It was bad enough [for US politicians] to take four decades simply to warm up to the idea of gay rights. Innumerable lives were blighted in those in-between years, and given long-lasting official unconcern about Aids, innumerable lives were lost. At least, however, inaction didn’t make the problem harder to solve: if the supreme court decides gay people should be able to marry, then they’ll be able to marry.
Unlike gay rights or similar issues of basic human justice and fairness, climate change comes with a time limit. Go past a certain point, and we may no longer be able to affect the outcome in ways that will prevent long-term global catastrophe. We’re clearly nearing that limit and so the essential cowardice of too many Democrats is becoming an ever more fundamental problem that needs to be faced. We lack the decades needed for their positions to “evolve” along with the polling numbers. What we need, desperately, is for them to pitch in and help lead the transition in public opinion and public policy.
BC’s Ministry of the Environment released a report on sea level rise adaptation over the weekend. It is inevitable that Metro Vancouver municipalities will come to restrict new development and abandon at-risk areas to protect homes, infrastructure and agricultural land from the higher, warmer sea.
Compared to other provinces, BC:
has the lowest proportion of its land area at risk but the majority of [Canadian] dwellings at risk, due to the high housing density in the Lower Mainland, much of which is low lying. The Lower Mainland, consisting of Metro Vancouver and the lower Fraser River Valley, is very vulnerable to sea level rise because of a 127 kilometre system of dikes, which were not built with sea-level level rise factored into the design. This area also has very expensive real estate subject to flood risks.
The report looks at two responses for our coastal areas: climate-related development planning and strategic retreat.
The first means no new construction would be permitted in high risk areas. The latter strategy means a gradual abandonment of these areas. Citing the now-shuttered National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, the study notes strategic retreat produces significant benefits over development planning. In some areas, dikes would need to be 6–8 metres high to protect dwellings, much taller than current structures.
B.C.’s leadership on climate change has made us more economically competitive. As the last global financial crisis wreaked havoc on economies worldwide, at home our carbon tax spurred innovation and clean technology sector growth to more than 200 companies. It saw sales projected for $2.5 billion in 2011 with a 48 per cent growth between 2008 and 2010. According to KPMG, 78 per cent of these sales are exports. These clean-technology innovations throughout the province have diversified our economy while making us a leader in climate change solutions that give us cleaner air, energy-efficient homes and businesses, and healthier communities.
The BC Liberal Party likely believes there are votes to be gained in their cynical and cowardly retreat from climate leadership. But their argument that the carbon tax is hurting BC’s economic competitiveness is just dishonest. A carbon tax may reduce the record profits of the greedy carbon polluters who donate to the party (and then expect to be served by it), but underpricing carbon harms our economy and everyone you know.
According to the anti-business radicals at KPMG, BC’s cleaner technology sector employs more people than forestry, mining and the oil and gas sectors combined. It also contributes more to provincial GDP than any of the traditional resource-based sectors.
Unpriced carbon is a subsidy for unethical businesses that damage and endanger our communities without creating much economic value.
Imagine your apartment is on fire. The first firefighting truck arrives, but two more are still on the way. As your home burns behind you, the firefighters’ captain tells you they won’t start fighting the growing fire until their late colleagues arrive.
“We are the best firefighters in the world,” the captain proudly declares, “but we must let the other fire trucks catch up before we continue putting this fire out.”
As you watch the fire spread from apartment to apartment and threaten an adjacent building, you notice other firefighters stoking the flames, speeding up the destruction of your home. They’re piling kindling and flammable waste up around the foundation. You angrily confront the firefighters for worsening a problem they’re pretending to be dealing with.
They return a chant in unison, drowning out your pleas for help: “Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!”. As the fire they boosted moves from home to home down your block, the captain asks, “You wouldn’t put us world-leading firefighters out of work would you?
“I’m sure our co-workers will be showing up any time now. Then we’ll start putting out this fire we’ve worsened.”
Local municipalities, including the City of Vancouver, must urgently act to protect citizens and our environment from reckless plans to make Port Metro Vancouver the largest coal export terminal in North America.
I share the concerns about expanding coal exports through our region expressed by Mayor Gregor Robertson; elected officials and city staff in Delta, Surrey, White Rock, and New Westminster; and public health authorities and organizations from across the region. Increasing coal export capacity in our region and excusing the public health impacts of coal transport must be responsibly opposed by the City of Vancouver and I strongly urge you to support the coal export expansion motion at City Council on March 12, 2013.
The City of Vancouver must continuously confront local contributions to the rapid heating of our atmosphere, a crisis driven by the over-use of dangerous fossil fuels like coal. The public health impacts of the transportation, import and re-export of coal through our regional port network are extremely worrying and we must acknowledge the warnings from public health experts. No less, the local economic benefits paraded by coal export proponents are deadly false. The future of Vancouver’s economy is in cleaner energy, technology, services, resource management and food — not energy and materials systems from the 19th century. And if we fail to prevent runaway global warming — as looks increasingly likely — we must remember that there are “no jobs on a dead planet”.
This quote, from twenty year-old Alli Welton, has really stuck with me the last few days:
[B]efore, I’d always been thinking of climate activism primarily as solidarity, and helping reduce inequality in the world, which is something I’ve cared about ever since I was a kid, growing up privileged in a really poor town. But I guess, recently, it’s become more of a self-preservation thing…
As youth, we don’t have a voice in this fight… there’s no way that I can climb the government ladder and end up in a position of enough political power to save myself now. I’m never going to get that chance. And there are kids who are being born today, or born 10 years ago, they’re not really going to get that chance either, if we don’t start winning in the next couple of years.
We need to keep coal in the ground. There should be no question or debate about this, yet Port Metro Vancouver plans to move forward with a reckless scheme to become North America’s largest coal export terminal.
People in Vancouver (especially young people) are rightly worried about and opposing this dangerous and irresponsible direction. Now, Mayor Gregor Robertson is very publicly joining this opposition. Robertson has introduced a motion that could stop coal export infrastructure from being built or expanded in the City of Vancouver and that supports the call for a health impact assessment of Port Metro Vancouver’s reckless coal export plans.
Coal ports employ very few people, do little for our local economy, and endanger all of our jobs and livelihoods by destabilizing the climate. As the Mayor outlines at length in his motion, the local health impacts from coal dust and diesel fumes are not well-understood and of great concern to our community’s health authorities.
Most importantly, it is very unlikely that we will avoid the 2 degree warming threshold most scientists and global governments say must be avoided. Coal is killing us and we do not need more of it in our community.
As David Roberts writes: “Coal is the enemy of the human race. It needs to be kept in the damn ground.”