A little now, or a lot more later

When do Ontarians think the Province ought to address climate change? Now, when we can still reverse the course of global warming, or later, when we will spend much, much more to mitigate foreseeable and preventable climate damage that would then take more than a century to correct? Click here for climate change FAQ.

The equatorial regions of the planet are becoming uninhabitably hot. The civil war in Syria, once among the gardens of western Asia, is only the most recent conflict brought on by climate change. Those driven out by oppression, war and lack of hope from areas where the climate is collapsing flee to anywhere they think will accept them. The year 2016 was the hottest year on record, beating out the previous record set in 2015, which beat the previous record set in 2014 and so on. Nearly all of the past dozen years has been the hottest year on record, in Canada and around the world.

I visted India, as did one of my staff members, in 2016. Its current drought is now years long. In addition to home diesel-powered electricity generators because the power goes off regularly, private homes in India are now routinely retrofitted for water tanks, because the water only comes on intermittently. Ontario was headed in that direction at the turn of the century, but has successfully reversed that disastrous course. Water is a major public policy issue in the south and west of the United States.

You either believe that global climate change is real or you don’t. If you do, you are either willing to address it or you are not. If you believe climate change is the defining issue of the first half of the 21st century, then the measures now being implemented by Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and U.S. states like California are measured, moderate, and likely to succeed. In coastal areas and island nations, a permanent water level rise through climate change is now a life-and-death issue.

Ontario led North America in transitioning the generation of electricity away from burning fossil fuels, which are the source of much of the world’s greenhouse gases that cause global warming by trapping heat. A dozen years ago, a quarter of our electricity came from burning coal, and Ontario was short of electricity, being a net purchaser of electricity each year. Today, the only sources of electricity in Ontario that emit greenhouse gases are gas-fired plants, which are used less than ten percent of the time, and only at peak periods. Today, Ontario is a net exporter of electricity, clean electricity, using an annual surplus of between a quarter and a third of a billion dollars to hold down the price of electricity here in Ontario.

Today, electricity is nowhere near the top of Ontario’s list of greenhouse gas emitters. Transportation, industrial commercial and institutional activity, and residential use are the next source of greenhouse gas reductions.

Climate change is a very real threat in Ontario. One of the band chiefs, appearing before a Queen’s Park committee hearing, told MPPs that where winter ice roads offered upwards of three months of road access to the north as recently as the 1990s, today bands consider themselves fortunate if the winter ice road period exceeds three weeks.

Starving polar bear

Lacking the energy to hunt from starvation, Canadian polar bears drown in the Arctic.

Canadian polar bears increasing die by drowning and starvation, because they cannot find ice flows from which to hunt their traditional food: seals. This means their cubs die of starvation, or cannibalism. Climate change is deadly serious. The California and Florida farms from which many of our winter fruits and vegetables come from are suffering the longest and most serious droughts in history. Climate change has been driving up the cost of food for years. The faces of climate change are starving and disappearing wildlife, species of animals and plants going extinct, and people fleeing regions that become too hot to sustain life to come to the northern countries and resettle. Much of the southern hemisphere of Earth is either ocean, or the continent of Antarctica.

Taking action in Ontario

Ontario’s Climate Change Action Plan and cap and trade program form the backbone of a strategy to cut greenhouse gas pollution to 15 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020; 37 per cent by 2030; and 80 per cent beow 1990 levels by 2050. The Province will report on the plan’s implementation annually, and review the plan at least every five years.

Ontario’s Green Investment Fund is a $325-million down payment on the province’s cap and trade program to strengthen the economy, create jobs and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Green Investment Fund includes a $100 million investment to enable audits and retrofits of approximately 37,000 homes and save approximately 1.6 million tonnes of cumulative lifetime greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to the province’s greenhouse gas emissions reductions targets.

For example, Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas have been delivering natural gas efficiency programs across the province to the industrial, commercial, and residential sectors for over 20 years. Together, they supply over 99 per cent of Ontario’s residential natural gas customers. In 2014, Enbridge Gas Distribution and Union Gas residential energy efficiency programs resulted in a 500,000 tonne reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Cap-and-trade funding will reward real, measureable actions by homeowners like replacing furnaces and water heaters and upgrading insulation that will conserve energy, save consumers money on their energy bills, and reduce emissions.

Resources on climate change in Ontario