Foolishly, I went for a bike ride a few weeks back when we were having an air quality warning.
Yes, I know they tell you not to exercise too much outside when the air is full of ozone, but in my defense, life is short, and there are only so many summer days.
But as I got away from the urban areas, and the air cleared somewhat thanks to sea breezes, it got me thinking about the future.
Hopefully, for once.
It’s easy to be fairly gloomy when I compare the way things are now with the way they were when I was a kid. Climate change has ramped up sharply during my lifetime. It used to be that anything over 30° Celsius was a headline grabbing heatwave, but after last year’s heat dome, and temperatures in the high 30s to 40s, we more or less shrug at day after day of high temps.
Air quality, too, can be considerably worse than when I was a kid. For one thing, we didn’t have regular “forest fire seasons” two years out of three that periodically blotted out of the sky with a grimy orange-grey haze, and made everything smell faintly like an old campfire pit.
We’ve also roughly doubled the population of Metro Vancouver since I was born.
Although cars are a lot more fuel efficient now than they were then, that’s still a lot more cars and trucks and buses, belching a lot more exhaust into the air.
It’s that kind of pollution that caused our air quality warnings earlier this summer. All that pollution turns into ozone and haze and gunk that lingers for days, especially if the air is still.
But, things are looking up.
Just five or six years ago, if you saw a Tesla or a Chevy Bolt while you were out for a drive, it was worth turning your head. They were rare birds, those humming little electric vehicles.
Now Teslas are among the most common cars on the roads, not to mention the Bolts, Kia Souls, Ioniqs and half a dozen other brands. Soon we’ll start seeing the electric pickups and TransLink and the various school districts will be pitching in with their electric buses, too.
We already have mostly clean power generation here in B.C., and with the possibility of offshore and onshore wind power to supplement us in the future, there’s not reason to think that won’t continue.
So within a few years, we’ll hit a tipping point here in the Lower Mainland.
The number of internal combustion engines will peak, and start to decline.
The decline will be faster than anyone thinks is possible. The transition will be weird, as gas stations close down and consolidate, and we frantically build charging stations.
But a few years into it, we’ll notice that the sky looks different. Especially in the summer, there’ll be less of that annoying haze. It’ll be brighter on clear days, and the air will smell better.
Even in downtown areas, the roads will be quieter, and there won’t be clouds of fumes coming off the streets.
I’m really looking forward to the tipping point.