Put Warning Labels on Gas Station Fuel Pumps
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Fossil fuels are one of the most damaging products in widespread use today, causing annual economic and health costs in excess of $1,000 per living person, and contributing to hundreds of thousands of deaths (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7U_nMeQRbUM). Fossil fuels should be subject to the same labelling requirements as other harmful products.
Canada requires warning labels on alcohol and tobacco products because they impose health and economic costs on society, both on the users of the products themselves, and on the taxpayers, businesses, communities and family members who pick up the tab for healthcare, lost productivity and other impacts. In the US, where numbers are available, the Centers for Disease Control estimates the annual economic cost associated with alcohol and tobacco consumption to be $1,300 (1) and $1,200 (2) per capita, respectively (all values converted to 2019 Canadian dollars, and limited to economic costs; they exclude any allowance for pain, suffering and death).
By comparison, the Universal Ecological Fund estimates that the average annual economic cost of fossil fuel use in the US for the decade ending in 2017 was $1,000 per capita, and that those costs will rise to $1,500 per person for the decade ending in 2027. (3) These values are consistent with the IMF’s 2015 estimate for the world as a whole (4): $1,000 per person per year (i.e. 7.4 billion people * $1,000 = $7.4 trillion per year in 2019 Canadian currency). The economic damage caused by fossil fuel use will soon outstrip that associated with tobacco and alcohol consumption, if it has not done so already.
While the benefits of fossil fuel consumption are disproportionately enjoyed by citizens of rich countries, poor countries bear a disproportionate share of the costs. One estimate is that a 3 degree rise in global temperature will reduce Canadian GDP by 0.2%, but that the GDP of many African countries will fall 15%–20% under the same conditions. (5) Of the 250,000 extra deaths per year that the WHO predicts will be attributable to climate change by 2030 (6), the majority are expected to be of children affected by increased malnutrition and disease (especially malaria). For each person that dies, many more will experience less-than-lethal pain and suffering.
Therefore, whereas every liter of fossil fuel consumed imposes health and financial costs on Canadians and constitutes a transfer of wealth and wellbeing away from human beings who lack the political or financial means to mitigate the effects of climate change, we urge the Government of Canada to mandate the placement of warning labels on gas station fuel pumps reading “THE USE OF FOSSIL FUELS CAUSES ECONOMIC HARM, ILLNESS AND DEATH. MINIMIZE CONSUMPTION”.
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