EARTHFUTURE.COM by Guy Dauncey
Finally, the world is waking up to the realities of global climate change, and saying “Maybe we’d better do something about it.”
The fourth assessment report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, released in Paris in February, warned that the impacts of climate change would be felt for 1,000 years: “Past and future anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions will continue to contribute to warming and sea level rise for more than a millennium, due to the timescales required for removal of this gas from the atmosphere.”
Think back a thousand years. In East Africa, the golden age of Swahili culture was just beginning. In China, the Song Dynasty was unifying the country. In the north Atlantic, Icelandic people led by Eric the Red were just arriving in Greenland. In England, the Normans were invading. Now, imagine another 1,000 years into the future.
Yes, there will be humans and I am sure they will enjoy learning about their history as much as we do, though I doubt their children will sit in classrooms.
What will they write about our period? Will they be shocked at our naiveté, at the way we used our newly discovered fossil fuels to plunder the planet while turning a blind eye to the scientists’ warnings?
Or will they praise the speed at which we responded to the challenge, once the penny had dropped, collectively engaging in a worldwide effort to break our civilization’s chronic addiction to fossil fuels? That’s up to you and me.
It is truly amazing. We have the opportunity, by our actions over the next few years, to determine the quality of life on Earth for 1,000 years.
If we take the blue pill, future generations will spend the next 1,000 years cursing the consequences of our blindness, while asking, “What were they thinking? Were they thinking at all?”
If we take the red pill, undertaking to learn all that we can about our situation and acting accordingly, we can help ourselves and life on Earth, underpinned by our deep and lasting commitment to sustainability.
Here are four critical breakthroughs, out of many, that must happen:
First: Solar revolution.
Last year, Germans (where they have as many grey days as we do) installed 100,000 solar roofs, generating 750 MW of electricity. They were able to do it because of a policy they adopted that pays $1 per kilowatt hour for the energy produced, guaranteed for 20 years. We need the same in Canada to kick-start our own solar revolution, driving down the price so that it becomes normal for buildings to generate solar power from their roofs.
Second: Wind and tidal revolution.
We can produce huge quantities of clean energy here in BC, firming up the power by using both the ability of our dams to store energy, and the newly emerging flow batteries. We can meet all our own needs from renewable energy without coal-fired power (Premier Campbell, are you listening?) and export surplus green power to close down the coal fired plants in Alberta, Washington, Oregon and Montana.
Third: Electric vehicle revolution.
We can use solar, wind and tidal energy to power our vehicles, enabling our cities to rediscover the joy of silence. Air pollution will vanish like a bad dream and everything will feel different, even magical.
Fourth: Bicycle revolution.
As soon as we invest in a network of safe, off-road bicycle routes, millions of people will rediscover the joys of cycling, as they have in The Netherlands. For those who find the hills too difficult, there are electric bicycles.
Building a world safe from the chaos of climate change is a practical matter. We just have to put the pieces together, one by one, until they create a new way of living, without fossil fuels.
(Four more breakthroughs follow in my April column)
Guy Dauncey is president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association, whose members work to bring about these changes. We welcome your membership to help us make it happen. See (www.bcsea.org).