A Reassuring Rattle

COVID-19, Emissions & Global Economics

In the midst of all the reports of closures, cancellations and global economics, I heard a very reassuring rattle coming up from the government wharf below me. Someone was tightening the bolts on the east float’s new light. Squirrel Cove’s dock restoration is proceeding.  I found the Harbour Authority Cortes Island’s wharfinger, Don Tennent, lying in front of the light. His hands were extended below the deck, presumably holding the bottom of a bolt, while his helper made the final adjustments with a wrench.

Don Tennent and his helper, Brett Richardson, fastening down the new light on the east float in Squirrel Cove – Roy L Hales photo

A new report from the Conference Board of Canada states: 

“… Canada’s trade flows are expected to be severely disrupted for a good part of 2020, particularly now that the spread of COVID-19 has started to gain traction in North America. We assume COVID-19 will be largely contained by the end of the third quarter of 2020 …” (p 5)

“ … Because the effects of the coronavirus are expected to be temporary, most firms will do their best to hold on to their workers in order to be well positioned for the resumption of growth in the second half of this year. While industries such as those related to travel, large events, or the oil industry will see substantial declines in employment growth in the second quarter, we expect the losses in most other industries to be minimal.”  (p 9)

Conrad Black adds, “Unfortunately, the scientific and epidemiological experts who are creating and executing the public health war plan in the United States, and to some extent their Canadian analogues, take little account of the economic consequences of their recommended actions. Essentially, they want everyone to stay in their homes until everyone who has contracted the virus has recovered. This would certainly contain the spread of the virus, but at massive economic cost.”

NASA photos show emissions clearing up in Wuhan, China

China: COVID-19 Saved 20 Times More Lives

This pandemic also has brought benefits. Satellite images illustrate a dramatic clearing of China’s emissions. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels are 10% to 30% lower than normal.

“Strangely, this disruption could also have unexpected health benefits — and these benefits could be quite large in certain parts of the world … I calculate that the reductions in air pollution in China caused by this economic disruption likely saved twenty times more lives in China than have currently been lost directly due to infection with the virus in that country,” said Stanford University environmental resource economist Marshall Burke.

In a related article on this website, Cortes Island ecologist Rex Weyler points out that the biggest drops in global emissions occur during periods of economic slowdown.

He suggested that the underlying cause of climate change, pandemics and wars is “too many humans using too much stuff on a limited planet.” This is as applicable to the plague that devastated the densely packed city of Athens 2,500 years ago, as it is to the global situation today.

Why Have We Been So Slow Responding To Climate Change?

Some scientists observing the world’s reaction to COVID 19 ask why we have been so slow to respond to a much deadlier threat. 

“Climate change has the potential to end up killing more people than COVID-19 in the long run, but the deaths are one step removed from carbon emissions, appearing instead as an increased frequency of “natural disasters,” wrote professors Eric Galbraith and Ross Otto of McGill University.

According to the most recent UN Emissions Gap Report, we are currently on track for a 3.2°C rise in average Global temperatures by the end of the century. 

Kathryn Harrison, a political science professor at the University of British Columbia who studies environmental, climate and energy policy, points out that this rise will effect different areas differently. A 3.2°C global temperature rise could result in another 6°C in Canada.

Humanity’s lack of determination to tackle this problem is illustrated by the fact CO2 emissions are still rising.

Canada’s Emissions levels between 1990 and 2017, at which point they had risen 18.9% over 1990 levels – Adapted from Environment & Natural Resources Canada

Is Tackling Climate Change ‘Suicide’?

Conrad Black describes the federal government’s feeble attempts to curtail fossil fuel emissions as economic ‘suicide’

Tracy Wolstencroft, of Goldman Sachs, wrote, “the International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates we need $10.5 trillion in incremental investment globally in low-carbon energy technologies and energy efficiency by 2030. This estimate is across all sectors, including power, transport, residential and commercial building equipment, and industrial sectors, in order to limit global temperature increases to 2 degrees Celsius, the threshold that the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has identified as necessary for “avoiding catastrophic climate change.”

Unless countries collectively commit to and follow through on much more aggressive action, carbon dioxide levels are likely to continue rising through 2030. Likewise, global temperatures could soar as much as 5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels this century, accelerating the melting of ice sheets, the surge in sea levels and the destruction of coral reefs,” wrote James Temple in MIT Technology Review.

COVID 19 Statistics For March 21, 2020

According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, there are now 255,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, world-wide, and more than 10,400 deaths. I can’t help but notice that the 1,085 currently reported in Canada are slightly more than the federal government’s official count (1,048)

As of today’s press, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in British Columbia is 424 and 37 of these are in the Island Health. At least one of these is in Campbell River, where a local doctor revealed that a patient tested positive on March 12. There have been 10 deaths in British Columbia. No children under 10 years of age are known to have been affected.  The biggest threat is to seniors.

While the numbers are still low, Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu said that between 30% and 70% of the population may eventually be infected. 

Cortes & Quadra Asks Visitors To Stay Away

Amidst the many notices of COVID 19 related closures and cancellations, there are also notices asking visitors to stay away: 

“Quadra Island is a small community with limited resources and its share of vulnerable residents” says the Director for the Discovery Islands- Mainland inlets, Jim Abram. “Like other small destinations we are at special risk of exposure from people who may unknowingly travel with the infection. We all know now that isolation and limiting travel are key strategies in fighting this epidemic. Our community is asking anyone thinking of visiting Quadra, for discretionary reasons, reconsider and make plans to come at a safer time when we look forward to welcoming our visitors back”. – Quadra Island Media Release

Appeal For Young Volunteers

Meanwhile, there is a need for younger volunteers:

“Seniors Helping Seniors is looking for some younger people willing to drive seniors to the Health Centre and back home. We have been doing this with older drivers until now, but due to the Covid 19 virus, many of our regular volunteers have felt they are in a high risk group and have suspended their services for the time being. SHS is hoping to find other drivers to fill this need. Every effort will be made to protect both the driver and senior from contact with the virus, and the Health Centre is taking extreme measures to ensure a clean clinic. I feel a bit uneasy making this request, but I also know how essential this service to some of our seniors. Thank you for considering. Carina. 935-6793”

a reassurng rattle
Jeremy Hope and another man working on some of the Pilings at Squirrel Cove – Roy L Hales photo

The Economy

The Conference Board of Canada predicts the Global and Canadian economies will rebound in 2021.

Rex Weyler believes we may be entering into the biggest recession of recent memory. 

While I know it take many months to finish off the jobs started before the pandemic hit Canada, it was emotionally reassuring to observe the local economy is still fluid.

There are four men working on the government wharf in Squirrel Cove. Jeremy Hope’s barge is a recent arrival. The wharfinger, Don Tennent, started four weeks ago.

His helper, Brett Richardson, said, “I have a new job installing drywall, starting next week. A new house, over by the ferries; I’m looking forward to that.”

Bill Dougan believes that more than 60 people lost their jobs on Cortes Island as a result of the pandemic but, thanks to the increased number of people shopping locally, he is hiring at the Gorge. He asks customers to try and avoid coming at 2 PM on Tuesdays and Fridays, “since that is when we have orders coming in and things can get a bit hectic.”

He pointed out that the shortages that are occuring in so many other places are a result of “the unbelievable hoarding.”

“I have seen none of that here on Cortes and that is a big part of what’s making the difference.”

Later that afternoon, I found more customers in the Squirrel Cove General Store than I’ve seen for a long time. Some of them were probably stocking up. I purchased the second to last gallon of 2% milk. 

Our hands brushed, when I gave the clerk my money. My mind filled with anxious thoughts of COVID 19, I immediately washed my hands after returning home. 

One thought on “COVID-19, Emissions & Global Economics”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.