I had the pleasure of interviewing recently, Danny Blair, the chair of the Geography Department at the University of Winnipeg. Danny Blair as chair of the department, has a special interest with regards to climate change and the environment. With this issue always being in the news, and some people may not understand climate change, I asked him questions. These included: why we should be concerned with climate change, why we are we procrastinating, why are Canadians slow to respond, what will engage people in environmental issues, as well as what Manitoba could do.
1. Why should people be concerned?
Danny Blair: “In general, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and around the world need to be more concerned about climate change then they seem to be or admit to be in polls and so forth because I’m convinced as well as the scientific community that climate change is going to get a lot worse then it has so for, unless we do something very soon. For me the issue is urgency, we know what to do, we have known what to do for a very long period of time for decades, and yet we continue to drag our feet individually, and collectively. We are delaying important decisions.”
2. Why are we dragging our feet (procrastinating)?
According to Blair, there are a lot of reasons. The first he mentions is competing interests. These include social and poverty issues (namely because some of the start-up costs to switching to alternative energy away from fossil fuels. He also notes denial as many do not like to admit that change needs to occur, as well people continue to resist change, especially at the political level.
3. Why are Canadians slow to change?
Professor Blair notes that Canada has not seen to much of the downside of climate change, but rather some of the upside to it, thanks to shorter winters. However, he notes that it is a different story up north ( i.e. shorter access for winter roads), as well when the threshold will become an issue, when our summers become to hot , or there is not enough water resources to support agriculture, drinking water, or fisheries. Blair notes a negative effect already with climate change in Canada is the pine beetle and the devastation in Western Canada forests. With warmer winters, the pine beetle is damaging the forests and thus effecting the forestry industry (loss of jobs) but also forcing more firefighters to fight forest fires more often.
4. What will engage people more in environmental issues?
Professor Blair mentions that people are afraid of change, due to the costs. He notes that there must be a better effort in addressing the economic benefits of greener technology and abandoning fossil fuels, as quickly as possible to reduce green house gas emissions. Blair recommends to charge people for polluting and reward those who do not. This could be done via a carbon tax and reward people through maybe tax incentives, or a road tax and allocate the tax revenue to a green transportation fund, like light rail transit.
5. On Biofuels.
Danny Blair is skeptical on the use of biofuels. He said that it is a saw off between fossil fuels and other green alternative energy. He suggests that biofuels not be used as a long-term solution to the fossil fuel problem.
6. On The Province of Manitoba.
The professor notes, that while the Manitoba government has the luxury of Manitoba Hydro, and while it’s a good thing, there is much more the province can and should do, namely in the areas of transportation, and energy conservation. He also pointed out that their has must be a transformation of thinking and the way they do business. Blair also said, part of the reason why Manitoba may not be as fast as they could be is because they are looking for the federal government to step up to the plate on the above issues like conservation of energy and transportation. He argues that Canada needs a federal government strategy, not just a provincial.
Danny Blair’s analysis of climate change, why Canadians are not doing enough, as well what needs to change in terms of engaging citizens on environmental issues, is why he is one of the most respected people when it comes to the issues. Blair’s concern and concrete examples of what may occur if we do not do something soon, gives credibility to an issue that needs to be the focus point on the radar very soon, after this recent global economic crisis. Blair, along with other analysis, on this website have shown, an environmental crisis, could very well be also an economic crisis if governments, both federal and provincial do not start working towards a high-tech green economy that will create many new jobs.