Research: Ecological Justice
Want to learn more about Canada's climate change policy?
Read the latest research from CPJ to learn more about a public justice perspective on ecological issues.
Human activity is causing climate change
- Greenhouse gases (GHGs)--like carbon dioxide and methane--in the atmosphere absorb some of the energy exiting Earth’s atmosphere, heating up the air. GHGs are good, to an extent. They exist naturally to help keep the Earth warm enough to support life.
- However, humans are emitting GHGs much faster than they can be taken out of the atmosphere by natural systems. These extra GHGs in the atmosphere are a problem because they are heating up the Earth and acidifying the ocean.
- Earth’s average surface temperature has increased by over 0.85°C since the industrial revolution. This is concerning because although earth’s climate has always fluctuated, the rate of climate change has increased dramatically due to human activity as societies have industrialized.
- Humans have already emitted around 1999 billion tonnes of CO2. The IPCC estimates that if humans emit more than 2900 billion tonnes of Carbon Dioxide, we will almost certainly exceed a 2°C of global warming. If we were to continue emitting at our current rate we would exceed this budget in less than 30 years. Based on current pledges made for the Paris Agreement, and without enhanced ambition, the likely global average temperature increase will be between 3-3.5°C by 2100.
Read CPJ’s Climate Change 101 factsheet to learn more about the causes of climate change.
Climate change is a Canadian justice issue
- Climate change is already causing the extinction of plant and animal species, the melting of northern glaciers, rising sea levels, and correspondingly, conflict over natural resources, food insecurity, large-scale migration, and poverty.
- Those who will feel the greatest impacts of climate change live in areas with lower per capita income and higher predicted initial temperature increases.
- Developed nations have contributed the majority of cumulative GHG emissions to date by using industrialization as a vehicle for national wealth.
- Even though Canada only has 0.46% of Earth's population, Canadians emitted 1.6% of global emissions in 2014. At 20.6 tonnes/person, Canadian per capita emissions were more than triple the global average (6.4 tonnes/person).
- Before COP21, the federal government committed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. With current measures to address climate change, Environment Canada has projected that Canadian emissions will grow to 768Mt CO2eq in 2020 and 815 Mt CO2 eq in 2030 – i.e. 3% and then 9% greater than 2005 levels.
Canadians can be part of the solution
- We can each make an important contribution to the Canadian emissions reduction effort, but individual actions are not enough to achieve national targets and limit global warming below 2°C. Every Canadian would need to reduce their annual emissions by 7.9 tonnes to meet our current target. But the average Canadian vehicle emits 4.6 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year – so even if we stopped driving completely, we would still fall short of the personal reductions needed to meet Canadian targets. Government intervention is needed!
- Canada can turn the challenge of GHG emissions reductions into an opportunity to grow a more diverse and sustainable economy while making sure that those currently employed in carbon-intensive industries are supported. The Green Economy Network finds that “by investing up to 5% of the annual federal budget in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and public transportation, over five years Canada could create one million new jobs while reducing our annual greenhouse gas emissions by 25-35%.”
- A properly designed and implemented carbon tax would benefit all Canadians by providing a cleaner environment, thus providing health benefits, increasing public security from catastrophic weather events, and allowing us to respect our international commitments.
Read CPJ’s backgrounder on Carbon and the Common Good for more information.
Understanding GHG emissions can be challenging. We cannot actually see them accumulate. And they come from a variety of sources. It doesn’t help either that we usually talk about these emissions in big units which are hard to wrap our heads around. One megaton is a million tonnes.
So, to make it easier to understand we can ask: what Canadian sources are equivalent to one tonne of GHGs? How does it translate to the real world, and how do these sources contribute to overall emissions?
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Taxes are not simply about money or fees collected by governments. They are equally about public programs and services, reducing poverty and the harmful effects of inequality, and protecting the environment.
“Taxes for the Common Good” is a series of six fact sheets highlighting the positive role taxes play in a democratic society and summarizing up-to-date information on the costs and opportunities afforded by various federal tax policy options.