Posted by Vi Hughes on Sep 17, 2019
This last Tuesday we heard from Alison McIntosh from the Parkland Institute. The Parkland Institute is based in the Faculty of Arts at the U. of A. They take a political economy approach to issues affecting Albertans. Their work is supported by grants received mostly from unions and also some individuals.
She started her talk by saying that climate change happens in cycles of warm periods followed by ice ages.  One of the contributing factors in these changes is the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, when it’s levels are high, warming occurs, when it’s levels are low, cooling occurs. The highest levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in the past were around three hundred parts per million. At present the level is around four hundred parts per million. A large part of this increase is due to world wide combustion of fossil fuels by humans. When they break down the percentages of carbon from various sources in Alberta the major contributor is fossil fuel extraction. She discussed the changes in weather over the past fifty years and some of the many ways in which Albertans have experienced changes over that time. In particular, she said that the most costly two weather related disasters in Canada in that time were both in Alberta. The 2016 forest fires in Ft. McMurray and the 2013 flooding in Southern Alberta. When combined with the recent drop in provincial revenues, being able to plan for possible future disasters becomes problematic. We need to work out how to respond and set policies that will create a more resilient approach to weather related changes while at the same time recognising that these will also create employment issues for Albertans as oil and gas production is a very big part of our economy in Alberta.
She said that there are a lot of issues that government needs to address in order to comply with agreements on climate change that they have already signed and at the same time reduce the impact on workers and their families whose lives will be impacted in a serious way. They need to find ways and set policies so that communities will be able to support themselves in a ‘new economy’ that relies less on fossil fuels. One such proposal is the ‘Green New Deal’ and the associated ‘Just Transition’ that it will bring, as proposed in the US by some Democratic senators. In closing she said that we need to keep the conversation with our politicians and policy makers going to ensure that they know what we think on these issues.