From the BC Sustainable Energy Association, www.bcsea.org April 2nd 2013
Dear Prospective Member of the BC Legislature,
Please, let’s not beat about the bush.
We know healthcare and education are important, and so are debt-repayment and many other things. But we’re all together on this one small planet, sharing our berths on the Good Ship Civilization, and as a direct result of the fuel we’ve been burning and other careless activities a god-almighty storm is bearing down on us, with the ability to toss our puny boat up in the air and down into the depths, wrecking everything we love and care about, from our children and grandchildren to our forests and food, our furry friends and our future.
We’re talking about climate change.
If, during the election campaign, you neglect to talk about this looming emergency, and the measures that you and your party will take to tackle it, you will disappoint many, many voters, who consider this the most important issue facing the world today. Please don’t try to avoid the topic by suggesting that ‘the science is not certain’, or ‘the economy must come first’. You know that neither of these is true.
But if you use your prominence during the campaign to remind people that this crisis is extremely real, extremely urgent, and absolutely must be addressed, then many voters all over your riding will thank you and hope that you win your seat in the Legislature, giving you the ability to act. British Columbians understand about climate change, and it alarms them. New fewer than 1,700 people took the time to write to the government this summer to urge continued support for the carbon tax.
To help in your election campaign, we offer what we believe to be the ten most important actions that a new government should take to tackle the crisis.
Show leadership, right from the top. We need a Premier who will talk about the climate crisis in the clearest possible terms, and motivate people with the vision of BC as a pioneer in building a clean, sustainable, zero-carbon world. Also:
Bring back the Climate Action Team, inviting the province’s most-informed climate solutions leaders to form a permanent advisory team.
Continue BC’s legal requirement that all ministries and agencies, schools, colleges, universities, health authorities and Crown corporations are carbon neutral, reporting annually on their actions towards carbon neutrality. Change the offsets game if you want by having them pay into a BC Climate Solutions Fund for distribution to BC climate solutions initiatives, regardless of the formal offsets market.
Require that a carbon budget be introduced in the Legislature every four years to describe how much CO2 and other GHGs will be emitted, and which government ministries and programs will take the lead on achieving the necessary cuts, as recommended by Andrew Gage in the UVic Environmental Law Centre’s Maintaining Natural BC for Our Children: Selected Law Reform Proposals.
BC’s ENERGY INDUSTRY
Fossil fuels are the largest single cause of global warming. Natural gas does not get a free pass because it uses words like ‘natural’ and ‘clean’. Arsenic is ‘natural’, too. Natural gas produces methane emissions from unburned gas wherever it goes, and over 20 years, molecule for molecule, methane is trapping 105 times more heat than CO2. The development of the proposed LNG industry and meeting BC’s climate goals are 100% incompatible.
Backpedal furiously on any commitment to increase natural gas production and develop liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Stop the development of natural gas infrastructure (roads, etc.).
Put BC’s coal industry on notice that all future coal exports will be subject to the carbon tax, to be reduced appropriately if an importing nation already imposes a carbon tax.
End all fossil fuel industry subsidies, and set aside 50% of royalty incomes from fossil fuel extraction to help coal and gas-dependent communities to diversity and plan for a future green economy.
Introduce new regulations to control the fracking industry, as recommended by Ben Parfitt in the UVic Environmental Law Centre’s new book, mentioned above.
Restore the BC Utilities Commission’s authority to review and make evidence-based decisions on all BC Hydro major projects, contracts and long-term plans, to better serve energy conservation and the rational management of electricity in BC, as recommended by Bill Andrews in the same UVic Environmental Law Centre book.
THE CARBON TAX
Reinforce the carbon tax. The public supports it, and the evidence shows that it’s working as planned, and reducing our emissions.
Continue to increase the tax each by $5 a tonne per year, ideally increasing it by $10 a year.
Close the carbon loophole, which enables companies to avoid paying the tax on the release of greenhouse gases from industrial processes such as cement manufacture, aluminum manufacture, and flaring during natural gas production. If this loophole had been closed, it would have generated $158 million in 2012/13.
By closing the loophole, increasing the carbon tax by $5 a tonne, and using the new income to fund climate solutions, the province could put $1,000 million a year into a Better future Fund, spending half to fund public transit ($375 million), home energy efficiency ($25 million) and a $50 million a year innovation and clean technology fund as proposed by Better Future BC, the other $500 million being available for other purposes.
Launch a Great Zero Carbon Transportation Challenge. Invite every community to form a team to show how it could reduce its carbon emissions from transportation to zero by 2030, with a framework, website and webinars for collaboration, and to share the best ideas. In the interim:
Continue to fund the expansion and growth of transit and LRT, putting it ahead of road-building.
Continue to fund the LiveSmart BC incentives for electric vehicles and charging stations, and to support the California tailpipe standards for new vehicles.
Launch a Great Zero Carbon Buildings Challenge. Invite every community to form a similar team for buildings. In the interim, continue to fund the LiveSmart BC incentives for residential and commercial building energy retrofits.
Given the growing vulnerability of the global economy, establish a New Economy Transition Team. Charge its members to research the world’s best practices, and prepare plans for a transition to a new BC economy based on regional resilience, sustainability, justice and prosperity without being so vulnerable to global financial fragility, or dependent on income and jobs from fossil fuels. Also:
Adopt the Green Jobs Plan developed by GreenJobsBC, making investments that would create tens of thousands of new jobs in building retrofits, clean energy, transportation, and value-added forestry.
Make a concerted effort to win the hearts, minds and practical engagement of BC’s citizens:
Issue a Great Green Neighbourhood Challenge, with a $25,000 grant for every neighbourhood that wins sufficient points for a variety of household and community actions, providing a framework and website to encourage collaboration and share the best ideas.
Issue three Great Green Educational Challenges, with awards for primary schools, high schools and colleges that win sufficient points, using a similar collaborative framework.
Issue a Great Green Business Challenge, with awards for every business that wins sufficient points for a variety of actions, using a similar collaborative framework.
Issue a Great Green Organization Challenge, with awards for every non-profit organization or institution that wins sufficient points for a variety of actions, using a similar collaborative framework
Re-energize the BC Climate Action Charter,which 180 of BC’s 188 communities have signed, and give gold, silver and bronze awards to municipalities and regional districts that win sufficient points for a variety of climate action results, using a similar collaborative framework.
SUSTAINABLE FORESTS, FARMS and OCEANS
BC’s forests, farmlands and ranchlands, if managed ecologically, possess the important ability to absorb carbon, sucking some of the excess out of the atmosphere. Reform BC’s 2007 Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act to include the requirement that land management in BC should prioritize carbon storage over simple income maximization. To maximize ocean sea-grass carbon uptake, establish a Marine Carbon Taskforce to recommend the best way forward.
To share learning and best practices, and to mobilize other cities and regions around the world, develop plans with the City of Vancouver to make Vancouver a centre of global climate excellence. Host conferences for the world’s greenest cities, colleges, and businesses, and call on the world’s top climate solutions experts to gather in Vancouver to discuss ways to achieve a breakthrough in the UN climate treaty negotiations.
You yearn for me. If you don't see me daily, you feel you’re going to die. Some days you’re lucky, since I’m all over you. But at other times I disappear for months on end, yet still you thirst for me.
Are you upset by Enbridge’s plans to build a pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands, crossing BC’s mountains, forests, rivers and ocean waters, to ship the oil to China?
Enbridge says “no problem” when it comes to the risk of a pipeline rupture, but there were 804 spills on Enbridge pipelines between 1999 and 2010.
Enbridge won’t even own the pipeline. That has been handed to a limited partnership called the Northern Gateway Pipelines Limited Partnership, seemingly with the goal of limiting liability in the event of a spill. The Enbridge spill at Kalamazoo, Michigan, cost $765 million to clean up.
Just imagine. It is the fall of 2015, and a Canadian federal election is looming. In the opinion polls the New Democrats and Conservatives are neck and neck with 36% of the vote, while the Liberals are trailing at 18%.
Canada’s Green Party, running at 8% in the polls, makes a historic decision. They negotiate a pact with the New Democrats by which they will pull their candidates from every riding where they are clearly not able to win and where the New Democrat candidate is polling first or second, and they will urge their supporters to cast their votes for the New Democrats.
Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
These are the questions that the artist Paul Gaugin wrote in the corner of one of his paintings when he was living in Tahiti in 1897, and they’ve been asked by thinking people for as long as we’ve been thinking – especially today, when there’s a solid case to be made from the ecological evidence that our civilization is in big trouble.
Where do we come from? Yes, we are part of nature, with 3.5 billion of years of biological evolution in our genes. But that’s not the whole story. The hydrogen atoms in our bodies were formed at the very start of the Universe.
Touch your body. Pinch your skin. The hydrogen atoms in those hydrocarbons are 13.7 billion years old. If there is life elsewhere in the Universe among the trillions of trillions of stars it will include similar hydrogen atoms.
For reasons we do not yet understand, atoms self-organize to form molecules, molecules self-organize to form organisms, and organisms have evolved to form all creation on Earth. Why does it happen? Physicists say it’s a purposeless random process. Religious people say, “God did it.” To many, it’s a big unanswered question.
There is a palpable sense of distress across Canada, as Canadians see their country being dragged and bullied down a path they do not like to a future they do not recognize.
The Conservative government was elected in May 2011 with an electoral majority supported by only 40% of Canadians, with 60% strongly opposed.
In the fourteen ridings which the Conservatives won by the slimmest majority, where a different result would have overturned the Harper majority, just 6,848 votes made the difference –and we have since learnt that some non-Conservative votes may have been suppressed by illegal Robocalls from Conservative party offices misdirecting them to non-existent ballot-stations.
In the eyes of many, the Harper government is not democratically legitimate. It did not win a popular mandate to govern, and it may have won its majority by electoral fraud.
Farmers hold hands – you have everything to gain from an amazing future even if it’s also a turbulent one, due to the floods, droughts and storms that global warming will bring.
We are familiar with the long litany of problems that are being caused by conventional farming, which at its worst strips the life off the land and replaces it with a chemical cream that leaves little for nature, little for the body, and nothing for the heart.
In the long history of farming today’s practices will hopefully be seen as a wrong turning which ended with the fifth agricultural revolution.
It is extremely disturbing to know that we are living on The Titanic, and that the iceberg lies somewhere ahead.
It seems there is no-one on the bridge, or if there is they are either drunk, or too busy worrying about their re-election prospects or their next bonus to see the signals, which are flashing emergency red in the Iceberg Ahead section of the controls.
So here’s the carbon problem, in an organic walnut shell. Every year, we add 10 billion tonnes (10 gigatonnes, 10 Gt) of carbon to the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels, making cement and cutting down the Earth’s ancient forests.
This is mostly carbon that’s been stored underground for hundreds of millions of years, that we are releasing in a single splurge of industrial euphoria.
In the atmosphere, it is additional to the natural carbon cycle, which has been recirculating the carbon from plants, forests and ocean organisms for as long as they have been on Earth.
Before we started our industrial age adventure the atmosphere contained 560 Gt of carbon. Today, it has over 800 Gt, increasing by 5 Gt a year. The other 5 Gt of carbon are being absorbed by the ocean, causing it to grow more acidic every year, with ominous consequences for the coral reefs and other marine life.
We need to tackle the problem from both ends. We need to stop the flow of carbon from below by building a global civilization that can do whatever it needs without requiring any coal, oil or gas. That’s completely possible - we just need to get on with it.
The one supposedly killer argument that is used to defend the extraction of bitumen from under Alberta’s boreal forest is that we depend on the oil, and our global civilization would collapse without it.
“Don’t you use oil to drive to your meetings and fly to your conferences?” defenders of the tar sands ask.
The rational response is to admit that yes, we do, but the tar-sands produce some of the world’s dirtiest oil, and we urgently need to redesign the world so that we don’t need it, whether it goes to China or Houston, Texas.
A new year is with us, and a great transformation is underway as we learn how to live on Earth with far less ecological impact.
The transformation is happening in many areas, but let’s pick personal transport, cars and light trucks, to see what we can do. By how much could we reduce our ecological impact?
In 2010, Canadians used 40 billion litres of gasoline in their road motor vehicles. Each litre produces 2.34 kg of carbon dioxide when burnt, so that’s 94 million tonnes of fresh carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere every year - a quarter of which will remain there for over 500 years. Long after we are gone, and only a fragment of cyber-memory remains of our lives, a quarter of the CO2 from the gasoline we burn today will still be warming the atmosphere, offending our ancestors twenty generations down.
So here’s how we can fix it, to prevent the damage from climate change from getting any worse.
Al Gore called it The Inconvenient Truth, and I’ll bet he’s had many sleepless nights since his film came out.
We live in very troubling times, since the gravity of the looming climate crisis is being pushed out of people’s minds by a desperate concern to restore economic growth, aided by a successful campaign by climate-deniers and fossil fuel interests to downplay the risks of climate change and emphasize the virtues of the so-called ‘ethical’ oil sands and so-called ‘clean’ natural gas.
If anyone doubts the urgency of the climate crisis, they have only to consider the generally conservative International Energy Agency, which reported in November that the world is hurtling toward irreversible climate change, and that if bold action is not taken in the next five years the world will lose the chance to limit warming.
What do we want? If we can’t define what success is and visualize it clearly we’ll never achieve it. The Occupy movement will degrade into an argument over the right to camp on public land or a takeover by rogue elements who aim to provoke the police, and this new generation of activists will trade hope for cynicism, saying “We tried, but it didn’t work.”
How can it be that after so many years, we still don’t know what we want? A vague mish-mash of demands about greater equality, taxing the rich, reducing the power of the banks and ending corporate rule does not have the same punch as the Ninety Five Theses that Martin Luther nailed to the door of Wittenberg church on October 31st 1517, launching the Protestant Reformation that overthrew the Catholic Church.
Why is it so difficult? There’s a clear reason, but first, let’s do some political detective work.
Back in 1970, Alvin and Heidi Toffler wrote a best-selling book called Future Shock. They predicted all sorts of change, including the Internet, and forecast that people would be overwhelmed by the speed of change.
Did it happen? I think not. Most people embraced the changes from birth control pills to i-Pads with excitement and pleasure.
If they were writing today, they might write a book titled Future Fear. People read about global warming, the wipe-out of the world's fish stocks, the collapse of the honey-bees, the population explosion, the possible collapse of the global economy, and they feel afraid, thinking "Stop the future - I want to get off!"
This is understandable, but not wise. Alarm is good if it leads to a positive response. Fear is not, since it shuts down positive thinking. Future neuroscience may find that fear and negative attitudes send chemical messages to the brain that switch off activity in the areas associated with creativity and rational decision-making.
We are deeply programmed to live in the present. For most of our history there was little change from one century to the next. Once we are relatively comfortable, we like things to stay the same, to return to the same good hunting grounds year after year.
$43 trillion - that’s how much is owed by governments to external debt-holders, according to The Economist’s global debt clock. In 2012 it will rise to $46 trillion.
Here are some of the numbers, showing debt per person and per GDP :
135% of GDP
120% of GDP
88% of GDP
88% of GDP
82% of GDP
68% of GDP
Strange… there’s Canada with a larger debt to GDP ratio than the US. So how come the government has been telling us what good shape Canada is, in compared to the US?
That’s a small matter, however, compared to the big problem, which is how nations can stop the debt from growing, and begin to pay it down. It is because of the debts that governments are cutting back on environmental budgets and social spending at the very time when we need it. What is the way out of the mess? A sustainable world must have sustainable finances.
But first, how did we get into this mess? Maybe understanding that will help us get out of it.
We have been emotionally shocked by the earthquakes and tsunami that have hit your country. Our hearts reach out to you. We live across the ocean on Canadas west coast, and our cherry blossoms bloom at the same time that yours do.
My personal work is devoted to creating a vision of a more sustainable world, and doing what I can to make it happen. I dream of a green economy in which everyone will be able to live and work in harmony with nature, benefiting from solar panels, electric cars, safe bicycle lanes, high speed trains and sociable village communities, enjoying lives that are rich in fulfillment and meaning.
Copenhagen was a big disappointment for the world’s climate movement, and there has been a feeling ever since that our progress has gone off the rails.
If the old ideas are not working, however, it’s a sign that new ones are needed. I have just written a major new paper on the topic, titled Seven Ideas. The ideas have been featured in a Huffington Post interview with Guy Dauncey by Marc Stoiber.
Podcast of Guys February 2010 talk at the
Church of St John the Divine, Victoria
(30 min talk, followed by questions)
Brokenhagen - So Lets Try Something New December 21, 2009
In the wake of Copenhagen, what are we to make of all the confusion and mutual blaming?
Der Spiegels editorial said What a disaster. The climate summit in Copenhagen has failed because of the hardball politicking of the United States, China and several other countries - and because people just can't seem to fathom how catastrophic climate change will be.
But lets step back a minute, and consider the difficulty of obtaining a binding consensus from the leaders of 193 fractious nations, each of whom has to answer to his or her own voters, on a change so enormous that it calls for nothing less than retrofitting the entire planet for zero carbon operations within 40 years. Theres not a nation on Earth that manages to govern itself by consensus.
Can you imagine any kind of consensus agreement coming out of the USA, where very few Democrats deny the science of climate change, and very Republicans accept it?
Ten Ways for Canada to Flourish without Fossil Fuels
Green Power from the Sun, Wind, and Tides For how much longer will we burn coal and gas to generate the electricity we need, generating asthma, lung disease, air pollution and global warming? It makes no sense. The numbers show that as a world, we can generate all the electricity we need from solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, hydro and the other renewables, plus the best of efficiency, with no need for nuclear. Ontario is phasing out its coal-fired power plants, and could get 100% of its electricity from renewables by 2027. Connected by a smart supergrid, using our hydro-dams and other means for storage, we can have smart, reliable power that never runs out.
Electric Cars, Powered by the Sun, Wind and Tides
Who killed the hydrogen and biofueled cars? The electric car, in a delightful act of revenge. Right now, the worlds major automakers are all engaged in a race to produce the best electric car. Better Place is working with Nissan/Renault in Israel, Denmark, Australia, Hawaii, San Francisco and 20 other places to produce an integrated system with electric cars, EV charging posts and EV battery replacement stations. Plug-in Hybrid EVs are coming that will run on electricity for 80% of their miles. Combined with regular EVs and lightweight designs, these cars could reduce our need for liquid fuel in cars and light trucks by 95%.
This short PDF booklet is a pre-publication draft of the Ten Solutions for Communities section of my forthcoming book, The Climate Challenge: 101 Solutions to Global Warming (New Society Publishers, Fall 2009).
These solutions are set within the wider context of three arguments that are laid out in detail in the book:
That global warming poses a real and present danger to the existence of all life on Earth, and we must act with immediacy and urgency.
That the peak oil threat to the worlds future oil supply is very imminent, and even if climate change did not exist as a concern, communities must start planning immediately so that local residents and business can operate without need for oil.
That the economic, job-creation, and health benefits of undertaking this shift are enormous, while the financial and environmental costs of not acting are alarming.
When these three factors are considered together, it just makes such sense to get engaged with the solutions.
Please download, enjoy, and feel free to use these ideas in your own municipality.
Spirituality, Hope and the Future of the Planet
Listen to this inspiring 25-minute presentation made by Guy Dauncey at the First Unitarian Church of Victoria. (MP3, 22.6mb)