When considering the question of fracking in the Yukon, it is important to put the issue in context.
Yes, issues of local scope such as ground water pollution and the rights of local First Nations are important – extremely important. But at the same time as considering how to act locally, it behooves us to continue to think globally.
As Yukoners, we know how real climate change is. Already we have seen an increase in global average temperature of 0.8 degrees Celsius. That may not seem like much on the surface, but we have to remember that the bulk of scientific opinion states that to avoid cataclysmic climate change we need to keep global average temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius.
Carbon that we have already released into the atmosphere guarantees us a further temperature increase of 0.8 degrees. That means if we could somehow miraculously cease carbon emissions tomorrow, we would still have a total global average temperature increase of 1.6 degrees. We are getting dangerously close to our 2 degree ceiling.
It is now also widely accepted by the scientific community that climate change is anthropogenic – specifically it is largely being created by humans burning large quantities of fossil fuels. So how much more oil can we burn, yet stay below that 2 degree ceiling?
The most sophisticated computer modeling available suggests that the maximum quantity of carbon we can release into the atmosphere while staying below a 2 degree temperature change is approximately 565 gigatons.
Now, here is the scary part.
The amount of carbon contained in currently proven fossil fuel reserves is approximately 2,795 gigatons – 500 per cent what we can safely burn.
So, to stay below the 2 degree ceiling, to avoid the likelihood of cataclysmic climate change, we need to leave 80 per cent of existing proven fossil fuel reserves below the ground. It’s that simple.
The tricky part with that equation is that the oil and gas industry has already spent significant amounts of money exploring and accessing those reserves. So, their profit margins demand that we pump that oil out of the ground. Their shareholders demand that we use that natural gas. And so it would be in Yukon.
How then can we in good faith give a green light to the development of further oil and gas reserves here in Yukon?
Given this context, given the all too real consequences of climate change we are already seeing worldwide, we have only one ethical answer to the fracking debate in Yukon.
Say no to fracking.
Leader, Yukon Green Party