Rivers on how we are going to have to deal with climate change.


Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

August 23rd, 2018


“Fire situation ‘speaks to the changing environment we live in and the ravages of climate change,’…From flood to fire to flood and then again to fire … and we have had two states of emergency — that’s unprecedented,” (B.C. Premier Horgan)

The US president has a couple of theories about the massive fires ravaging California. An early brain wave focused on all that water, in the rivers and streams, which the authorities allow to empty into the oceans. If only it could be used to put out the fires?

But Trump, ever the stable genius he is, has now come up with another theory. And this one helps with the defence of his trade strategy, which boils down to placing tariffs on everything that moves across the US border. In this case it’s imported Canadian softwood lumber which is the target.

You see cheap imports of Canadian lumber have deterred American home builders from using up those logs left lying on the forest floor. Why go to the pain, bother and expense of gathering those tinder-box termite-eaten and diseased log remnants nestled among the mighty redwoods, when it’s oh so cheap to buy pre-cut Canadian timber, readily trucked to your building site.

Sloppy forestry management, and not climate change, is the real culprit behind the fires, according to the Donald. Apparently tidiness in forest management is next to godliness in his good book. Who would have thought? And we in the great white north must be just as sloppy, cheap lumber of not.

fire 1

Small communities are at serious risk – with 500 + fires in one province.

You see, Canada is also struggling with massive forest fires, almost everywhere. But the ones to worry about are in B.C. where over 500 wildfires were blazing simultaneously, only a few days ago. The smoke from those fires was so thick that weather offices started mapping it with radar, and airports in the interior had to be shut down. Air quality alerts are everywhere in the province, including on Vancouver Island.

B.C. Premier Horgan thinks this is the new normal, thanks to climate change. Perhaps all that smoke in the atmosphere might help block some solar radiation and moderate the greenhouse effect for at least the next year. But that nuclear winter scenario would only be temporary. In the end it will be years, maybe decades, before those fire devastated areas sprout trees and start absorbing and storing CO2… and become forest fires areas again.

It is a pity that Premier Horgan and the federal government are not also picking a convenient scapegoat to blame for Canada’s climate related events. In fact they have a prime culprit ever so close. America has been the single largest contributor to global warming in history, though China has recently assumed that title role.

But at least China has a plan. And China has already met its 2030 Paris carbon reduction target and its emissions are falling at almost seven percent a year, despite its ongoing economic development. By comparison the US has increased its emissions by 2% over the last quarter century. Not much wonder the US has decided to take itself out of the Paris climate change agreement, the only sizeable nation on earth refusing to participate in this global effort.

But it’s going to get worse stateside. Trump is cancelling Obama’s electrical sector coal rules, which would have led to the ultimate phase-out of coal power plants. The US leader is banking on the myth that something called clean coal, an oxymoron if ever there was one, will help scale back the traditional pollution associated with coal. But of course it won’t. Coal is pretty pure carbon. And its continued use will only jack up the 30% of US carbon emissions which come from producing electricity.

Another 30% or so of carbon emissions come from the transportation sector. And here the US federal government is planning to roll back California-inspired and Obama-initiated fuel economy and emission standards. Cancelling Obama’s auto rules, for example will mean that instead of 70% of light trucks being built as a hybrid or EV, there will be virtually none (1 %) by 2026. The rule change would lead to an increase in oil consumption of half a million barrels a day, every day.

This is just another challenge for Canadian authorities negotiating auto rules under NAFTA, given the integrated state of the North American industry. Improved auto efficiency would have been in the equation when we confirmed our own Paris emission reduction targets.

gas - electric pumps

Figuring out how to move from one form of fuel to another is a huge challenge – how are we doing so far?

Canada has always embraced new US environmental standards for autos, though this is the first time the rules are retrograde. Perhaps it is time to revert to the old Can/US auto-trade pact which worked well for us before the Mulroney trade deal with the US. That would enable auto manufacturers to build cars here for a cleaner Canadian market as opposed to accepting relatively dirty American vehicles.

Nobody seriously believes that the US will continue forever on this mad march against science, the environment and humanity. But it is clear that the current dinosaur making America great again is a climate change denier bent on irreparably damaging the planet just to profit his fossil fuel business interests and friends.

Too often climate change has become a political football, a partisan wedge issue which swings one way or the other every time a government changes its stripes. Today the liberals are for it and the conservatives almost everywhere dismiss it, disdain it or don’t give a damn. Such is the case with the new PC government in Ontario, which has taken over the pink palace and thrown out all the old furniture, as if it were worn out and moth-eaten.

Cap and trade graphic

Cap and trade is complex – but it was working. The new Ontario wants to shut it down – without offering anything to replace it. We will pay heavily as a society for this mistake.

In the volatile world of gas pump pricing Ontario’s cap and trade ended up costing less than five cents a litre – less than two dollars more per fill-up for most drivers. Yet it provided new money to maintain our schools, help people insulate their homes and to buy electric vehicles to help reduce auto emissions. And most importantly, cap and trade had been a process for the ongoing mitigation of carbon emissions that cause climate change.

Blame the Liberals for failing to properly educate the public on the benefits of the program they had developed. And they clearly did fail on that account. But blame the conservatives for scrapping the program without a second thought or taking the time to understand how it worked. And pity the poor parent who has to tell their child what to expect about the future.

fire 2

The fires are disastrous enough – the smoke is going to result in major health problems.

Protecting the environment is good for the economy and bad for polluters. There is more employment and potential national income from solar and wind energy than there is from coal and natural gas generation. Cleaner air means healthier people and fewer sick work days. Mitigating climate change earlier would have moderated our climate and avoided the costs we are experiencing dealing with floods and forest fires today. It’s a no-brainer.

Donald Trump has some other notions about controlling fires. For example he suggested more lives would have been saved during 9/11 had the twin towers been insulated with more asbestos. Apparently the Donald also wants to make asbestos great again. Canada, just this year, banned asbestos, including its mining, which had made us a leading exporter in years gone by.

However Trump can still buy asbestos from Russia. In fact for reasons only he and his pal Vlad might know, a picture of his smiling face adorns packages of the toxic product from the land of that toxic dictator. Still, it’ll take more than asbestos to insulate him from the heat he will be getting as the Mueller investigation uncovers more of his evil doings.

Donald Trump is s curious blend of health conscious and living on the edge. He doesn’t smoke or drink, but binges on burgers, chows down on fried chicken and quaffs gallons of diet coke every day – and has a passion for asbestos.. And he likes to bask in the White House tanning bed every morning, soaking up those death rays, before heading to the oval office to save the free world from himself.

It’s no wonder he is nonplussed about climate change.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.     Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Thirty Years Too Late –    It’s Getting Hotter –    Blame it on Canada

Trump Asbestos –    Vehicle Emissions and Economy –    China’s Carbon Goals

Return to the Front page
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 comments to Rivers on how we are going to have to deal with climate change.

  • Gary

    They’ll tell you the climate is always changing and has done so throughout the planet’s history.

    Seriously. There are people who actually believe this? Astonishing!

  • Hans

    The first thing that needs to be addressed is the overpopulation of the planet. We are approaching 8 billion people, who exhale CO2 and produce heat to keep our body temperatures at ~98.6 deg. F. An old Star Trek episode once referred to mankind as earth’s “carbon unit infestation” and that seems pretty accurate.

    It will take much better political leadership than we have ever had before to change from economies based on continuous growth to economies that will sustain life on earth in the very long run. People like Trump and Ford are incapable of understanding the problem or providing that leadership. It’s most likely that insects and bacteria will be the only life left on planet earth a hundred years from now.

  • Ray Rivers

    Good for you Penny and Third Age. It is amazing the number of people who still don’t understand climate change, and the number who don’t believe that humans have anything to do with it. They’ll tell you the climate is always changing and has done so throughout the planet’s history.

  • Penny Hersh

    Third Age Learning Burlington is holding a series of 8 lectures at the Art Gallery of Burlington dealing with Climate Change, starting in September. The series is totally sold out ( 225 people), but on the day of each lecture anyone 55+ can come to the Art Gallery and if a seat is available ( not everyone shows up), they can attend the lecture – the cost is $7.00.

    For more information visit our website at http://www.3alb.org.