Anti-LNG billboards outside B.C. ferry terminal put up by doctors concerned about climate

TSAWWASSEN (NEWS 1130) — A group of doctors wants British Columbians taking ferry trips to think about how their day-to-day activities are contributing to climate change, something top of mind for many as the province struggles through a summer marked by scorching heat and raging wildfires.

Dr. Melissa Lem is with the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, the group behind some large billboards that will go up next to the Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal this weekend. The message they are trying to send is that Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) which fuels the vessels and powers stoves and heating systems in homes is a major “climate culprit.” 

“We decided to situate our billboards near the ferries because ferries run on natural gas and that’s what our campaign is all about about the health effects of natural gas within our province,” Lem explains.

“We want to] point out the relationship between everyday things that we use, like ferries, and natural gas. Natural gas is actually quite pervasive in our everyday lives we use natural gas to heat our homes, to cook our food, to get around.”

Both the chemical make-up of LNG, and the way it is extracted mean it is a major polluter, according to Lem.  Methane is the main component of LNG, and atmospheric levels are getting close to dangerously high.

“Methane is a major climate criminal, because it has about 86 times the global heating potential of carbon dioxide over a 20-year period after it’s released into the atmosphere,” Lem says. Reducing methane is one of the most effective things we can do right now to fight climate change, and make a difference.”

Lem says their campaign was not planned to coincide with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s 2021 Report, but that the dire warnings contained in that report do coincidentally overlap with what the group of doctors is trying to raise awareness about. UN chief Antonio Guterres described landmark study as a global “‘code red’ for humanity.”

The report found that if human-caused methane emissions are cut by nearly in half by 2030, 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming can be prevented by mid-century. It continued to say methane reduction would be relatively inexpensive and could be achieved — by plugging leaks in pipelines, stopping venting of natural gas during energy drilling, capturing gas from landfills and reducing methane from belching livestock and other agricultural sources, which is the biggest challenge.

“It is absolutely critical that we tackle methane and that we tackle it expeditiously,” United Nations Environment Programme Director Inger Andersen said Thursday.

RELATED: UN report comes amid B.C.’s ‘summer of reckoning’ with climate change: advocate

In British Columbia, Lem says LNG is extracted by fracking which has immediate and negative health consequences on communities in Northern B.C.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that natural gas is extracted in our province, the majority of it through fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, which is a very polluting process that actually affects the health of people living in the North and also contributes in a major way to climate change,” she says.

“There are real communities beside fracking, and real people who are being whose health is being harmed.”

RELATED: Doctors urge British Columbians to switch their stoves and furnaces for ‘cleaner’ ones

Lem says this is just one example of how the climate crisis is also a health crisis.

“If we don’t take action on reducing burning of fossil fuels — which not only contributes to warming but air pollution that kills one in five people around the world — we’re going to see even more health crises down the line. We saw over 500 deaths with the heat dome that happened in June. In July, we’re seeing smoke inhalation and worsening cardiovascular and respiratory health because of wildfires and wildfire smoke,” she says.

“The climate emergency is here, and so we feel it’s our duty to speak up and take action. If we don’t who will?”

The organization has four demands: an immediate end to fracking, halting all fossil fuel subsidies, a commitment to zero-emission construction, and a just transition to clean jobs for everyone employed in the oil and gas industry.

With files from the Associated Press 

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