 STORIES of 2021

Extreme weather proves destructive

Climate change is upon us, say environmentalists pointing to deadly heat wave, floods, and freezing

Wild weather was the big story of 2021 in B.C. with the summer bringing a devastating heat wave, the fall record-setting rain with flooding, and now record-low cold temperatures.

To Kirk Grayson of the Maple Ridge Climate Hub, the effects of climate change started obviously hitting home in 2021, and should make it easier for her group to convince people of the need to change behaviours, and reduce carbon emissions.

The effects of sweltering heat in the summer killed 10 people in Maple Ridge – this according to a B.C. Coroner’s Service report that said 594 people across the province died from heat-related illness. The Town of Lytton saw three consecutive days that were the hottest ever recorded in Canada, reaching a high of 49.5º C.

READ ALSO: Coroner finds 10 Maple Ridge people died during heat dome

That heat wave was directly followed by one of the worst wildfire seasons the province has ever seen, with Lytton burning, and other towns on evacuation alert.

The destructive summer was followed by the wettest fall on record in much of the Lower Mainland – including Pitt Meadows. There was tragic flooding in Abbotsford, and Maple Ridge was on alert as the Alouette River spilled over its banks. If the rain hadn’t stopped when it did, warned Alouette River Management Society president Ken Stewart, Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows would have looked like Abbotsford.

READ ALSO: Maple Ridge avoids major flooding from record rainfall

“There are going to be more of these severe events, more frequently,” warned Grayson. “The reality has hit us much sooner than anyone imagined.”

She is available to make presentations to groups, and “have a general conversation about climate change, and what we can do about it.”

Trained by Climate Reality, which was founded by former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, she said recent research shows 25 per cent of Canadians are alarmed by climate change, while 45 per cent are aware, but still lacking information. The key to getting action on climate change, she said, is educating that 45 per cent.

Grayson wants to speak with educators, buildings, service clubs and everyone she can, and said Climate Reality has supplied “an amazing array of visuals” which are constantly updated.

She said her group would also advocate for the City of Maple Ridge to develop its own climate change strategy, as Vancouver and other cities have done. For example, she said the city should be requiring new strata developments to provide EV charging stations, because of the coming switch to electric vehicles.

Peter Tam has run for the Green Party locally in both provincial and federal elections, and said political will can only be manufactured by voters. He hopes these extreme weather events will make climate change a priority.

“It came a lot quicker than people expected, and it’s a good wake-up call that we should be taking it seriously,” said Tam. “At all levels of government it’s good to bring this up, and bring it into our planning.”

The cost of fighting fires and floods and rebuilding is greater than spending money to address the issue before hand, he said.

Tam was grateful for the foresight that the provincial government showed concerning the proposed residential subdivision on the riverfront off 240th Street.

“I’m glad the province put a stop to the development on the Alouette flood plain,” he said, using it as an example of the type of planning that will be needed.

Tam hopes more residents become aware of the issues, and aware of the power their vote can have on the political approach to this issue.

“Citizens influence government, and influence elections,” he noted.

Grayson said the effects of climate change should get people thinking.

“We could stop driving our cars tomorrow, and things won’t revert to normal weather patterns for many years,” she said.


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