Editor, The Times:
Forest fire smoke: the “aha” moment for climate change action in 2019.
Our ancestors may have once lived in smoke-filled caves. After this deadly forest fire season, we should be less smug about the superiority of our modern lifestyle.
Climate change in 2018 caused massive forest fires due to drying conditions. If the fires were far away, lungs became unhealthy from drifting black smoke we could not avoid — as happened here in B.C. If the fires were close, death came to people on highways and in homes from fire tornadoes people could not escape — as happened in California.
My hope for 2019 is that suffocating black forest fire smoke will act as a personal call to action on climate change. Because if smoke does not kill us directly, burning fossil fuels will destroy our modern lifestyles through related climate change weather events – hurricanes, floods, rising oceans, and droughts.
There is no need for further debate about whether climate change is real in 2019. The planet’s climate is changing rapidly, so you and I must act to minimize these tragedies. There are solutions.
Exxon has known since the early 1980s that climate change would destroy many lives, – but still encourage us to burn fossil fuels. So in 2019, we must act by reducing our consumption of oil and gas.
Political leaders routinely mislead us about climate change, for example, by repeating the lie that exporting LNG gas, or building oil pipelines are somehow moral strategies for acting on climate change. For them, it’s all about getting votes. So act by voting for politicians willing to speak the truth about climate.
And another thing you can do in 2019 is invest in solar energy. Solar creates more employment per unit of energy than do fossil fuels, with virtually no emissions of greenhouse gases. And it’s about a third the cost of hydro power — even in oil-rich Alberta, some of the cheapest available energy is renewable energy.
For my part, I converted my pension fund into 192 solar energy panels which provide energy for my electric car and heats my house. And I sell the surplus for about 10 cents per kwh, a financial return of four to five per cent per year – comparable with many investment funds.
But BC Hydro now makes it difficult to sell excess electricity into the grid, saying we do not need more energy because of the Site C dam — ignoring the moral need to prevent severe climate change by replacing the two-thirds of B.C.’s energy that comes from fossil fuels with renewable energy.
For example, replacing gas cars with electric will require the energy equivalent of one more Site C dam. To make our entire economy electric, make that seven more dams. As we know, however, building hydro dams is difficult, costly, and slow.
Alternatively, solar energy is a simple, low cost, and sustainable technology that can replace fossil fuels. It can be installed quickly by individuals at home, by buying shares in cooperatives or small companies, or by supporting municipal energy utilities owned by taxpayers. That will take time, but it’s a start.
Very importantly, the sun’s photon rays of energy are free and cannot be privatized by corporations. So individuals and communities can have energy independence from inefficient, expensive, and uncaring power utilities.
So do not let ghostly ancestors laugh from their smoke-filled caves as you flee dangerous forest fire smoke in the years ahead. Renewable solar power can reduce human tragedies from these climate change events by reducing our use of oil and gas.
My hope is that the visible and deadly black smoke from forest fires in 2018 will be the “aha” moment to motivate all of us to take action on climate change in 2019.
Maple Bay, B.C.