The province is running an online survey asking citizens how they think the government should approach climate change.
The survey breaks the subject down into four categories: The way we live (buildings, community design, waste), the way we travel (movement of people and goods), the way we work (business, industry, products and services), and what we value (how we consider the cost of climate change when we make decisions).
There are two sections of questions for each category and responders have to make choices and express preferences. The samples below are from the section on buildings, community design, and waste.
The survey was launched in July and runs until Monday, and according to the government more than 2500 people have filled it out. It’s part of the development of a provincial climate action plan, a draft of which will be released in the fall, and the public will be asked to comment on it.
The Star asked four prominent West Kootenay residents to take the survey and tell us what they thought of it.
Deb Kozak is the mayor of Nelson, the city’s representative on the Regional District of Central Kootenay board, and chair of the Association of Kootenay Boundary Local Governments.
“I thought the survey raised some broad issues around climate change, and defined them into sectors for you to think about,” she said.
“For a regular citizen taking the survey, I am not sure it would be very useful for them. You would have to understand a lot already. They might find the questions overwhelming. You were asked to provide a short answer to some very complex issues.
“There is no doubt in my mind that climate change is happening and we need to shift to a low carbon culture and government needs to take a strong leadership.
“I think the survey will provide some direction for the government if they are looking for direction on where the public feels the shift needs to occur, but I also think climate change scientists [have already given] indicators of where we need to be headed.”
David Reid is the executive director of the West Kootenay Ecosociety.
“I think it fails as a public engagement tool because if you want to understand what the public wants, you cannot create so many boxes,” he says. “If you want the public to feel like they are part of the process you can’t decide for them what the premise and goals are.
“It is just an exercise to say they engaged the public and this represents the public will. We were asked to choose between other people’s choices. Not that the four categories were inherently bad, but not every option was on the table.
“For example, the BC government says it wants to become a climate leader in terms of promoting public transit, energy efficient buildings, waste management, and so on, but if you are still advocating and supporting the extraction of fossil fuels, then you cannot be called a leader. This is about LNG and also about pipelines. There is nothing in there about working across provinces to demand the end of the tar sands. This is something that our government has power over because they are negotiating about pipelines to transport fossil fuels. Those are not options in that survey.”
Karen Hamling is the mayor of Nakusp and chair of the Regional District of Central Kootenay.
“I think it is a good survey, but what you can do in Vancouver you cannot necessarily do in the interior and the north. It’s a good survey for people living in high density areas. Travel to me is a huge thing. In the rural areas we have to drive. In Nakusp there is a bus to Nelson three times a week, and that’s it.
“As far as building cities so you can cut back emissions, yes you can do that, but it comes back to travel again.
“I think it is important that they put the survey out there, to help them make decisions.”
Mel Reasoner, a North Shore resident, has a PhD in earth and atmospheric sciences. He is a retired scientist who does climate consulting work.
“I was pleasantly surprised that I was able to express my opinion. It is refreshing that a provincial government is saying climate change is a problem, and that it is human caused.
“But there is an elephant in the room. We are producing 1.2 trillion cubic feet of liquid natural gas (LNG) per year and they [the government] want to add an additional 1.9 trillion feet per year. That works out to adding 100 million tons of CO2 per year.
“The survey did not prevent me from commenting on it, but did not raise LNG as an issue.
“Those LNG emissions are counted in the country where the gas is combusted, so they are saying it is China that is doing this. But the atmosphere does not care.
“The rationale is that the idea is that they will ship it to emerging economies and they will burn natural gas rather than coal. But there is no binding agreement in place that says they won’t just combust it in addition to coal.
“The other piece of the puzzle is a growing body of evidence that natural gas, when it comes from fracking, it is not much better than coal when you factor in fugitive emissions [methane that escapes during fracking]. There is also the energy involved in liquefying and shipping it across the Pacific.”