Climate change warning labels urged for gas pumps

Pump pain may come with pang of greenhouse gas guilt as motorists fill up

An advocacy group and a growing number of municipal politicians are pushing for the addition of climate change warning labels on gas pump handles.

An advocacy group and a growing number of municipal politicians are pushing for the addition of climate change warning labels on gas pump handles.

The pain drivers feel at the pump from high gas prices may soon also come with a jolt of shame for helping destroy the planet.

A proposal gaining momentum with civic leaders in B.C. would see guilt-inducing climate change warning labels slapped on all gas pump handles.

The non-profit group Our Horizon has been advancing the concept on the basis that warnings that graphically show the damage from climate change could nudge motorists to cut their emissions.

It’s inspired by cigarette package warnings that are credited in the decline of smoking and the example warning labels circulated by the group are similar in design.

“Warning: Use of this fuel product contributes to ocean acidification which puts much marine life at risk of extinction,” states one label that comes with images of thriving and dead coral.

West Vancouver council will bring a resolution before the Union of B.C. Municipalities in September asking the province to make the pump labels a requirement province-wide.

City of North Vancouver council voted to endorse the idea June 15 and it doesn’t want to wait for a provincial government decision.

“We’re going to try to go it alone,” Mayor Darrell Mussatto said, adding North Vancouver still must investigate the legalities. “We think it’s the right thing to do.”

Our Horizon B.C. campaigner Matt Hulse said he believes any municipality could make gas pump labeling a condition for gas stations in its local business licence bylaw.

But West Vancouver Mayor Mike Smith, a longtime petroleum distributor in the region, said he doesn’t want to take the risk that a unilateral municipal requirement gets challenged in court.

“I personally hate spending public money on legal fees,” he said, adding his city will wait for provincial policy.

Smith said he will vote in favour of his council’s resolution at UBCM.

“It’s just a way of reminding the public that there’s a cost to be borne for using petroleum products,” Smith said. “Nobody’s advocating banning them. But you should be aware when you fill your car up that there’s an effect on the climate and on the environment of doing that.”

He called the suggested labels innocuous and doesn’t believe the oil industry would object.

No jurisdiction in Canada has yet made pump warning labels a requirement.

Hulse said the labels would help make the routine act of filling up the tank a choice to be considered more carefully.

“It places responsibility right in the palm of your hand,” Hulse said.

If the concept takes off, he said, specific impact wording and imagery could be developed to tailor the labels to each area.

“In the Lower Mainland it might be sea level rise, flooding, smog – any number of things – and it might be different in the Interior of B.C., where it might be forest fires and pine beetles,” Hulse said. “It might be ocean acidification in coastal areas such as Qualicum Beach, which has had a massive crash in its shellfish industry.”

Richmond Coun. Harold Steves noted handle labels would only be seen by self-serve pump users and suggested larger labels for the pump display be designed that are visible at full-serve stations.

SFU marketing professor Lindsay Meredith said the idea could influence fossil fuel consumption, particularly among people already considering buying an electric car or choosing other transportation options to reduce their carbon footprint.

“It’s a way of turning up the heat, no doubt about it,” Meredith said. “Does it get the hard core guy driving the Escalade or the Hummer? Probably not. Does it get a whole bunch of the younger crowd or the people who are on the margin? You bet your boots it does.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dr. Sandra Allison and Dr. Charmaine Enns joined school district senior staff for a virtual town hall meeting to address the latest COVID concerns in schools. Image, screenshot
No secondary cases in Comox Valley schools, say health officers

School district hosts virtual town hall to address recent COVID-19 cases in schools

One of the rescues at CATS - Cat Advocates Teaching & Saving Society’s new location on Knight Road in Comox. Photo by Erin Halushak
Feline rescue organization growing into new space

Cat Advocates Teaching & Saving Society opens new facility on Knight Road

Comox Valley RCMP had access to 20 Street blocked off between Cousins and Choquette avenues as they conducted a raid of a house on the block. Photo by Terry Farrell
Comox Valley RCMP raid Courtenay problem house, several arrests made

Neighbours have reached out to media on several occasions with complaints about the property

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Tentative COVID-19 vaccine site chosen in the Comox Valley

B.C. is moving into Phase 2 of its COVID-19 mass immunization plan

Cumberland is considering downtown densification proposals, and with that comes questions around parking, among other things. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Water bottling ban, parking key changes for Cumberland zoning

Bylaw on amendments still need adoption following March 2 hearing

Sean LaFleur and Geoff Piper of Courtenay Nissan will be running 4 miles every 4 hours all weekend long in a fundraising campaign for YANA (You Are Not Alone).
VIDEO: Courtenay Nissan hosting YANA fundraiser

Courtenay Nissan is hosting a special YANA fundraiser all weekend long, from… Continue reading

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Burnaby Mounties responded to 56 complaints and issued 10 tickets to people flouting COVID-19 restrictions in February. (Patrick Davies/100 Mile Free Press)
COVID denier fined $2,300 for hosting gathering in her home: Burnaby RCMP

The woman told Mounties she does not believe the pandemic is real

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

The intersection of Melrose Street and Third Avenue. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Suspect in custody after two pedestrians struck in Port Alberni hit and run

RCMP asking for video footage, credit witnesses for quick arrest

The Courtenay Fire Department hopes to start a new recruit training program in mid-2021, pending Provincial Health Orders. Scott Stanfield photo
Courtenay Fire Department gets creative

Due to public health orders resulting from COVID, the Courtenay Fire Department… Continue reading

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

Most Read