LETTER: Let’s talk about climate accountability

In their recent editorial, “Squamish lucky to escape the ire — this time” (Jan. 2), the Squamish Chief’s editorial staff appear to have missed the point of the climate accountability campaign.

The basic premise of the editorial is that we’re all hypocrites because we use fossil fuels, or because tourists that choose to visit Whistler or Squamish burn fossil fuels to get here, and shouldn’t we get our own house in order before we start pointing fingers at the fossil fuel companies?

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The big lie that we are sold is that climate change is all our fault: we didn’t recycle, we left the lights on, we own a car, we took a flight, we’re guilty, guilty, guilty.

While we do all need to work hard to reduce our emissions, this lie fails to recognize that fossil fuel companies have known for decades that their products are causing climate change.

It fails to recognize that fossil fuel companies have undermined efforts to invest and develop alternative technologies like solar, wind, and electric cars that could have helped our society to break our fossil fuel addiction long ago.

Or that these same fossil fuel companies have actively funded climate deniers and misinformation campaigns designed to confuse and mislead the general public about the urgency of climate change.

Or that they have successfully lobbied against laws and international agreements intended to fight climate change, even to the extent of influencing the previous BC government’s climate plan.

Why? Because taking responsibility for climate harm caused by fossil fuels is bad for business. Big Oil & Gas have deliberately put profits before people and the planet for decades.

Meanwhile, the costs of climate change are rising as our communities prepare for and adapt to climate change. For example, the provincial government has instructed all municipalities to prepare for sea level rise of one metre by 2100.

The Integrated Flood Hazard Management Plan estimates that structural upgrades in Squamish will cost over $82 million. However, sea levels are rising faster than predicted, and the Coastal Ocean Research Institute warns that current plans are not enough as global sea levels may rise by 2.5 metres by 2100.

Add in the costs of preparing for wildfires, drought, more extreme storms, and many other impacts directly or indirectly caused by climate change, and the costs keep piling up.

Who will pay for all of this? We will, through our municipal taxes. The fossil fuel industry is not paying its fair share of climate costs following decades of carbon pollution.

Do you think it’s fair that fossil fuel companies are making billions of dollars in profit every year, while taxpayers are left to pay the costs of preparing for and adapting to climate change?

If fossil fuel companies have to pay their fair share of the costs of climate change, this creates an economic incentive for them to stop opposing climate action and instead use their considerable resources and expertise to develop alternatives and help solve the climate challenge.

We are all currently trapped in the same fossil fuel economy—that doesn’t make us hypocrites for trying to change the system, or for calling on fossil fuel companies to pay their fair share of climate costs.

It is a tragedy that one of the most important conversations that we need to have about climate accountability is being oversimplified and turned into a polarized debate.

Tracey Saxby
Executive Director, My Sea to Sky

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