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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Math

The hard truth about Nova Scotia's greenhouse gas emissions

Posted on Sat, May 19, 2007 at 12:09 PM

A reader recently asked for documentation for the various stats I threw around in my rant about Nova Scotia Power exec’s excessive pay. This is excuse enough for my entry into The Coast blog world, and if you read through, I’ll even make an additional point.

First, the numbers.

For provincial energy use and greenhouse gas emissions data, go to Environment Canada's Comprehensive Energy Use Database. There's a bit of a learning curve in figuring out how to query the system, but you'll soon get the hang of it and find any arrangement of information you could possibly want.

For emission data for Nova Scotia Power's power generation plants, go to PollutionWatch's database. You can toggle around the site and find lots more info about other sources of pollution, both provincially and nationally.

Work with these numbers for a while and you begin to see just how bogus the Conservative environmental plan is.

The Conservatives say they'll reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20 percent by 2020.

But here's the rub-- all the scientific literature (like the Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change) and international agreements (like the Kyoto Accord and recent European Union announcements) use the year 1990 as the measuring stick. In general, the agreed-upon targets are to reduce GHG emissions at least 20 percent from 1990 levels by 2020, and 80 percent by 2050. (These targets themselves are considered too weak by many, but that's another story.)

The Conservative plan, however, calls for a reduction in GHG emissions of 20 percent from present-day levels by 2020. But because we've increased GHG emissions by around 30 percent between 1990 and the present, the Conservation doesn't even get us back to the starting point. They've moved the goal posts.

In real terms, as the above Environment Canada database shows, in 1990 the nation collectively emitted 599 million tonnes of GHG (CO2 equivalent). A 20 percent reduction would result in 479 million tonnes of emissions.

But in 2004 (the most recent year in the database), Canada emitted 758 million tonnes of GHG (CO2 eqivalent). A 20 percent reduction would result in 606 million tonnes of GHG emissions.

Clearly, 606 million tonnes is far worse than 479 million tonnes. And that's just taking the Conservative plan at face value-- that is, we're just accepting that it will do as promised. There's no reason to believe as much, and I'll get into that issue in future posts.

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