Tag

emissions

Browsing

CO2 levels in Earth’s atmosphere at all-time high

Attention all climate change deniers — the level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere is at an all-time high, the highest in 800,000 years according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO).

“Rapidly increasing atmospheric levels of CO2 and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) have the potential to initiate unpredictable changes in the climate system, because of strong positive feedbacks, leading to severe ecological and economic disruptions,” the WMO Greenhouse Gas Bulletin read.

Some of the factors that influenced the level of carbon dioxide is population growth, intensified agricultural practices, deforestation and land use, industrialization, and energy use from fossil fuels. A strong El Nino in 2015 and 2016 was also a strong contributor as it reduced the capacity of forests and oceans to absorb the gas.

Carbon dioxide remains in the atmosphere for hundreds of years, which means as levels increase, it becomes progressively more difficult to reduce them.

“Without rapid cuts in COand other greenhouse gas emissions, we will be heading for dangerous temperature increases by the end of this century, well above the target set by the Paris climate change agreement,” said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas. “Future generations will inherit a much more inhospitable planet.”

The last time the Earth had a similar concentration of carbon dioxide was three to five million years ago.

The conclusion of this report reaffirms what scientists have been saying for years. Climate change is drastically affecting people’s lives and it will only continue to get worse if society doesn’t stand up and do something about it.

Many developing and developed countries have pledged to help reduce greenhouse gasses, but progress is too slow to make a real difference.

The Paris Climate Change Agreement was signed by 196 countries in December 2015 with the goal of lowering “the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, recognizing that this would significantly reduce the risks and impacts of climate change.” The United States withdrew from the agreement in June 2017.

The commitments made under the Paris Agreement — Canada promised to reduce emissions to 30 per cent below 2005 levels by 2030 and provincial support for cap and trade programs — will be impossible to reach if the world doesn’t act now. Sustainable development and the investment in renewable energy despite political and bureaucratic ties have never been more important.

“We are still emitting far too much and this needs to be reversed. The last few years have seen enormous uptake of renewable energy, but we must now redouble our efforts to ensure these new low-carbon technologies are able to thrive,” said Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment.

What does this mean? Government’s need to stop thinking about the cost of sustainable and carbon-free technologies and start to actually implement their plans. Every day citizens can also contribute by investing in renewable energy and green retrofits on their homes. If that seems like too much, start small by taking transit, reducing waste, and using reusable containers in your lunch.

It’s probably too late to make a difference for 2017, but if everyone aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2020, hopefully the Earth can be saved from an excruciating death.

Council unanimously approves TransformTO to reduce emissions

Toronto city council has unanimously approved a plan that would see the city reduce green house gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050. If adopted, this would affectively transform Toronto into a low-carbon city.

The motion itself was for city staff to go forward and create a business-case analysis of the various recommendations presented that day. The idea is to determine a carbon reduction per dollar ratio, decide which projects would be funded municipality or cost-shared with other levels of government, and to examine whether the recommendations would align with federal plans to reduce greenhouse has emissions.

“TransformTO provides a path forward that will allow our city to make decisions that lead to a low-carbon city that is healthy, prosperous, strong, and equitable,” Toronto Mayor John Tory said in a statement. “Together, we are going to build more transit including the Relief Line, make sure our social housing is viable for the long-term and that our buildings are energy efficient.”

This ambitious plan, entitled TranformTO: 2050 Pathway to a Low-Carbon Toronto, includes 23 different strategies and acceleration campaigns that will help reduce carbon emissions drastically over the next 30 years.

Some of TransformTO’s highlights include:

  • Having all new buildings produce near zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2030
  • Having 100 per cent existing buildings retrofitted to achieve on average 40 per cent energy use
  • Having 100 per cent of all transportation using low-carbon energy sources
  • Having people walk or cycle for 75 per cent of trips less than five kilometres

The report also stresses the importance of engaging communities and neighbourhoods. Education campaigns and local support will be critical to the success of TransformTO.

This biggest point of discussion was the price tag of this plan, $6.7 million for 2018. City staff estimated an annual cost of $8 million following 2018. While this doesn’t seem like much considering the other projects council has approved, the number is bound to increase as projects are added. However, as certain councillors said during the debate, there are times where going cheap will hurt the city. This is one of them.

TransformTO is led by a collaborative team made of the city’s Environment and Energy Division and the Atmospheric Fund, an organization that looks for urban solutions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

“We applaud today’s decision by Mayor Tory and City Council to unanimously approve TransformTO and renew Toronto’s climate leadership role,” said Mary Pickering, TAF’s VP for Programs and Partnerships and project co-chair for TransformTO. “Implementing TransformTO will not only cut carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 but also boost public health, local jobs, and social equity in our city.”

It is rare that city council votes on anything involving a high price tag unanimously, but hopefully this is a trend that will continue — especially when it comes to the King St. Pilot Study, a transit plan that will ultimately help spearhead a low-carbon corridor.

The King St. Pilot Study will be discussed Thursday morning at city council.

GTA pipeline outside our front doors, and nobody seems to care

Did you know a natural gas pipeline is being placed in the ground right outside of our front doors — and it is using your money to do so?

Enbridge, a gas distribution company, is building a pipeline in the GTHA that will cost taxpayers $900 million and will run natural gas through Brampton, Mississauga, Vaughan, Richmond Hill, Markham and Toronto. The GTHA project consists of two new natural gas pipelines and adds 50 km of new pipeline into the Toronto. It will run along the Highway 407 corridor, with 23 km alongside Keele St. E to Scarborough and then south to an existing line near Sheppard Ave E.

The project was approved by the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) on January 30, 2014. It is a part of Enbridge’s largest upgrade to their natural gas distribution system in 20 years. Enbridge claims that if the pipeline wasn’t approved and built, the current station in Toronto’s Port Lands in the downtown core could run out of gas in the winter of 2016. This would mean 270,000 customers would run out of gas in Toronto.

On the other hand, the pipeline came under fire by many green groups. Enbridge was criticized because they kept trying to obtain more customers though they would not be able to support the level of gas needed come 2015-2016. Natural gas accounts for 35 per cent of Ontario’s energy, and instead of offering alternatives, the OMB decided to build more pipeline and continue to grow gas output in the province.

Ontario has set a greenhouse gas target to cut emissions by 80 per cent from 1990 levels by 2050, but they still supported the Enbridge project, which will charge taxpayers to build more natural gas pipelines.

Ontario recently cut $3.8 billion in renewable energy contracts, claiming it will help Ontarians save money on their electricity bills. The province may save money in the short-run, but is being short-sighted when looking at the long term impact of trying to build and support green energy in the future. An investment in renewable energy needs to happen now in order to meet emissions targets by 2050 and the continued support for natural gas in place of renewable energy contracts demonstrates a lack of green leadership on the part of the Ontario government.

Taxpayer’s dollars are being wasted and the press has been silent about the pipeline project. The pipeline is due to be complete this year and will continue to use natural gas, a source of energy that is not sustainable or environmental in any way. We need to put more pressure the government to choose alternatives and not remain silent over the continued use of natural gas. Clearly the government has two very different objectives; to publicly support green projects and to privately fund unsustainable and very powerful natural gas companies.

New climate change legislation puts emphasis on electric cars

The Ontario government has finally released the long-awaited Climate Change Action Plan — and it is jam packed with lots of incentives for electric vehicles and green home retrofits.

The strategy works in tandem with the cap and trade program finalized by the Liberals a few months ago. This strategy is expected to create around $1.9 billion in revenue through the auctioning of emission credits, which will then be invested into a new Greenhouse Gas Reduction account. These funds will be “responsibly and transparently invested into actions that directly reduce greenhouse gas pollution, create jobs, and help people and businesses shift to a low-carbon economy.”

One of the biggest concerns people had with the government’s climate strategy was that the plan would include a ban on natural gas and would negatively affect businesses and drivers that use a lot of carbon. The 86-page document addresses this concern by saying “it will not take away personal choice: no one will have to stop using gas in their home or give up their gas-powered car by a certain date. Rather, the plan creates the conditions that provide choice. It gives consumers and businesses more reasons to reduce their carbon footprint, and creates competitive conditions for the adoption of low-carbon technology.”

Here are some of the highlights:

  • A Green Bank will be established to help homeowners and businesses access and finance energy-efficient technologies to reduce greenhouse gasses. This includes a number of rebates for retrofits in social housing. Homes being sold after 2019 will be provided with a free energy audit.
  • More than one third of Ontario’s greenhouse gasses are created by transportation. Cars and trucks make up 70 per cent of this carbon. The Ontario government is offering rebates of up to $14,000 per eligible electric vehicles, including a $1,000 rebate for charging stations. The goal is to have every new home buying built after 2018 to include a charging plug in the garage.
  • The government will establish a four-year free overnight electric vehicle charging program for residents starting in 2017.
  • A “cash for clunkers” program will work with the rebates for electric vehicles to get older, less efficient vehicles off the road. Companies and drivers who buy green vehicles will receive a special license plate that will allow free access to provincial HOV and tolled lanes.
  • Focus on researching and developing new green technologies and transitional allowances for high-polluting businesses.
  • Emphasis on implementing more cycling and walking networks throughout the province to rid gridlock and therefore reduce the amount of carbon emitted by vehicles on the roads.

The purpose of all of these programs is to cut Ontario’s greenhouse gas pollution to 15 per cent bellow 1990 levels by 2020, 37 per cent by 2030, and 80 per cent by 2050.

The government is spending between $5.9 billion to $8.3 billion over the next five years on new programs, incentives, rebates, and green technologies. The $1.9 billion earned by selling emission credits through the cap and trade program will make up some of these funds.

The plan will add about $5 a month to home heating bills and 4.3 cents a litre to gas prices.

The Climate Change Action Plan outlines the provincial (and sometimes municipal) responsibilities for the next five years and will be reviewed and updated every five years after the fact. An implementation update will be provided annually for transparency.