Thursday, January 15, 2015

Walking the Climate Change Tightrope

Well, that didn't take long.

There's been a lot of chatter about how the new CVRD Board - elected last November - is comprised of people who lean decidedly to the "Green" side of the spectrum.  And those election results have emboldened the environmental activists to approach the new Board with a request to impose a new regulation in the Cowichan Valley; supposedly an "education program" on Climate Change. 

Essentially, the Board is being asked to write a Bylaw to force all gas stations in the Regional District to put a sticker on their gas pumps, warning that the use of carbon-based fuels "contributes to climate change", and "may put up to 30% of species at a likely risk of extinction."   You can see for yourself in the picture what the sticker might look like

In other words, more alarmism, with the imprimatur of government (and, presumably, your tax dollars to have the stickers printed and the regulation enforced.)

I've said this so often that I know I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but the observable evidence is increasingly indicating the precise opposite to what the sticker warns about.  Global satellite measurements show there has been no actual "warming" in 18 years - a period during which worldwide carbon emissions have reached all-time record highs. 

Even last year's IPCC report acknowledges this, in a Chapter subheading which uses the word "hiatus" to talk - at some considerable length - about the lack of statistically significant warming.  (Click here, and do a simple word search on the word "hiatus" to see what I'm talking about.)   The fact is that the stickers would be a lie, because the imminent causal link they warn about - the link between increased emissions and warmer temperatures - simply isn't borne out by the data.  In fact, it is becoming more discredited with every passing month.  But some folks simply refuse to let those facts stand in the way of their alarmist narrative.  And, given the political make-up of the new CVRD Board, I would be somewhat surprised if you don't see these stickers starting to pop up on local gas pumps by this time next year. 

But you should know something else as well.  We had a discussion about the Climate Change issue at a recent North Cowichan Council get-together; a "Planning and Priorities" session which was called to map out a strategy for the next four years.  We were being asked to identify things we wanted to accomplish in the upcoming term; to look at whether things on a list supplied by staff should be considered "low", "medium", or "high" priorities.  One of the things on the list was the assignment of a "priority classification" to our Climate Action and Energy Plan.  Should this be top of mind in the coming term?  Or should it be near the bottom of the list?

What I found interesting was the way in which this was phrased.  Specifically, the action item called for us to "Adjust to Climate Change."  Are you sitting down?  Because I voted in favour of keeping this as a municipal priority.

Folks, as I said during the discussion on that issue, there's a huge difference between "adjusting" to Climate Change (mitigating its effects), and trying to "prevent" it.  If indeed the climate is changing, (and recent floods, droughts, and other weather events would seem to indicate that it is), it is incumbent upon us as policy-makers to acknowledge this and do what we can to protect our communities from the effects of these changes.  For example, we can all agree that we need to build dikes to protect certain neighborhoods from flooding, even if we are not agreed about what is causing the flooding, or whether we can "prevent" the waters from rising by reducing our GHG emissions.

Equally, it's never a bad thing to encourage and promote responsible energy use.  Not by engaging in alarmist, feel-good, fiction-based "sticker campaigns" on gas pumps, but with well-thought out energy management programs that would, for example, replace our conventional street lights with LED bulbs, leading to a substantial savings in Hydro costs. 

You may think I'm splitting hairs, but this is a fine line.  A metaphorical tight-rope I'm embarking on very cautiously.  But I think these distinctions are definitely worth noting.


  1. These stickers would only serve to remind voters of why we have runaway taxes on the Island. I can't think of a single service station owner that would support this. Utter self indulgence at taxpayers' expense.

    1. Whether service station owners "support this" is immaterial, John. If the Bylaw is written, it'll be imposed.
      The City of Duncan has something in a similar, although unrelated vein. A requirement that all licensed restaurants post a sign in their washrooms about the dangers of alcohol consumption to pregnant women.
      What makes me shake my head is that the signs are also supposed to be posted in men's washrooms. (A few restaurants comply - many are ignoring at least this part of it.)

  2. Al your points are bang on. North Cowichan would be wasting money to support this ridiculous sticker idea.

    When it comes to a changing environment, adapt and mitigate reasonably. Spending scare $$$ to do the impossible "prevent" Climate Change makes no sense whatsoever.

    I recently wrote a letter about this issue. Take a long look at ourselves as individuals and ask on a daily basis, what can I do, what am I doing to lessen my impact in resource consumption...and its OK if one doen't do anything but at least don't be hypocritical, saying out of one side of you mouth that the muni needs to spend our hard earned $$ on projects which are quite frankly untested toward "reducing" and the other side of one's mouth jumping on a plane for a winters vacation.