May 2016

May 26th, 2016

"Some experts believe the wildfires at Fort McMurray suggest we should become accustomed to major disasters that may be linked to the long-term effects of climate change. But the stakes are different in the Prairies. According to a recent study from the University of Winnipeg, the Prairie region represents a unique case around the world.

The study reports that the Canadian Prairies could be the most affected area in the world over the next few decades. Jeopardizing our breadbasket makes climate change the most serious threat to our food security.

Learning that climate change will affect agriculture is not overly surprising, but the expected pace is jaw-dropping. The Manitoba-based report suggests that summers in the Prairies will become hotter and longer. Using a Prairie Climate Atlas, a group of scientists predicted that over the next 50 to 60 years the climate picture is not pretty. For example, the atlas predicts Winnipeg could see 46 days a year of temperatures over 30 C, a frequency which is four times what the city experiences now. Currently, Winnipeg experiences 11 days of 30 C weather on average a year. For Edmonton, Calgary, Regina and Saskatoon the number could grow up to seven times current averages.

These are desert-like temperatures, similar to what one finds in Texas, or even in Mexico. And yes, fire-stricken Fort McMurray is likely to experience warmer and dryer weather in the future.

These are staggering statistics. More heat and less moisture will compromise our ability to grow our agrifood economy. But also, other than farmers, reports on climate change suggest that the most vulnerable to climate change include people and families with less means and indigenous communities. Food will likely become less affordable and the ability for some remote regions to grow food will be negatively affected."

Read more from The Globe and Mail.

May 12th, 2016

"WEST - In an extraordinary turn for one of the ATF's most labored and expensive fire investigations ever, the agency said Wednesday that the deadly blaze that destroyed West Fertilizer Co. in 2013 was a criminal act, and it pleaded for the public's help to find who was responsible.

The news immediately opened old wounds in this small, agricultural town north of Waco, reignited rumors, frustrated residents trying to move on with their lives and threatened to complicate a mound of litigation against the plant and its suppliers.

Anticipating questions about why it has taken three years, Special Agent in Charge Robert Elder outlined the meticulous nature of the investigation.

Investigators for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spent more than $2 million, building life-size replicas of parts of the plant and interviewing more than 400 people, to reach the conclusion that the fire was set in the seed room, Elder told reporters. Victims' families were briefed hours earlier. The news conference was held at the Knights of Columbus Hall that served as an aid station in the blast's immediate aftermath.

'Your loss is felt by ATF," Elder said. "It has been a driving factor into why we have gone to the lengths and detail that we have.'

No arrests have been made, he said, and the investigation remains open."

Read more from Chron.