Being a new Dad has given me a lot to think about, but you probably already knew that. Like in this picture perhaps. I used to just put on a jacket and go outside, now….. I make a hundred decisions before I go out the door. “Stroller or carrier? Is she warm enough, can she breathe, is she still breathing, do we have the diaper bag, are there actually diapers in the diaper bag, how long will we be gone, wait where are we going?”. Those are my immediate concerns, but what about the future? What about long term?
What about in 30 years when my daughter is my age? (insert nervous gulp here)
Will we be driving electric cars, using more efficient transport, running on solar power, and making our first landing on Mars? Or will we be struggling with dwindling resources, dying ecosystems, extracting every last ounce of oil, and stuck in mass gridlock. Will we have tackled the issues of inequality and our reliance on infinite growth? How many animals will have gone extinct or will have been brought back (I vote for Mammoth before Velociraptor)? Will genetic resequencing solve disease or will modified organisms result in ecosystem contamination? Where are we going?
Sometimes we don’t stop to see how we are doing, as individuals, a country, and society. I’m pleased to say our society is making progress and we’re doing some good things for the environment.
Water Use in Canada:
The graph above shows a 27% reduction, with most of that occurring since 2006. (That 2011 data is unfortunately the most recent, hopefully we’ll get new government data soon.)
People are often upset by water meters but the fact is they reduce water consumption. My home town in BC used to have a water crisis nearly every year, the reservoirs would be drained and our lawns would be green. Water meters came in and that just doesn’t happen anymore. There’s an old adage, that you can’t manage what you don’t measure. Below is a comparison of water use when Canadians have meters and when we don’t. It’s skewed a bit by NS, but in ON we still see a 30% reduction.
Electricity Use in Canada
How about our electricity use? Are we producing our electricity with low impact? Ontario shut down their coal plants, and Alberta has a plan in place to do the same. I’d say that’s great progress. Canadian electricity is actually pretty good too, from a carbon intensity perspective, even compared to the OECD countries. This is mostly because of significant nuclear and hydro power, though solar and wind are helping with new power generation. That said we’re still a long way to catch Norway, Sweden, France, or Brazil.
Those numbers make me feel pretty good. Until I look at how much electricity we use. Turns out we use more electricity in our homes than any other country. That’s not very good. In 30 years will we be the same? Looking locally shows hope for the future. In 2013 Toronto Hydro identified 93.6 MW and 135.5 GWH of electricity savings as part of their energy efficiency programs. That’s equivalent to about 12,000 homes.
In Canada over 10,000 electric cars have been sold since 2011. That’s growing every year and it’s being supported by incentives (recently increased for Ontario). Unfortunately they only have a 0.27% market share. Norway by contrast sells 13 electric cars out of every 100 new cars sold (i.e. 13%+ market share).
What about new vehicles? Efficiency has increased from 24.3 mpg in 1980 to 34.6 mpg in 2014. Electric cars will result in even less CO2, in Canada a gas powered vehicle would need to have around 80mpg to be equivalent, in Ontario it would be even better. It’s also easier to control emissions at one central source instead of in every single vehicle.
Solar and Wind
World renewable energy is growing, fast. In 2014 53% of all new electricity production was from Solar and Wind. Overall the world reached 548 GW of total solar and wind installed at the end of 2014, with 91 of those GW added in that year alone.
In Ontario we’ve seen renewables increase to nearly 10% of the total capacity installed. Solar has been increasing every year across the world.
Our choices may seem small, like how we get to work, when we recycle or throw something out, when we turn off lights, when we select products made sustainably and don’t purchase the others, when we reuse something old, when we chose that more efficient car, that shirt made in Canada, or that local organic potato. When we support more renewable energy production, when we choose to that low irrigation landscape, or that low flow shower head. Sometimes these things make economic sense today and sometimes they are just the right thing to do for the future. All of our choices add up and contribute to the larger whole, a progression to some future state. Our little choices resulting in big future changes. Hopefully it’s to a society that we can leave better for its future little occupants.
Now where is that diaper bag?…