It is always a joy for my wife and I to visit our son and daughter-in-law in Alberta and spend time enjoying our two young grandsons. Our most recent visit coincided with Alberta Premier Rachel Notley’s announcement that Alberta is introducing a carbon tax, closing its coal-fired power plants and limiting greenhouse gas emissions from the oil sands, while investing in renewable energy.
There were no mass protests or demonstrations following this historic change of course. Albertans seem resigned to playing “catch-up” after years of environmental neglect, and the realization Canada needs to transition to a low carbon economy.
Like most Canadians, Albertans are deeply concerned by the growing threats of a warming planet. Wildfires are increasing and droughts in the southern prairies threaten the future of farmers. Droughts will intensify as the glacial ice in the mountains disappears – depleting this vital “savings bank” of water.
Prime Minister Trudeau, who attended the Climate Change talks in Paris, takes the science of climate change seriously and understands the urgency to reduce fossil fuel use. Although fossil fuels will continue to be useful for chemical production their use as fuel must be replaced by carbon-free alternatives.
The world needs to undergo an energy revolution, a fact recently acknowledged by Bill Gates who is urging other billionaires to join him in committing to massive investments in clean energy research.
This exciting challenge could bring opportunities for Sarnia-Lambton, for energy production has always been one of our strengths. We need to be bold in rallying our skilled work force and research and business acumen to transform this area into a hub of innovation and production. The Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership must let the world know Sarnia-Lambton has the infrastructure and the workforce to meet many needs.
Oil and pipeline companies are diversifying into renewables, but that’s just the beginning. New technologies are needed to transform various wastes into energy, to build homes that are more energy self-sufficient, for cleaner urban transportation and renewable energy storage technologies – the list of possibilities seems endless.
We must think outside the box to develop innovative ideas and solutions and, in so doing, establish Sarnia as a leader in the energy revolution. And leadership is vital at all levels, from the city, county and, of course, from MPP Bob Bailey and MP Marilyn Gladu. These elected representatives, however, have so far not been publicly supportive of renewable energy or addressing climate change.
UN Climate Chief Christiana Figueres has described climate change as the greatest challenge the human race has ever faced, but with every crisis comes opportunities. If our grandchildren are to inherit a world in which global warming is kept to less than two degrees to avoid catastrophic climate events, then we all need to buckle down and get started on creating the future!
Allan McKeown is a retired health care professional and former Green Party federal candidate for Sarnia-Lambton.