A snapshot of Canadian greenhouse gas emissions

If a picture is worth a thousand words, here’s another graphic worth printing and placing onto your fridge: a summary of Canada’s 2016 greenhouse gas emissions by economic sector.

GHG

The above numbers add up to 704 million tonnes (or 22 tonnes a second), about 4% below the 732 million tonnes we emitted in 2005.  Under the 2015 Paris Accord, Canada committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below 2005 levels by 2030, so we have a lot of work to do over the next 11 years.  (And, if truth be told, our targets need to be more ambitious if global warming is to be addressed seriously.)

A few key takeaways: between 2005 and 2016, Canadian emissions:

  • from Electricity decreased by 34% – a good thing!
  • from Buildings, Industry, Agriculture and Waste declined slightly
  • from Transportation and Oil & Gas, the two biggest slices of the above pie, increased by 7% and 16% respectively – pretty much summarizing where the greatest problem lies and where our greatest efforts are required.

Why not print this graphic and place it on your fridge, so you see where our emissions are coming from and contemplate all the ways we can reduce them.  (It’s a complement to the carbon cycle graphic from March 13’s Green ideas, which hopefully made it onto your fridge too!)

Learn more about our Canadian emissions (including, on page 13, which four provinces’ emissions have gone in the wrong direction) here.

Rebalancing our Carbon Cycle

This graphic is worth printing and placing onto your fridge, because it shows, very clearly and simply, the global carbon cycle that regulates our climate – a cycle humanity has knocked out of balance.

Carbon Cycle

Graphic: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research

Carbon is a very mobile element, moving mainly in the form of carbon dioxide, or CO2.  It goes up into the air continuously when living things exhale, when anything organic decomposes or when anything is burned.  It is absorbed from the air continuously by plants (mainly trees) and ocean plankton (single-celled plants that are the basis of ocean food chains).

Through most of human existence on Earth, the carbon cycle was roughly in balance (IE the same amount going up as coming down) – but it’s not anymore.  Since the industrial revolution, we’ve been digging up carbon-laden oil, coal and natural gas that were safely stored underground for millions of years, and burning it.  The result: way more carbon going up.  On the other side of the cycle, the plants of the world, impaired by human activities such as deforestation, haven’t been able to keep up.

The result: the level of CO2 in our atmosphere has risen from 275 parts per million (PPM) at the start of the industrial revolution to 412 PPM today.  That excess CO2 is causing global warming and climate change.

So the solution to climate change comes down to one very simple goal: rebalancing the carbon cycle, so the same amount is absorbed as emitted.  Every action that reduces the amount going up (IE burning less fossil fuels) or increases the amount coming down (IE planting a tree) brings us closer to that goal.

That’s why this graphic is worth printing and placing on your fridge: so you see it every day, and contemplate all the ways you – we – can help rebalance the carbon cycle.  (Don’t like this graphic? Try this one.)

(And, for a deeper dive, check out Project Drawdown, which details 80 solutions for removing some of that excess CO2 already up there.)