Science says the world must reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) this decade. Canadian politicians issue press releases promising that future emissions will diminish and we’ll reach net-zero by 2050. Of course, promises are easy to make but goals hard to achieve when meaningful actions are left to future leaders.
In 2007, BC Liberals introduced the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Targets Act. It promised that by 2020, “BC greenhouse gas emissions will be at least 33% less than the level of those emissions in 2007.” By 2018, BC’s emissions were substantially above the 2007 level.
Having come nowhere near meeting the first promise, the BC government issued a shiny new one in 2018: a 40% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030. Of course, this too is an unenforceable objective with no penalty for failure. Government pledges are like quickly forgotten New Years resolutions.
BC’s calculation of emissions from fossil fuels is flawed, to say the least. BC Government counts some but not all emissions generated by the extraction of coal, oil, and gas but excludes greenhouse gases resulting from transport and combustion of those fuels after they leave the province.
Teck, a massive coal producer, can argue they’re moving toward net-zero if miners drive electric vehicles. BC is already one of the world’s largest coal exporters and government is committing billions of dollars to make the province a leading exporter of natural gas. When the fuels are transported across the ocean and burned elsewhere, BC disregards resulting emissions.
Governments of British Columbia and Alberta are not the only ones engaged in a phony war against climate change.
Last year, Trudeau’s federal government gave $18 billion in subsidies and financial supports to the fossil fuel industry. Canada is spending $16+ billion on the Trans Mountain pipeline to assist expanded production of “the most destructive, carbon-intensive and toxic fuels on the planet.” Yet much effort is made to sell the hollow claim that Canada is fighting climate change and on the way to becoming carbon neutral.
The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAP), a broad partnership committed to protecting the climate and improving air quality, published a recent report expressing an urgent need for reduction of human-caused methane emissions.
Excerpts from the Executive Summary:
Reducing human-caused methane emissions is one of the most cost-effective strategies to rapidly reduce the rate of warming and contribute significantly to global efforts to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C. Available targeted methane measures, together with additional measures that contribute to priority development goals, can simultaneously reduce human-caused methane emissions by as much as 45 per cent, or 180 million tonnes a year (Mt/yr) by 2030.
This will avoid nearly 0.3°C of global warming by the 2040s and complement all long-term climate change mitigation efforts. It would also, each year, prevent 255 000 premature deaths, 775 000 asthma related hospital visits, 73 billion hours of lost labour from extreme heat, and 26 million tonnes of crop losses globally.
More than half of global methane emissions stem from human activities in three sectors: fossil fuels (35 per cent of human-caused emissions), waste (20 per cent) and agriculture (40 per cent). In the fossil fuel sector, oil and gas extraction, processing and distribution account for 23 per cent, and coal mining accounts for 12 per cent of emissions. In the waste sector, landfills and wastewater make up about 20 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions. In the agricultural sector, livestock emissions from manure and enteric fermentation represent roughly 32 per cent, and rice cultivation 8 per cent of global anthropogenic emissions.
The mitigation potential in different sectors varies between countries and regions. The largest potential in Europe and India is in the waste sector; in China from coal production followed by livestock; in Africa from livestock followed by oil and gas; in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding China and India, it is coal and waste; in the Middle East, North America and Russia/Former Soviet Union it is from oil and gas; and in Latin America it is from the livestock subsector. A majority of these major abatement potentials can be achieved at low cost…
- Methane, a short-lived climate pollutant (SLCP) with an atmospheric lifetime of roughly a decade, is a potent greenhouse gas tens of times more powerful than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere. Methane’s atmospheric concentration has more than doubled since pre-industrial times and is second only to carbon dioxide in driving climate change during the industrial era.
- Methane contributes to the formation of ground-level ozone, a dangerous air pollutant. Ozone attributable to anthropogenic methane emissions causes approximately half a million premature deaths per year globally and harms ecosystems and crops by suppressing growth and diminishing production.
- The atmospheric concentration of methane is increasing faster now than at any time since the 1980s. In the absence of additional policies, methane emissions are projected to continue rising through at least 2040. Current concentrations are well above levels in the 2° C scenarios used in the IPCC’s 2013 Assessment. The Paris Agreement’s 1.5° C target cannot be achieved at a reasonable cost without reducing methane emissions by 40–45 per cent by 2030.
- Methane’s short atmospheric lifetime means taking action now can quickly reduce atmospheric concentrations and result in similarly rapid reductions in climate forcing and ozone pollution. Lower methane concentrations would rapidly reduce the rate of warming, making methane mitigation one of the best ways of limiting warming in this and subsequent decades. Doing so would also help limit dangerous climate feedback loops, while simultaneously delivering important health and economic benefits from reducing ground-level ozone.
How to do it
- Oil, gas and coal: the fossil fuel sector has the greatest potential for targeted mitigation by 2030. Readily available targeted measures could reduce emissions from the oil and gas sector by 29–57 Mt/yr and from the coal sector by 12–25 Mt/yr. Up to 80 per cent of oil and gas measures and up to 98 per cent of coal measures could be implemented at negative or low cost.
- Waste: existing targeted measures could reduce methane emissions from the waste sector by 29–36 Mt/yr by 2030. The greatest potential is in improved treatment and disposal of solid waste. As much as 60 per cent of waste-sector targeted measures have either negative or low cost.
- Agriculture: existing targeted measures could reduce methane emissions from the agricultural sector by around 30 Mt/yr by 2030… Three behavioural changes, reducing food waste and loss, improving livestock management, and the adoption of healthy diets (vegetarian or with a lower meat and dairy content) could reduce methane emissions.
- Additional measures, which reduce methane emissions but do not primarily target methane, could substantially contribute to methane mitigation over the next few decades. Examples include decarbonization measures – such as a transition to renewable energy and economy-wide energy efficiency improvements.
Is climate change an issue now, or do we have decades to take meaningful action?
Dr. Megan Kirchmeier-Young, Environment and Climate Change Canada:
Heavy rainfall events that would have occurred about once every 100 years on average in a world without human influence is now occurring about once every 20 years. If we continue warming at 2 degrees of global warming from pre-industrial, that same precipitation event will be occurring about once every five years.
Categories: Climate Change