Posted by: jmtoriel | April 1, 2009

Winter sports – a Canadian past-time of the past?

I had a lovely weekend with my family cross-country skiing in the Callaghan Valley Nordic Centre — site of the Whistler 2010 Olympics for all nordic events. This lovely venue is set in an incredibly beautiful area south of Whistler and will be a recreational winter paradise for snowshoers, skate-skiers, x-country and ski jumpers for years to come. $120 million tax payer money well spent, right? That all depends on the most important factor: snow.

It is daunting to return to news of the possibility that my 6 month old daughter may not have the same iconic Canadian winter experience when she is my age (roughly 30 yrs from now), given the impending threat of Climate Change. The latest study (Ian Bruce) from the David Suzuki Foundation indicates a number of important factors linking to the importance of preserving the value of winter recreation. In dollar terms, the report acknowledges that winter tourism in Canada generates an estimated $5 billion per year and supports more than 110,000 jobs.  

When I think of all the wonderful times I had on the ice (skating or playing hockey) and skiing (x-country or downhill)/snowboarding, I can’t help but feel guilty for the generations that may not share that joy when we had the power to reverse the trend. But, instead of feeling helpless and paralyzed, it is important to acknowledge the possible grim possibility by becoming motivated to act. 

In order to fully comprehend the importance of snow in BC, we need only to look to our abundant supply of mountainous terrain. The whitecaps of glaciers and snow are a crucial source of water for communities, agriculture and hydro-power and support important ecosystems of flora and fauna. Without the glaciers, our livelihood and that of the other species (from plankton to grizzly bears) would be altered to the brink of survival. 

According to the report, scientists estimate that B.C.’s glaciers are losing 22 cubic kilometres of ice per year. That’s as much water as all of Canada’s homes, farms, and factories use every year!

We pride ourselves as living in “the best place on Earth” (BC gov’t slogan), have some of the cheapest power around, some of the cleanest drinking water and an abundant supply for agricultural lands (not to mention wild salmon and other fish from creeks and rivers). All this exists because of our current supply of water from glaciers.

More than just a recreational splendour, it is our very lifeblood and essential for the well-being of the future.

The report gives 7 recommendations for government policy and I will compare it to the BC Green Party platform in green below:

    Key recommendations for federal and provincial governments: 

    1. Implement an action plan to meet Canada’s international commitments by reducing emissions to safe levels as supported by science (25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, and at least 80 per cent below 1990 levels by 2050). The BC Greens share the targets of the Green Party of Canada which is 30% below 1990 levels by 2020 (47% below 2007) and 80% below 1990 levels by 2040 (85% below 2007). 
    2. Introduce a price on carbon emissions through both a carbon tax system and cap-and-trade system to spur innovation and clean-energy solutions. We propose a $50/tonne carbon tax (exempting British Columbians living below low income cut-off established by Stats Can) AND a hard cap on large final emitters of GHGs.
    3. Adopt stringent fuel-efficiency standards, such as the California standard or better, for personal vehicles as well as commercial and industrial trucks. The Environmental Management Act would include GHG reduction regulations and be equal or more stringent than California’s.
    4. Implement ambitious targets and timelines to transform [BC] into a global leader in the manufacturing and use of renewable-energy systems including solar and wind power. See number 1. All money earned in revenues from carbon and environmental taxes go towards investments in Renewable Energy infrastructure.
    5. Scale up funding for a sustainable transportation network across [BC] including investments in high-quality infrastructure for public transit, walking, biking, and a more efficient rail network for goods-movement. Cancel proposed Gateway project and provide tax breaks and funds to support transit, cycling, light rail, video conferencing and tele-working.
    6. Phase out dirty and unsustainable power sources such as coal-fired and nuclear power. Decommission all natural gas and diesel power stations by 2015. Halt import from nuclear and fossil fuel-based generation systems by 2009. Ensure nuclear power is not an option in BC.  
    7. Assist municipalities in putting into place growth-management strategies to prevent urban sprawl. There are too many policies that would encourage this to mention. Some examples include the expansion of rail service, distance-based auto insurance and stimulating local production of agriculture and greenroofs.

    While the news of climate change worsens, we must be hopeful that there is a political movement that is already pushing for meaningful response to the international scientific consensus calling for drastic emissions reductions and bold policy action. It is up to the voting citizens to make this a reality on May 12th by getting Greens elected, so the change can happen at a policy level from within government, and not just from outside pressure. Time is too precious.

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