An excellent article was recently posted on Huffington Post by an attendee of the Trans Mountain pipeline hearings in BC. The writer lamented the fact that despite being honest and heartfelt, most interveners really had no clue what they were talking about. Many were sincere nature lovers, or worried about a stand of trees near their house, or ideologically suspicious of the sincerity of profit seeking enterprises…but it was obvious that most had not even read the NEB submission and thus did not know exactly what they were protesting. Nor did they know what the plans were to address concerns.
That might seem a bit peculiar, but it’s not unheard of by any stretch. NIMBYism seems to be human nature; we’re all a step away from it in one situation or another.
It’s not much of an excuse for protesting something without understanding it, granted, but it is also true that other sources of information that should be useful, balanced, and accurate are anything but. Government reports, for example, should be all of these things. Not political documents; political parties can and will openly violate any sense of decency or decorum or truthfulness, but the actual government itself – we have a right to expect better.
But we also know better, don’t we, as I was reminded in wading through the Ontario government’s recently published Annual Greenhouse Gas Progress Report 2017. It’s filled with charts and facts and figures about emissions levels of various sectors. In one sense it’s a very good document, assuming it’s accurate, because it provides indicators on various points of progress. Reducing consumption is always a good thing.
But that doesn’t excuse the blisteringly moronic statements peppered throughout to obfuscate the issue. It also doesn’t excuse the selectiveness of the reporting, or the dumbfounding math blindness.
Several items stand out like a bad toupee, and surely there are more, but I got tired of reading it. The whole thing has a whiff of academic uselessness about it, while at the same time pretending to be a blueprint for progress. But it’s not, because to be truly useful in that regard it would discuss the whole picture, and address the root problem of excessive GHG emissions. It does neither.
A glaring example of selective reporting involves methane. Regarded as a GHG hellion, methane is reported in its CO2 equivalent form, that being 25 times greater GHG impact than CO2 itself. Later in the Ontario report, and as corroborated by such intellectual luminaries as the “Environmental Defense Fund,” methane is deemed to be actually 84-86 times worse over a longer time frame.
Here then is where the footsoldiers for the climate industry start replacing analysis with card tricks. Page 74 of the Ontario report has this: “Ontario is home to more than 30 million hectares of wetlands which provide many environmental and socio-economic co-benefits, including carbon storage.” This is a remarkably deceptive statement that is to the whole climate debate what axle grease is to an ice cream sundae.
The problem with that statement, and its deviousness, is that wetlands may indeed store carbon, but they also emit methane – and a lot. Says who? Why, the high priests of the environment movement itself – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). As in: “Wetlands are the largest natural source of methane [CH4] to the atmosphere…The range of CH4 emissions from freshwater wetlands ranges from 7 to 40 g CH4 m-2 yr-1; carbon accumulation rates range from small losses up to 0.35 t C ha-1 yr-1 storage.”
Apologies for the vomit of numbers and odd use of exponentials, but hang in there; there is a point. Based on these numbers, Ontario’s 30 million hectares of wetlands emit 2 to 12 million metric tonnes (Mt) of methane per year. I’ve been to many swamps across the land, and Ontario’s are laughably average. So let’s use the midpoint, or 7 million Mt. And that’s not “CO2 equivalent” remember, it’s straight methane.
Offsetting this gas problem are the apparent benefits of wetlands as carbon sinks, and the same IPCC math implies Ontario’s absorb zero to 10.5 Mt per year of carbon. Taking the midpoint again, that’s 5.5 Mt, or 1.5 Mt less than the GHG emitted (not equivalent, just tonnes).
The Ontario report praises wetlands for absorbing carbon but, using their own math including the 86 times CO2e equivalency, means that swamps emit the net equivalent of 129 Mt of CO2 (1.5 x 86). This is double the CO2e of the entire current transportation sector, the most hated of all sectors by the climate industry (except flying, we love flying, and conferences, we love those too, Europe is nice, Australia would be great…etc).
You might say so what – wetlands are a natural phenomenon and incredibly valuable ecosystems. We can’t get rid of them, nor do we want to, so why worry about them?
It matters for two reasons. First, this stupid reporting is infuriating if you read the details, and if you only bother with the headlines, as most do, it generates apathy because it’s so obviously slanted. When the report mentions wetlands, it’s only in glowing terms that mention the carbon sink aspect. The flip side is ignored entirely. Is that honest? How can you have a discussion about GHG, and lambaste various sectors for their contributions, contributions that we all demand in our standard of living, and ignore one of the biggest even if natural? Does that technique even pretend to be informational? The same goes for other carefully selected metrics. On page 32 in the section “Transportation – Ontario’s largest emissions source,” the text casually mentions that “trends shown…exclude emissions from international aviation and marine, in accordance with IPCC requirements.” Huh? Or maybe even WTF? How do you provide meaningful analysis of a pollution problem without including the one source that is 100 percent voluntary – international aviation?
That also brings up the most important point that degrades the whole report. The transportation section singles out one polluter, freight hauling, as a problem because it’s growing. That’s not acceptable, and apparently the time for action is now.
Well how does all that California-grown organic kale wind up in those braying gullets? I mean really. Larger cities are like a nest full of a million baby birds with their mouths open, waiting for momma to come home and shove in a worm. But that’s a lot of freaking worms, and they have to be fresh, and plentiful, and we need them right now, or there’s hell to pay.
The whole environmental problem of excessive emissions is tied directly to, if anything, our over-consumptive way of life. How does all that cheap crap from distant lands get to our shelves, constantly, 24/7? What sort of apocalyptic rebellion would a city face if it ran out of bananas?
There are indeed plenty of environmental problems, but fundamentally 7 billion people need to consume a lot of stuff, and they choose to consume 10 times more. That’s why freight emissions are high, that’s why so many fossil fuels are needed. Those same people prefer not to freeze to death in winter; that’s why so much natural gas is needed.
That should be the central theme of this report. It should lay out where all the emissions come from, all of them, and it should line that up alongside what we consume. Then it will all be laid out – you want lower GHG, what has to go? Flying? Decent sushi in the middle of the continent? Fair trade, organic, Rainforest Alliance coffee from the other side of the world? SUVs? Heated houses?
Start again please. Certainly, bring us a report that lays out where all the GHG emissions come from. ALL of them. But also show us what they are incurred for. Taking over-consumption as a given while attacking the methods of delivery is not going to get us anywhere. Paint the whole picture and maybe you’ll find more people listening beyond those directly employed in the protest business.