for a greener planet curtail travel

There is concern among those that track greenhouse gas emissions on the amount that mainstream travel is responsible for.

There is concern among those that track greenhouse gas emissions on the amount that mainstream travel is responsible for.

This is a bit awkward for Yukoners, because we all tend to do a lot of it.

Mainstream travel, for the purposes of this article, ranges in form from internal-combustion-engine-powered vehicle trips to aviation fuel-consuming airplane flights.

Basically, anything that uses a fossil fuel to move us can be considered mainstream travel.

All this fossil-fuel based transportation releases greenhouse gases. These gases are causing human-induced climate change.

This climate change is causing catastrophic environmental events, and the future looks bleak indeed.

Make no mistake about it, future generations are going to curse this one for the inaction we have taken on this issue.

To partly resolve this, humans need to dramatically reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

In a Yukon context that could mean less travel.

Or at least less fossil-fuel-based travel.

While in the short term it might not be possible to reduce the travel from suburbs to work and school and shops, it is possible to curb long-distance travel.

It seems the most effective way to do this is through the pocket book. When travel is expensive, people do less of it.

To achieve this a variety of factors are already in play, and others that can be implemented.

High prices for gasoline seem to be working pretty well. The more gas goes up in price, the less is used.

This price increase is due to worldwide demand for more fossil fuels, while at the same time production of fossil fuels seems to have peaked. 

There is concern that the Yukon tourism industry is in for a tough summer as fewer motor homes will be trundling up the highway to Alaska mainly because they cannot afford the gasoline for the trip.

The benefit is less greenhouse gases.

Market forces are doing a good job at the moment in reducing this form of tourism and its associated greenhouse gases.

Another way to raise prices is to introduce a carbon tax.

A carbon tax happens when fuels that are considered bad, such as fossil fuels, have extra taxes slapped on them to discourage their use.

The British Columbia model of a carbon tax is actually revenue neutral.

A couple of pennies a litre are taxed onto fossil fuels, but the government’s total revenue stays the same because it reduces overall income taxes by the amount the carbon tax brings in.

The taxes are reduced by the same amount that the carbon tax raises.

Those who use small amounts of fossil fuels pay less in taxes overall, but those who use a lot pay more but only through the carbon tax.

As David Suzuki mentioned at his Whitehorse talk last week, to really change behaviour the carbon tax should be much more than a few pennies a litre, but it the pennies provide a start.

It is disappointing that the Yukon government has not included a carbon tax in its draft Climate Change Action Plan.

But it is looking for public feedback, so if enough Yukoners request one perhaps the tax will make it to the final version.

It is odd that the federal government actually encourages long distance travel through the travel credit in the Northern Living Allowance.

The Yukon government, associated Crown corporations and similar institutions are no better with their Yukon bonus travel allowance.

Tax dollars are being used to encourage individuals to undertake long-distance travel, which means more greenhouse gas emissions.

A government determined to discourage fossil fuel emissions would do away with these indirect fossil fuel subsidies.

Until such time as there are alternatives to fossil fuel travel, humanity would do well to stick close to home in order to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

Lewis Rifkind is a Whitehorse based part-time environmentalist.