A Brief Overview on Canadian Climate Change
Canada is known for many things: Large expanses of beautiful wilderness, being overly polite, our unique pronunciation of the letter ‘A’, and also, unfortunately, the tar sands. The tar sands can only be described as an ongoing ecological and climate change disaster. This is why we’ve repeatedly failed to hit climate change goals, and why, unless action is taken, we’ll fail to hit our Copenhagen goals as well. With the current measures in place, it’s expected that our CO2 emissions will continue to rise, from 700 Mt in 2013, to 734 Mt in 2020. The Canadian Copenhagen target is 612 Mt, which is even less aggressive than the Kyoto target. Here that wooshing noise? That’s the sound of that blowing past me.
What we’ve always heard, here in Canada, is that serious action on climate change would damage our economy, that it was too costly, and that, finally, it wouldn’t make a difference because China and the US emit far more than us anyways, so we’d suffer for nothing.
An Oil-Based Economy
It’s true that the tar sands are a large part of our economy… Or is it? That’s what we Canadians are told over and over again, but an IMF report concludes that the massive expansions planned for the tar sands would add less than 2% real GDP over the next 10 years. That’s truly anemic growth. Why such low numbers? Well, it’s related to something called Dutch Disease, where having large value exports inflates the price of our currency, and destroys our manufacturing industry. If you doubt that, swing by London sometime. It used to be a massive auto manufacturing hub in Canada, but now it’s essentially Canadian Detroit. This impact counter-acts the increased revenue from oil sales. So, no, we could survive a wind down of the tar sands, just fine.
An Expensive Transition
Renewable energy and electrification of our transportation network will prove to be expensive, right? Well, we don’t have the solar resources of a California or an Australia, but does that really matter? Germany after all doesn’t have awesome solar resources. I’d honestly say, I’d fully support a move by the federal government to throw a few billion at expanding solar in the country. It’d be a lot more beneficial than 25 billion on new-fangled American jets that may, or may not, actually work. And let’s take an honest look at the costs. Right now, wind and solar power will cost more than our existing, and aging, electrical infrastructure. But that’s compared to ancient infrastructure that was paid for decades ago. What about new plants? Turns out wind comes in at around 11.5 cents/kWh, which is pretty competitive with other new plants! And despite the anti-wind lobby that exists in Ontario, most of the cost increases that we’ve seen in our bills since 2006 have been because of nuclear, accounting for 45% of the increases, as opposed to wind at 6%. Solar power is also interesting because it can be located right near to consumers, reducing peak loads as well as the need for extra infrastructure. So, I’d have to say this one isn’t true either. If we made a firm commitment to expand solar and wind power, we could afford it. And as I’ve covered before, it would also have the benefit of reducing air pollution and all the associated costs.
It Won’t Make a Difference
This has always been the backup argument by governments to do nothing. And it’s always been a bad argument. Seriously, what are they worried about? They’ll accidentally make the world a better place, but only slightly better? Oh no, we’ll only make a Canada-sized dent in the problem of climate change?? Like, talk aboot1 a total cop-out. And finally, it doesn’t hold any water. The rest of the world is working together for climate change, including the US and China, the major emitters.
Well, it’s time, Canada! There aren’t any more excuses. Quite honestly, we’ve had enough. It’s time to make a strong commitment to climate change. It’s time to regulate the tar sands, and it’s time to make a concerted federal push for vehicular electrification, and renewable energy. There’s no reason we can’t have our own Energiewende. It won’t harm our economy, it won’t be too expensive, and it WILL make a difference.
1 Spelling intentionally Canadian.
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