A burning question

Cool Tips for a hot planet series

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By Ginny Colling

Ginny Colling was passionate about the environment before retiring from teaching college communications students. After retiring she trained with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project and has presented to numerous groups about the climate crisis.

We have an electric car, electric lawn mower and snow blower and eventually want to kick our natural gas furnace to the curb with an air source heat pump.

We have an electric car, electric lawn mower and snow blower and eventually want to kick our natural gas furnace to the curb with an air source heat pump.

But if everyone eventually does that, where will our power come from as our nuclear reactors go on vacation to get refurbished?

The Ontario government has decided much more of our power will come from burning methane (“natural”) gas. That will increase pollution by 600 per cent by 2040, making it impossible for us to meet our already weak climate target.

Meanwhile the federal government is looking to get the country off natural gas and coal powered electricity by 2035.

Houston, we have a problem.

Planet earth is heating up and we know we have to stop burning stuff to cool it down. The International Energy Agency says we can’t afford to expand fossil fuel production or infrastructure (as Ontario is doing). The UN secretary general calls such moves “moral and economic madness.”

The recently released summary of the UN’s latest climate report says one of the best solutions for dealing with our global crisis is renewable energy like solar, wind and energy storage. In Ontario, an atmospheric fund report had a similar conclusion, that wind, solar, power storage – and energy conservation – are the cheapest ways to meet electricity demand here.

Ontario Clean Energy Options

There are enough potential offshore wind power sites in the Great Lakes to more than meet our energy demand, according to research done for the Ontario Power Authority (now Independent Electricity System Operator or IESO). And a study for the Canadian Renewable Energy Association found that expanding rooftop solar in Ontario could reduce the need for more gas power generation and save Ontario ratepayers $250 million a year.

For wind and solar to provide reliable energy on cloudy, windless days, we need power storage solutions. Those are rapidly being deployed. Canadian company Hydrostor uses compressed air to even out the energy supply. Another, in Minto, Ontario, winds up large flywheels with solar, releasing them when the power is needed. There are many other examples. The IESO is currently taking proposals for more storage projects, with the province’s blessing.

Ontario has been buying cheap hydropower from Quebec since 2016. We could buy more. Unfortunately, the government recently indicated it will not renew that contract, which expires this year.

Ontario could also increase investment in energy conservation programs to help homeowners and businesses save money by reducing consumption and shifting demand to off-peak hours.

Homeowners can help by taking advantage of the federal government’s Canada Greener Homes program. In Ontario, in partnership with Enbridge, it provides up to $10,600 in grants and $40,000 in interest-free loans to support energy efficiency upgrades that would reduce demand for fossil fuel power. To find out more, search Home Efficiency Rebates Plus on Enbridge’s website. For those in Lindsay or within 50 km of Peterborough, call GreenUP at 705-536-9943.

It’s easy to lament the short-sightedness of a government that cancelled 752 clean energy projects in 2018 and cut energy conservation spending by 60 per cent. What’s past is past. We need to urge them to get on board with the clean energy future now. And to stop the “moral and economic madness” by burning less natural gas, not more.


  1. Wallace says:

    If every human in Canada ceased to exist today, it would not make any dent whatsoever in the amount of co2 emitted into the earths atmosphere —- we aren’t the problem so quit advocating for Canadians to go broke over this issue.

    • Frank Morris says:

      With that argument, no one would do anything about anything. If you create a cost for others (like increasing atmospheric CO2 and all its add-on effects) you should pay for it. And no one is “going broke” over the issue. The money spent on reducing emissions pays for green initiatives and funds jobs in our economy. It’s an investment in ourselves and our kids. So keep advocating. Louder. Longer.

      • Wallace says:

        lolol where are all these jobs ? And people can’t afford food and fuel, in large part because of this ridiculous carbon tax. BTW If any of you ‘do gooders’ who care about the environment was given the option to send Trudeau a cheque for a few hundred dollars to help fight climate change, not one of you would do it. Thats how much faith you have in his policies.

  2. Ginny Colling says:

    Canada is a top 10 emitter out of almost 200 countries. Top emitters are responsible for about 70 % of the destruction from global heating. Smaller, less developed countries that do virtually nothing to contribute to the problem suffer the most. As the UN Secretary General said recently: “Demanding others move first only ensures humanity comes last.”

  3. There are many different ways to blame and assign guilt for severe weather events associated with climate change but bragging about one’s wealth (my electric car, my electric lawnmower, my electric snowblower) to try to shame the poor into living in the cold and the dark and not going to Peterborough for surgery because that would require turning up their gas furnace and driving their old gas guzzler is not the best. The poor and downtrodden of this world can still organize a good fund raiser sufficient to overthrow the rich. Check out that $20 million last year’s convoy raised. That can buy a lot of arms and mercenaries, not that I would support that; I wouldn’t. I think there are better, less classist ways to defeat the effects of climate change on survival.

    China is by far the greatest emitter and, to Wallace’s point, until China and the other really big emitters get in line, any sacrifice poor residents of the Kawarthas make to try to ameliorate their sense of guilt for being won’t help.

    And then there is that elephant in Ukraine that both sides are hell bent on polluting the environment with. How much of a crisis can we be in, as a species that cares about not only ourselves but also our biodiversity, if we are willing to kill off our species and the other species with which we co-exist and depend on for survival for the sake of a fake border (and of course, power and control, both domestic and proxy)? Not that I am diminishing Ukraine’s struggle for democracy; I’m not. But if we really cared about the environment, we’d defeat the Russians with technology not arms and we’d force a peace. The UN can still do that sort of thing, can’t it? Well, maybe not without the biggest emitter of all, though, eh? Which brings the futility of shaming the poor full circle.

    I’d like to issue Ginny a challenge to completely give up flying, as flying expends a disproportionate amount of emissions. Forever. No more air travel, ever. If she really cares about the environment, she will do it.

  4. Avatar photo Ginny Colling says:

    I gave up flying a number of years ago and have never been, nor will I ever be, on a cruise ship.

    While not rich, I am fortunate to have retired with a pension, and inherited a small amount of money – enough to pay for an electric car. I realize how fortunate I am and so try to do as much as I can to help the environment, realizing many others are not in a position to do these things. For those who are, perhaps my examples will provide some inspiration.

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