I AWOKE EARLY this morning to the sound of rain beating on my window and wind shaking the trees. The looming threat, climate change emergency, had awoken me.
Like many, these past few months and days, the dual threat of COVID and the political chaos in the United States has consumed my thoughts. There is enough drama in both of those to think about.
Here in Kamloops, Jan. 12 was the wettest on record for 80 years. Numerous days in January have been the warmest in 80 years. December 2020 had 26 days with median temperatures above average, and only five days with median temperatures below average.
It’s not just a day or two of warm weather we need to worry about. It’s the overall trend and how it will impact us locally, and the world around us.
There are plenty of people I talk to, some long-time Kamloops residents, who say they don’t like the snow. That they’re happy that when it comes, it doesn’t stay. They’re happy for the warm, snow-free winter days. But no snow now means less moisture in the ground when summer comes.
Dryer summers mean more risk of forest fires. Stands of dead, pine-beetle killed trees are out in the forests waiting to burn.
Less snow now means less moisture in the ground, and lower creeks and rivers in summer. Farmers won’t have irrigation water for their hay. Already threatened salmon and steelhead will have a harder time making it to spawning grounds.
Listening to rain beating on the window in mid-January is a stark difference from what winter weather used to be in Kamloops. The average temperature in Kamloops is -5.9° C. The normal range for lowest winter temperature in Kamloops is -14 to -28° C.
I think back to January 1996. It was a cold, snowy winter. So cold that Shuswap Lake froze completely over. Up until the 1970s, Shuswap Lake used to freeze regularly, every four years or so. Logging trucks would drive across the lake to take logs to the mill in Salmon Arm. But after 1996, the last time it froze over, even briefly, was 2012. It has been years since the lake has frozen over solid.
As much as I appreciate that some people don’t like winter, the downsides of climate change are far too stark, locally and globally. Forest fires, floods and droughts. Mass migration of climate change refugees. Water shortages for people, and agriculture. Sea level rise and land erosion. Emerging pests and diseases.
Kudos to City councillor Arjun Singh’s motion this week to make 2021 the Year of the Bicycle in Kamloops. It’s rather disheartening that this one small step was voted down by his council colleagues.
We need to make changes. Even bolder steps need to be taken. We need to double our efforts in creating walkable, more compact neighborhoods. There needs to be incentives to smaller vehicles such as providing more parking for smaller vehicles, rather than monster trucks.
Let’s implement “mobility on demand” mini buses for the outer edges of the city that have little or no bus service. Let’s implement tax incentives for building energy efficient, zero-emission buildings. But let’s start with making it easier to bicycle in Kamloops.
Often, the sound of rain is soothing. But listening to it beat on my window in mid-January is a wakeup call that climate change is upon us, and that we need to deal with it as an emergency that it is.
Nancy Bepple is a former City councillor of Kamloops with a strong interest in community building projects.