Eric Doherty: Climate change is no longer an "environmental" issue in B.C.
Something subtle but important has shifted in the climate of B.C politics.
Early in the April 29 televised leaders' debate, B.C. NDP leader Adrian Dix addressed climate change, not as an environmental issue for the consideration of future generations, but as a present-day economic and social issue.
Dix talked about how people in interior communities are already losing jobs because of trees killed by the pine beetle, which is directly linked to rising temperatures. The fact that the fossil fuel industry is already devastating the interior forestry sector is starting to sink in.
In Vancouver, where I live, it is possible to think of rising carbon levels in the atmosphere as a future environmental issue, but in rural B.C., it is a different story.
Burning fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, has already made B.C. sea water so acidic that oysters cannot reproduce. Oyster farmers now have to raise oysters in tanks of treated water until they are old enough to survive the acidic ocean water. Again, this is an immediate economic issue which primarily impacts people in smaller B.C. communities.
The near-term prospect of sea water so acidic it won’t support commercial shellfish operations is already casting doubt on the wisdom of investing or starting a career in the shellfish industry. The economies of coastal communities are already being eaten away by the carbonic acid formed when carbon dioxide mixes with water.
Framing this as a "jobs versus environment" issue does not hold much water anymore; the biggest threat to livelihoods in B.C. now is the carbon pollution from burning fossil fuels. Pipelines, tankers, and plants to liquefy fracking gas are direct threats to forestry and fisheries jobs.
If we want fisheries and forestry, it is now essential to expand renewable energy sources to displace fossil fuels. Renewable energy such as wind power is now cost competitive with extreme fossil fuels such as tar sands oil, and blocking off the fossil fuel path is essential to opening the way to energy jobs that are compatible with forestry jobs.
Another part of the oil-dependant infrastructure of the past that needs to be blocked is freeway expansions, such as the multi-billion dollar replacement of the Massey Tunnel proposed by the provincial Liberal government. Instead, we need to be investing in the future, which includes electric public transit and trains. Numerous studies rate public transit as one of the best green jobs strategies. For example, the B.C. Treasury Board estimated that $1 million in transit expenditures creates an average of 21.4 new jobs, compared to 7.5 jobs in the automotive industry, and 4.5 jobs in the petroleum sector.
By shifting to efficient transportation powered by renewable electricity instead of tar sands oil we can model and promote the changes needed globally. Vancouver is the largest city in North America without a downtown freeway, and its influence is global in terms of urban development and transportation planning. What Vancouver does is seen and sometimes imitated in major countries including the U.S., India, and China.
B.C. is a crucial bottleneck in Big Oil and coal’s global push to expand fossil fuel extraction. The Enbridge and Kinder Morgan tar sands pipelines are the highest profile examples, but Chevron’s proposed Pacific Trail fracking gas pipeline to Kitimat is also of global significance.
Port Metro Vancouver also plans to greatly expand coal export facilities for low-grade U.S. coal and mostly higher-grade B.C. coal. Stopping these projects would bottle up a globally significant proportion of the fossil fuels that must remain in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate disruption.
People in B.C. have a greater opportunity to make a difference than almost any other group on Earth—and this means we have a greater responsibility to act.
By closing the door on the carbon intensive infrastructure of the past, we can protect existing jobs, including in the forestry and fisheries industries, and create new jobs that British Columbians can be proud of in their own communities. And we can make our communities healthier, more livable places while reducing the threat of climate disruption from burning oil, gas, and coal.
We are at a crucial crossroads, and it is very tempting to believe the tales of riches that companies like Chevron are telling. But the consequences of continuing down the fossil-fueled path are not "environmental" nor in the future.
The consequences of fossil fuel dependence are being felt by people in communities across B.C. today.
Adrian Dix has a good chance of becoming premier on May 14, partly because he has some credibility on climate as an economic issue rather than a classic environmental issue. The much harder part will be after the election, when the fossil fuel companies and their friends in Ottawa will be pushing hard for continuing on the old carbon intensive path. Big oil has a long history of squashing elected governments that stand in their way.
After May 14, a strong social movement will be needed to help shift B.C. onto the path to an energy future that won’t destroy forestry and fisheries.
If environmental groups are the only voices for climate action, B.C.’s rural economy will be cooked.
May 8, 2013 at 2:23pm
Science never lied, you believers exaggerated the science.
“Help my planet could possibly be on fire maybe?”
After 28 years of research the scientists still refuse to say their CO2 crisis is as real as they like to say asteroid hits are; inevitable and eventual or WILL happen not just might and could and maybe and…..
28 years of “maybe” proves it won’t be a crisis.
May 8, 2013 at 3:34pm
Twenty-eight years is a gnat's nanosecond in terms of how these things--both natural and human-caused, or both--unravel in geologic time.
But when it does become a crisis, it will be just that.
And all those people who died thinking "I won" because the full measure of quantifiable change had not become apparent in their lifetime.... well, they'll just be dead, that's all.
And their children and grandchildren will pay the price.
But they "won".
May 8, 2013 at 4:07pm
It's very clear now-coal, oil and gas companies business plans = death of our Planet.
People have to get organized and stop them, the politicians won't.
May 9, 2013 at 5:46am
"Unequivocal" is the word the IPCC uses about warming.
And most scientists' predictions of effects have been accurate, if a bit too conservative. All denier predictions have failed, except the ones predicting paychecks from the fossil ghouls.
From the most current IPCC report: "It supersedes the Third Assessment Report (2001), and will in turn be superseded by the Fifth Assessment Report (expected in 2014).
The headline findings of the report were: "warming of the climate system is unequivocal", and "most of the observed increase in global average temperatures since the mid-20th century is very likely due to the observed increase in anthropogenic greenhouse gas concentrations."
"Very likely" means we are crazy to take chances with the only planet known to support life.
May 9, 2013 at 9:07am
My Goodness! Paul/Meme/David Nutzuki/ and now Al Bore. Still the same Cut'n Paste stuff? Even as a Poe you are starting to fail. The key is to at least make is less obvious you are: 1) A mindless troll; or 2) A well thought out Poe. I mean, come on, you've got to be in kindergarten to believe the stuff you've written.
May 9, 2013 at 9:47am
And as even the ever doubtful CBC now acknowledges this morning, we are sitting on a huge, non polluting, no carbon energy alternative. Everyone else on the "ring of fire" around the Pacific uses geothermal energy - except us. We keep wondering if it would be "viable". But seemingly fracking and LNG is accepted as "viable" despite the very clear environmental damage, and the huge new electricity requirement that goes with it.
May 9, 2013 at 10:14am
Wow! There's a lot of doom and gloom in this commentary. And not one link to peer reviewed literature to back up the claims.
May 9, 2013 at 1:08pm
How many climate change scientists does it take to change a light bulb?
None, but the do have full consensus that it WILL change.............maybe, probably....
I just wish the world science would end the debate and get on with it but they refuse to say that their crisis is as real as they can say asteroid hits are. A climate crisis is a comet hit of an emergency yet they have never said their CO2 climate change WILL be a real crisis, only could be as not one IPCC warning is without “maybes”. There are millions in the global scientific community and how can they just sit there with their Bunsen Burners and watch as the world burns and walks away from CO2 mitigation?
Occupywallstreet does not even mention CO2 in its list of demands because of the bank-funded and corporate run carbon trading stock markets ruled by corporations.
How close to unstoppable warming will science lead us until they say it "WILL" be a crisis? When it's too late?
May 9, 2013 at 1:40pm
Nutbars and trolls notwithstanding, this article articulates what is beginning to dawn on many people. Climate change is not about what "might" happen in the future but what is happening right now; and it is an environmental, economic and moral issue.
May 9, 2013 at 9:26pm
You gotta wonder if the petro trolls do it for free, or if they are techno serfs working for big oil.
But you have to admit that the wacky climate deniers are somewhat effective in preventing public dialogue on effective action.
And I am waiting to hear someone deny that carbon dioxide becomes an acid when mixed with water.