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Good afternoon, and welcome to Globe Climate, a newsletter about climate change, environment and resources in Canada.

Western Canada is dealing with hundreds of wildfires. This week, we’ve dedicated our newsletter to wildfires, their impact and aftermath. Two people died in Lytton, B.C., and several others remain unaccounted for.

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Wildfire experts, climatologists and doctors warn that as the climate warms, Canada is headed for record-smashing high temperatures, longer and increasingly intense wildfire seasons, and prolonged periods of smoke exposure. The future of fire in Canada is, in a word, smoky.

While fires illustrate the implications of climate change with dramatic visual impact, the flames themselves don’t tend to claim lives in Canada. It’s the heat that precedes and sustains them, and the smoke, that can have widespread implications for human health.

The Globe’s environment reporter Kathryn Blaze Baum and science reporter Ivan Semeniuk set out to explain why Canadians will see more fire in their future.

Read their full story here: The future of wildfires in Canada

Alfred Higginbottom, of the Skuppah Indian Band, a Nlaka'pamux First Nations government, rides off on his motorcycle after stopping to watch a wildfire burn on the side of a mountain in Lytton, B.C., Thursday, July 1, 2021.

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press


Fire reporting from this week:

  1. Podcast episode: Globe environment reporter Kathryn Blaze Baum joins Tamara Khandaker to share a conversation she’s had with one Lytton resident about the human toll of the heat dome that enveloped Western Canada and is believed to have caused hundreds of heat-related deaths, as well as the science that explains this extreme weather.
  2. Explainer (updated!): Our reporters explore some key questions as Canadians endure weather that one climatologist described as “almost biblical”.
  3. The investigation: The federal Transportation Safety Board sends investigators to Lytton, B.C., amid speculation a train may have sparked the deadly fire

The science

Science reporter Ivan Semeniuk writes on how research is finding more evidence of human influence on extreme weather.

As in sports, when weather records are broken by large margins, it means one of two things: Either an exceptionally rare event has occurred that is unlikely to be repeated, or something has changed to make what was formerly almost impossible a more common occurrence.

The essence of climate attribution lies with comparing computer simulations of a world in which humans are not adding carbon to the atmosphere and comparing that with what we see today. One team’s analysis, released by the World Weather Attribution collaboration, found the heat wave was made about 150 times more likely because of climate change.

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The charred remnants of homes and buildings, destroyed by a wildfire on June 30, are left behind in Lytton, British Columbia, Canada July 6, 2021, as seen in this aerial photograph. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier

JENNIFER GAUTHIER/Reuters


Human impacts

Vancouver reporters Andrea Woo and Mike Hager write about residents returning to tour remnants of their hometown.

The signs of devastation in the small B.C. village were overwhelming and apparent: rows of charred vehicles, snarled twigs that that once were trees, homes and businesses reduced to piles of bricks and twisted metal.

Peter and Matilda Brown, who are from the Ts’kw’aylaxw First Nation near Lillooet spoke with The Globe to share their story. “There’s been anger, shock, depression – there’s not a day that has gone by that I haven’t cried.” The Browns, who have been living out of a hotel room just outside Kamloops as they wait for their insurance broker to assess the damage and determine if, and what, they may be paid out under their plan.

Debris from the June 30, 2021 wildfire in Lytton, B.C., seen from Main Street on July 9. Jackie Dives / The Globe and Mail

Jackie Dives/The Globe and Mail


Economic impacts

Economics reporter Matt Lundy and national correspondent Wendy Stueck wrote on the economic fallout from B.C.’s devastating wildfires. The fire that tore through Lytton is expected to have widespread consequences on the regional economy, including disrupted communications networks and damage to forestry and ranching operations. The full economic toll will take months or years to calculate, but ranches, mines and resorts are already feeling the impact.

Wealth management reporter, Clare O’Hara found that the fires could result in about $100-million of claims, according to an insurance analyst. With Lytton still deemed unsafe for residents to return, insurance adjusters have not yet been able to enter the village to begin to assess the damages. “but it is clear it is going to be substantial,” says Aaron Sutherland, vice-president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada’s Pacific and Western regions.

Also:

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Lytton, B.C. on July 9, 2021.

Jackie Dives/The Globe and Mail


The politics

James Keller took a look at B.C. Premier John Horgan’s response to Lytton wildfire.

Horgan defended his government’s handling of the wildfire that destroyed most of the village of Lytton and killed two people, as nearby First Nations continue to raise concerns about the emergency response and aftermath. Leaders of the Lytton First Nation and the group to which it belongs, the Nlaka’pamux Nation Tribal Council, have criticized what they say was poor communication that hampered evacuation efforts after the fire broke out. They have accused the province of not doing enough to help their evacuees.

Climate change columnist Adam Radwanski writes that, in light of this summer’s tragedies, Ottawa must show more urgency in adapting to climate change. The evidence of that need isn’t just anecdotal, no matter how galvanizing the recent plight of Lytton. As acknowledged by various federal reports, Canada’s temperatures are rising at roughly twice the global average.

A wildfire burns on the side of a mountain in Lytton, B.C., Thursday, July 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

DARRYL DYCK/The Canadian Press


Opinion and analysis

  • Kira Hoffman: As climate change increases the risk of fires, Canada’s approach to wildfire management isn’t working
  • The Narwhal’s Emma Gilchrist: The connection between clearcut logging and Canada’s hottest day on record
  • John Vaillant: Enough with the cognitive dissonance. The wildfire that destroyed Lytton, B.C., could happen anywhere

Smoke rises outside of Lytton, B.C., where a wildfire destroyed the town on June 30, on July 6, 2021, as seen in this aerial photograph. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY

JENNIFER GAUTHIER/Reuters


Green Investing

Canada’s oil sands producers are awash in cash flow again, but ESG concerns weigh on stock valuations

With crude prices soaring, analysts expect Canadian oil sands producers to churn out substantial free cash flow in 2021. Investors are starting to notice, and share prices have risen this year. But a number of Canadian oil sands producers are still trading far below their pre-COVID levels.

Analysts have attributed the persistent market weakness to the ESG era, in which investors are paying more attention to environmental, social and governance issues – and are therefore shying away from owning fossil fuel producers. But there may be other factors at play.

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Also:


Making waves

Each week The Globe will profile a Canadian making a difference. This week we’re highlighting the work of Alex Hood doing reclamation and rehabilitation of mining sites.

Alex Hood

Handout

My name is Alex Hood, and I specialize in the reclamation and rehabilitation of mining sites, with a focus on two key areas: front-end planning for the end of life of a mine, and rehabilitating legacy sites.

Through my work in Northern Ontario, I collaborate with communities, government and First Nations partners to determine all aspects of land restoration, from what kind of plant species should be planted, to how to minimize or recycle waste while the mine is in operation.

I am also currently part of a team of researchers working with a number of universities across Canada to identify and document naturally occurring bacteria found in tailings and wastewater, which can be used to remediate aspects of mining sites safely and effectively.

Through this work, I’m helping mining companies across the globe answer an important question: how can we manage tailings and wastewater after a mine has closed, and ensure the land is returned to the community in good condition?

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I’m excited that my work in the mining industry is helping to make a difference in transforming cradle-to-grave practices, into cradle-to-cradle practices, and ensuring that successive generations have a healthy landscape to enjoy.

- Alex

Do you know an engaged individual? Someone who represents the real engines pursuing change in the country? Email us at GlobeClimate@globeandmail.com to tell us about them.


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