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  • BC forestry practices and “code red for humanity”

    Patrick Wolfe

    BC logging practices are increasing fire hazard and destabilizing our climate



    A forest fire in a clearcut on Vancouver Island. It’s going to get much worse unless the rate of logging is reduced in BC. (BC Wildfire Service photo)


    ANTHONY BRITNEFF’S astounding statements  in “There’s an urgent need to reduce BC’s logging industry,” should be shouted from the rooftops: “wildfires … together with logging, now exceed fossil fuels as the province’s major source of climate-destabilizing carbon.” He also points out that the British Columbia government’s carbon accounting ignores “carbon emissions from logging and wildfire.”

    During the record-shattering late June heat dome, Victoria climate scientist Andrew Weaver said, “We ain’t seen nothing yet. This is chump change compared to where we are heading.”

    Had the world’s governments heeded climate change warnings in the 1980s and 1990s, we wouldn’t be in our present dire predicament, which makes the next few years critical if we are to have a chance to prevent runaway global warming.

    In the words of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, the August 2021 Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) constitutes a “code red for humanity.” Since the first IPCC report in 1990, “annual global emissions have nearly doubled, and the amount of carbon in the atmosphere put there by humans has more than doubled,” according to The New Yorker. That magazine also described one of five possible futures considered by the IPCC’s most recent report as “a not-at-all-implausible scenario [in which] temperatures will rise by 3.6 degrees Celsius –or 6.5 degrees Fahrenheit—by around 2090.”

    But other voices are expressing concern that the report is too conservative in its projections. Greta Thunberg calls it a “solid (but cautious) summary of the current best available science.” Based, in part, on the Job One for Humanity website, psychotherapist, author, and activist Jonathan Gustin maintains that temperatures will rise 4 to 6 degrees Fahrenheit by 2050 and 14 or more degrees by 2100. He also says IPCC projections don’t include feedback loops such as methane “burbs.”

    In December 2004, the Baltimore Sun reported, “There are enormous quantities of naturally occurring greenhouse gasses trapped in ice-like structures in the cold northern muds and at the bottom of the seas. These ices, called clathrates, contain 3,000 times as much methane as is in the atmosphere…. A temperature increase of merely a few degrees would cause these gases to volatilize and ‘burp’ into the atmosphere, which would further raise temperatures, which would release yet more methane, heating the Earth and seas further, and so on…. Once triggered, this cycle could result in runaway global warming the likes of which even the most pessimistic doomsayers aren’t talking about.” As a greenhouse gas, methane is many times stronger than carbon dioxide; Gustin says it’s 86 times more potent. He adds that “a full summer arctic ice melt” could trigger a massive methane release and that such an arctic ice melt could occur as soon as five years from now.

    Given how acutely imperilled human civilization is, the answers to the questions Britneff poses should be a resounding “yes” in both cases.

    Yes, it is “in the public interest to ban clearcutting and substantially lower the allowable annual cut, thereby reducing the export of raw logs and forest products and cutting back the labour force in the forest sector.”

    Yes, we should transition “40,000 forestry jobs into non-destructive forest and value-added enterprises, and into other economic sectors in order to mitigate a global climate emergency.”



    A mid-August forest fire in a clearcut spreads to nearby forest in BC’s Interior (BC Wildfire Service photo)


    In an earlier commentary, “How to protect forest-dependent communities”, Britneff advocated revamping the current working forest or tenure system, taking control of public forests away from “an oligopoly of multinational corporations,” and placing it instead “in the hands of local forest trusts.”

    Will the BC government act or will it, like so many governments, persist in dragging its feet as it bows down to the status quo? Refusing to seriously engage with the consequences of climate change is like refusing to vote or get vaccinated, all of which are passive ways “of empowering the status quo.” Such refusals are increasing the likelihood of unimaginable catastrophe.

    Inspired by the urgent example of Greta Thunberg, Patrick Wolfe has been writing about climate change since January 2019. He is the author of the forthcoming book, A Snake on the Heart – History, Mystery, and Truth: The Entangled Journeys of a Biographer and His Nazi Subject.

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