Mexican firefighters helping fight Okanagan wildfires this summer. (BC Wildfire)

Mexican firefighters helping fight Okanagan wildfires this summer. (BC Wildfire)

Painful Truth: Try everything – and fast!

To cut CO2, try more things, faster, and stick with what works

This week, the B.C. government announced a sort of “cash for clunkers” program, but instead of cash, they’re giving out transit passes to people who willingly scrap their internal combustion engine vehicles.

The idea is obvious – take a car off the road, put the former driver on a path to using transit regularly.

Will it work?

Maybe. Maybe cash would be a better incentive! Maybe the level of the transit pass should be boosted, to a free year, or two years! Maybe there should be both carrot and stick, where people who stick with inefficient personal cars also have to pay an extra tax every year for transit?

There’s a lot of maybes in trying to combat climate change, and that’s one of the problems.

In the fight against climate change, as in a lot of public policy fights (COVID rules, tax policy, zoning) the saying “perfect is the enemy of good” comes into play.

This is a concept I think about more and more as I watch legislators put out policies aimed at reducing our greenhouse gas emissions.

Sometimes, you can tell that plans aimed at relatively small reductions in CO2 emissions have been relentlessly workshopped, seeking perfection.

What that often means is that they aim far, far too low given the effort involved. Everything bold has been stripped out of them. They are designed to succeed – and to ensure they succeed, they don’t try very hard. At least they’ll hit their goals, right?

We don’t need more programs like that. We already have plenty, dressed up in glossy reports with pretty graphics, filled to the brim with words like “stakeholders” and “consultation.”

A relatively quick and dirty program like the cars for transit passes program is one alternative.

If it works, great! If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t cost very much, and we can either tweak it without too much effort, or we can move on to the next plan.

That’s the other key – we need a lot of next plans.

READ ALSO: Painful Truth – No time like the present to rethink our car-centric cities

Some of them will be complicated. Upgrading energy efficiency in homes is very important. It’s not that simple. But we also shouldn’t worry too much about which of a dozen competing possibilities in the design of a project is the absolute best.

We just need one that works for now, and that we can adjust if needed.

It wasn’t that long ago that more than 500 British Columbians were killed by climate change. They were literally killed by temperatures that could not have existed a century ago, that our province hasn’t seen in millions of years.

So we need ideas that can get things turning around, and fast.

We need to stop worrying about perfect and start thinking about good enough.

We know what we need to do. We need to wean ourselves off oil and gas, off natural gas, off carbon-intensive concrete production. We have some tools to do that, we’re developing others.

What we have to do, over the next 20 years, is throw a whole lot of things at the wall, and see what sticks. When something works, we go with that. It won’t be perfect, but this is a crisis. We can’t afford perfect.

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Climate crisisColumnistEnvironmentLangleyOpinion