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Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Letter: Achieving zero emissions is a complex process

Dear editor:

Before all the kids and their parents go back to sleep after the “one day climate strike,”  I would like to interject some reality.
First of all, if the kids are serious, here are a few things they can start doing now.

Demand their schools not run the air conditioning every day in the summer, no more water bottles, install fountains in schools again (like I remember), ride their bike year-round to school, instead of mom or dad driving them in the family SUV, have only one TV in the house (and not one the size of Ontario), give up the cellphones/computers for everyone in the house, etc.

Now, regarding the idea of zero emissions by 2050, come on in close everyone, reality check time!

Remembering that at the moment fossil fuels account for about 80 per cent of world energy consumption, achieving zero emissions by 2050 would require that some 2,000 nuclear reactors be functional by 2050. This amounts to building one reactor a week for the next 30 years and renewables move from 20 per cent to more than 60 per cent of global electricity supply.

The intermittent nature of wind and solar makes both those options unreliable. They also require large amounts of land and considering the UN has projected that we must increase food production by 50 per cent by 2030 to feed the ever-increasing world population, wind and solar are not a good use of land. 

How about carbon capture? Capturing one gigatonne of carbon is equivalent to displacing some 320 coal-fired plants with zero-emissions electricity.

The problem is high costs, lack of infrastructure (such as pipelines), difficulties preventing leakage, and complex legal and regulatory issues. To meet  zero emissions, we would have to double or quadruple the burning of biomass for electricity or heating to cover the loss of fossil fuels. 

Many scientists believe that seeking to replace fossil fuels with biomass actually risks making matters worse.
In view of these realities, let’s focus on a pro-active approach to adaptation, to protect communities from whatever changes are coming.
And no, boys and girls, it will not be the end of the world in 12 years, so go and have fun and be kids.

Earle Vance