by Paul Strome
Most people who live in a ‘free country’ like Canada believe they have the right to a healthy environment. We feel we are entitled to all that is imbedded in that philosophy – clean water, fresh air, healthy food, etc. Those of us who live in a rural setting (18% as of 2019) have many advantages in that respect because we are geographically removed from those industries that constantly spew toxic chemicals into the atmosphere or pollute the groundwater. This is one reason I believe so many of us who live in a less polluted environment have a tendency to ignore what so many others have been screaming about, marching and rallying for. We are insulated, in a way, from these concerns unless we lived in Pictou when Northern Pulp was in operation.
Nature is telling us something fierce. It is telling humanity that we have an invisible foe that was created by all of us. The average atmospheric CO2 level continues to rise and this means we are still not doing anywhere near enough to to avert an eventual catastrophic change in climate. Canada is warming at twice the global average which emphasizes our need to address climate change with a much greater sense of emergency. The main principles are ‘decarbonize’ and ‘electrify’ as much as possible, as quickly as we possibly can.
James Lovelock, Naomi Klein, Paul Hawken, The Centre for Local Prosperity, Vandana Shiva, Bill McKibben, Kate Raworth, the David Suzuki Foundation, Fred Singer, the Council of Canadians, Seth Klein, Dr. Adam Fenech, and thousands of others have been writing about the climate emergency based on scientific facts, yet the denialism continues. Every single one of these writers is calling for bold and committed declaration by every municipal, provincial and federal government to declare a climate emergency and to act accordingly. To quote Greta Thunberg, “We have to act like our house is on fire.” The public is hungry for bold political ambition, and leadership requires that the public be lead and encouraged to put into law that which the public may not know enough about.
Waiting for the public to get on board with what is necessary is taking far too long. We have researched this issue ad nauseam, so the time has come for all levels of government to act instead of debating. There are many critical parts of our collective responsibilities involved when addressing the climate emergency, but we don’t need to have all the answers at our fingertips in order to start in the right direction. If the private sector is not prepared to do the entire job for one reason or another then crown corporations need to be created to fill those roles.
General Motors recently announced that all their vehicles would be powered electrically by 2035. California and the province of Quebec have banned the sale of internal combustion engines after 2035 while nine other countries have promised to do the same. Canada needs to step up and join these other jurisdictions decarbonizing on one end and electrifying everything on the other end of the carbon dependency paradigm. By stopping all new pipelines and reducing the production of oil we can provide many thousands more jobs in the fastest growing job market in the world – green energy. We need to electrify all our modes of transportation – buses, ferries, vans and commercial vehicles.
Since Canada Post has the largest fleet of vans in Canada why not convert the General Motors plant in Oshawa in order to make all the electrically powered vans and buses we need? Thanks to Canadian ingenuity, we already have the capacity to make the component parts. A perfect example of this is a Canadian company called Corvus Energy which has been contracted by Norwegian Electric Systems (NES) to supply lithium-ion battery-based energy storage systems (ESS) for their all-electric ferries being built by Havyard for Norwegian ferry operator Fjord1. Think of all the ferries Canada has that could and should be converted.
Forests are the most amazing carbon sink created by Mother Nature yet humanity continues to destroy them faster than they can reproduce. Forests take hundreds of years to re-grow. The ever-increasing forest fires are more than a double whammy because they pump an enormous amount of CO2 into the atmosphere while simultaneously reducing the capacity to absorb CO2 at their previous levels for decades or centuries.
As part of our energy transition we also need to recognize our errors in the past and address them in a responsible way. “Biomass” electrical generators are NOT efficient at all. An estimated 80% or more of the trees that are used to fire the boilers that produce the steam that powers the turbines that turn the electric generators go up the chimney as heated, toxic smoke. We need to ban these ridiculously inefficient dinosaurs as fast as we possibly can.
The laws and regulations concerning forestry here in Nova Scotia are based on what the industry wants rather than what the majority of the forest experts and the public knows are the best practices. Our forests are public and should be treated with the respect they deserve. Our forests do not need to be clear cut nor sprayed with glyphosate-based poisons that kill not only the deciduous trees but a whole host of other valuable living organisms.
Governments at all levels need to step up to the plate with public incentives to do a better job of decarbonizing and increasing our electrification. Governments need to legislate a firm date for a huge variety of passive and active technologies to be mandatory. All government buildings should be upgraded to a specific energy efficiency level by a specific date. It should be mandatory that all newly built homes contain high-efficiency heat pumps, or else incorporate solar panels or geothermal energy systems. We can make all these energy saving solutions right here in Canada but we need these to be subsidized by our government, which in turn will stimulate the economy, create jobs and lower our greenhouse gas emissions. The time to act is NOW.