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  • Dr. Short

Oh, Canada

Updated: Jan 14

The good news: the government of Canada is asking citizens to participate in a consultation on emission reduction and climate policy! Below2.org has a great toolkit for navigating the site.


The bad news: the deadline to fill it out is tomorrow (the 14th), it was only available for one month- mostly over the holidays, and they aren't asking the right questions.



I filled it out- and here are my answers below (questions in bold):



Section 1: Achieving our 2030 Emissions Reduction Target of 40 – 45% by 2030


Q1. What opportunities do you think the Government of Canada should pursue to reduce emissions by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and position Canada to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, including in any or all of the following economic sectors? Please elaborate on your answers where appropriate, including any specific insights on policy opportunities or initiatives.


Buildings

The development of new buildings should be taken out of the hands of private, for-profit housing developers - the largest destroyers of natural areas in peri-urban settings. Yes, there are municipal laws to guide what can be built where, but powerful interests intimidate local governments with threat of litigation. Natural areas must be protected, and recognized as a commons, essential to life. All buildings should be net-zero as well, with government subsidies to pay for retrofitting.


Electricity

We need to acknowledge and accept that the amount of energy use provided by the fossil fuel era is an historical anomaly, and that we must transition to far less energy use ASAP. All electricity generation must be from renewables, but there are not enough necessary minerals on Earth to make enough renewable energy infrastructure to maintain our same level of energy usage. This is a fact that must be communicated publicly.


Heavy Industry, including oil and gas

Heavy industry must end ASAP, particularly the fossil fuel industry, because as good as the IPCC projections for future global heating are, they DO NOT include some important and potentially strong positive amplifying feedbacks that would accelerate climate breakdown in our lifetimes. Net-zero by 2050 is far too little, far too late- we are literally gambling with our children's lives.


Transportation

We must re-think what is 'normal' for transportation. The airline industry must be shut down until it can operate without fossil fuels, and even then, at a much smaller scale (see mineral availability, above). Canadians feel entitled to fly off all over the world for a holiday; business-people fly constantly. This can no longer be normal if we are to avoid climate catastrophe.


Agriculture and waste

Food must be produced locally, and grown using organic regenerative agriculture. We also must learn to expect to eat seasonally and to go without foods that are produced very far away or with conventional agriculture. Food waste must be eliminated, which will be much easier if people have fewer choices of food and grocery stores are stocked with less-processed edibles.


Nature-based climate solutions

Let's stop commodifying nature, shall we? That is part of what got us into this mess in the first place. We need to preserve as much natural area and as many ecosystems as possible, starting now. Any material needs for humans must be met with recycled and re-purposed materials. We must abandon the imperative of constant economic growth- because it cannot be decoupled from the destruction of the natural world and climate.


Economy-wide (e.g., carbon-pricing, climate-risk disclosure, sustainable finance, etc.)

These terms are gobbly-gook greenwashing. See answer above. If one really understands the science of our situation, a radical, hopeful, cultural change is the only way forward. No more growth, individualism, consumerism, competition. Instead, we need cooperation, collaboration, mutual aid, support, and nature and climate held as commons.



Please tell us more:

We need to go into Emergency Mode in order to give humanity the best chance of avoiding the worst consequences of climate breakdown in the coming years and decades. This is no exaggeration. The 'net-zero by 2050' that many governments have latched onto is misguided and inadequate. The most recent IPCC report (2021) urges reaching net-zero CO2 emissions by 'mid-century', an emissions-reduction trajectory which is illustrated by their Shared Socio-economic Pathway (SSP)1-1.9. This SSP relies on 'strong mitigation' with a decline in CO2 emissions beginning immediately (err, yesterday: 2020), as well as a concurrent 'moderate' reduction of methane emissions. Even with these ambitious efforts, the global average surface air temperature is expected to peak at 1.6 deg C above pre-industrial levels, then drop back to 1.5 deg C by 2100 due to future deployment of CDR (Carbon dioxide removal).

For starters, Canada is not actively reducing its methane emissions and has no plan to do so (it has pledged some reductions). Nor has Canada begun to lower CO2 emissions (they've gone up instead), a necessity for staying below 1.5 deg C heating. Also, Canada's CO2 emissions calculations do not include the end-use CO2 emitted by other countries from burning the fossil fuels produced in Canada and transported through pipelines that most Canadians don't want.

Did I mention that ALL of the mitigation pathways in the IPCC report depend on carbon-removal technology that is in its absolute infancy? Even our best-chance-below-1.5-scenario, SSP1-1.9 does. Presently, 40 carbon-capture and sequestration plants operate worldwide, each one capturing 1 million tons of CO2 per year, at a minimum cost of $100 US/tonne (International Energy Agency, 2021). That's 40 million tonnes of CO2 removed from the atmosphere per year, globally. Canada's emissions in 2019 were 730 million tonnes, and global emissions in 2018 were 41.5 billion tonnes (Envir. Canada, 2021). 40 million vs. 41.5 billion, and this technology is not without adverse side effects. This places an enormous burden on the next generation to 'fix' the mess we've created and refuse to mitigate through sacrifices of convenience and luxury.

One last point about the climate system that is glossed over in the media and government planning, is that the IPCC projections for future heating, and therefore their SSPs, are the bare minimum that we must do to avoid passing tipping points in Earth's systems, that would commit us to chain reactions of heating and its consequences. Why? because the climate is changing so quickly right now that we don't have precedents in Earth's climate past to compare it to, so we don't have reliable ways to model what passing a tipping point and beginning amplifying feedbacks might look like. That means that if we care at all about the living world, about our children and grandchildren, about others who are less fortunate than most Canadians, about Indigenous peoples, then we MUST give 1.5 deg C a very, very wide berth.



Q2. What do you see as the barriers or challenges to reducing emissions in these sectors? Do you have suggestions on how to overcome these barriers?


Honestly, the barriers are social and political. We must educate the general population and all government representatives about the details and severity of this climate emergency. People need to have a common purpose in order to come together as a community and accept the changes to our daily lives that must happen in order to give us the best chance of a livable future. We must enter Emergency Mode, and do what it takes, spend what it takes, to fundamentally steer us away from catastrophe. Read Seth Klein's book: A Good War.


Q3. What broader economic, technological, or social challenges and opportunities do you foresee resulting from efforts to reduce emissions in these sectors? For example, opportunities associated with economic diversification across sectors. Do you have suggestions on how to address these challenges and opportunities?


We have to get our collective minds out of the normalization of continuous economic growth on a physically finite planet. Period. Green growth is a dangerous myth (lie?). We can all live comfortably on this planet if we distribute resources carefully, equitably, and with consideration for future generations of living beings. That is an opportunity to build a fairer, just, and livable world.


Section 2: Contributing to Net-Zero by 2050

Q4. Looking beyond 2030, what enabling measures, strategies or technological pathways do you think the Government of Canada should put in place now to ensure that Canada is on track to net-zero emissions by 2050?


Again, net-zero by 2050 is not good enough to prevent or lessen climate catastrophe. See previous answers. Beyond 2030, if we continue on the same path and with the same policies that we have now, we'll be dealing with disaster after disaster, loss of human and animal life, growing economic inequity, and breakdown of social cohesion. People will be too busy trying to stay out of the way of fires, floods, droughts, and heatwaves to worry about technological pathways.


Q5. What broader economic, technological, or social issues do you foresee as a result of the transition to a net-zero economy in Canada? Do you have suggestions on how to address these issues?

See above.


Section 3: Ongoing Engagement on Canada’s Emissions Reduction Plans

Q6. How would you like to be engaged on Canada’s climate plans moving forward? How often should this engagement occur, and what method or format would be preferable?


As many citizens should be engaged in these decisions as possible, as often as possible. I would like to suggest the formation of Citizen's Assemblies at every level of government, formed through a lottery system. These Citizens would serve on the Assembly as a social duty- like jury duty, and their main function would be to ensure that any decision made would also taken into account how it would affect future generations.


This could begin with opening up budget approval for local governments by these Citizen's Assemblies, as a way for people to become more engaged in what happens to the area around them and with each other. Decisions would be legally binding.

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