We’re seeing extreme fire behaviour on every fire, so I don’t know if it’s extreme anymore.

Diondray Wiley, training chief with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department in Southern California.
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Wildfires: Firefighters battle blaze from top of moving train

China floods: Drone footage shows the scale of damage as clean up begins

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What an Alberta town can teach us about coping with climate disasters

High River was hard-hit by flooding in 2013; it’s now a case study for recovery and mental health

When High River, Alta., began to reopen in the weeks and months following the devastating flood of 2013, Marianne Dickson noticed the casual conversations around town had changed.

Customers in line at the grocery store would vent to cashiers about insurance claims, or when they could return to their homes — some of which were left uninhabitable.

“We were finding the grocery store, the bank tellers, the hairdressers were all becoming very overwhelmed because that’s where people were unloading,” said Dickson, the executive director of Wild Rose Community Connections, which provides social services in High River.

On June 20, 2013, flooding inundated southern Alberta after extreme rainfall, overwhelming roughly 60 per cent of High River and damaging more than 70 per cent of its homes. Five people died as a result; two were from High River. 

Prior floods hadn’t wreaked such havoc, partly, according to the Alberta Flood Recovery Taskforce, because of how and where the town had developed. A 2017 study cited in a federal government report suggested climate change, as a result of human-made greenhouse gas emissions, increased the likelihood of the heavy rainfall that led up to the flooding.

More than 13,000 people — the vast majority of the town’s residents — were forced out, leaving lasting emotional and psychological impacts, including post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety and depression, which experts say we need to better understand, with this kind of disaster only becoming more frequent due to climate change. 

Katie Hayes observed those anxieties firsthand when she conducted field research for her PhD on the mental health impacts of climate change in 2018.

I did not want anybody to tell me that I would be recovering from this disaster five to seven years later. But it was true.

Rev. David Robertson

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Here’s what environmental groups say the anti-Alberta energy inquiry knows about their foreign funding

A controversial two-year long inquiry into allegations that foreign actors attempted to unfairly sully the international reputation of Alberta oil and gas is scheduled to be completed by July 30. 

On that day, commissioner and forensic accountant Steve Allan’s report will be due to Energy Minister Sonya Savage. She is compelled to publicly release his findings within 90 days of receiving them.

In 2019, Allan was initially tapped to report back by July 2, 2020. He had a budget of $2.5 million to investigate any funding furnished by sinister actors to environmental groups, and whether any organization receiving that money to smack-talk oil also receives government grants or holds charitable status in Canada. 

Environmental groups called the exercise a witch hunt designed to intimidate charities that have raised concerns about the oil and gas industry. Environmental law group Ecojustice tried, unsuccessfully, to have a court quash the process.

Throughout the process, the United Conservative Party government granted Allan four deadline extensions and increased his budget to $3.5 million.

About 40 groups named as participants have now seen information Allan gathered about their financing and alleged activities.

Several say Allan has informed them they haven’t done anything wrong.

Some say the findings they were asked to respond to were a jumble of Google searches and conspiracy theories.

Inquiry spokesperson Alan Boras says Allan is now reviewing the groups’ responses and incorporating them into his final report, the deadline for which has not changed.

He said Allan is working to complete the report and recommendations “in a balanced, reasoned, positive and constructive manner that supports a rational and meaningful dialogue of the matters before the inquiry.”

However, not all of the participants responded to Allan’s findings by the July 16 deadline, and he is still accepting replies as his own deadline approaches.

As they continue to question the fairness and impartiality of the process, some organizations are already preparing to challenge the final report in court.

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Buildings are a bigger contributor to climate change than cars — these start-ups are trying to help

This June was the hottest in American history. The 116-degree heat melted power cables in Portland, Oregon, and smashed previous temperature records. Seattle recorded an all-time high of 108 degrees, as did the Canadian province of British Columbia, at a whopping 121 degrees.

As the world warms, more people are installing air conditioning. Global energy demand for cooling has more than tripled since 1990 and could more than double between now and 2040 without stricter efficiency standards.

But air conditioning itself is a major contributor to global warming. Altogether, building operations that include heating, cooling and lighting account for 28% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions. That’s more than the entire global transportation sector.

But SkyCool, Gradient and a number of other companies are working on the problem. They’re trying to apply new technologies to the traditionally inflexible heating and cooling industry, finance the upfront costs, communicate the value to property owners and make sure it’s all done equitably.

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