Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Playing the Global Warming Game - Canadian Rules


When it comes to pointing fingers over carbon emissions, everyone uses the rules that suit them best. America points its finger at China and says that China, now that it has finally exceeded US CO2 emissions, must match America's cuts.

China points its finger back noting, quite fairly, that its population is more than three times larger than America's which makes its per capita emissions just a fraction of America's. Coupled with the fact that most of the current problem is the result of Western industrialization before China's economic miracle, then the US should bring its per capita numbers into line with China's before it lectures anyone else.

They've both got arguable points but what about Canada? Per capita, we're only slightly less carbon dirty than our American neighbours. But maybe there's another way, a Canadian way, of twisting the math.

What if we factor in population density? After all, a nation's landmass represents a major carbon sink. We've got plenty of land and relatively few people. So isn't our landmass soaking up pretty much all the CO2 we few Canadians are emitting?

It suits the Euros to focus on per capita emissions and they're to be commended for it. But Canada isn't Europe. We don't get the environmental economies of scale they achieve by having a lot of people occupying a relatively small territory. It's why mass transit is so much more viable for them than for us. There is sufficient population base to warrant the cost of such expensive infrastructure. On the other hand, Europe's land mass has a limited capacity to soak up their CO2 emissions which means they're inflicting far more greenhouse gas emissions on Mother Earth than their territory is absorbing.

What would the global warming guilt index look like if we played by Canadian Rules which compares greenhouse gas emissions on a square kilometre basis?

Here are some population density numbers, population per square kilometres:

Global average (including Arctic & Antarctica) 45.21

Monaco - 16,754
China - 636
S. Korea - 498
Netherlands - 395
Japan - 339
Belgium - 341
UK - 246
Germany - 232
Italy - 193
France - 106

United States - 31

And Canada? How 'bout just 3? We have three people per square kilometre of our territory. Only three. Less than a tenth of the density of the United States which is, in turn, less than a tenth of the density of Belgium. Our density is just 1/220th of China's.

Now, with just three grubby souls per square kilometre, we also have an enormous Boreal forest that the Euros can't match. We should get credit for that carbon sink too.

So maybe there's the answer. Just ask every other first and second world country to get down to Canada's population density. Three per sq. km., that's it. Oh my, what a different planet that would be.

That said, I remain convinced that Canadians have to pull their full weight in the fight against global warming. The name gives it away, it's "global." Convenient arguments aren't going to get us to a solution. We're all going to take it in the neck although Canada and Siberia will be better off than just about every other place.

I think I'm just a little less interested in self-righteous finger pointing from our Euro friends. There are just too many of them for our own good.

8 comments:

Scruffy Dan said...

Of course since AGW threatens our Boreal forest, our large carbon sinks may turn into sources of carbon.

The Mound of Sound said...

Given the climate-change/mountain pine beetle devastation in British Columbia/Alberta we're already well into that scenario. Dan, have you heard what species they may use to replace the pine?

Scruffy Dan said...

I am no sure if we know that just yet, but it is plausible.

They should be able to use more pine. The key would be to manage forests properly so that massive swaths of forest aren't vulnerable at the same time. When this happens beetle populations become so dense, that pines that normally aren't susceptible fall victim to the beetle as well.

Other trees have other pests, and in many area's pines are the only real option.

Oemissions said...

Seems to me that this is the justification used by many Canadians to oppose a carbon tax.
Rural people say: we have to drive, forgetting that they got sold on the the use of that kind of vehicle by the big companies now possibly facing bankruptcy. They took away our trains and made us dependent on their products. Actually, they persuaded all sectors of society to believe in them and their products and build a world based on serving them .
Now, woodheat is trendy. Where I live, it is considered rural. People wouldn't even consider walking a couple of blocks to a grocery store, and definitely not a half mile. But they will drive several miles to go for a hike.
Its not the light bulbs we have to change. We need to park our cars and pickups for awhile.
Watch at the ferries, if you can stand the fumes. They sit in their automobiles mindlessly idling away. Even when the price of gas was way up there.
They choose to live in big houses, one or 2 and don't really want to hear about climate change or pollution or anything that might ask of them a change in their lifestyle.And anyone who talks about climate change is a tree hugging disrespectful welfare grabbing bum.
Rugged individualism, my way and the highway . A cluster housing type arrangement is much better for an ecosystem. Makes sense. No, a nice piece of land or a big square or rectangular fenced backyard is the necesssary desire.
Oh, I could go on and on.
No matter how many persons we have per square mile or kilometre, the desires are there in the magazines.Consume. Consume.

The Mound of Sound said...

Oem, I'm looking into the merits of a wood stove. Monbiot, in his book "Heat," endorses wood as emitting far lower levels of greenhouse gas than traditional fossil fuels. I called the Ministry of Forests in Vic yesterday and got through to a young woman who works on their Kyoto/global warming desk. She was very knowledgeable and helpful. She confirmed what I'd read. Wood stoves, particularly the new, low emission/complete combustion designs, can significantly reduce the carbon footprint of home heating.

Those of us living in coastal areas outside the lower mainland usually share a terrain that's mostly rocks and Christmas trees providing ample supplies of dead and fall wood.

Oemissions said...

Perhaps the new ones can.
Did you see the study recently about unusual increase in respiratory incidences in children on Vancouver Island, especially the Duncan area. They are not sure of cause but increase in use of woodheat has been suggested.And ofcourse not using well seasoned wood.
Did you see that film called "Garbage Warrior" about the man who builds those off the grid houses that maintain the same temperature year round? Even in cold climate, but occasionally relying on a supplemental heat source.
Studies done here on SaltSpring show that our 2 biggest contributors are autos and woodheat.
We have a bus. Actually we have 2 buses now. During the big snow over Christmas they were operating at full capacity. Ridership in some areas went from the bottom of the chart in a straight line right up to the top over that period. Now if they can do that in all the snow, wouldn't it be just as easy or even easier to do that in milder and very mild weather?
The traffic congestion on the main road here is now absurd. People building up berms to try to cut the noise and exhaust. Old people near Ganges afraid to cross the road on a X walk.
I have requested an air quality study for Ganges from the CRD.
I love woodheat but its the same as autos, get a lot of people using and the problems are exponential.
Something else too. There are many low areas, and the smoke hangs in them.When I first came here, before the Crofton mill put a catalyzer or whatever it was to help reduce the emissions, that area was particularly putrid. Any laundry hung out would smell of the mill.
Now about those studies: I would do my own thorough research. Recently, the Salt Spring Coffee Roasting Company applied for a new location and developmnt. People are very concerned about particulates and smell, ie. odour. Lots of differences of opinions. I wondered about the science of smell: not a lot of studies it seems but some conclusively showing olfactory impairment for people living near a mill and an interesting one at blogger Sciguy that shows just a sniff or whiff of coffee can have the same stimulant effect as a drink of coffee. One commentor asks: does this mean Starbucks is going to start charging for sniffs?
As humans we have lived with fire since almost the beginning of time, but there weren't as many of us. And we do need to think collectively in making our choices and designing our communities and getting about them.
When I lived in rural Quebec I had an airtight made in Quebec. I could go away for 3 days and come back and still have a fire. I knew my stove.And it was as good as a warm guy.Comfort in winter. Actually, after the kids wee in bed at ight, I would have a bath and then have a quick dance in the snow and come back to my toasty house wrapped in a towel.

And listen to the coyotes.
The good old days.
Interesting that thing about the compact fluotescent light bulbs and their not as efficient as they thought over all or after all. That was a big promotion by Mr. Baird, our then environmental, anti Kyoto minister.They aren't very romantic either.
For me, its cars and coal that have got to go . There are better ways.

Tarun Kumar said...

nice article. I have also a blog on climate change.

Anonymous said...

Nicely said. Although when implying this logic, we Canadians, should not worry about the global warming at all. And sometimes it seems to me that most of the people in Canada live by this rule. As if the global warming concerned US and China only. Something needs to be done though, we can't live like this anymore and need to worry about the rising problem of climate change. Making excuses is not the right way to go here.

Take care, Elli