- Our Town
Politicos respond to typhoon
A plea from the Philippines’ lead negotiator at the recent United Nations climate summit in Warsaw isn’t altering the stance of a couple of local politicians on climate change.
Philippine delegate Yeb Sano said in Poland on Nov. 11, at the beginning of the two-week UN Climate Change Conference – known as COP 19 or the 19th Conference of the Parties, that immediate action on climate change is needed to prevent repeats of the devastating storm that has destroyed much of the Philippines, as well as the establishment of a mechanism for compensation for loss and damage.
Sano pointed out it was barely 11 months earlier that his delegation appealed to the world “to open our eyes to the stark reality that we face,” when a catastrophic storm resulted in the costliest disaster in Philippine history. Less than a year later came Typhoon Haiyan, “described by experts as the strongest that has ever made landfall in the course of recorded human history.”
“It was so strong that if there was a Category 6, it would have fallen squarely in the box,” he said.
“To anyone who continues to deny the reality that is climate change, I dare you to get off your ivory tower and away from the comfort of your armchair,” he challenged, pointing to places around the world where communities are grappling with rising sea levels, glacial floods, dwindling polar ice caps, flooded deltas, monstrous hurricanes, droughts and typhoons.
MP Mayes said he reads arguments on both sides of climate change and appreciates a book called Watermelons: The Green Movement’s True Colors by James Delingpole.
Mayes disputes claims about extreme weather.
“First of all, the myth that we are having more extreme weather today than our past history is not correct, is not proven by science, that’s the first fact.”
Regarding Sano’s assertion about the typhoon, Mayes said: “One person’s made a statement – you’re assuming the statement’s 100 per cent true. Is the statement based on scientific fact or just his opinion to explain why they had this terrific typhoon? I can’t answer that – I have read documentation that has tracked extreme weather... The number of extreme weather, be it floods, heat spells, is no more extreme than any other time in our history.”
He said the Canadian government has a plan and is on track regarding greenhouse gases, and Canada’s emissions are small compared to other countries.
“Big countries like India, China, the U.S., these are the countries that need to start paying attention,” he said. “I feel comfortable with our government. It’s a balanced approach and we’re still making progress.”
Regarding fossil fuels and projects such as the Enbridge pipeline, the oil sands and liquid gas extraction, Mayes said he thinks the time for new fuels will come.
“What I have a lot of confidence in, is the ingenuity of man and the research we do. You just have to look at – we came in with the catalytic muffler, fuel injection... other upgrades getting rid of lead in automobiles... It’s just a matter of time. When we get to the point where somebody has developed a source of energy cheaper than fossil fuels and also safe as far as the environmental impact, then maybe oil and gas will be a thing of the past. But that’s what’s energizing the economy, raising the standard of living… That’s what’s helping to improve the plight of some of the developing countries.
“I think in time we will be weaned out of fossil fuels. It will be only be done if it’s feasible economically and safe for the environment…”
Regarding the costs to using fossil fuels that go beyond money, he said, “There’s also a cost to use energy resources that aren’t efficient. People need to put food on their tables and send their children to school... We need to generate that cash from somewhere,” he said, adding that wind energy is not as dependable as once thought and is expensive.
“We have to be very cautious on how we make these moves.”
Salmon Arm Mayor Nancy Cooper was also asked her thoughts on the Philippine delegate’s plea for developed countries to take climate change seriously and to immediately reduce greenhouse gas emissions – in contrast with B.C.’s focus on natural gas extraction and the federal government’s support of the Enbridge pipeline and the oil sands.
She said her heart goes out to the people in the Philippines, and she is giving what she can to help out.
Regarding climate change, she said: “I am not an environmental scientist so I feel unqualified to comment on climate change except to say, as we have all observed, our climatic conditions are different today than they were a few years ago.”
Sano stressed that developed countries have dropped the ball on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and it will now take global solidarity in pursuing sustainable human development to combat climate change.
“Disasters are never natural,” Sano said. “They are the intersection of factors other than physical. They are the accumulation of the constant breach of economic, social and environmental thresholds. Most of the time disasters are a result of inequity and the poorest people of the world are at greatest risk because of their vulnerability and decades of maldevelopment, which I must assert is connected to the kind of pursuit of economic growth that dominates the world, the same kind of pursuit of so-called economic growth and unsustainable consumption that has altered the climate system.”
Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo did not respond to requests for comment.