The Fort McMurray wildfire is horrific. Miraculously, no people have been killed, so far. Saying that the unseasonably hot conditions in Alberta are “consistent with” climate change is not to say that they are “caused by” anthropogenic global warming. But there is no jurisprudential rationale here for requiring that guilt be established beyond a reasonable doubt. On the contrary, the precautionary principle is the appropriate standard for evaluating the possible connection.
A lot of people take to social media to proclaim their prayers for the people affected by the disaster. There’s nothing wrong with prayers. I do wonder about the public testimonial of praying, though. If that isn’t a politico-religious act, what is?
But what really gets the Sandwichman’s goat are the sanctimonious edicts against “politicizing” the disaster by mentioning the connection to climate change. “Now is not the time.” And if not now, when? If expressions of religious faith are welcome in times of trouble, why should affirmations of scientific conscience be considered disrespectful?
Green Party leader Elizabeth May has been castigated for “linking” the fire to climate change even though she qualified the connection by stipulating that no single event is caused by climate change alone. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau subsequently “corrected” May, pointing out that no single event is caused by climate change alone. You can read the two leaders’ statements right in the same CBC news bulletin.
Outgoing NDP leader Thomas Mulcair boldly evaded the controversy with a forthright equivocation that “It’s not the time to start laying blame…” This is like one of those NRA pronouncements after a mass shooting that “now is not the time” to discuss preventative measures.
“Blame”? Talking about science is “laying blame”? Well, I suppose if some folks refuse to talk about science, deny the science, then talking about science might be seen as laying blame.
I shudder at the long lines of pickup trucks idling in evacuation traffic, running out of fuel… but I must qualify that no single pickup truck’s running out of gas in wildfire evacuation traffic can be directly attributed to the consequences of anthropogenic global warming alone. There’s a lot of factors involved. It’s complicated. Let us pray.