Better know your greenhouse gas emissions talking points

We’re pretty good at emitting


Global Warming Minnesota

In light of Stephen Harper’s self-declared frankness on climate change, David McLaughlin suggests environmental policy should be discussed the same way fiscal policy is.

Missing most of all has been a persistent conversation with Canadians on why this is important and what it will take to accomplish. That is striking, because when it comes to a similar inter-generational public policy issue involving tough, competing choices—deficits and debt, for example—those same politicians do not hesitate to speak so frankly.

The costs of eliminating the deficit are set out in the budget numbers while the costs of not doing so—higher taxes and reduced services for our children and grandchildren—are in the budget speech, like this year’s. “Financial prudence now leads to financial prosperity in the future,” it intoned. “When governments run prolonged deficits, they are spending money that belongs to future generations.”

The same model could, and should, be used for tackling climate change.

Meanwhile, here is the climate change adviser for Shell touting 10 reasons to adopt some kind of carbon-pricing mechanism.

At present, the Harper government doesn’t seem much interested in taking either McLaughlin’s or Shell’s advice.

So what does the government have to say for itself?

Our John Geddes has quibbled with the environment minister’s talk of greenhouse-gas emission reductions and now, PJ Partington, late of the Pembina Institute, quibbles with the government’s touting of its own coal regulations.

The Conservatives have also made some effort over the past month to remind everyone that Canada’s emissions amount to less than two per cent of global emissions. When you put it that way, it doesn’t sound like much. And perhaps that is something like the point.

For the record, when I asked Aglukkaq’s office to explain the significance of that figure, the response I received was as follows:

“Canada only accounts for less than two per cent of global greenhouse gases and, for this reason, Canada is pursuing a new international agreement on climate change that includes real action by all major emitters. In the meantime, our government is doing our part by taking considerable action to reduce greenhouse gases domestically. Since 2006, we have invested significant funds in more efficient technologies, better infrastructure and adaptation, and cleaner energy. We have also taken action on two of the largest sources of emissions in this country, namely, the transportation and electricity-generation sectors. Thanks in part to our actions, Canada’s 2020 greenhouse-gas emissions are projected to be about 130 megatonnes lower relative to a scenario with no action. Furthermore, Canada’s per capita greenhouse-gas emissions are now at their lowest level since tracking began. In contrast to our actions, the only plan the Liberals and NDP have to address climate change is to create a carbon tax that punishes hard-working Canadian families.”

But let us not be humble about our ability to emit. In 2011, according to this tally of 188 countries, Canada ranked ninth in total greenhouse-gas emissions, behind only China, the United States, India, Russia, Japan, Brazil, Germany and Indonesia. (Specifically, on carbon dioxide, we rank eighth.) In per capita emissions, we ranked 14th. For cumulative emissions from 1990 to 2011, we ranked eighth. And this tally of emissions between 1850 and 2007 puts Canada ninth overall.

For the sake of comparison, we would be basically happy as a country if we ever again finished so high in a Summer Olympics (we last placed better than 14th in the medals in 1992 and, not counting the year the Russians boycotted, we last finished among the top 10 in 1928). Conversely, we likely wouldn’t ever excuse ourselves from global affairs by pointing out that we represent just 0.5 per cent of the world’s population.


Better know your greenhouse gas emissions talking points

  1. Lets get practical and ditch the eco-scare for money and taxes. CO2 is naturally occurring and plant life loves it. My grass and farmers fields love it. More warming is good, as it means more food productive land to feed the next billions of people breeding out of control. Even plankton in oceans loves it, a major food source for marine life and fish we eat.

    CO2 is no where as damaging as radioactive or plastic islands in the oceans, but hey, no profit in reality. Nor is it as damaging as Japanese ships killing whales to extinction as they compete for the fish.

    Earth is on the cool side, even with warming so accounted for. In fact, the most bio-diverse and prolific life periods of earth have more warmth and more CO2 than today.

    Sorry, warming may in fact be good and not all gloom and doom. At least we know a global ice age isn’t going to cover Toronto worth 3km of ice to gouge out the great lakes or something. Population of mankind tends to shrink rather brutally when the cold comes in global cooling.

    But hey, my SUV melted the Mars polar caps too, right? (Sarcasm). Fact is we know little of what is really happing as politics, greed, under the table political money to front fund eco groups drives the news on ecology.

    Sky isn’t failing, end of the world isn’t coming….but Einstein said it right:

    “Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.”
    ― Albert Einstein

    • The absolute irony in quoting Einstein…

      It is astounding that people can make claims about the climate of 100 million years ago as some obscene justification for continuing on the path we are on.

      Mars is exactly the example of a regulated ecosystem and climate ostriches like you pay attention to…because it has neither. Looking forward to the future on Earth? Look at Mars. Prime real-estate there. No pesky coastal flooding issues. In fact no water at all. Except in the polar regions. A little warm during the day, and freaking cold at night. A little dusty, but I’m sure we’ll all get used to that kind of climate here on Earth because of the likes of you.

      Unfortunately, some of us and our children and our grandchildren have to pay for the infinite stupidity and abject laziness and selfishness of the people around us. Probably hate paying taxes and a gun lover, eh?

      Tell me. What is wrong with conservation? What is wrong with being as energy efficient as possible? What is wrong with striving towards eliminating our dependence on fossil fuels?

      I’ll tell you: absolutely nothing.


    You are absolutely right, Aaron…”let us not be humble about our ability to emit.” We Canadians are driving a lot of VERY heavy, high gas guzzling vehicles. Those vehicles are accounting for the greatest share of our emissions. We Canadians are also shipping recording breaking amounts of coal to China to be burned there. We can talk about shutting down the oil sands (tar sands/ dirty oil sands for those of you who are very offended by their existence) but the truth is that we will not change the “global” picture of carbon emissions unless we do things that are even more efficient, like building and driving lighter vehicles and getting rid of coal. What does it matter if the coal is burned in Canada or China; in the US or China? It doesn’t because we all share a planet. Further, what does it matter if Alberta shuts down its dirty tarsands and Quebec doesn’t frac only to have the US open up a tar sands and have Obama fracking his way to glory while admonishing Canada for the same practices? The first thing governments gave to do is admit honestly what they are willing to sacrifice for the environment. It certainly is no sacrifice to say we are willing to get rid of coal-fired energy while we are selling our coal to China and letting them still poison the planet that way. It isn’t a sacrifice for Obama to do it either.

  3. Yes, let’s make sure we have our GHG talking points straight.

    Let’s begin with water vapour, the most significant GHG by far, and one whose effect can and does dwarf that of other GHGs. Consider that even the IPCC’s claims are not based on the radiative effects of CO2, but rather they stand mostly on amplification by additional water vapour that is expected to accumulate in the atmosphere together with the CO2. Otherwise, the outlandish claims by the IPCC would be even more outlandish.

    Therefore, in a way, even the IPCC recognizes the supremacy of WV as a GHG. But the assumption that WV will rise along with CO2 is pure conjecture. There is no physical mechanism proposed or observational data which indicates that this will be the case. In fact, what can be reasonably inferred is that a cooling planet will have less WV in its atmosphere. And a planet with less WV will be less warm at any projected level of future CO2 concentration.

    It is evident from data that the planet is not currently warming, and on many reasonable time scales (such as centuries and millennia) the planet is well below recent maxima. From paleoclimactic studies, we know that we are probably overdue for our next ice age…uncertainty remains, but it is not ludicrous in the least to think that such a probability is reasonable.

    All of the mechanisms affecting the concentration of WV are not known. Those that are known are not well understood. These factors range from tectonic influences emerging from deep in the Earth to galactic scale phenomena, little of which we sufficiently comprehend. Just this week a study of deep earth water was released, showing surprises and shedding light on how little we know about water and it’s many roles In our planet.

    I, for one, would like to see a little less arrogance on the part of those who speak with such certainty about what we barely understand.

    • You should watch this video by John Oliver about climate change: It sounds like you are repeating the Koch Brothers talking points.

      • Get lost.

        Alternatively, if you have some useful information to offer an open-minded individual, I will be pleased to consider it.

        Otherwise, get lost.

  4. A non-scientist telling me that >95% of scientists are terrible at their job is not altogether convincing.

    Also not convincing are government leaders who insist that it is not their responsability to lead by example.

    • Also not convincing are fraudulent studies claiming a 97% consensus on AGW, as though “consensus” might actually matter in a scientific debate.

      Not convincing at all. In fact…that’s the kind of thing that makes you go “Hmmm…?”

  5. Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, 1990 to 2012.

    Curious…under which party did emissions increase? Under which party did they decrease?

    But like you said in the title…better know your talking points. No-one knows that better than the journalists who continuously ignore this fact.