Platt: Zero foresight shown for disaster relief budget
Platt: Zero foresight shown for disaster relief budget
02 September 2012
published by www.calgarysun.com
Canada–– If anythings a disaster, its underestimating your disaster budget by a quarter-billion dollars.
That, by end of this fiscal year, is the whopper of a bill awaiting Alberta a province already struggling to balance the books in the face of flaccid energy revenues.
Just three months into the 2012-2013 fiscal year, and the $8 million budgeted for first-quarter disaster recovery and assistance has been spent almost ninefold. Its a blown budget if there ever was one.
With $44 million allotted for the entire year, Alberta has spent $71 million helping to fix natures wrath in the first quarter alone, a spending pace that will put us $240 million in the red by budgets close.
Disasters are one of those things you cant plan for, but you can certainly budget for them, said Ken Kobly, president and CEO of the Alberta Chambers of Commerce.
The ACC has been a scathing critic of Albertas failure to properly plan for the inevitable forest fires, floods, tornados and hail storms which ravage the province, as proven by this years budget fail.
Whats really sad is that the 2012 budget disaster is actually a serious improvement.
Prior to this years way-off-the-mark $44-million estimate, Alberta didnt even bother to set money aside for ruined crops and wrecked property.
Showing zero foresight to match the zero entered in the budget for emergency relief, the province somehow failed to anticipate the endless array of natural disasters which always hit Alberta.
Its all the more astounding given the frequency of smites by Mother Nature against this province, whether its flooding down south or forest fires up north.
The Alberta Chambers of Commerce added it up, and between 2003 and 2012, the Alberta government laid out more than $4.6 billion in emergency and disaster relief, without officially anticipating a single penny.
It makes the $44 million budgeted for this years round of earthbourne horror seem slightly less ludicrous but only just.
While Kobly applauds the province for finally budgeting something for the inevitable disaster expenditure, he says $44 million is clearly not a realistic figure.
Last year for example, the province paid out $595 million in disaster relief and it was hardly an atypical season for emergencies.
According to the 2011 third-quarter update, Alberta spent $250 million on forest fires, $172 million on the Slave Lake wildfires, $105 million on flooding, $38 million on crops and $30 million on pine beetles.
Rather than scrambling to cover the shortfall each and every year, Kobly says the province must be realistic and budget for a typical year, based on a five-year rolling average.
Its no different than how municipalities budget for snow removal, or at least how they should budget for snow removal, he said.
Every year, you know the snow is coming. In Alberta, we know therell be ruined crops, floods, droughts, forest fires and pine beetles.
We need to plan ahead.
Albertas guess-based disaster budgeting wouldnt be as big a liability in a year when high energy prices are bolstering the provincial bank account, but a quarter-billion mistake is one big headache in 2012.
The bad news comes just as the province announces a projected $3-billion deficit, which critics say is a threat to key infrastructure projects.
Premier Alison Redford has denied there will be further cuts, despite the cancellation of a $121-million police training facility in Fort Macleod, but its clear cash is very tight.
Kathleen Range, a spokeswoman for the Treasury Board and Ministry of Finance, said there was no choice but to break the disaster budget this quarter.
She says the overspending on disaster and emergency assistance is mainly due to forest fires and pine beetles, for which the province expects to send $150 million and $40 million this year, respectively.
The expenditures, she says, often reflect claims for past emergencies, rather than the most current disaster.
It reflects the timing of what was paid out, said Range.
Right now, forest fires and pine beetles are the reason.
When the Fourmile Canyon Fire erupted west of Boulder in 2010, smoke from the wildfire poured into parts of the city including a site housing scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-evidence-heat-trapping-effects-wildfire-particles.html#jCpWithin 24 hours, a few researchers at the David Skaggs Research Center had opened up a particle sampling port on the roof of the building and started pulling in smoky air for analysis by two custom instruments inside. They became the first scientists to directly measure and quantify some unique heat-trapping effects of wildfire smoke particles.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-evidence-heat-trapping-effects-wildfire-particles.html#jCpWhen the Fourmile Canyon Fire erupted west of Boulder in 2010, smoke from the wildfire poured into parts of the city including a site housing scientists from the University of Colorado Boulder’s Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Within 24 hours, a few researchers at the David Skaggs Research Center had opened up a particle sampling port on the roof of the building and started pulling in smoky air for analysis by two custom instruments inside. They became the first scientists to directly measure and quantify some unique heat-trapping effects of wildfire smoke particles. “For the first time we were able to measure these warming effects minute-by-minute as the fire progressed,” said CIRES scientist Dan Lack, lead author of the study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The researchers also were able to record a phenomenon called the “lensing effect,” in which oils from the fire coat the soot particles and create a lens that focuses more light onto the particles. This can change the “radiative balance” in an area, sometimes leading to greater warming of the air and cooling of the surface. While scientists had previously predicted such an effect and demonstrated it in laboratory experiments, the Boulder researchers were one of the first to directly measure the effect during an actual wildfire. Lack and his colleagues found that lensing increased the warming effect of soot by 50 to 70 percent. “When the fire erupted on Labor Day, so many researchers came in to work to turn on instruments and start sampling that we practically had traffic jams on the road into the lab,” Lack said. “I think we all realized that although this was an unfortunate event, it might be the best opportunity to collect some unique data. It turned out to be the best dataset, perfectly suited to the new instrument we had developed.” The instrument called a spectrophotometer can capture exquisite detail about all particles in the air, including characteristics that might affect the smoke particles’ tendency to absorb sunlight and warm their surroundings. While researchers know that overall, wildfire smoke can cause this lensing effect, the details have been difficult to quantify, in part because of sparse observations of particles from real-world fires. Once the researchers began studying the data they collected during the fire, it became obvious that the soot from the wildfire was different in several key ways from soot produced by other sourcesdiesel engines, for example. “When vegetation burns, it is not as efficient as a diesel engine, and that means some of the burning vegetation ends up as oils,” Lack said. In the smoke plume, the oils coated the soot particles and that microscopic sheen acted like a magnifying glass, focusing more light onto the soot particles and magnifying the warming of the surrounding air. The researchers also discovered that the oils coating the soot were brown, and that dark coloration allowed further absorption of light, and therefore further warming the atmosphere around the smoke plume. The additional warming effects mean greater heating of the atmosphere enveloped in dark smoke from a wildfire, and understanding that heating effect is important for understanding climate change, Lack said. The extra heating also can affect cloud formation, air turbulence, winds and even rainfall. The discovery was made possible by state-of-the-art instruments developed by CIRES, NOAA and other scientists, Lack said. The instruments can capture fine-scale details about particles sent airborne by the fire, including their composition, shape, size, color and ability to absorb and reflect sunlight of various wavelengths. “With such well-directed measurements, we can look at the warming effects of soot, the magnifying coating and the brown oils and see a much clearer, yet still smoky picture of the effect of forest fires on climate,” Lack said. CIRES is a cooperative institute of CU-Boulder and NOAA.
Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2012-08-evidence-heat-trapping-effects-wildfire-particles.html#jCp