The steel mills in the Hamilton waterfront harbour are shown in Hamilton, Ont., on Tuesday, October 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette

Dyer: Stay the course on Carbon pricing

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley

We have not one but two crises on our hands: COVID and global warming.

The COVID crisis is immediate, it has killed 550,000 in North America alone. Global warming is coming slowly but inevitably, we are still headed for a 1.5 C tipping point. That tipping point will make COVID look like a mild flu season.

We will lose the ice sheets in the Antarctic and Greenland, the permafrost will melt and the Amazon rainforest will burn.

What happens if we reach this tipping point? We will lose the West Antarctic ice sheet, which will cause a rise in sea level of three metres. We lose the Greenland ice sheet which could add seven metres of additional sea level rise. The Amazon rainforest could dry out due to changes in rainfall and catch fire, releasing enormous amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The permafrost here in Canada contains methane, a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. When the permafrost melts, it releases that methane, a one-way process that will further accelerate global warming.

READ MORE: Arctic tundra emits more carbon in winter than plants can absorb in summer: study

There are 7.8 billion people in this world. Global warming is already thought to be causing 150,000 deaths annually, which is expected to double by 2030. These deaths arise from three sources: rising temperatures causing more deaths from malaria and dengue fever, changes in weather patterns resulting in malnutrition and diarrhea, and finally deaths from natural disasters such as heat waves, floods, typhoons and hurricanes. If global warming deaths affect millions of people why do COVID deaths strike us as more immediate? They are happening closer to home and, unlike global warming, the cause on the death certificate can be clearly specified as COVID.

Unfortunately for the planet COVID is not having any meaningful effect on our carbon emissions. Initially during the April 2020 lockdown, there were indications that we were releasing 15% less carbon than a year earlier, but humans, being adaptable, learned how to live under restrictions and now it is expected that 2020 carbon emissions will be within 5% of 2019.

What should we be doing locally to fight long term carbon emission, even during a health crisis? British Columbia should continue to raise the price of carbon. If you aren’t familiar with carbon pricing you should know that British Columbia is a model world wide for pricing carbon emissions. Here’s how it works. Starting in 2008 BC added a $10/tonne (about 2.5 cents per litre on gasoline) tax to all purchases of fossil fuels (this covers most of BCs carbon emission, about 70%). That tax was increased steadily over the years, through both Liberal and NDP governments. The tax is mostly revenue neutral — rather than put the money into the general government coffers, rebates were given to the people most affected by the tax, in lower business taxes, personal taxes and the Low Income Climate Action tax credit. Recently some of the funding has been used to fund further emission-reduction projects in industry.

The same drive that has us shopping at Walmart for low prices can be harnessed to cut back on fossil fuel use

The effect of this carbon pricing has been a flat or reduced amount of fossil fuels. Why does this work? People are sensitive to the price and choose ways of avoiding using fossil fuels. The human nature that pushes us to lower prices at Walmart and Amazon, or has us driving across the town to a cheaper gas station can be harnessed to cut back on our fossil fuel use.

READ MORE: Okanagan faces increased temperatures, flooding: climate projections report

Most importantly, BC’s economy and population has grown without also increasing the amount of carbon being produced — proving that an even-handed application of carbon pricing can be done without damaging the economy. BC’s NDP government intended to stick to the schedule by raising carbon in April 2020 and April 2021 but has postponed both increases (about one cent per liter) due to the COVID crisis.

That is really unfortunate because as bad as COVID has been, the impact of global warming is orders of magnitude greater. Don’t let COVID take your eye off the ball — if we want to keep the earth habitable for humans we need to persevere at slow and steady changes — including the BC Carbon Tax.

Missed last week’s column?

Dyer: Financing energy efficiency

Kristy Dyer has a background in art and physics and consulted for Silicon Valley clean energy firms before moving (happily!) to sunny Penticton. Comments to Kristy.Dyer+BP@gmail.com

Kristy’s articles are archived at teaspoonenergy.blogspot.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Environment

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A member of the Vernon Search and Rescue winch helicopter team pulls a skier who broke her leg at the gorge backcountry area east of Sicamous into the helicopter on Friday March 5. (Shuswap Search and Rescue/Facebook)
Search and rescue helicopter helps injured skier out of Shuswap backcountry

The Salmon Arm woman broke her leg, but was helped out of the bush thanks to radio communication.

SASCU is looking to celebrate its 75th anniversary with a legacy project, in the same way the Shuswap credit union marked its 60th by commissioning the apple sculpture at its downtown location. That artwork includes 14 apples honouring SASCU’s founding families. (Lachlan Labere-Salmon Arm Observer)
Shuswap credit union to mark 75th anniversary with legacy project

SASCU will be looking for input from arts community, city

Interior Health reported 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5. (Black Press Files)
Interior Health reports 33 new COVID-19 cases on March 5

Over 300,000 vaccine doses have been administered provincewide.

Dave Wallace and David Askew with Askew’s Foods present a $500 cheque on March 2 to Chrissy Deye and Monica Kriese with the volunteer-run Food With Friends free lunch program. (Contributed)
Salmon Arm Food with Friends free lunch program receives support

Funds from Askew’s to help volunteers keep meals coming four days per week

The James C Richardson Pipe Band marches in a Remembrance Day parade on Nov. 11, 2019 in Chilliwack. Wednesday, March 10 is International Bagpipe Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of March 7 to 13

International Bagpipe Day, Wash Your Nose Day and Kidney Day are all coming up this week

A Coldstream resident who found an owl struggling on her property in March 2021 is now spreading awareness of about the knock-on effects of rodent poisoning. (Kathy Renaud photo)
Okanagan owl ‘fighting for her life’ after ingesting rat poison

Coldstream resident warns against the use of rodenticide due to risk of secondary poisoning in raptors

Hockey hall-of-fame legend Wayne Gretzky, right, watches the casket of his father, Walter Gretzky, as it is carried from the church during a funeral service in Brantford, Ont., Saturday, March 6, 2021. HE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky remembered as a man with a ‘heart of gold’ at funeral

The famous hockey father died Thursday at age 82 after battling Parkinson’s disease

Fire ripped through a mobile home on Boucherie Road in West Kelowna on March. 6. (Phil McLachlan - West Kelowna News)
‘My whole life just went up in smoke’; Fire consumes Okanagan mobile home

RCMP confirmed that there were no injuries due to the fire

Donald Alan Sweet was once an all star CFL kicker who played for the Montreal Alouettes and Montreal Concordes over a 13-year career. Photo courtesy of Mission RCMP.
Retired B.C. teacher and star CFL kicker charged for assault, sexual crimes against former students

Donald Sweet taught in Mission School District for 10 years, investigators seek further witnesses

During a press event on March 6, Const. Alex Berube, media relations officer for the West Shore RCMP, addressed a deadly shooting that occurred in Metchosin the night before. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
One man shot dead on Vancouver Island in ‘targeted incident’

Highway 14 closed in Metchosin, detour made available early Saturday

Personal protective equipment is seen in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at St. Paul’s hospital in downtown Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
$16.9 million invested to improve worker safety, strengthen B.C.’s food supply chain

Money to be used for social distancing, personal protective equipment, cleaning, and air circulation

COVID creature characters featured in new video by Kelowna resident that attempts to bring a little humour to counter the fear and uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed)
Kelowna man’s music video confronts COVID stress with humour

Power guitar tune combats pandemic uncertainty

More than ever before, as pandemic conditions persist, the threat of data breaches and cyberattacks continues to grow, according to SFU professor Michael Parent. (Pixabay photo)
SFU expert unveils 5 ways the COVID-19 pandemic has forever changed cybersecurity

Recognizing these changes is the first in a series of steps to mitigate them once the pandemic ends, and before the next: Michael Parent

Most Read