Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Canada's GHG History

Holy crap. Just discovered this site. Oh man. There's just so much data here! Truly amazing.

What can I learn from playing in this sandbox? 

I've heard from various learned people that if we, collectively, turn the clock back to 1960, we can avoid climategeddon. I guess this means, if we could get ourselves to emit the same amount of GHGs that we did in 1960 as a country, we'd be OK.

So, we need to find out what the GHG emissions look like. Let's check it out, with Google Public Data Explorer!

[Canada's total GHG emissions, from 1960 to 2008]
(I see right away that the CO2 emissions don't capture the whole story; one needs to include fluorine-type gases, nitrous oxides, and methane, which have all been increasing at the same rate. To get the total GHGs, multiply CO2 emissions by 1.3.)

Anyways, our total emissions in 2008 were about 3 times the level in 1960.That means, we collectively need to reduce our emissions by a factor of 3. Well, that's not quite what apparently is required - it's more like a factor of 4 (= 80% reduction) that's apparently needed...but whatever. Let's see how this plays out.

First, let's see how much each of us, individually, contribute to emissions. Important: the graph below includes all GHGs emitted by us as a country. Including that emitted by industry. Here it is:

[GHG emissions per capita]

Now, this is very interesting. We see that the per capita GHG emissions level has remained about constant since 1975! Canada saw a huge increase in per capita GHG emissions from 1960-1975, but only by a factor of 2. This means, that if everyone in the country today were to go back to 1960 levels of GHG emissions (ie. from 16.5 to about 11 on this graph), we would reduce our total emissions by a factor of 2, not three!

The problem is: population growth. A good chunk of Canada's increased GHG emissions has come from population growth

If we were to insist that our total emissions were to stay at the 1960 level for the country as a whole, that would mean that per capita, we'd have to reduce our GHG emissions to 32% of what they are today, to take into account population growth.

What does this mean in terms of energy consumption? Does this mean that we'd have to cut energy use by this huge fraction as well?

[CO2 intensity (kg of CO2 per kg of oil equivalent energy use)]
Luckily, the answer is "no - not quite", because we've gotten better at reducing the CO2 emissions from whatever energy we do use. We've gained about 20% in efficiency, which means that instead of a "32% energy lifestyle", we'd be allowed a "40% energy lifestyle". Woohoo!

To reduce our GHG emissions to 1960's levels, we all need to consume 60% less fossil fuel energy than we do today. That means: in the home, at work, and at play.

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