Climate change remains a major concern for Canadians. Despite economic concerns and fears of terrorism, Canadians have (by large majorities) continued to say they will not trade away environmental protection to help the economy. In fact, Canadians understand that ending waste is good economics. Real solutions enhance the economy and the environment at the same time.
While completely phasing out carbon emissions seems daunting, the challenge looks much less intimidating when we realize that more than half the energy we release is never used, but escapes into the environment as waste heat. Even what is traditionally considered useful energy is questionably so. Is it useful to move 2 tonnes of steel, glass, and rubber when our real objective is to move an 80 kg person? Is it useful to heat a home that’s so leaky that most of the heat escapes within an hour? Is it useful to keep light bulbs and televisions on when no one is home? Our real energy needs are a fraction of what we use. Efficiency is our friend.
Creating energy from non-polluting sources is neither novel nor difficult. The only challenge is ensuring that energy is available when and where we need it. Fully renewable electrical grids are now being modeled in Germany. Canada is fortunate to have vast renewable energy resources and a sparse population which make a fully renewable electricity system much easier to achieve here than most places on Earth. For Canada’s particular challenges, investing in improvements in our east-west electricity grid will pay big dividends.
In his 2006 report to the British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sir Nicholas Stern, former senior economist to the World Bank, warned that, left unchecked, climate change could constitute a $7 trillion hit to the world economy, create water shortages for one in six people planet-wide, cause the extinction of up to 40% of species, and result in up to 200 million environmental refugees. Since then, he and other economists have concluded his initial assessment underestimated the costs of inaction.
The Stern Report established that it would cost just 1 to 3% of global gross domestic product annually. In Canada, based on our 2010 GDP estimate of $1.335 trillion, 1% means about $13 billion − $3 billion less than the government’s commitment to buy and maintain 65 stealth fighter jets.
We will build an economy powered by renewable energy sources. We will discourage wasteful practices, dramatically reducing our overall energy needs. By phasing out carbon emissions, we will simultaneously clean up our air, improve water quality, and help re-establish healthier forests. We will transform our buildings so they stay warm in winter and cool in summer without burning fossil fuels. We will change the way we move, rapidly bringing in an efficient and convenient public transit system supported by non-polluting personal vehicles. We will create thousands of jobs manufacturing, installing, operating, and maintaining wind turbines, solar panels, public transit vehicles and infrastructure, insulation, rail stock, and other elements of a clean and efficient economy. We will build local economies and strong communities responsive to local needs.
In addition to tax shifting and cap and trade of industry, a Green government will leave no stone unturned to establish practical and pragmatic programs in all areas of the economy to accelerate our reduction in carbon emissions.