After a casual glance at his job and his sunny approach to life, you might believe the Yukon’s federal Green Party candidate is at odds with himself.
However, you would be wrong.
Sure, John Streicker is a climate change expert and an optimist.
But you can be both, says Streicker , who writes regular climate-change articles for Encyclopedia Britannica.
Streicker is convinced climate change will be corrected.
Of course, it may not be pretty.
“I’m not an optimist as in I’m certain we’re going to do this well,” said Streicker , past co-ordinator of Northern Climate Exchange.
“But I am certain we will resolve the problem — either you do it the easy way or the hard way.”
The easy way would be to address climate change immediately.
“Then we could deal with it now in a more proactive form,” he said.
If climate change is ignored, it will still resolve itself, said Streicker.
“But there will be a lot of havoc.”
As climate change worsens, there will be economic downturns, scads of displaced people and bloody wars over things like food and water, he said.
“Then people will start to shift,” said Streicker .
“Because they will be aghast.”
That’s the hard way.
Streicker doesn’t believe environmentalists who say, “humans are toast.”
Humans are adaptable, he said.
“But climate change, if ignored, could cause serious problems we would never wish on ourselves.
“You don’t have to go to complete annihilation to say that this isn’t good.”
As the Green Party rep, Streicker sees a golden opportunity.
“In the North, we’re becoming geo-political,” he said.
People are beginning to pay attention to what’s happening to northern regions, he said.
“This year alone we lost 20 per cent of our sea ice.”
The North has a lot of sway, he said.
“And we could use this to create a better world.”
In October, Streicker was the keynote speaker at an oil and gas best-practices symposium in Inuvik.
He addressed non-government organizations, government officials and Big Oil reps, including industry guys from Conco Philips and Imperial Oil.
His message was simple.
Oil and gas are causing climate change.
This, in turn, warms the North. The sea ice is melting.
“Soon there’ll be a land rush to claim the oil and gas resources under that melting ice,” he said.
And with oil over $90 a barrel, development isn’t going to stop, said Streicker .
The point of the symposium was to “all come together to talk a common language about how this development should take place.”
Before Streicker spoke, the delegates heard from a National Research Council representative.
Her idea was use the marketplace to control climate change through a licensing regime.
Industry would pay for permits to extract resources.
The problem is that this is just another layer of red tape, said Streicker.
“There are already so many regulatory loopholes.”
Streicker ’s solution also uses the marketplace.
But it’s simple — put a carbon tax on oil and gas usage.
“This distributes the problem to where it belongs,” he said.
“The problem is created by burning oil and gas. So, take the money from there.”
Drivers filling up at the pumps, homeowners heating with oil and industry burning fossil fuels would all be forced to pay for usage.
“It would force people to become more efficient,” said Streicker .
And the money from the tax could be put into subsidizing renewables, he added.
It is going to cost money to fix climate change, said Streicker .
“So let’s use the market to correct that problem because that’s what the market does well.”
After his speech at the symposium, Streicker got job offers from industry and government.
But the Marsh Lake resident is turning his attention to politics.
The Green Party’s platform is very similar to mine, said Streicker.
“The Green Party wants to shift the tax base away from payroll and income taxes, to promote things like work and business and demote things like polluting the environment — which creates this big problem called climate change.”
The party is often criticized for its narrow focus.
But it stands for more than just the environment, he said.
“It’s socially progressive, fiscally responsible and environmentally sustainable — the idea is to pick out people, economics and environment.”
Under the current political spectrum, the party’s not left or right, added Streicker .
“It just says these are the problems. How do we solve them? And then it creates a government around that.”
It’s not about pushing things off until the next term of office, he said.
Streicker is worried about the Yukon.
“Right now it seems we’re shooting for boom and bust,” he said.
“We’re lining ourselves up for a drop at the far side.”
Instead, the territory should learn from where it’s gone wrong in the past, he said.
It should work to sustain the boom.
And that will only happen by taking both the environment and development into account, said Streicker .