News

Fight Climate Change?

November 24, 2021
Council Column

I always find it strange when political leaders claim we need to “fight” climate change.

Climate change isn’t some advancing army or alien invader we can simply rally together to fight and ‘defeat.’ Climate change is occurring directly as a result of humans creating an economic system founded on the release into the Earth’s atmosphere of long stored carbon. Our petrochemical economy is the source of the problem, not some outside force that needs to be fought off.

The recent weather events that led to the flooding of hundreds of homes, the collapse of the province’s transportation infrastructure, and the significant disruption of the province’s food distribution system should not have been a surprise for anyone who’s paid attention to the climate science. We’ve been amply warned that the kind of destructive weather-related events we’re now experiencing would be the likely outcome of continuing to add excessive amounts of incremental carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

The accruing impacts of climate change simply exposes the fundamental inability of our political and economic systems to adapt and evolve to an emerging threat: four year election cycles and the private sector’s focus on daily share prices has prevented our society from getting the visionary leadership we need to address a long-term emergency like climate change. The failure of COP26 to arrive at a dramatic rethink of the global economy is a classic case in point.

The impacts of last week’s damage to British Columbia’s social and economic systems from a single weather event must serve as a wake-up call to radically rethink our province’s approach to addressing climate change now -- not in 2030, the current target date for many of the province’s more dramatic climate change initiatives.

One of the key changes the province must make is the creation of a more sophisticated, comprehensive, and integrated provincial emergency response system. The core responsibility for this system must rest with the provincial government, not local governments, and it must include emergency planning (including planning to avoid emergencies!) and mitigation, as well as emergency response.

Another key change that’s desperately needed is that the province must work more directly with, and provide significantly more resources to, community level climate change initiatives. Local governments are the planning authority -- they create communities, not the province. As a result, local governments need to be equipped to plan for, and create, resilient and sustainable communities that are as close to net zero, with respect to the carbon balance, as we can get with today’s technology.

As it stands today, the vast majority of local governments in BC cannot afford to build, or rebuild, their core infrastructure to be able to withstand the ravages of climate change. Our property tax base isn’t sufficient for us to build net zero buildings (or use mass timber for that matter), quickly create new active and alternative transportation networks, implement zero-waste initiatives that would dramatically reduce methane release from our landfills, or implement a host of other carbon-reducing initiatives that are within our domain of control.

Simply put, communities are built by local governments, therefore, we need the Province to give us the resources we need to adapt our communities to a changing climate while also reducing their contribution to the carbon emissions that are destabilizing our weather.

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