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Climate change and photo opportunities

Reading the mainstream newspapers or watching television it would appear a great environmental issue has evaporated.

Reading the mainstream newspapers or watching television it would appear a great environmental issue has evaporated.

The amount of media space devoted to climate change has essentially disappeared.

While it is perhaps not as obvious during a Yukon winter but climate change is still with us despite the lack of media coverage.

Thanks to all the carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases that humanity has pumped into the atmosphere the temperatures are rising.

This past fall election a certain political party leader staked one and all on a Green Shift.

The main focus of this would have been a carbon tax on fossil fuels, the main culprit behind climate change.

While marketed as revenue neutral, the concept would have hopefully reduced Canadian fossil fuel consumption and thus decreased greenhouse gas emissions.

Not a perfect solution, and perhaps not a timely solution given the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions now, but still one type of solution.

The end result, at least for Stephane Dion of the Liberal Party, was that not only did his party not get elected into power he also had to promise to step down as leader.

Of course, given recent events in the House of Commons, he could still end up as prime minister, but it will not be due to the Green Shift.

Remember, he partly lost the last election over it.

It did not appear very popular with, nor was it clearly understood by, the electorate.

The lesson to Canadian politicians, at least at the federal level, is that climate change can be very dangerous to ones’ political career.

It is uncertain what lesson Yukon territorial politicians have learned.

Last week local media had pictures of the Yukon premier being very active at a computer screen over by the hydro dam.

He was allegedly turning on the grid that connects the Whitehorse and Aishihik hydro dams through to the mine at Minto.

One suspects that technicians had done that prior to his arrival but it still made a good photo opportunity.

It also means that the mine will not have to burn diesel, thus ensuring 30,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases do not get pumped into the atmosphere.

The mine gets cheap power and the planet gets less greenhouse gas emissions.

And, of course, a certain politician gets to look green in a newspaper picture.

This is a big initiative, and as much as it pains this columnist to admit it, credit must be given to those responsible for implementing it.

While every initiative like this helps in getting greenhouse gas emissions down, it is important to note that the Yukon could be doing so much more.

While getting mines off diesel is great, the concept should be spread to stop developing fossil fuels within the territory.

A moratorium on fossil fuel development, such as future coal mines and oil and gas wells, would definitely be a way for the Yukon to seriously deal with greenhouse gas emissions.

While those fossil fuels might not be used within the Yukon wherever they are combusted they will release greenhouse gases and enter the atmosphere of the planet.

When the planet heats up, the Yukon does as well.

There is of course a political down side should a jurisdiction attempt to completely kick the fossil fuel habit.

No doubt every politician, even at the Yukon Territorial level, would be afraid of being another Stephane Dion if such a green course of action was attempted.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.