Let’s think about the world we are leaving our grandkids as we head to the BC election.
Walking School Bus – Grandparents and parents walking kids to school
JUST OVER A MONTH AGO we woke to a thick, smokey haze settling over Victoria and neighbouring communities. Shockingly, the BC coast recorded some of the world’s worst air quality caused from the Washington and Oregon state fires.
Environment Canada recommended citizens “reduce or reschedule strenuous activities outdoors and children and the elderly should salso take it easy.”
September 8 was my granddaughter’s birthday. It’s hard enough for an eight-year-old to forego the typical birthday party because of COVID-19, but as our family bubble locked up inside on one of the last days of summer it left me feeling like the climate and health Armageddon was on our doorstep.
Not only was the afternoon picnic spoiled but we all sheltered inside for over a week as our southern neighbours experienced some of the worst fires in history and our air quality index went to 10+ or “very high risk”.
In fact, Washington wildfires burned over 289,000 ha (713,000 acres), 181 homes were lost, and one death occurred as a result. The 2020 fire season saw more individual fires than in any other recorded year.
California wildfires continue to burn and so far, have consumed more than 1.62 million ha (4 million acres), a record for the most acres burned in a single year.
The 2020 Oregon wildfire season was one of the most destructive on record with fires killing at least 11 people, burning more than 400,000 ha (1 million acres) of land, and destroying hundreds of homes.
On the same smokey day of September 8, the LA Times published a powerful editorial “Wildfires and soaring temperatures—the hellscape scientists warned us about is here,” explaining why we must change direction. “We need to end this reliance on fossil fuels if we’re going to have any hope of mitigating the damage we have already done to the global environment, and to ourselves.”
Forests are our best ally in fighting climate change, and they enhance our environment by storing carbon, halting land degradation, providing fuel to substitute fossil fuels, and fixing nitrogen to reduce the use of fertilizers. Not to mention—they are rich in biological diversity of animal and plant species making BC one of the most beautiful places in the world.
The Sierra Club BC tells us “old-growth temperate rainforests have the largest carbon storage capacity per hectare on Earth.”
BC is twice the size of California. We occupy 95 million hectares (235 million acres) of land. Almost 64 percent of this land is forested and 10 percent is remaining old growth. It would be an incredible loss to see it all go up in smoke, but it’s a real threat with the effects of climate change upon us.
In our own province, the 2017 and 2018 wildfires burned more than 1.2 million hectares, eight times more than the ten-year average. Four of BC’s 2017 fires caused an estimated 190 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
And BC forest fires are not accounted for in our GHG inventory. Only emissions that may be within government control are counted. One could argue our climate impact can be controlled by the government.
For Our Grandkids, a group of Victoria grandparents declare “Our first duty as grandparents is to protect our children and grandchildren. We’d storm a burning building to save them, no matter the consequences. Sadly, their house IS on fire. Climate change and injustice pose a direct threat to our kids unless we change course. Part of being a grandparent today is to help make the change we need.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced to net zero between 2040 and 2055 in order to limit global warming to 1.5 Celsius above pre-industrial levels.
The BC government has pledged to reduce emissions by 80 percent from 2007 levels by 2050 through its CleanBC Plan.
However, just one month before the smoked filled skies, the BC government released data that 2018 gross emissions totalled 67.9 megatonnes (Mt) of carbon dioxide equivalent. An increase of 7 percent since 2007 and an increase of 2.2 Mt from 2017 (and remember, this does not include 190 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from the 2017 wild fires).
These numbers push the province further away from its targets of a 40 percent reduction from 2007 levels by 2030. BC is now 14 percent further from its 2030 target than it was in 2007.
The BC Government’s CleanBC Plan is worthy of praise but it’s unclear how increasing the production and distribution of liquified natural gas (LNG) fits within the targets of the plan.
The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reports that increasing production for LNG Canada would “add a total of 13 megatonnes per year, including the company’s estimate of 3.96 megatonnes from the terminal itself. Including LNG Canada, emissions from oil and gas production would exceed BC’s 2050 target by 160 percent, even if emissions from the rest of the economy were reduced to zero by 2035! If Kitimat LNG and Woodfibre LNG were also built (both of which have 40-year export licenses approved by CER), total LNG emissions would amount to 22.6 megatonnes and BC’s 2050 target would be exceeded by 227 percent, even if all other sectors of BC’s economy reached zero emissions by 2031!”
Kate Lawes, mother of teens and volunteer for Parents 4 Climate says, “Parents cannot see the possibility of a positive future for their children if billions of dollars continue to be spent on subsidies supporting the fossil fuel industry.” She asks, “When will our province stop subsidizing fossil fuels and put the money toward immediately reducing GHG’s to provide a greener future for the children of BC and the world?” She continues her plea with “If not, then why?”
LNG production may stimulate our economy, but it’s not sustainable, it’s not healthy, it’s not ethical, and in fact, it’s not even smart. It’s certainly not clean!
Kate and her cohorts with Parents 4 Climate, the BC Sustainable Energy Association, and For Our Grandkids have a few questions to ask their provincial candidates.
“We want to know what our MLA’s are going to do to ensure a Clean and Just economy” reads the intro to their 5-question survey for all the candidates running on lower Vancouver Island.
Answers to those questions will be posted here by October 18.
If I make it to the ripe, old age of 90 in 2050, my grandchildren will be in their late thirties, perhaps with children of their own. By then, let’s hope “Beautiful BC” has not burned to the ground and it’s safe to be outside breathing fresh, clean air, and eating fresh, clean food. I pray the future generations will be full of optimism and dreams built on clean and sustainable lifestyles.
Reduced emission targets are not just political promises, but obligations under the Climate Change Accountability Act and Carbon Neutral Government Regulation.
An election is a chance to hold politicians accountable. It’s a time to ask candidates their vision of the future and how they will uphold climate change legislation and regulation.
It’s your right to ask and future generations are counting on a new approach to economic recovery that considers green and social causes.
Kathryn Molloy is a grandmother, mother, climate activist, a volunteer with For Our Grandkids and the former executive director of both Sierra Club BC and Heritage BC.