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Kyoto: Hot Air

Editorial by Dr. Patrick Moore, March 4, 2005

There is no greater hypocrisy than Canada’s continuing dismal response to Kyoto. Federal politicians paint themselves green and spew more hot air than a coal-fired power plant while emissions continue to rise. Canada should either produce a plan to comply with Kyoto or admit we can’t and get out.

The new federal budget includes some positive renewable energy incentives, but the fact remains new federal programs are only a drop in the bucket compared to what is needed to achieve our Kyoto commitments.

The best thing about Kyoto is that debate is helping opinion leaders and the public understand some of these basic facts:

  • Greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide, are increasing every year.
  • Our use of fossil fuels for power, transportation and heating is responsible for most of these emissions.
  • The global climate is warming.
  • A large number of scientists claim there is a “consensus” that our greenhouse gas emissions are the cause of global warming. Yet there can be no proof either way, and more than 18,000 scientists and experts have signed a petition opposed to Kyoto.
  • The world’s climate has always been changing; it is impossible to tell if our activities are responsible for global warming.
  • Global warming will not be all bad; northern countries like Canada, northern Europe and Russia will benefit from milder winters and longer growing seasons.
  • Even if humans are the cause of global warming and even if most of the impacts are negative, the question is what we should do about it.
  • Stabilizing carbon dioxide levels would require implementing 20 Kyotos and reducing global fossil fuel consumption by 80 per cent. This reduction is not possible in the next seven years without destroying human civilization.
  • Many scientists and economists believe we should be adapting to global warming, while at the same time developing energy technologies that reduce dependence on fossil fuels.
  • Coal-fired power plants already on the drawing boards in China, Russia, and India will emit more carbon dioxide than all the reductions from Kyoto, even if there were full compliance.
  • With the U.S. opting out of Kyoto and developing countries exempted from compliance, carbon dioxide levels will inevitably continue to rise; all the more reason to focus more on adapting rather than preventing.
  • Ironically, Canada, the coldest country in the Western Hemisphere, is the only country in the Western Hemisphere that has committed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions under Kyoto.

Here are some cost effective programs to reduce emissions: 

  • 600,000 homes in Quebec are heated with electricity, mostly from hydro projects near James Bay. Retrofitting half those homes with geothermal energy (ground source heat pumps) would free up 3,000 megawatts of clean hydro power. Manitoba and British Columbia, with their own hydro resources could build on Quebec’s potential and switch to geothermal. Ontario could buy this new surplus hydro and shut down some coal-fired plants. Geothermal retrofitting should be eligible for a full tax credit on equipment and installation. This alone would allow homeowners to more than meet their “One-Ton Challenge.”
  • Running the Alberta tar sands project on nuclear power would result in a huge reduction in natural gas consumption. That gas could be sold to the U.S., cutting coal consumption and carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. Ironically, the environmental movement is the biggest obstacle to nuclear power.

Tax credits

  • Hybrid cars, trucks and trains are the future of fuel-efficient transportation. Since many technical hurdles stand in the way of hydrogen power, we should encourage the hybrid, or any car that gets better than 40 mpg. Because hybrids cost considerably more than conventional vehicles a tax credit for buying a hybrid would do a lot to increase sales and reduce emissions.
  • A much stronger commitment to tax breaks and other incentives could help wind energy surpass hydro-electricity as the largest supplier of renewable electrical energy in Canada.

 

Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, is chairman and chief scientist of Greenspirit Strategies consulting in Vancouver, www.greenspiritstrategies.com.

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