Friday, June 14, 2024

BC doctors and nurses blame expanding LNG industry for rampant wildfires and disease


Doctors and nurses throughout BC and the rest of Canada have launched a campaign in opposition to new and ongoing liquified natural gas (LNG) and fracking operations.

They say these industries are at the heart of climate change, wildfires, floods and several diseases. 

The Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE) and the Canadian Association of Nurses for the Environment (CANE) have written an open letter to the BC government and launched an educational website to spread their views. 

CAPE and CANE are calling on the province to implement a temporary prohibition on all new fracking development so they can complete a comprehensive, independent health impact assessment that evaluates the health impacts of fracking and LNG.

This report would include those industries’ impact on climate change. 

The two organizations have issued a health advisory on the moratorium they are calling on BC to enact to let British Columbians and Canadians know why their health is being impacted and why the environment is paying such a high toll.

“Our health advisory draws a direct line between the LNG industry in BC and the devastating impacts of the massively disruptive wildfires we’re living through this summer,” said Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver family physician and President of CAPE. 

“Patients across this province are experiencing higher rates of asthma exacerbations, heart disease, anxiety and depression, at great cost to our communities and the healthcare system,” she added.

The doctors and nurses say that the emissions being produced by oil and gas industries, along with burning fossil fuels have exacerbated this year’s devastating wildfire season and the weather conditions that led to this. 

They also say that Methane, which is a main component of LNG, is introduced unnecessarily into the atmosphere at every stage of LNG and fracking industries. 

Methane alone is responsible for over 25% of global heating emissions, according to CAPE and CANE.

This year alone, wildfires have burnt over 1.6 million hectares in BC. This is five times over the 10-year average. 

The International Energy Agency warned governments in 2021 that any new fossil fuel developments could tip the scales enough to jeopardize the earth’s ability to bounce back from the damage done and stay within the safe limits of global heating. 

Despite this, the fossil fuel industry continues to grow exponentially, with several new developments in BC and throughout Canada. 

“People in BC deserve to know – and to understand the impact on public health – that fracking currently has, and also how that will change if the B.C. government enables gas production to double over the next several years to feed six proposed LNG facilities,” says Dr. Kevin Liang, a family physician and member of CAPE. 

“With each fracking well using and poisoning millions of gallons of fresh water amidst increasing drought driven by climate change, we are risking the health of current and future generations.”

Behavioural Neurologist and Neuropsychiatric Genetics Researcher, Dr. Robert Stowe says that accelerated climate change is having a profound impact on the mental health of younger generations leading to a stark increase in chronic mental illness as well as physical ailments which coincide with widespread natural disasters. 

CAPE and CANE are asking more healthcare professionals across BC and Canada to sign their open letter in support of their health advisory on LNG and fracking.

Victoria Buzz reached out to the Ministry of Health, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation as well as the ministry of Environment and Climate Strategy for a response to the open letter to the BC government. 

Due to the ongoing wildfires and province-wide state of emergency, the Ministry of Health said they were unable to provide a response.

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation did however, provide a statement to respond to this open letter.

“The threat of climate change is no longer decades or even years away,” the Ministry wrote in their statement. “The impacts are all around us, from floods and wildfires to heat waves and droughts.” 

“The scale of the climate emergency demands that we act with urgency.” 

The BC government’s plan to combat these issues are outlined in their CleanBC Roadmap to 2030. In this plan, the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation says BC can and will try to achieve a net-zero future. 

The Ministry also says that this spring, BC launched a new energy action plan to build on the CleanBC initiative. 

This action plan includes a stipulation that requires all proposed LNG facilities in or entering the environmental assessment process to pass an emissions test with a credible net zero 2030 plan and that emissions from the oil and gas industry be capped at an undisclosed level. 

The Ministry of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation did not comment specifically on the open letter or the call to action they have received from CAPE and CANE. 

Curtis Blandy

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