B.C. VIEWS: When weather becomes climate

My summer road trip to the B.C. Interior began as soon as the Trans-Canada Highway reopened at Chilliwack. The crew had worked through the night to clear a mudslide studded with rocks the size of Smart cars, along with a couple of actual cars.

Highway 97 north of Prince George is undergoing major repairs after a rainstorm in late June forced closure in 16 places.

Highway 97 north of Prince George is undergoing major repairs after a rainstorm in late June forced closure in 16 places.

VICTORIA – My summer road trip to the B.C. Interior began as soon as the Trans-Canada Highway reopened at Chilliwack. The crew had worked through the night to clear a mudslide studded with rocks the size of Smart cars, along with a couple of actual cars.

We headed up the historic canyon route from Hope to Yale to Cache Creek, the Fraser River still surging a month after it should have settled back. At Ashcroft, river rafters bravely bobbed on the brown torrent.

The Williams Lake Stampede went ahead between rain showers, bull riders benefiting from soft conditions while barrel racers struggled.

We drove to Prince George and then Vanderhoof, the geographical centre of B.C., where the Nechako River looked ready to climb out of its banks. As we arrived news came that all this thundering water had done its work, toppling a hydroelectric tower at Surrey, briefly closing the Trans-Canada Highway again.

One family member was unable to come down from Chetwynd for a visit. He was cut off by a staggering 16 washouts of Highway 97 north of Prince George in the Pine Pass, which winds through the Hart Range. This stretch of road has long been a contender for the most extreme mountain conditions in B.C., but one night of torrential rain tore it up beyond anything seen in my lifetime.

This pass is the only road link from southern B.C. to the vast Northeast. The rains would keep coming around Dawson Creek and Fort St. John, disrupting farms, natural gas development, a coal mine and a wind farm with floods and washouts.

The transportation ministry and its contractors had a winding track open through the Pine Pass construction zone within days, an amazing effort to restore essential freight traffic into the region that has emerged as B.C.’s main economic engine. But reconstruction will likely take the rest of the summer.

We were back in Victoria by the time the Fraser River finally crested at the Mission gauge after six weeks of high water, its latest peak since 1920.

During the trip, gasoline prices reached a high of $1.31, nudged up slightly by the latest increase in the carbon tax as well as political turmoil overseas. This is B.C.’s largely symbolic nod to the concern that extreme weather events are accelerating due to huge consumption of fossil fuels and emissions of greenhouse gases.

I’ve been careful not to make any sweeping statements about the evolving science of climate change. But the sheer power of recent weather events, and the scars left by bark beetles and fires, are difficult to ignore.

Australia has just taken bolder steps than those of B.C., imposing a carbon tax on the country’s 500 largest carbon emitters. The government proposes to collect the revenues for three years and invest them in renewable energy, transition for coal and steel industries and tax cuts for consumers who will have industrial carbon taxes passed on to them in the price of goods.

Then the Australian carbon tax is supposed to convert to an emissions trading system designed to push industry into a cleaner future.

B.C.’s carbon tax doesn’t exempt industry as its critics sometimes claim. The tax is imposed on all fuels used in industry, but hasn’t been extended to industrial process emissions.

By far the largest greenhouse gas source in B.C. remains vehicles, at around 40 per cent of the total.

• Another highlight of the trip was the visible resurgence of the forest industry. May’s trade figures show B.C. lumber sales to China have surpassed the U.S. for the first time.

Tom Fletcher is legislative reporter and columnist for Black Press and BCLocalnews.com

twitter.com/tomfletcherbc

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The next welding program being offered at Thompson Rivers University Williams Lake campus will be tuition-free thanks to federal funding. (Thompson Rivers University photo)
So you want to be a welder?

TRU Williams Lake offering tuition-free program

Pharmacist Barbara Violo arranges all the empty vials of the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines that she has provided to customers at the Junction Chemist which is an independent pharmacy during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto, on Monday, April 19, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
B.C.’s 1st vaccine-induced blood clot case detected in Interior Health

Interior Health also recorded 52 new cases of COVID-19

Williams Lake RCMP are asking the public for assistance locating Marion Louise Billy. (Photo submitted)
Williams Lake RCMP seek woman wanted for theft, weapon possession

RCMP released the information Thursday, May 6

Audrey McKinnon was officially named the NDP nominee for the federal riding of Cariboo-Prince George. (Twitter)
Audrey McKinnon confirmed as Cariboo Prince-George federal NDP nominee

The nomination comes during speculation the federal government

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Victoria police say the photo they circulated of an alleged cat thief was actually a woman taking her own cat to the vet. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Photo of suspected cat thief released by Victoria police actually just woman with her pet

Police learned the she didn’t steal Penelope the cat, and was actually taking her cat to the vet

The Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Louis S. St-Laurent sails past a iceberg in Lancaster Sound, Friday, July 11, 2008. The federal government is expected to end nearly two years of mystery today and reveal its plan to build a new, long overdue heavy icebreaker for the Canadian Coast Guard. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Vancouver, Quebec shipyards to each get new heavy icebreaker, cost remains a mystery

Vancouver’s Seaspan Shipyards and Quebec-based Chantier Davie will each build an icebreaker for the coast guard

Most Read