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5/29/2007

Freak weather brings winds of change to the West Coast

Seattle, Washington
May 25, 2007
Ottawa's experience on the Rideau Canal during the winter of 2007 may be considered Canada's tipping point for the idea of climate change. When the canal freezes over in winter, it becomes the world's longest skating rink. Except last winter there was no winter. The canal didn't freeze until a brief period much later in the season. Ottawa is the second coldest national capital in the world, behind only Ulaanbaatar, in Mongolia. But on Jan. 5 it was a balmy 50 degrees Fahrenheit, by far the WARMEST SUCH DATE THERE IN RECORDED HISTORY. People were out golfing, the FIRST TIME IN RECORDED MEMORY people could golf in eastern Ontario in January. The sustained summer threw Central Canada for a loop. Meanwhile, British Columbia was also left aghast, as a prolonged series of ferocious storms battered the coast and buried the interior of the province in yards of snow. The subtropical weather pattern known as the Pineapple Express drenched the coast four times in two weeks during November, accompanied by hurricane-force winds. Then a series of snowstorms hit the length of the coast in December, leaving hundreds of thousands without power for days on end. Followed by more pounding rain in early January. Victoria got three times its normal rainfall for the month. The west coast rain-forest town of Tofino recorded 10 inches in 30 hours. Vancouver's Stanley Park was the prime topic in the west, as the winds blew down huge swaths of old-growth timber and wreaked $3 million in damage. The federal environment minister pronounced the storms a direct example of climate change in action. In the blink of an eye, climate change rocketed up the Canadian public agenda to become the dominant problem in people's minds. "Little has been done to seriously address this problem which is literally threatening life on Earth as we know it." "The more timid our response is, the harsher the consequences will be." There is regional frustration on both sides of the U.S./Canada border about both national governments' stances on climate change. One thing Westerners have in common no matter where they live is a certain dubious skepticism about how they're running things back East. Schwarzenegger last week told President Bush to "get out of the way" and stop hampering California's efforts to curtail emissions or he'll go to court. A "Hydrogen Highway" network of filling stations from Whistler to San Diego is envisioned for alternate-fuel vehicles and a green ports strategy is in the works. "Out of the blue British Columbia has taken everyone by surprise. Nationally we've got made-in-Canada and made-in-America non-solutions. B.C. has stepped aside and done it on it's own, similar to California."
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