Tim Louis: John Horgan and the NDP need to get serious about the survival of our species

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      Over the last few weeks, British Columbia has experienced more severe and extreme weather events than ever in our history. The total rainfall in Abbotsford during the month of November was a record 541 millimetres, compared to its typical annual amount of 245 mm— and 119 mm higher than the previous record monthly rainfall of 422 mm set in 2006.

      Weather forecasters have coined a new term—atmospheric river—to describe the deluge. B.C. has declared a provincial state of emergency, and local states of emergency have been declared in the areas of AbbotsfordMerrittHopeChilliwackPenticton, and Princeton.

      The province’s highway network has been severed in so many places that the Lower Mainland was literally separated from the rest of the province, becoming an island unto itself. There is a section of Highway 8 missing that is nearly six kilometres long. The damage to our highway system is so severe that it will take not just days, or weeks, or even a few months to complete repairs. Current estimates are that completing all necessary repairs will take six months or longer.

      The cost of the economic damage is estimated to be not in just millions, tens of millions, or even hundreds of millions, but rather billions of dollars. No other natural disaster anywhere in the history of all of Canada has resulted in economic costs of this magnitude.

      Given all of the above, I am at a loss as to why there is not a public outcry over the inadequacy of the province’s strategy and timeline to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The B.C. government initially released its CleanBC plan in 2018 and they updated it with their CleanBC Roadmap to 2030 a few weeks ago. George Heyman is the minister responsible.

      A wide array of environmental organizations have loudly criticized the province’s inadequate strategy to deal with climate change. Just one of the strategy’s many deficiencies is the lack of an annual target for greenhouse gas emissions. The next target date is 2030—nine years from now. Absent annual targets, it will be impossible to measure the province’s progress towards its 2030 goal.

      Unbelievably, the province continues to subsidize the private oil and gas industry. It does not prevent new liquified-natural-gas developments, but instead encourages and facilitates more of these environmentally destructive projects, while arresting land defenders, including Indigenous leaders like Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chief Dsta’hyl. It continues to refuse to give municipalities the legal ability to phase out the use of natural gas in residential and commercial buildings.

      If extreme weather events are to ever become more than water-cooler talk, then we must immediately declare a global warming emergency and tackle it with the same tenacity and discipline that we did in defeating fascism in World War II.

      Should we fail to take dramatic and immediate steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero, the very survival of our species will be in serious jeopardy.

      Tim Louis is a Vancouver lawyer and former city councillor and park commissioner. This article first appeared on his blogThe Georgia Straight publishes opinions like this from the community to encourage constructive debate on important issues.