On the Kinder Morgan Pipeline: Climate change is the real issue here

As we pass the deadline for Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain commenter letters, many of those who were lucky enough to be deemed “directly affected” by this pipeline are pulling out of what they feel is a farce of a hearing process; at the beginning of the NEB process, many British  Columbians who wanted to give comment were denied their opportunity.
I have submitted my letter, but, like many groups, individuals and fellow scientists who are hoping, perhaps illogically, that their comments will have some effect on the outcome of this project, I was not allowed to talk about one of my chief concerns: the carbon elephant in the room — climate change.
Climate change, caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels, has a direct impact on the health of all Canadians; the World Health Organization (WHO) is calling it a global public health crisis.
This directly affects me as I worry about friends and family struggling with asthma, the leading cause of  hospitalization of Canadian children, triggered by plant allergens and air pollution, exacerbated by climate change.
It affects me that older loved ones are more threatened by increasingly dramatic heat waves, which are projected to become twice as deadly to vulnerable populations across Canadian  cities by 2050 (Canadian Environmental Health Atlas). In Canada, this is not nearly as devastating as it is in places like India, where over 2,000 people  perished in heat waves this summer alone.
It affects me that we are seeing increasing droughts putting our food security at risk.
It directly affects me that warming conditions increase chances of vector borne diseases, such as lyme disease, which is now seen increasingly across Canada.
Lastly, though not exhaustively, it directly affects me that my favourite vacation spot in B.C. is currently being ravaged by wildfires, which the International Panel on Climate Change suggests may be associated with climate change. My government must now spend hundreds of millions of dollars fighting fires, instead of investing in education and health care.
What is rarely talked about is that it directly affects me that I am not nearly as affected by climate change as our neighbours in the global south, who, despite their minimal contribution to rising CO2 levels, are increasingly plagued by hurricanes, floods, droughts and food- and water- borne diseases.
Places such as the Philippines, Pakistan and literally drowning island states do not have the resources for mitigation and rebuilding, as we do.
It directly affects me that, by increasing oil sands productions, Canada, my country, is contributing to a phenomenon that former UN secretary general Kofi Annan reports is causing 300,000 deaths per year, mainly in developing countries.
While it might be unrealistic to say we are going to stop using  oil tomorrow, expanding pipeline infrastructure is tantamount to saying we don’t care about climate change and how it affects our loved ones in Canada and fellow global citizens.
But then, I’m not allowed to talk about that.

Published in the Tri-City News August 27, 2015

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