What is required to survive

Like many of you I am alarmed by the rapid changes caused by our warming climate. As the ice melts on both poles, I can’t help but remember what Winston Churchill said during World War Two: “It’s not enough that we do our best; sometimes we have to do what’s required.” This is one of those times.

Scientists and Mother Nature keep giving us graphic illustrations that fossil fuels endanger life as we know it , yet here in BC the partisan bickering over the carbon tax versus ‘cap and trade’ continues to get all the media. In the last week, scientists from Oxford and Germany published a “carbon budget” in Nature, the respected scientific journal, illustrating that all humanity can only produce 1,000 billion tonnes of carbon without risking a catastrophic “tipping point” of warming.

Last summer a similar “carbon budget’ was developed for BC by former Dogwood Initiative Board Chair, Cliff Stainsby and Dr. Colin Campbell , uses modeling by Nobel-prize winner Andrew Weaver’s Climate Modelling Laboratory at the University of Victoria. Their report, “Greenhouse Gas Emission Reduction Scenarios for BC: Meeting the Twin Objectives of Temperature Stabilization and Global Equity” explains the science behind why we need to create a carbon-zero society in BC by 2050 if we are to avoid warming of more than two degrees.

Stainsby and Campbell suggest that at current emissions rates BC would use up its 92 year budget in 7 years. They conclude that BC’s legislated emissions reduction targets do not go far enough or reduce fast enough to avoid catastrophic global warming. In fact, BC needs to reduce its emissions by 99.7% by 2050 to do its fair share to save the planet.

Few of us can envision what  numbers like 1,000 billion tonnes or 99.7% reductions mean, but Mother Nature provided us with pictures when 700 square kilometres of Wilkins Ice Shelf in Antarctica suddenly collapsed before our eyes. The scientists say that unexpected rapid changes like this will accelerate unless we avoid a jump of more than 2C above pre-industrial levels.

What do we need to do to stay within safe limits? Scientists from Oxford and Germany say we have to leave three quarters of the proven and economically recoverable fossil fuel reserves in the ground. This means, for instance, that Canada would have to leave its oil tar sands untapped.
In this context the political finger pointing over pricing mechanisms is farcical.

Seeing the time lapsed collapse of the ice shelf as well as the startling carbon budget recommendations for fossil fuels highlighted the failure of our political leadership to take practical actions to save the planet. We are in a bus going slowly over the cliff, but we can’t get off unless others cooperate. But too many are arguing over the best evacuation plan. We need all hands on deck from all political stripes, not partisan bickering over minutia.

Politics as usual is unlikely to get us off the bus to oblivion. Now is not the time for partisan bickering, but rather for action and leadership. No longer is it good enough for political leaders to do their best , as Churchill said,  we need our elected representatives to take leadership and do what is required.nature is not going to negotiate or compromise – what is required is a hard cap taking us to zero emissions, and the only one that seems to promise that is Cap and Dividend

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