Feature Story                                                                                                                 Sunday, May 11, 2014

 

Planet Love

Day of Climate Action rallies across the country

Staff/Voice photos

 

Climate Action rally organizer Wayne Froese pumps his fist in the air to cheers from supporters at Five Corners Park on Saturday in Chilliwack.

 

he biggest challenge facing mankind is how to reduce carbon emissions associated with the use of fossil fuels. Even though the science behind understanding global climate change may be flawed, there's no denying that the weather is being affected.

 

In order to understand the "runaway greenhouse effect" scientists need only refer to Venus where trapped gasses have heated the planet's surface temperature to 900°F.

Saturday was deemed National Day of Climate Action in response to the most contentious issues facing Canada today – the Kinder Morgan pipeline expansion in the Lower Mainland, Enbridge's Northern Gateway pipeline project and the Keystone pipeline back east.

According to reports, there's been a threefold increase of the amount of bitumen being shipped via rail from Fort McMurray in Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico and to Lower Mainland refineries for shipment to Asia via tankers. Some people feel shipping oil products on trains has the potential to be a more environmentally dangerous alternative to pipelines.

 

But whatever your view is on the subject handling and refining oil, it remains clear that in order to reduce global CO2 emissions, mankind has got to get off of fossil fuels, even if it takes the rest of the century to do it.

In downtown Vancouver, dozens of speakers and thousands of supporters rallied at Sunset beach.

"We're hosting this fun, empowering and inspiring day to send one last loud message to Prime Minister Stephen Harper against this misguided project," said Ben West, a Campaign Director with ForestEthics Advocacy in a release Saturday. "First Nations stand strong against Enbridge, the BC government has formally opposed their Northern Gateway pipeline proposal — and the people of BC are not going to let this monstrosity ever be built."


Chilliwack resident Rachel Perigny spoke and played her guitar at the rally Saturday.


West's message has ominous overtones.

"Harper has a decision to make: does he want to do this the easy or the hard way? Either he stops the Enbridge pipeline or we will," said West. "We hope he does the right thing and listens to the people of BC to stop this pipeline. It seems pretty clear that this could make Clayoquot Sound look like a walk in the park. Harper might think he has the final word on this project but he's wrong. We still live in a democracy and the people are saying no to Enbridge."

Locally, a couple of dozen planet saviours grabbed placards and gathered at Five Corners Park.

Organizer Wayne Froese spoke at the rally and implored people to push politicians for change.

"We're here today, taking a look at what our concerns are and what we as a community feel in terms of what we believe in and what we want to do to adress the climate issues, the energy project issues and the future of our economy and our environment in Canada," said Froese.

Dan Coulter is a Chilliwack resident and uncle to local School Board trustee of the same name was at the rally and told the Voice that only 6 per cent of the Canada's national GDP is based on oil. He doesn't believe that oil is a meaningful part of the economy and the jobs oil producers talk about is a fallacy.

"We should be going completely away from the dirty oil and taking the very last drop before we even think of doing something else," insists Coulter.
 

"A report came out last week from an international consortium of scientists studying climate change. You have to react now, it's not a problem for tomorrow."

Environmental activist Ian Stephen spoke eloquently about the issues. Below are his speaking notes which he agreed to share with Voice readers.


Local environmental activist Ian Stephen speaks at the rally.


When was the warming effect of atmospheric CO2 first hypothesized? 1896 by a Swedish physicist and chemist Svante Arrhenius. Actual warming was first reported in the 1930s.

There is uncertainty in the small points of course. Certainty of fine details in complex systems is not to be expected, but so far as the big picture the only uncertainty is in the minds of people who see a lot more media and advertising than science.

Consider: who has budget for lobbying government – oil or science?
Who has budget for advertising – oil or science?

When I opened my browser to Songza this morning, at the top of the page was an Enbridge Northern Gateway ad. Who has had their budgets cut recently – oil or science?

But, lets assume the "enviros" are crazy and just want to end civilization, lets assume the scientists are all conspiring to get more research funding (though why would they not conspire to get more research funding for something real anyway?)

Instead of those sources, let's look at what an oil company has published. Shell, the largest company in the world by revenue in 2013.

Shell Energy Scenarios 2050

“By 2015, growth in the production of easily accessible oil and gas will not match the projected rate of demand growth.”

“Even if it were possible for fossil fuels to maintain their current share of the energy mix and respond to increased demand, CO2 emissions would then be on a pathway that could severely threaten human well-being. Even with the moderation of fossil fuel use and effective CO2 management, the path forward is still highly challenging. Remaining within desirable levels of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere will become increasingly difficult.”

The worse scenario, Scramble, predicts that “Despite increasing protests by campaigners, [that's us] alarm fatigue afflicts the general public. International discussion on climate change becomes bogged down in an ideological 'dialogue of the deaf' between the conflicting positions of rich, industrialized countries versus poorer, developing nations – a paralysis that allows emissions of atmospheric CO2 to grow relentlessly”

That'll sound familiar to anyone who has been following international talks on climate change.

 

That scenario concludes with “Having avoided some hard choices early on, nations now recognise that they are likely to face expensive consequences beyond 2050.”

Shell's other scenario, which they call Blueprint, is better. It starts with local and regional initiatives, (that's us again), taking the lead and national governments following. It says that “As more consumers and investors realise that [change can be] attractive, fear of change is moderated and ever-more substantial actions become politically feasible.”

It foresees a more just world where new energy production and efficiencies benefit developing countries as well as developed and grassroots pressure moves governments to be more accountable in both democratic and authoritarian countries.

Of course Shell defend themselves too. We talk of removing subsidies from the most profitable corporations in the world and using them instead to incent progress. Shell refers to that as “misguided attempts to moderate energy demand through the knee-jerk removal of subsidies”

I guess if you're the one being kicked in the pants, it might seem knee-jerk.

Shell has a newer scenarios document as well that they call New Lens Scenarios that considers possibilities to 2100. It foresees a future where visionary leadership may help, or one where market forces dictate growth and we end up with either a major social reset or decay.

One scenario sees social stratification, rising classism, declining access to education, 'Balkanisation' of the internet at regional and national levels and a rise of protest for freedom of information as well as social justice. It sees a move to fracking for natural gas, coal bed methane and shale gas, and we overshoot our climate targets.

The other scenario sees institutional reforms, not always peaceful, in political, fiscal and legal realms. The internet grows and with it a global perspective and improved coordination in all fields. A shift in popular ideology toward intertwined fates. Social cohesion increases. With a rise of “Netizens”, people power drives politics.


Former Chilliwack-Hope MLA Gwen O'Mahony (2nd from right) rubs shoulders with Natalie Jones from WaterWealth Project (right) were there to take a stance on climate change.


Surprising to me was that they see this scenario possibly leading to worse climate outcomes. They seem to think that authoritarian rule offers more potential for making big changes quickly.

But in any case though, they state that “A positive outcome requires a series of proactive, far-sighted, and coordinated national and international policy developments that, to date, seem beyond the bounds of plausibility.”

Shell predicts that climate impacts will be felt most by the poor with storms, droughts, rising food costs, significant damage to the ocean food chain from acidification, salination of major deltas from sea-level rise, and mass migrations of human populations seeking food. You'd think that was Greenpeace talking!

They see two approaches to the debate on how to deal with this. One is “Those who project what they understand to be plausible given current realities, the nature of human behaviours, and the range of economic and technical possibilities.”

Unfortunately they conclude that all plausible outcomes by that approach appear ecologically and economically unsustainable over the long term.

The second approach is where I'm at and seems to be the place to be given their conclusion that the first approach leads inevitably to failure. The second approach is to set an ambition for an outcome, then demonstrate feasibility in order to provide encouragement. The flaw with this approach according to Shell is that it “assumes a seismic shift in humanity's attitudes and lower energy consumption starting from today.”

They point out that “the debate on climate change has been heavily contaminated by polarized and politicized ideologies".

“Hard choices are postponed, often for years, and the longer the delay the greater the [consequences].”

And Shell, a global oil giant and player in Canada's tar sands, ask “Are we morally prepared to leave the next generation to deal with this?”

I say No.
 

 

Shell's Energy Scenarios 2050 can be found at; www.shell.com/global/future-energy/scenarios/previous.html

Their New Lens Scenarios can be found at; www.shell.com/global/future-energy/scenarios/previous.html

 

 

 

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