GOLDSTEIN: Bashing Canada on climate change is absurd and misleading

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With the new year approaching, expect a deluge of reminders by the Trudeau government and the environmental movement that Canada is now the highest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases in the world.

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The federal government refers to this all the time as it attempts to pound Canadians into submission when it comes to quietly accepting carbon pricing — meaning higher costs for consumers on almost everything to “save the planet.”

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As the federal Environment Ministry put it in August, “in 2019, Canada was the highest GHG emitting country per capita among the top 10 emitting countries with 19.6 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.”

To enhance the laying on of guilt, the feds helpfully included a chart on “greenhouse gas emissions per capita for the top 10 emitting countries and regions (in) tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita.”

Canada is at the top, followed in descending order by the U.S., Russia, Iran, Japan, China, European Union (27 countries), Brazil, Indonesia and India.

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We all know the refrain — Canadians are bad, wasteful and laggards on climate change.

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Except in the real world, comparing Canada to other nations by selectively using emissions per capita as the metric is highly misleading, because Canada is the second-largest and second-coldest country on earth.

We also have a relatively small population and natural resources such as oil and gas make up a significant portion of our economy.

In that context, comparing our per capita emissions to countries in the European Union such as Germany, for example, which is one-third the size of Ontario with a population more than twice that of Canada’s, is absurd.

Ditto comparisons to the entire 27-nation European Union, given that its members are minuscule in size compared to Canada and none are as cold.

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Our emissions aren’t the highest per capita in the world because everyone has an oil rig in their backyard.

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They’re highest per capita because of Canada’s size and climate, which have a direct effect on our far greater need for fossil fuel energy to transport people, goods and services across the country, to say nothing of the need for fossil fuels to heat Canadian homes in winter.

The other thing to keep in mind about statistics is that you get what you choose to measure.

For example, when emissions are measured by square kilometres instead of per capita, Canada not only falls out of the world’s top 10 emitters, it drops to 140th place among the world’s 215 countries and regions identified by the United Nations when it reported on the global data in 2007.

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When environmental consultants Sustainable Business Consulting looked at the same metric in 2019 using 2017 data, Canada was the 129th largest emitter out of 184 countries, again with lower emissions per square kilometre than any of the world’s top 10 emitters, save for Brazil, including the U.S., Russia, Iran, Japan, China, Indonesia, India and every member in the 27 countries of the European Union.

Canada’s emissions have also been going down as a percentage of global emissions — from 1.8% in 2005 to 1.5% in 2019 — which the federal government does acknowledge.

In reality, globally speaking, greenhouse gas emissions in the developed world, including Canada, have basically flatlined, compared with the developing world, where they continue to rise.

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