Where does Toronto's air pollution come from?
Running for mayor? Running for council? Running a business? Running a household? Want to develop some smart policies and actions to help our city in the face of dangerous and financially risky climate change?
Then you need to understand where our global warming pollution comes from. Just like the old adage says: "you don’t manage what you don’t measure."
In 2007, Toronto Atmospheric Fund collaborated with the city to compile Toronto’s first greenhouse gas (GHG) and air pollutant emissions inventory (see http://www.toronto.ca/taf/inventory.htm ). I admit, it’s not exactly summer beach reading -- unless you’re trying to figure out how to keep our planet from overheating. Here’s what it tells us:
· Heating our homes and workplaces and making hot water using natural gas is the overlooked elephant in the room, accounting for about 40 per cent of our total GHG emissions.
· Transportation is the elephant we see every day on our congested roads. The gasoline and diesel burned in passenger vehicles and commercial trucks produces another 40-ish per cent, and is growing.
· Landfill sites have been a big source of emissions in the past, but this is being reduced by capturing the potent methane gas produced by rotting garbage and greater diversion of organic waste.
· Emissions associated with producing electricity are about 15 per cent of the City’s carbon profile, and will continue to drop as Ontario’s remaining four polluting coal plants are shut down (by 2014 at the latest) and more renewable energy is added to the grid.
As you can see, Toronto has a whole bunch of small, medium and large sources. That means we need a “silver buckshot” not a “silver bullet” approach to reducing emissions. And that’s why my previous and future postings are about solutions that can be implemented in our city -- ideas for how to heat our homes and water without heating the planet, how to get people out of their cars or to at least share a ride, how to reduce truck traffic, how to use electricity more efficiently so we can use a higher percentage of clean renewable power.
Just as we need to keep track of the dollars, we need to keep track of the carbon – it’s a liability that we can’t afford to ignore. A key promise from any serious candidate would be to screen all major decisions and policies – capital spending, operating budgets, programs, by-laws, job descriptions, etc – for their GHG emissions impact.About Julia Langer