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Sticking it to fossil fuels: Halifax talk on climate change calls for warning on gas nozzles

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For the past few years sobering pictures on cigarette packs have been making Canadians think twice before lighting up - and some are hoping drivers do the same when lifting a gas nozzle.

Robert Shirkey, lawyer and executive director for the non-profit Our Horizon, is stopping to speak at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday about their campaign to have municipalities across Canada require climate change information on gas pumps.

“A lot of people initially will come in … thinking ‘It’s a sticker, what’s a sticker going to do,’” Shirkey said Monday.

“If you’re exposed to this maybe once a week or so … you might be more motivated to consider something like public transit or carpooling.”

At first glance, Shirkey said the idea may seem like a band-aid solution for a huge issue like climate change, but simple ideas are most effective at changing one’s mindset.

With more people reading labels like “use of this fuel product contributes to smog,” or how climate change may put up to 30 per cent of species at risk of extinction, or contribute to ocean acidification, Shirkey said it’s harder for people to disconnect themselves from the idea they are responsible for these things happening.

He said conversation could move towards what alternatives to fossil fuels are out there, having citizens question the fuel industry more and explore different transportation options, which all give politicians more leverage when calling for transit funding and encouraging green technology innovation.

It’s easy to think of climate change as a result of the oil sands or offshore drilling, but if residents regularly use fossil fuels there will always be the infrastructure to deliver them, Shirkey said.

Although Shirkey said it would be hard for cities like Halifax to pass a bylaw now and contend with legal challenges from gas companies, West Vancouver passed a resolution approving the labels on gas pumps across Canada and he hopes to see it pass through the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which would take the heat off individual governments.

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