I do not usually like to make predictions but here is one that I will venture: the top two stories in 2022 will be the same ones that dominated 2021.
In other words: the COVID-19 pandemic and extraordinary weather events caused by climate change.
Not only does the pandemic show no signs of ending, the sudden emergence of the Omicron variant and its rapid spread almost makes it seem like we are starting all over again, as if we were back at the beginning of this ordeal rather than nearing its end.
People are testing positive in numbers that were almost unimaginable just a few weeks ago, when it looked like we were slowly wrestling the virus to the ground.
Public health restrictions are increasing, rather than relaxing. The future of some professional sports leagues’ seasons are in doubt.
Haven’t we seen this all before? Yes we have, and we will continue to watch the same kinds of things unfold until we can get Omicron (and whatever the next variant of concern may be) under control. There is no timeline for this.
It is possible that Omicron disappears in a way that matches its emergence: quickly and dramatically. But the alternative – that it cuts such a vast swath through the population that the health-care system gets overwhelmed – remains a scary one.
When it comes to the weather, it is hard to believe that the past year of disasters associated with climate change – the wildfires, the heat dome, the mudslides and massive flooding — were all one-off events never to be seen again (at least to the magnitude we witnessed this past year) for another hundred years or so.
The year 2022 will undoubtedly bring more weather disasters. The question is: will we be better prepared in the coming year to deal with them?
Will enough fuel be scooped off forest floors to lessen the chance of another aggressive and devastating wildfire season from occurring?
Wlll the broken parts of our highway system be rebuilt in a way to withstand mudslides and mass flooding?
Will the dike system be upgraded in time for even more flooding, or will places like the Sumas prairies be underwater again?
Of course, we have to get through this winter and next spring before we even get to the time of year when the weather “events” even began occurring in 2021.
Will snowfall levels dramatically increase in southwest B.C in the coming weeks? We are currently in a cold snap. Will there be an usual number of them this winter?
Then there is the spring freshet, when melting snow swells river and streams. We almost always experience some flooding associated with this event, but will it be more extensive this spring?
Dr. Bonnie Henry has said the aggressive Omicron variant has essentially taken us into a different pandemic. Pouring climate change weather on top of it will undoubtedly shape the year to come.
Year 2022 meet Year 2021. I am sure you’ll have a lot in common.
Keith Baldrey is chief political reporter for Global BC.