Council calls for action on climate change

Whitehorse City Council has passed a motion to urge the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deal with climate change.

Whitehorse City Council has passed a motion to urge the federal government to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and deal with climate change.

Wendy Boothroyd spoke to council at the beginning of Monday night’s meeting, likening the health of the world to the health of a child.

“If my child was sick and 98 per cent of doctors said, ‘Your child has appendicitis,’ and two per cent of doctors said, ‘We doubt that your child has appendicitis,’ would I go with the doubters and not give my child that operation that could save the child’s life?

“I don’t think so.

“And I think we’re in the same situation now.”

There are some scientists who don’t agree that climate change is due to human activity.

But Boothroyd pointed to a recent study, which showed that, of 615 scientists who have published over 100 papers, 601 believe climate change to be man-made and just 2.2 per cent were doubters.

The amended motion recognized that climate change is an increasing challenge in the North.

Climate change raises the risk of forest fire and flood damage because of more spring runoff and ice jams.

The motion will urge the Canadian government to adopt greenhouse gas emission targets that meet or exceed those recommended by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its fourth assessment report.

Those targets are reductions of 25 per cent by 2020 and 80 per cent by 2050, based on 1990 levels.

The motion went on to ask that the Canadian government work with the provinces, territories, First Nations and municipalities to develop and implement an effective national plan to deal with climate change.

This amended motion was better received by most councillors than the original motion, which they felt was too vague.

At least one councillor however, would have liked the motion to stay vague.

“The vagueness of the first motion I could accept, but I cannot accept the numeric equations in here,” said councillor Florence Roberts.

“Especially with the way things are going.”

The amended motion reads like a formal commitment, said Roberts.

And the numbers, which were released in 2007, may change when the intergovernmental panel releases its fifth assessment, which will be finalized in 2014.

Roberts would like the city to encourage the Canadian government to collaborate with the rest of the world at the upcoming climate change conference in Copenhagen.

“We certainly can’t set the rules like the ones stated in the present resolution.”

Roberts was the only councillor of the five in attendance who voted against the motion.

“I completely support this motion,” said councillor Ranj Pillai.

Pillai added to Boothroyd’s earlier statement, saying that if 98 per cent of doctors recommended that you deal with your illness by healthy living, the only side effect, if they were wrong, would be that you’d be more healthy.

“Today is a great example of all of us at a grassroots level trying to do something about an international issue,” said Pillai.

“Because at the federal level they’re not doing it, so it has to start here.”

That comment and the passing of the motion elicited applause from the more than 30 environmentalists who attended the meeting.

Among them was John Streicker, a climate change specialist and Yukon’s Green Party candidate.

Streicker is working with Yukon College on ways for Whitehorse to adapt to climate change.

He spent a considerable amount of time advising council on its amended climate change motion.

“I’m glad they put forward a strong statement because I actually think that the city has a fair amount of influence out there,” he said.

“We’re a small city but I think we’ve got a big voice.”

Streicker was also glad that the motion contained a section encouraging Ottawa to work together with all levels of Canadian government.

“We would like to see the federal government put up the framework of a plan,” he said.

“And we’d like to see within that framework how various other levels of the government and the public are going to be engaged.”

Contact Chris Oke at chriso@yukon-news.com