Let’s focus on creating resilient communities.

This is what I had hoped to say on third reading of Bill 10: Income Tax Amendment Act, 2019. However, the deputy speaker indicated that it was not allowed. I believe that this is relevant information, and that it is important for all MLAs to take into account what is happening around the world as impacts from climate change accelerate and intensify.

What are the stories that got left out and ignored over the course of our debate of this bill?

The Bill was introduced on Monday, March 25th. 

  • Chatelaine published an article by climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe that debunked myths about climate change – pointing out that there is scientific consensus that human activities, particularly the release of GHG gases, have warmed the planet.  She also points out that Canada is ranked as the tenth biggest emitter in the world, and on a per-person basis, one Canadian emits the same as 2.5 people in the UK, 10 people in Zimbabwe, and more than 20 Yemenis. We’re contributing far more than our fair share.
  • Bloomberg had a story titled “Fed Researcher warns climate change could spur financial crisis.”  Why? Because losses from natural disasters are magnified by higher temperature and elevated sea levels.  In his paper, Glenn Rudebusch, who is San Francisco’s Fed’s executive VP, he states, ““Many central banks already include climate change in their assessments of future economic and financial risks when setting monetary and financial supervisory policy.”
  • In the Guardian, an article about former UN high commissioner for human rights Mary Robinson, is quoted as saying that denial of climate change is not just ignorant, but “malign and evil” because it denies the human rights of the most vulnerable people on the planet.  She goes on to say, “The evidence about the effects of climate change is incontrovertible, and the moral case for urgent action indisputable,” and that “Climate change undermines the enjoyment of the full range of human rights – from the right to life, to food, to shelter and to health. It is an injustice that the people who have contributed least to the causes of the problem suffer the worst impacts of climate change.”
  • Wired Magazine had an article on “Peak Indifference” on climate change, in which the author points out that more and more people are starting to “very worried” about climate change because of the recent waves of unsettling, climate-related news. The problem is now knocking on everyone’s front door: record-breaking heat and cold, ravaging hurricanes, rampaging wildfires in overdry forests. “It’s not distant,” says Anthony Leiserowitz, head of the Yale program that studies climate change communication.
  • Think Progress published an article about how it is cheaper to replace most coal plants with renewables than keep them open. New research finds that replacing 74 percent of coal plants with renewables would immediately reduce costs.

And let’s remember, in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and other parts of Southern Africa, people were suffering the devastating aftermath of Cyclone Idai.  The former First Lady of Mozambique said that Beira is the world’s “first city completely devastated by Climate Change.”

March 26th, one day after the bill was introduced:

“If the transition is delayed and then happens abruptly, financial stability risks will rise considerably,” Carney said. “Given this combination of immediate physical risks and prospective transition risks, the Bank of England has become increasingly active consistent with our financial stability and prudential mandates.”

  • A bright news item on the 26th? Harbour Air – already a leader on reducing carbon emissions, announced that it intends to electrify its fleet within about two years.  Innovation! A zero-emissions airline! What terrific leadership!

March 27th, Day 3:

  • The Tyee’s Andrew Nikiforuk summarized the recent scientific report on fracking (which was mentioned exactly zero times by government in support of this bill).  What does he say? “Although a government-commissioned scientific review of fracking in British Columbia released earlier this month occupies some 232 pages, the word “concerns,” as in “concerns regarding environmental impact,” pops up more than 130 times. That’s a lot of scientific apprehension about a technology that serves as the foundation for the province’s growing liquefied natural gas industry.”  Let’s be clear on this – LNG Canada means that there will be a whole lot more fracking in BC. While provinces, states, and countries around the world are banning fracking because of risks to environment and health, here in BC, despite all the uncertainty outlined in the review, we’ll be ramping it up.
  • CNN reported that Residents of the Marshall Islands in the Pacific are fighting to save their island nation which is at risk of being inundated by rising sea levels due to climate change. But, in the face of uncertainty, thousands of Marshallese have decided to move to an unlikely enclave— in America’s Deep South.  
  • Fortune Magazine reported on a troubling feedback loop we’re already seeing:  Efforts to moderate extreme weather—blasting air conditioning or cranking up the heat—in 2018 were one of the major factors behind surging global energy demand, particularly in the U.S., the International Energy Agency said in a report published Tuesday. And that demand is directly linked to record-level energy-linked carbon dioxide emissions last year, even as countries pledged to substantially cut back their carbon output.

“In a way, global warming is leading to higher demand for fossil fuels,” says Bjarne Schieldrop, chief commodities analyst at Stockholm-based SEB Bank. “Which is kind of uncomfortable.”

March 28th, Day 4:

  • BBC reported that Younger generations, however, seem to be clued in to the reality that there are indeed climate solutions to this global problem. “The climate crisis has already been solved. We already have all the facts and solutions. All we have to do is to wake up and change,” said Nobel Prize nominee Greta Thunberg in her 2018 TED talk.  (Solutions, by the way, which do not include subsidizing the largest point source emission project in Canada’s history.)
  • CNN had troubling news:  Climate change could expose 1 billion more people to bug-borne diseases, including Zika, chikungunya and dengue, which will continue spreading farther north – Europe, East Asia, central America, East Africa, the United States, and yes, Canada will see large increases in reisk for these diseases.  
  • Mashable published a piece called “The Catastrophe is coming.” The byline: “No matter what happens with the climate now, we’re headed for a world of change. If it’s really bad, our descendants will know which generation to blame: ours.”  In his letter to the 22nd century, Chris Taylor writes, “Who to blame for this murderous mess? Not the 19th century with its Industrial Revolution smokestacks. Not the 20th century with its gas guzzlers. Not the latter 21st century, by which time we will have likely sobered up from our oil binge and passed peak population growth. The numbers finger an obvious culprit: the early 21st century. A time when, despite the decline of coal, carbon emissions are still rising. Quoting David Wallace-Wells, he reminds us that “The majority of the burning [of fossil fuels] has come since the premiere of Seinfeld, The story of the industrial world’s kamikaze mission is the story of a single lifetime.”

Let’s go to March 29th.  Bill 10 is on its fifth day since it was introduced.

  • The Star Calgary reports that “Alberta doctors put up election billboards calling for bold action on climate change.”  Why? “In the last decade, Alberta has seen some of the costliest natural disasters in its history between the Fort McMurray and Slave Lake wildfires and the 2013 Calgary flood. Smoke exposure from wildfires has also become a health concern every summer.”
  • Forbes Magazine – that bastion of environmental activism and anti-economy – has a piece by Erik Kobayashi-Solomon, founder of IOI capital.  He makes the case for a drastic modification in the technologies we use and in the very structure of our society. The closest parallel I could call to mind for the process on the verge of which we find ourselves today was the drastic changes that occurred in the mid-19th century as a result of the Industrial Revolution.In effect, our civilization will need to reverse out the trends of the last two centuries of economic development.This process is likely to be painful for those operating according to the prior paradigm in the same way that investors in buggy whips were disappointed with the results of their investments early in the 20th century.
  • USA Today: The CO2 levels were highest on record in 2018, the last four years have been the Earth’s 4 warmest years on record, and extreme weather is worsening – and affected 62 million people around the world in 2018.
  • Here in BC, Vaughn Palmer reported on the letter that Andrew Weaver, MLA for Oak Bay Gordon Head, read into the record in his 2nd reading speech on Bill 10.  What did that letter suggest? “We issue more royalty/tax offsets annually than the revenue we receive. Put simply, the Crown is giving out $2 in available royalty tax rebates for every dollar in royalty tax payables.”  The deep well credit program, according to the BC Public Servant who sent the letter on the day he resigned, has cost BC something in the neighbourhood of $6 billion.

March 30th, Day 6:

March 31st, Day 7:

  • Sunday was a slow news day, but the New York Times had a feature on widespread, severe flooding in the US Midwest over the last month, floods that have been exacerbated by heavy rainstorms, which are expected to worsen over time and have been attributed to climate change. With dozens of costly levee breaks across Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri and nearby states, the surging waters have left large areas without even cursory flood protection. “Breaches everywhere: multiple, multiple breaches,” said Tom Bullock, the top elected official in Holt County, Mo. And with the fear of more floods in the coming years — and perhaps even the coming weeks — many people said living and farming near the water might not be viable much longer without major changes. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimated it would cost $80 billion to upgrade the infrastructure in the face of climate change.

April 1st, Day 8:

  • Not good – or funny – news on April Fool’s Day.  The Globe and Mail reports that Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. The report from federal government scientists, Canada’s Changing Climate, is a dire warning for our country. For British Columbia specifically the report highlights the following as current and looming threats: More frequent and severe to extreme droughts, Higher average temperatures, Declining streamflow in summer, Higher runoff in winter and spring, in more frequent and extreme flooding events, Localize sea level rise. This means: crop failures, pest outbreaks, devastating fires, homes and businesses destroyed by rising waters, crashing salmon populations, climbing extinction rates, heatwaves that harm the young and elderly, and governments spending untold billions on remediation and emergency response. British Columbians will suffer and die because of climate change. And yet, in the BC legislature, on the day this report was leaked we were busy debating the expansion of the fossil fuel industry.

April 2nd, Day 9:

  • The CBC posts an article entitled: Canada’s failure to fight climate change ‘disturbing,’ environment watchdog says
  • The CBC posts another article entitled: Environmentalists hope for action in wake of ‘shocking and utterly unsurprising’ climate-change report. The report says that since 1948, Canada’s annual average temperature over land has warmed 1.7 C, with higher rates seen in the North, the Prairies and northern British Columbia.”The world is now changing on an unbelievable scale,” Bill McKibben said.
  • The Narwhal published an article about doctors who are concerned about the potential health impacts of fracking in BC. While plans to further develop gas plays in northeastern B.C. are celebrated at the government level as ensuring an economic windfall, they write, Dr. Meyer says a wave of health impacts are sweeping the region without adequate monitoring and research. ‘I have some patients whose symptoms I can’t explain,’ Dr. Meyer says, describing nosebleeds, rare cancers and respiratory illness among a dearth of data. In addition, the fracking boom has had a measurable impacts on the health of the community. With the wells on the landscape and burgeoning camps came higher rates of sex-trade work, sexually transmitted infections and drug use as transient young men from across the country arrived. And though large amounts of money flowed through town, Meyer said she’s seen poverty among locals increase.
  • The Tyee published an article entitled: What’s the Difference Between a Low-Carbon and Zero-Carbon Future? Survival. Governments, media and industry use ‘low-carbon economy’ frame to continue business as usual. Quoting an article by Vaughn Palmer they write, ““The finance ministry reckons that even with the estimated $6 billion in relief over 40 years, the province would still reap $22 billion in revenues over the same period. Without the project, returns would, of course, be zero.” End quote. It’s a compelling comparison, they continue, with the project we can pay for schools, hospitals and poverty reduction. Without it, we have nothing. Yet it is fallacious, a comparison promoted by Big Oil and adopted by government. It takes our minds off alternatives. The correct comparison is between revenues generated from $40 billion invested in fracking and fossil fuel production versus revenues generated from $40 billion invested in renewable energy, such as solar, wind and thermal.

April 3rd, Day 10:

  • CBC reports on the first big forest fire of the year. The fire, north of Squamish, is believed to be human caused and burning over 50 hectares, according to the wildfire service’s latest update Tuesday evening. Crews and officials across B.C. are in preparation mode ahead of the summer, following the two most destructive wildfire seasons recorded in B.C.’s history. “Five years ago, we’re looking at the climate models, we were thinking we had time,” fire ecologist Robert Gray said. “Things changed just like that in 2017, 2018, and here we are in 2019. So we have to have some really big, transformational changes in a lot of different parts of the economy and society to solve this problem.”

April 4th.  Day 11, and the final day of debate on the bill.

  • The Toronto Star has an article that should raise some red flags: “Ottawa considers approval of BC methane rules called ‘weak’ in report.”  the article starts: “The federal government has proposed accepting British Columbia’s rules to cut methane emissions that cause climate change despite an independent report that says the regulations would be weaker than Ottawa’s.”    What do we need to know about methane? “Methane is a greenhouse gas between 30 and 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Almost half of Canada’s methane emissions leak from oil and gas facilities and the governing Liberals have announced targets to reduce them by 45 per cent.”  So…not good. The scientific review of fracking that we learned about a few weeks ago pointed out that “ the province’s proposed rules weren’t as stringent as the federal ones. “Under B.C.’s proposals, a leaking well could emit more than twice the amount of methane than Ottawa will allow when its rules come into effect next year” and “ that the province would reduce the amount of inspection and leak detection that federal rules require. Federal rules will require inspections at least three times a year. British Columbia would require them once yearly.”
  • Also a reminder from a CBC article about the benefits of action on climate change:  “How BC brought in Canada’s 1st carbon tax and avoided economic disaster.” “This carbon tax is a model for the world that well-designed carbon pricing can be good for the environment and the economy. In the 11 years since B.C. brought in its carbon tax, it’s outpaced the rest of Canada both on emission reduction and GDP growth,” said Stewart Elgie, a professor of law and economics at the University of Ottawa.
  • On the east coast, a CP article”Climate Change continues to threaten Maritime dikes”  highlights that 70% of dikes in Nova Scotia are vulnerable – puting homes, farmland, and roadways at risk.  A $50-million plan for improvements to the dikes has been introduced – funded jointly by the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and Canada.  

Here’s the thing.  Not only are we going entirely in the wrong direction when we give $6 billion to the LNG industry, we are also setting ourselves up for much more spending to come as we deal with the ever accelerating impacts of climate change.

This is the wrong direction for our province.  We can – and must – do so much better. There are 30,000 unfilled jobs in tech, which is BC’s fastest growing sector of the economy.  We should invest this money into education and training programs for this, not give it to the LNG industry.

We should invest it in a Centre for Renewable Energy in Terrace, right where we could be developing a geo-thermal future, where we could emerge as world-leading innovators in the technologies and energies of the future.  We should join the dozens of countries that have committed to 100% renewable energy by 2035. We should strengthen our communities, invest in more habitat protection and water storage and zero-emission transit and build the world that we want for our children and grandchildren.  

We are in an emergency, and the absolute worst thing we can do is literally pour fuel on to the flames.  

We can do so much better than this – we just have to stop believing stories that no longer make sense.  It makes no sense to further fracture the landscape of the north east. It makes no sense to add the biggest point-source GHG emitter in Canada’s history at a time when we have to be doing everything we can to reduce emissions.  It makes no sense to give taxpayer money to an industry that will contribute to the climate emergency and that needs government subsidies in order to be viable.

Let me repeat that.  

It makes no sense to give taxpayer money to an industry that will contribute to the climate emergency and that needs government subsidies in order to be viable.

This is not free-market economics.  This is simply insanity.

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