Solving climate change 101 steps at a time

Yesterday, climate change may have slowed down, just a little. A “feebate” of $4,000 has been added to the purchase of new gas-guzzling…

Yesterday, climate change may have slowed down, just a little.

A “feebate” of $4,000 has been added to the purchase of new gas-guzzling SUVs and trucks.

While fuel-efficient vehicles purchased will include a $2,000 rebate.

It’s part of the new Conservative budget.

And it’s a sign of hope, said climate change advocate Guy Dauncey.

When Toronto tried to impose a similar feebate/rebate program two years ago, it was shouted out, he said.

Now, the initiative sailed through in the federal budget without a word of complaint.

“Everyone knows this has to happen; there’s a real willingness,” said Dauncey from his Victoria home on Tuesday.

“We know we are screwing up the world for our grandchildren, and there’s great awareness growing that we need to change the way we live.”

The author of Stormy Weather: 101 Solutions to Global Warming, has presented just that — “loads of solutions.”

But he also offers a blunt, painful lowdown of what climate change will mean for the planet.

“We are heading for a two-degrees Celsius warming above the normal pre-industrial level,” he said.

“And if we pass that level, it looks like the meltdown of Greenland is inevitable.”

That means a six-metre rise in sea level.

This may not affect the Yukon, said Dauncey.

But it will affect coastal jurisdictions like Bangladesh, Florida, Manhattan, San Francisco, Shanghai and Alaska.

Many major cities will be “goners,” including London, which will flood if sea levels rise only one metre.

It doesn’t look good.

But Dauncey isn’t giving up.

 “I think it’s fixable,” he said, listing off ways to heat, travel and generate electricity without using oil, gas or coal.

Cars could run on hydrogen, bio-diesel or electricity, which, in turn, can be generated through micro-hydro projects, solar, wind and geothermal.

And buildings can be designed to generate thermal energy by ground source or water source heating, using a heat-exchange pump, said Dauncey.

“Even in the Yukon you can drill down into the ground and, once you get to a certain level, there’s heat down there.”

But few changes are being made.

“The impulse to act has not been there,” he said.

“Because no one has taken climate change seriously until the last few months. They say, ‘We’ll let the scientists sort it out.’

“Well, the news is the scientists have figured it out and are ringing every alarm bell they can get hold of.”

Canadians live in a comfort zone, said Dauncey.

“It’s more comfortable to do things the way you’ve always done them.

“If you get up and go to work in your own car every morning, why even stop and think about car sharing — if there’s no one pushing you and the gas is cheap, why bother?”

This is where government comes in.

There need to be incentives, said Dauncey, citing London’s toll.

The UK’s capital charges every vehicle entering the city centre $18.

The road toll immediately reduced traffic by 20 per cent, and toll payments went to support public transit.

Toronto could do the same thing, said Dauncey.

Or Whitehorse could impose a $5 fee to park downtown.

People would get angry, he said.

“But do you put your energy into fighting the parking toll or do you get together with neighbours and say, ‘Let’s carpool?’

“It would act as a strong incentive to cycle or ride-share, and all money from parking could go into transit improvements.”

Similar fees could be imposed on big Yukon polluters, and on all industry, said Dauncey.

“If you put a carbon tax on emissions, put all the money into a fund to be used by the company to reduce emissions, and if they don’t do that in two years it goes to the public purse, that puts pressure on the company to do something even if shareholders say, ‘why bother.’”

Even if government is slow to impose tolls and tariffs, nature will take care of fossil fuel emissions, which are responsible for 80 per cent of the problem.

Oil is going to run out by 2050, said Dauncey.

Gas will be gone 10 years later and the world’s coal will have been used in the next 200 years.

“Imagine the conversation in a 1,000 years’ time,” he said.

“We’ll be talking about the age of fossil fuels, how it lasted until 2050 then was over, and we’ll describe how humans made a transition into a post-fossil-fuel energy-based future — what I call the great energy revolution.”

The revolution is already happening, he added.

But Canada has missed the bus.

“We’re so far behind the bus we don’t even know there is a bus,” said Dauncey.

“And we’re behind because we’ve had cheap fossil fuels, cheap electricity, lots of open space, lots of big roads, lots of forest and lots of water.

“We’re living in a comfort zone where we just take more and more, we’re not up against the constraints, and we’re not experiencing them personally.”

But climate change isn’t going away.

And Canadians are going to get their fare share of disasters, he said, citing BC’s wet winter and the spring flooding he expects.

“Huge climatic disasters are going to happen year after year and not let up — it’ll keep people really focused,” he said.

“And the climate skeptics are almost all gone; mainstream media has stopped paying attention to them.”

Climate change is like cancer, he said.

“People say we’re not sure it’s going to be as bad as they say, but by the time we do know, it’s too late.

“We’ve got this long delay time, and, like cancer, if you go on treating your lifestyle lousily and smoking and think, ‘I haven’t got cancer yet,’ by the time you do get lung cancer, it’s too late.”

Climate change doesn’t have a quick fix.

“You can’t just plug in nuclear power or clean coal, you need an integrated mix of 100 different changes,” said Dauncey.

These changes are no greater than the changes already made in the last 100 years.

At the turn of the century, settlers were living in the woods with horses.

“Twenty years later, we’re living in cities with cars — we just did it.

“If we can get to the moon within eight years, we can do this.”

Dauncey is speaking at a citizens’ climate change forum on Thursday night at the Beringia Centre.

The forum starts at 7 p.m. Admission is free.