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50 Shades of brown: Global warming hits Vancouver

There are so many interesting news stories that made the summer of 2015 memorable. But I’ll stick with the “Brown is the New Green” theme, because apart from, Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, and Pluto, water was the story of the summer in B.C.

Metro Vancouver is under a Stage 3 Water Restriction. It hasn’t rained much since April. May was unseasonably warm and dry. June was hot and dry. Despite some showers in July and August, Vancouver has felt more like San Diego this summer. And at times, Dubai.

Forest fires covered the south coast of British Columbia with so much smoke in early July that you couldn’t look at a sunset on English Bay without seeing deep purple and getting Smoke on the Water stuck in your brain. But fires raged throughout the province this summer and now, nobody’s singing anything. The latest and most destructive was at Rock Creek in the southern interior, started apparently by a cigarette butt thrown from a car.

Who supports a $25,000 fine for anyone throwing a cigarette butt on the ground or from a car? I do. Maybe, in addition to the fine, the province should also add 75 cents to the cost of a pack of cigarettes and call it “The idiots who throw their butts on the ground and start fires” tax.

Anyway, back to the drought.

The reservoirs that allow Vancouverites to drink, shower, and flush their toilets are only 69-per-cent full. This is partially a result of over-consumption and partially a result of little or no snow last year (the ski season was a disaster). And because most restaurants and office buildings converted to those silly automatic toilets and urinals that flush themselves (even when it’s not necessary), even more water will needlessly go down the drain. (“If its yellow, let it mellow” isn’t in the programming)

Stage 3 was implemented on July 21 in Metro Vancouver, and it means no residential or non-residential lawn sprinkling, car washing, boat washing, and no refilling of private swimming pools, hot tubs, and ponds. Watering gardens is only permitted by hand using spring-loaded shutoff nozzle on your hose.

Stage 4 was ordered for the Sunshine Coast on Aug. 12. Gardens can only be watered with grey water saved from baths or showers. And rumour has it, you must brush your teeth with seawater and you can only shower once a week (or twice a week if you shower with a “friend”).

Welcome to the new normal in British Columbia.

In Vancouver, the drought has required homeowners to reduce their lawn sprinkling from once a week to no times a week. Of course, some people haven’t reset their automatic sprinklers, or don’t care to. Thus, some law-abiding neighbours with brown lawns (and an axe to grind) are listening for the not-so-subtle hissing of automatic sprinklers and soaker hoses in the middle of the night and reporting their law-breaking neighbours (with green lawns) to the water-sprinkling police.

It’s called “water shaming” or “drought shaming.” A brown lawn means you’re a good citizen. A green lawn means you’re evil incarnate and have probably shot a lion.

Offenders are called “grassholes” for overwatering (like Tom Sellick was for taking thousands of gallons of water from a hydrant and trucking it to his ranch).

Sanctimony is running as high as clandestine watering. Driving home late in the evening of the third night of the total watering ban, someone dressed as a hipster was taking photographs of my next-door neighbour’s house (where a soaker hose was running in the garden).

Channeling his inner Stasi officer, the hipster curtly and officiously asked me if I owned the house.

“No, officer” I said.

He “outed” my neighbour, (who possibly hadn’t heard about the ban), because the city showed up the next day. One such drought shamer, (“#Maddog’s The Name”) was taken to task by Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun for actually publishing someone’s address on social media, ostensibly so other people could shame the homeowner all the more.

But despite too much Internet vigilantism about lawn sprinkling, it’s pretty clear we should be finding better ways to conserve water during the monsoon season, because the summers are getting hotter and dryer. Fortunately, it's not as hot as Bandar Mahshahr, a city of more than 100,000 people in Iran, where the temperature hit 73 C (163.4F) in August.

Douglas Coupland wrote in the Globe and Mail a few years ago, a cheerful column called  “A Radical pessimists guide to the next 10 years.” Apparently, people should be moving to Vancouver and San Diego because, even though the weather will get more extreme everywhere else in the world, the west coast of North America won’t be as broiling hot or as cryogenically cold as other parts of the continent. (We’ll just have those pesky earthquakes to deal with).  

The climate change deniers are an odd bunch of ducks, aren’t they? They can’t believe that 7.3 billion (not including the billions from previous generations that we replaced) could possibly affect the planet’s weather. Nor can they believe our one billion cars and the energy needed to heat our homes, cook our food, turn on the electricity (much of it from coal or oil), and manufacture our “stuff” could ever affect the atmosphere.

Or they use that old canard: “It’s just a theory, so it can’t be proven” (forgetting that gravity is also a theory, despite its theoretical effect on you if you fall from a tall building).

Seemingly, to get a job with the Wall Street Journal or Fox News, you must see the world through Koch-coloured glasses. You must deny the science, or deny climate change is man-made.

Christopher Booker of The Telegraph takes the flat earth prize for climate change denial. He earned his science-writing credentials at the satirical magazine Private Eye, which means his opinion on climate change is only a little more informed than Kim Kardashian’s. He denies that asbestos is harmful and used his column to libel the chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Climate change is a fraud propagated by “warmers,” says Booker, arguing Arctic ice isn’t shrinking, despite satellite photos and a recent study by a climatologist at the University of Washington that states otherwise.

George Monbiot of The Guardian often writes about Booker’s shoddy journalistic research. Booker has many followers. But then again, so does his fellow climate change denier, the conspiracy theorist , anti-vaxxer, and all around monster raving firearms loony Alex Jones.

Then there’s God. Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe and others on the religious right in the U.S. don’t believe in man-made climate change in part, because it’s not predicted in the Bible (but then again, neither were iPhones). And besides, it’s arrogant of man to think that he can change the climate, because only God can do that. Even the Pope believes that’s a load of garbage.

It strikes me that if science can allow humans to send a probe the size of a refrigerator three billion miles away miles away to Pluto, discover a rocky world in the habitable zone of a star 1,400 light-years from Earth, or grow the entire arm of a rat in a lab, you’d think people would believe what the scientific community has been saying about high CO2 levels and its effect on climate.

Its getting hotter, folks. Time to invest in solar windows, rain barrels, and some reality.

  • My mistake..

    Rod Kehler
    I see I was mistaken.
    Please ignore the disruption.
  • Here's the problem, Rob

    Jan Freed
    Ships cannot remain where the water is too shallow.
  • Disappointed

    Rod Kehler
    When I found this subject on this law website I thought, maybe I could enter into a rational, reasonable and logical discussion, free of political and emotional baggage for a change. A simple, objective, detached discussion.
    But everyone just disappeared…… Is it the long weekend or is everyone just intimidated by the subject matter?
  • disappointed

    Sean Rush
    Foote's contribution isn't relevant. The issue revolves around energy poverty for significant parts of the world's existing and increasing population and the lack of any viable alternatives to fossil fuels to address it. I have read ~40 books on the subject. There are number of reasons why the (unelected)IPCC will ensure climate change remains a global issue, despite their models needing continual refinement to adapt to observed evidence.The 'peer reviewed' literature was shown as a climate change support club inextricably attached to warming theories eg the 'theory on Himalayan ice melt'.Many lead authors are members of green NGOs. The science has been overridden when inconvenient - Mann 'hid the decline' when his tree ring series showed cooling, the IPCC adopted the 'hockey stick' even tho it erased medieval warming, Hanson turned off the air con, Gore misrepresentated CO2's relation with warming, meanwhile credible scientists question the (un)settled theory-Michaels, Curry...
  • Eunice Foote

    Sean Rush
    I think we can agree (from the link provided by Rod) that Eunice Foote established in the laboratory that adding CO2 to air will result in higher temperatures. It is this science that is settled. What is still being debated is what happens in the real world, as my reference to the temperature data vs. CO2 emissions asks. What if Eunice shielded the sunlight entering the CO2 laden canister because the added heat created clouds? What if the added energy, that increased water vapour, is dissipated by warmer, heavier rainfall or storms? What if the added CO2 in the canister was absorbed by incremental plant life? What if, what if, what if - here the science is not settled. Removing dependence on fossil fuels is sensible for 1st world people but 18% of the global population lack access to electricity and 38% to clean cooking facilities. To fix that needs investment that major ff companies will make due to the product's export value, providing domestic infrastructure, jobs and energy
  • Sean

    Rod Kehler
    Do you know what The Greenhouse Effect theory says about CO2's transparency to incident solar radiation?
  • Wrong again, Rob

    Jan Freed
    Your link describes how Ms. Foote confirms Tyndall, not contradicts him. Yet, you claim the opposite is true.

    She says, "An atmosphere of that gas (CO2) would give to our earth a much higher temperature"

    Yet you claimed earlier: "And her experiments prove that the greenhouse theory is bogus!" As I said, the opposite is true. I can't be clearer, less hysterical, than that.

    Deniers are complicit in the climate change deaths of hundreds of thousands per year, 88% of them children (WHO).

    Have a nice day.
  • Jan

    Rod Kehler
    Please take a breath and try to understand what is being said, instead of this reactionary, knee-jerk response. I have been warning about climate change for about 40 years. Long before anyone here ever considered it.
    Jan, your problem, as is the problem for most people, is that you don’t actually know what the Greenhouse theory says. Try studying the “definition” of the greenhouse effect.

    P.S. – is this forum always so slow?
  • Jan..

    Rod Kehler
    Jan, I followed the link you gave but was unable to find the document you described as “the link I supplied has her (unpublished) description of her work.”. Although I couldn’t find your document and I would like to find it, here is a short document that has a very succinct description of Mrs. Foote’s experiments:

    What is most harmful and wasteful is, your kind of irrational hysteria!

    If you actually sat down and thought about it, you might come to appreciate the benefits of global warming as juxtaposed to those of global cooling.

    Because modern science is wrong, no one understands what is really happening here, so they don’t understand what a bonanza it is! If they did, they may reconsider their respective positions on the matter.

    Global Warming is good for us! CO2 is good for us! These two things will..
  • Good?

    Sean Rush
    Jan, this is exactly what Rod daid: "The Greenhouse Effect theory was proved wrong by Eunice Foote, 3 years before it was first proposed by John Tyndall in 1859." so your comment that he said "that Foote 'proved' CO2 was not a GHG contradicting the later work of Tyndal" is not strictly accurate. That said, it seems Eunice Foote did not prove the greenhouse theory to be wrong but was one of the leading scientists (before Tyndall) to advocate for it - that seems clear from the link Jan provided and other google searches I have done - such as: "The presentation of her report at a major scientific convention in 1856 was accompanied by speculation that even modest increases in the concentration of CO2 could result in significant atmospheric warming."
  • Sean..

    Rod Kehler
    Are you a lawyer Sean? It never occurred to me to visit a lawyer’s website but that is exactly where I should be. Lawyers, at least trial lawyers I believe, must have rational, logical minds in order to present a cogent case. Just what I need!
  • Show me the citation

    Jan Freed
    Rod: Either you are sadly mistaken or you are simply lying. You say, " I said the Greenhouse theory was proved wrong .. And her experiments prove that the greenhouse theory is bogus!

    I read her work: she confirms the GHG effect, not the other way around.

    It is your claim that is bogus. NO? Where is the citation and her quote from it that supports your claim?
  • I ment what I said

    Rod Kehler
    Thank you Sean, That is right, I said the Greenhouse theory was proved wrong not global warming or climate change. And her experiments prove that the greenhouse theory is bogus!
    It is truly refreshing to find someone who can read what is printed instead of what is rattling around in their own heads.
  • No, Sean

    Jan Freed
    Rod said that Foote 'proved' CO2 was not a GHG contradicting the later work of Tyndall. False.

    Foote actually supported Tyndall's view, and, the link I supplied has her (unpublished) description of her work.

    Was he mistaken or dishonest? I do not know. Is such error harmful? Of course.

    One can look at graphs of CO2 vs. Global temp over time and find 'flat' places (due to volcanism, particulate pollution, etc.) but he trend is ever upwards.

    Statistically significant? I am not trained as a statistician but the The American Statistical Association (ASA) clearly supports the view that climate change is real, human caused, and worrisome. Google away.

    Every wasted second of 'debate' in the private sector is a second where extra energy of 4 Hiroshima atomic bombs warms our planet, trapped by extra CO2. Satellites measure this imbalance.
  • Good?

    Sean Rush
    Jan, Rod's comment was that the Greenhouse Effect was disproved not that global warming wasn't happening (I don't know if it actually was). Whether additional warmth is a good thing is worth examining. Surely we prefer today's climate to that of the pre-industrial revolution? Addressing Abel's comments (#3 Eloquent)- variations under 30 years are not considered significant - fair enough - so a warm Summer in Vancouver is nothing to get excited about. How about the lack of temperature rise between 1940 and 1970? or why did temperature rise at all 1890 through to 1940 when CO2 was not being emitted in material volumes? Looking at the GISS temperature series, the only rise aligning with significant CO2 emissions is from around 1980 through to 1998 (pausing there, less than 30 years, so is that period 'not significant'?
  • Not so, Mr. Kehler

    Jan Freed
    Ms. Foote work agrees with Mr. Tyndalls: CO2 is a greenhouse gas.
  • Not so, Mr. Kehler

    Jan Freed
    Mr. Kehler is in error when he claims Eunice Foote 'disproved' Tyndall's work It is true she did work on C02 before Tyndall but found (as did Tyndall) that CO2 raises temperatures. She did not conclude CO2 has no effect.

    It remains to be seen in Mr. Kehler is dishonest or merely mistaken.
  • Good?

    Jan Freed
    Red Kehler first says that Global Warming was disproved, then he says Global Warming is a good thing. Though he is wrong on both counts, he contradicts and lays bad logic on top of falsity. A denier sandwich, I guess. Yum.

    Good thing: Citibank (no tree huggers there I think) tells us what a good thing it is, in terms of $$$

    the Citi report finds that these investments will save money, before even accounting for the tremendous savings.. costs of high (4.5°C) warming scenarios could be as high as $50 trillion.

    They didn't mention human suffering, but I assume they care about that too and are not zombies.
  • retired

    Rod Kehler
    "ts getting hotter, folks. Time to invest in solar windows, rain barrels, and some reality."

    Time to invest in some reality is right! Gravity is not a theory! It is a physical fact. There are several theories however about how it works, as is the case with climate change. In the case of climate change however, the dominant theory, "The Greenhouse Effect theory was proved wrong by Eunice Foote, 3 years before it was first proposed by John Tyndall in 1859.

    If they could get the science right for a change, they might come to see that Global Warming is a GOOD thing, in spite of the initial costs to those affected.
  • A point of order

    Abel Adamski
    Tony you will appreciate I am sure a well written piece for the crime show fans.
    You thought the Asteroid was an extinction event that wiped out the Dinosaurs. A closer examination of the evidence is called for to rectify a miscarriage of justice
    Assuming links not permitted
    "So what did-in the dinosaurs? A murder mystery…"
  • Eloquent

    Abel Adamski
    Well and eloquently said Tony.
    For Sean, unfortunately Sean the normal cycles have been running their course with AGW superimposed, plus a lot of permanent ice has been melting, strangely that takes heat.
    It happens in pulses and cycles, we have not been able to predict the ENSO's and PDO's etc, nor the volcanic eruptions and their strength (Their ash cloud and particulates block the sun, some aerosols reflect the sun back off the earth providing cooling) so the models average these variants over the next century. So at times models are high sometimes low, that is why variations under 30 years are not considered significant.
    Consider wet bulb temperature, human lifespan is measured in hours as our sweat cannot evaporate to cool us and we cook. Thank God for aircon you say, as long as your car does not break down in a secluded area or like in Frances heatwave the power doesn't fail.

    Power Generation especially Nuclear need copious volumes of cool water
  • Climate change

    Sean Rush
    to give sceptics a break - the temperature has not increased in tandem with increased levels of atmospheric carbon. It seems to go all over the place - up in the 1930s, down through to the 1970s, up again through to 1998, a pause and then this year's latest offering. Atmospheric CO2 has increased gradually since the industrial revolution picking up through the 1960s and 1970s and increased sharply since 1998 - temperature hasn't. The only link is that both have increased since the industrial revolution but the biggest increases of CO2 have taken place in the last 15 years whereas temperature has increased most sharply prior to then. I'm not suggesting there is no global warming but I can certainly understand why people are sceptical that CO2 is the (major) cause.
  • Solutions?

    Jan Freed
    A very level headed article that doesn't tap dance away from the urgency of the problem.

    I would add that we are past changing lightbulbs; now we must change laws.

    A price on carbon is favored by most economists, left, right and center. When all revenues are returned to citizens as lower taxes or monthly checks, emissions go down, health costs go down, employment and GDP goes up.

    A fully awake electorate may be our only hope.