Triple price of gas to save planet: climate expert

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Drivers line up at a St. John’s filling station in anticipation of a 7.4-cent price hike in this 2004 file photo. The cost of a litre of gasoline needs to go higher, says an environmental expert. — Telegram file photo

Vancouver —

Canadians may abhor the rising price of gasoline, but Thomas Stocker suggests the planet might be better off if it soared to “three to four” times its current level.

“This is scandalous, I know,” said Stocker, adding sky-high gasoline could help slow the climate change which world leaders have declared one of the greatest challenges of our time.

Much higher pump prices would help people realize there are “much smarter ways to go from point A to point B” than climbing into  “three tonnes of steel and rubber” that spew greenhouse gases, said Stocker, who was in British Columbia last week to discuss the insidious effect humans are having on the global atmosphere.

The Swiss climatologist is a key player with the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

He and the IPCC say there is no question the climate is changing because of the huge amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases wafting into the atmosphere through the burning of oil, gas and other fossil fuels.

The atmosphere’s carbon dioxide level is the highest it has been in 800,000 years, Stocker said — temperatures are climbing, sea levels are rising and heat waves are becoming more common and more dire in many countries.

Stocker stressed that decisions made today — how much and what type of energy is used in transportation, homes, buildings and factories — will help shape what the future brings since emissions released today will contribute to changes felt decades from now.

“It’s not like we wait to 2049 and say ‘Oh, we’d like to have less climate change in 2050,’” he said in an interview.

He compared the situation to slamming on the brakes to avoid a car crash. “You don’t wait until you’re half a metre from the wall.”

And if society won’t cut emissions, he asks “are we ready to pay the cost of adaption?” he asks, citing the prospect of seeing some Pacific island states sink beneath rising oceans.

To avoid the worst impacts scientists say warming must be kept to a 2 C increase in the average global temperature by 2100, which would mean about 6 C warming in the Canada’s north. That, they say, can only be achieved by slashing emissions over the next 10 to 20 years.

Stocker said there are still unknowns in our understanding of how climate works, but the ominous projections are “not crystal ball readings” but are based on facts and well-established scientific laws.

The details are spelled out in data, studies and computerized climate models that are under review by more than 1,000 researchers from around the world for the next round of IPCC reports due out in 2013 and 2014.

Stocker co-chairs the IPCC working group of 250 scientists exploring the scientific aspects of climate change. Other groups are looking at the impacts of climate change and ways of mitigating the damage.

The IPCC’s last report in 2007 stated “warming of the climate system is unequivocal” — a “fact” that Stocker said has not been challenged despite the IPCC recent troubles.

The panel, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007, became embroiled in a furor over a glaring mistake — its last report incorrectly stated that the Himalayan glaciers could melt away by 2035.

There was also controversy in 2009 over leaked emails from the University of East Anglia in the U.K. that indicated leading climate scientists, who work on the IPCC, had tried to stifle critics. The IPCC has since committed to being more transparent and improving communications and has new protocols for addressing errors in its reports.

Stocker said the next round of reports will elaborate on everything from the role aerosols play in the climate system to the fate of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which could drown low-lying regions around the world if they melt.

There is speculation that climate change is already causing more extreme weather, but Stocker said there is still no proof that the number of tornadoes — like the ones which have been tearing across the U.S. this spring — is increasing. “But we can say with confidence that it fits the picture,” he said.

Scientists have been calling for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions for 20 years, but global emissions continue to rise along with use of fossil fuels like the bitumen product rendered from Alberta’s oilsands.

Stocker said he sees little chance of success in “quick-fix” geoengineering schemes, like putting solar reflectors in space or pumping sulphur into the atmosphere to “play volcano” and cool the planet.

He said the only real solution is to cut emissions, and it makes much more sense to start now than wait to 2020.

He said Canadians, like Americans, could make a significant dent in their emissions by reducing per capita energy use, which is among the highest on the planet. There is great potential for reducing energy use in homes through the use of better insulation, more efficient windows and appliances, he said.

And a big price hike at the gas pump, said Stocker, would make people and governments get much more serious about switching to more efficient ways of getting around.

Organizations: United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.He, University of East Anglia, Greenland

Geographic location: Vancouver, British Columbia, Pacific island Canada U.K. U.S. Alberta

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Recent comments

  • David
    June 14, 2011 - 11:03

    Cam, The Telegram would publish this idiot's moronic ideas because the editors believe wholeheartedly in this nonsense. The treehuggers want us to live in the Stone Age and pay higher taxes for the privilege. Except of course, our new lords and masters, David Suzuki, Al Gore and Jack Layton. They will still need their palaces and private jets while the rest of us squat in unheated hovels. The environmentalists don't care about poor people, unless by care you mean make more of them. Cheap, reliable energy and solar and wind are neither, provides for economic growth which is the only proven method to reduce poverty.

  • Aub
    June 13, 2011 - 12:32

    Please lock this guy away before he destroys our world as we know it.

  • Clint Johnson
    June 13, 2011 - 12:27

    Mr. Stocker - "He compared the situation to slamming on the brakes to avoid a car crash. “You don’t wait until you’re half a metre from the wall.” I think what he is asking for is more analogous to slamming on the brakes and walking because incomplete computer models of a poorly understood system conclude there is a high probability of a wall existing... about 40km up the road. Through human history, the average temperature of the planet has wandered anywhere up to 5 degrees over a hundred year period so a 2 degree swing inside a century is most emphatically not unprecedented. It isn't a problem that we are making an educated guess at where climate is going in the next hundred years but it is dangerous if we then bankrupt ourselves in rolling the dice that our guesses are accurate to a level that we can't even measure. Worse, even their best guesses predict that these political actions that will crush the global economy would have a negligible effect on their computer models. We do not understand Earth's climate well enough to go all in on even our best understanding right now. The only thing we know for sure is that the climate will change, it always has and always will. By 2090 it could well be 4 degrees warmer... but it could also be 4 degrees colder. It would be irrational to spend trillions and cripple the economy so that we can't react to what actually happens.

  • ALGoRe
    June 13, 2011 - 11:59

    We should just kill ourselves now so we can save the planet quicker.

  • Donald Clink
    June 13, 2011 - 11:57

    "Global Climate Change" ,a report by D.L. Barss, indicates that global temperature patterns from 1880 to 2000 have little correlation to increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide, but have a close correlation to solar radiation. Furthermore, there have been cycles of global warming and global cooling for thousands of yearss, all of which seem to relate to solar activity. That being the case, I doubt that a decrease in atmospheric "green house gases" will have anh significant effect on the degree of future global warming.

  • Joan
    June 13, 2011 - 11:51

    Tom Marshall must be rubbing his hands in glee at this..He'd have some pile of money comeing in then to squander

  • Tayba RavenSoul
    June 13, 2011 - 10:20

    Another knee-jerk reaction to a fabricated issue to begin with. It's designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer.

  • Cam
    June 13, 2011 - 10:12

    $300+ to fill up my car lol! Why would people waste their time publishing this idiots moronic ideas anyways?

  • elly
    June 13, 2011 - 10:10

    I have never heard anything so outrageous and I have heard a few where do these people come from ??

  • Pat
    June 13, 2011 - 10:03

    This guy is INSANE. 1. This would DESTROY the economy and 2. Many people (such as myself) don't even have access to decent public transportation. The little guy can't control quality of public transportation OR innovation to improve emmissions. Raising MPG quotas and giving tax incentives for innovation, university funding, etc will fix the economy

  • led nosnikmot
    June 13, 2011 - 10:01

    Good idea... it will triple the price of everything else too. I see more benefits to triple the price of everything. We'll lose weight because we won't be able to afford to eat as much either. We'll save trees as we will only use 3 squares of toilet paper instead of 9. Our children will stay in shape because they will walk 5 miles to school through 10 feet of snow like our grandparents did. The list goes on.

  • Sine Nomine
    June 13, 2011 - 09:57

    More reactionary nonsense. Have you calculated how many people would die when you do this anyway? How many more would be marginalized and pushed into poverty? Just silly nonsense.

  • gilbert
    June 13, 2011 - 09:26

    what makes this guy a enviromental expert does he work for the big oil companies or is he just representing Al Gore with his brand of sudo science. I have no faith in these witch doctors and their science as it has been well documented that it is all made up and skewed. so infact they are not experts at all but have self serving reasons just like Al Gore.

  • canadafarmer
    June 13, 2011 - 09:17

    only thing will stop gas is an alternative

  • OKTC
    June 13, 2011 - 09:16

    I would like to see NERD boy get from Vancouver, B.C., Canada to White Horse, Yukon, Canada in the winter using no oil based product in the winter time. I bet he might make it half way before he is dead on the side of a trail in the dark. Or i would like to see NERD boy live in the Yukon for a winter without making CO2 from burning something. Nice Dream But where is the common sense??

  • critisize
    June 13, 2011 - 09:15

    we our in a race with no regulations on trade ,too see how fast we can spend or consume the worlds natural resourches and pollute the planet or use up our countrys resourches all in the name of greed. like drunken sailors we are spending our childrens heritage . with runnaway unregulated corporate right wing madness.. with the corporate entity pulling the politicians strings this is going too end up being much worse then any form of socialism or social democracey its potal madness runnaway capilaizm

  • Jay
    June 13, 2011 - 09:14

    I wonder how much money this climate expert earns every year? Obviously tripling the price of gas would not hinder their freedoms and travel plans. What you are talking about with this silliness, is the systematic shutting down of the economy full-scale, at a time when to do so would be political, and economic suicide. This suggestion is not feasable, and as such, is really not newsworthy.

  • David Scarff
    June 13, 2011 - 09:12

    I don't believe that Mr. Stocker is realistic, if indeed cutting our emissions at the cost of our economy is really going to help when one volcanic eruption would over shadow the totoal effort of the world's emmision programs. We need to learn to live and adapt to the changes as the worlds big picture is more than 800000 years old.

  • James
    June 13, 2011 - 09:11

    Fools! Global warming is a provable hoax and nothing more! We're in enough trouble economically already without adding to inflation with triple the current price of fossil fuel! The disruption to the world's climate is NOT caused by man's activities.

    • J
      June 13, 2011 - 14:02

      Granted, while I agree that this Stocker guy is out to lunch, I'd love to see you prove how Global Warming is a "provable" hoax. Please do enlighten us. Because I highly doubt that the decline in icebergs making their way to St. John's waters over the last 5 years, or the increased speed at which the Antarctic is shrinking, are an illusion. Prove it's a hoax, sir, if it is indeed provable as you say it is.

  • Dan E., Emonton
    June 13, 2011 - 09:10

    So, we if we pay EVEN MORE at the pump, then who gets the money? AND what person(s) profit? I support the envirnment by doing my part but there is not one proven fact that by holding our breath once per day or limiting the amount of cows or any other kooky ideas that are brought forward will resolve it.

  • TerryD
    June 13, 2011 - 08:39

    If every penny of the price increase was put 50% into Transit programs and 50% into green energy projects I would support this fully. Add 50 cents per gallon this year, another 50 next year another $1 the year after that and so on. I would vote for any candidate who would risk re-election to try to get this done.

    • JT
      June 13, 2011 - 13:23

      To say triple the price of fuel and save the planet is simplistic nonsense. Of course we should conserve as much as is possible, but by tripling the price of fuel, we would essentially plunge the world into an economic crisis the likes of which we have never seen before. The average person would not be able to heat their homes and eat, just as simple as that, and that would be the people lucky enough to still have employment. The climate change crowd under the auspices of the UN, are only interested in wealth transfer from the developed world to the undeveloped world. And the really extreme environmentalists want to eradicate a large percentage of the human population, these people are just plain scary.

  • Walter Argent Jr
    June 13, 2011 - 08:27

    In the 70's, the world was afraid of Global Cooling. Now its Global Warming... or better yet Climate Change. Blame emissions but in reality, its a money grab. The next world cause for concern. Its time these who cry every time it rains, snows and blows. Tripling the price of gas won't do squat. We still need it because horse and buggy are gone. The only thing you'll do with that is put people in the poor house faster or making them choose between food and fuel. Just like the useless windmills and solar farms that cost us 800% more than natural gas electric generation. If your so concerned, build your space plane and find a new planet.

  • Curmudgeon
    June 13, 2011 - 08:24

    Nonsense!

  • Jacky Yamaha
    June 13, 2011 - 08:09

    high gas prices will encourage conservation and spurn new technologies for cars. But not here, here we build paring garages at MUN to encourage automobile use.