Rivers on Climate Change: Canada is a Leading GHG Contributor

Rivers 100x100By Ray Rivers

October 14th, 2019



Canada is one of the world’s leading contributors to climate change. Here are some facts:

Greenland iceberg melting

Canada’s climate is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world.

1. Canada is the 38th most populated nation on earth and we have the 11th largest economy;

2. But we are also the seventh (7th) biggest global emitter of climate changing greenhouse gases (GHG);

3. Each Canadian produces 22 tonnes of GHG per year, the highest among all G20 members and nearly three times the G20 average of eight tonnes per person;

4. Canada’s climate is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world; and

5. The UN says we have twelve years – three election terms – to make major reductions before we reach a point of no return for our climate.

As Canadians go the polls all of the political parties but two are committed to significant GHG emissions reductions. Only the Conservatives and the Peoples Party have platforms which will allow emissions to continue to increase, virtually unabated. And given that Andrew Scheer’s Conservatives are either leading or tied with both in popular support and the potential seat count, this should be a serious concern for Canadians everywhere.

Ford and Scheer

Andrew Scheer and Doug Ford: Is this a scene we are likely to see repeated?

A Conservative party election would negate all of the current government’s recent initiatives on climate action, much as Ontario saw happen with the Ford government. Ford reset, lowered, provincial emissions targets after taking office, but has failed to make progress even on these. And unsurprisingly Mr. Scheer’s climate program mostly parallel’s Ford’s, including ending carbon pricing.

Elizabeth May’s Green Party has the most ambitious plan to reduce emissions, virtually doubling Canada’s committed reductions to the Paris climate plan – 60% by 2030. Unfortunately her plan is probably not realizable, at least not without a major buy-in by all Canadians. Her plans include banning the sale of gasoline powered cars by 2030. That would be fully a decade ahead of a similar law in B.C. and would necessitate the availability of over two million new electric vehicles for sale by 2031.

Sounds crazy, I know. But that is why the carbon tax makes so much sense. The tax increases annually as the availability of emission free vehicles and charging facilities become available. The existence of an ever increasing carbon price sends a powerful market signal to both buyers and vehicle manufacturers – shift to non carbon alternatives. And if you use an alternate you are rewarded by the rebates.

Nobel Environment economics.

William Nordhaus Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale University and the world’s leading economist on climate change, has been awarded the 2018 Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences for “integrating climate change into long-run macroeconomic analysis.

Short of sending people to jail, market place mechanisms are the most effective way of changing behaviour and in this case, getting people out of their gas guzzlers. But don’t take my word for it, check with just about every environmental economist out there, including the guy who won a Nobel prize recently for exactly that thesis.

What is it that so-called business friendly Tories like Ford, Kenny and Scheer don’t get?

But May also wants to shut down oil production and the TMX (Trans Mountain pipeline) expansion. She’d start her attack on the oil polluters by cutting the subsidies. But she isn’t nuts, or as extreme, as some might think. Even Mr. Harper, back in 2015, joined other G7 leaders in calling for an end to fossil fuel usage by 2100. Ms. May just wants to speed that up… a lot . And for someone who has spent her entire life working for the environment she should know what she is taking about.

After all, if we only have twelve years until the big turning point when global warming becomes irreversible and takes on a life of its own, 2100 is at least 70 years too late. Mr. Trudeau is calling for Canada to be carbon neutral by 2050. But even that is too late, given what the climate scientists are saying.

Mr. Scheer, with his support base largely in western Canada likely gets his science from the oil companies, though many of those also support carbon pricing and movement to cleaner energy production. But he still thinks he can build more pipelines and expand the oil sands. And to add insult to injury he is also planning to cancel an EV purchase incentive program.

Rivers EV charging stations

The world as we need to at least begin to see it.

Even though Mr. Scheer has no plan to eliminate the deficit during the next government cycle, he still speaks to it as if he did. And everyone can agree that we don’t want to saddle future generations with massive financial debt. But none of that will matter once we upset the earth’s climate such that the global support systems are badly damaged and we can only bequeath a sick planet to our children and theirs.

Rivers hand to faceRay Rivers writes regularly on both federal and provincial politics, applying his more than 25 years as a federal bureaucrat to his thinking.  Rivers was once a candidate for provincial office in Burlington.  He was the founder of the Burlington citizen committee on sustainability at a time when climate warming was a hotly debated subject.   Ray has a post graduate degree in economics that he earned at the University of Ottawa.  Tweet @rayzrivers

Background links:

Canada Produces Most GHG

Most Powerful Tool

Ford Does Nothing on Climate

Harper G7 End of Fossils

Dirty Oil

The Polluters

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6 comments to Rivers on Climate Change: Canada is a Leading GHG Contributor

  • Mike

    If you were really serious of promoting a greener planet, you’d go after a game changer in consumer attitude. You would campaign for elimination of all drive-thru services.

  • Ray Rivers

    Phillip, Thanks for your comments. I disagree with the idea that because we are not the major emitter we should do nothing but wait for someone else to take action before we do.

    I do agree with your point about population growth. Are you suggesting a strategy of family planning, one child as the Chinese once had? I would point out the Mr. Trudeau is already beyond that level with three children and Mr. Scheer is way over the top with five. What kind of message does a political leader with five children send to the public when, as you point out population growth is one of the core problems we face?

    • Phillip Wooster

      My comment was NOT to do nothing. But an international solution should be the focus. Canada will not change global emissions or solve the climate crisis by itself.

  • Hans Jacobs

    It’s disappointing – but not unexpected, from people whose only required employment qualification is that they must win a popularity contest – that none of the parties seems to have even a “starter” simple plan to address the easiest emissions reductions; e.g.: stop sales of “fire tables”; penalize oversized SUVs and pickup trucks; make public transit nearly free; etc. I’m sure a Gazette contest for the best ideas would generate plenty more. The winner, as judged by Pepper, should get a free Gazette subscription 🙂

  • Phillip Wooster

    Drs. Nordhaus and Romer, the winners of the Nobel Prize for their ground-breaking work on the use of carbon pricing as the most efficient way to reduce GHG’s recognized that the rising carbon emissions held to be responsible for climate change and first and foremost a GLOBAL problem. Their proposal consequently involved applying carbon taxes on a GLOBAL basis with penalties for countries that did not comply. Interestingly but not surprisingly and quite deceptively, the proponents of carbon taxes in Canada omit this discussion of the GLOBAL problem and the GLOBAL prescription. As a result, we have the world’s top four emitters–China, India, the USA and Russia which account for approx. 55% of global emissions, have no effective national carbon tax. China alone will increase carbon emissions to 2030 and every 3-4 years increase those emissions by more than Canada’s total annual carbon emissions. Canada accounts for 1.6% of global emissions–even if we reduce this to zero by destroying our economy and freezing in the dark, GLOBAL emissions will continue to rise. Most intelligent Canadians have figured this out and know our current efforts are nothing more than an expensive exercise in virtue-signalling. Want to know why Canadian support for carbon taxes drops sharply when the annual net cost rises above $100. And despite the Liberal mythology that 80% of families get back more that they pay in carbon taxes, most Ontarians can figure out that their cost of living is up sharply and those of us who can do the calculations, know this carbon tax is currently costing families at least $500.

    And if Canada needs no other example of the ineffectiveness of carbon taxes they can look to BC–that shining example held up by the proponents of carbon taxes as demonstrating the effectiveness of carbon taxes. In 2017 (and likely higher now), carbon emissions in BC measured 64.5 mt or .5% less than they did in 2007 despite the imposition of carbon taxes. The problems are the real drivers of carbon emissions–population growth and economic growth. On a global basis, population growth is the elephant in the room–carbon emissions grew sharply from the 1990’s in lock step with the massive increase in human population towards 8 billion people; accompanying this is environmental and ecosystem destruction which exacerbates the problem of rising carbon emissions.

    Proponents of carbon taxes in Canada quickly point to our ranking as the number one emitters of carbon taxes ON A PER CAPITA BASIS–but this is a largely irrelevant statistical distraction to take our attention for how little we pollute on a GLOBAL BASIS. And why wouldn’t it be high? Small population, living in a cold environment, with long transportation and distribution needs would statistically give rise to this per capita measure.

    The solutions to this problem are clearly GLOBAL in nature–without global cooperation which we don’t have, Canada’s efforts will amount to “pissing into a very strong wind”. Interestingly, only one political party in Canada is focused on finding international solutions.