A collection of facts that ads up to a “bigger picture.”

Did you know…

  • The world currently consumes 81.2 million barrels of oil a day (1 barrel = 159 liters), according to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the energy forum for 26 industrialized consumer nations.
  • But the really alarming figure is 84 million barrels of oil a day: according to the IEA, this will be the global demand by 2005. (Asia Times, August 2004)
  • Ontario households use fifty percent more electricity than the average household in California, and almost three times more than the typical northern European home.(Paul Gipe, Ontario Sustainable Energy Association)
  • “Greenhouse gas emissions”: On a per capita basis, each Canadian produced roughly 18.3 tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2000, one of the highest levels in the world. This was 30% higher than the average for member nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.(The Daily, Statistics Canada, September 16, 2003)
  • Per capita electricity consumption in Ontario is over 12,500 kilowatt/hours (KWh). In Japan per capita consumption is only 7,400 KWh, and usage in most European homes is less than half that of Ontario.
  • Global warming is responsible for 160,000 deaths per year, mostly of children in developing nations affected by diseases such as malaria, diarrhea and malnutrition, scientists said yesterday (Wednesday, October 1, 2003) at the World Climate Change Conference in Moscow.
  • The Nanticoke coal-fired power plant, on Lake Erie, is Canada’s #1 air polluter. In total, Ontario’s five coal-fired power plants produce as much air pollution as 6.2 million cars. Fortunately, Premier McGuinty has promised to phase-out our dirty coal plants by 2007. (Ontario Clean Air Alliance)
  • Extracting crude oil from the Alberta Tar Sands uses a lot of energy. For every 5 tonnes of oil, 1 tonne of gas (as oil equivalent) is needed to get it out. This means that technically, when we are calculating our personal emissions, the CO2 impact of all gasoline derived from the tar sands ought to be increased by 20% (thus the methane leakage from gas production, distribution and use). Globe’s & Mail, Report on Business (March 4th, 2004)
  • Most of Canada’s tar sands oil is exported to the US market. (Elizabeth May, Sierra Club)
  • FoodShare Toronto, compared foodmiles traveled by similar items at the Dufferin Grove farmer’s market and across the street at the Dufferin Mall No-Frills supermarket. The study compared pears shipped 5,887 kilometres from Washington via Los Angeles to the ones that came 58 km from Milton, Ontario, and lamb chops that traveled 72 km from Flamborough to Dufferin Grove Park with those that made a 13,882-km. journey from New Zealand to Dufferin Mall. The foodmiles average of the supermarket items was more than 5,000 times greater than the same items in the farmer’s market. The study calculated energy used and greenhouse-gas emissions, depending on how food was transported, and found the imports to be on average almost 400 times greater. (Study by Stephen Bentley, FoodShare, Toronto)
  • In 2004, Greenhouse Gases are Growing. Warnings by scientists against the growth of greenhouse gasses seem to have gone largely unheeded, with a German report showing emissions growing. Indeed, car emissions have doubled within a generation and the annual output of carbon dioxide has increased by about a quarter since the first World Climate Conference in Vienna 25 years ago. The United States, Canada and Australia even recorded double-figure increases in the output of greenhouse gasses. Only the European Union managed to lower their emissions slightly, and Germany succeeded in cutting levels by 18.3 percent.
  • One third of the carbon dioxide emissions generated by human activities comes from transportation. Furthermore, in urban areas, vehicles produce up to three quarters of the pollutants that combine to form ground-level ozone, the main ingredient of smog.
  • Canada’s green wind power is low – but growing. Canada had installed 317 MW of wind turbines by the end of 2003, compared with 6,374 MW in the U.S. and a global total of 39,294 MW. The annual increase of 34% compares with the world average of 26% and 36% in the U.S., and ahead of the 22% in Germany, 28% in Spain, 18% in Britain and 8% increase in Denmark (Canadian Association for Renewable Energies)
  • American cars are getting worse, not better. In the 2002 model year, the fuel economy of the average new light-duty vehicle sold in the United States sank to its lowest point in more than two decades, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Cars averaged 24.4 miles per gallon, and S.U.V.’s 17.3 miles per gallon. And that data understates the mileage gap, because the heaviest sport utilities with the worst fuel economy, like Hummers and Ford Excursions, are not counted. They are so big that they are not even defined as passenger vehicles (New York Times, By Danny Hakin, A Shade of Green: S.U.V.’s try to soften image, February 16, 2004)
  • Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.” (E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful)
  • Climate change, global trade, and exchanging chickens why? Britain imports 61,400 tonnes of poultry meat from the Netherlands in the same year that it exports 33,100 tonnes of poultry meat to the Netherlands. Britain imports 240,000 tonnes of pork and 125,000 tonnes of lamb while exporting 195,000 tonnes of pork and 102,000 tonnes of lamb.(2) Why?” (Dr Caroline Lucas, Member European Parliament, based on a report from Sustain: The alliance for better food and farming)
  • Better sustainable energy policies are needed in Canada. The rapid growth of the wind industry in countries like Denmark and Germany is a result of policies that support locally owned and sited green power generating schemes. This policy framework belies conventional Canadian wisdom which argues for massive scale and centralized generating facilities which, curiously, can only be provided by large utilities and big business. However, in Denmark, 85 percent of installed wind generation capacity is locally owned and sited. Over 100,000 households own shares in local wind co-ops. Denmark has 3000 MW of installed wind capacity. In Germany 33 percent of installed wind generation capacity is locally owned and sited and 200,000 German households own shares in wind turbine facilities. Germany boasts the largest installed capacity of wind turbines in the world with 12,000 MW. (Brent R. Kopperson, January 04)
  • Everything is connected. This is demonstrated by the story of The Butterfly’s Wing. The flapping of a single butterfly’s wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month’s time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn’t happen. Or maybe one that wasn’t going to happen, does. (Chaos Theory: A Brief Introduction)
  • …while recycling helps, using water wisely, walking, taking public transportation instead of driving, and turning off electricity are all much more important. For instance, if you use your car to take empty bottles and cans back to the grocery store for recycling, you’ve wasted more energy than you’ve saved. Permanently lowering the room temperature two degrees saves as much energy as most people use in the form of bottles, cans and papers for an entire year. Switching from a SUV to a sedan can save as much energy as 400 years of bottle recycling (Singles Changing the Climate, Unknown Country, January 5, 2004)
  • In terms of carbon emissions, how do trucks compare to trains? On a per tonne/kilometre basis, large transport trucks emit 4 to 5 times more greenhouse gases than rail.  The trend has been from rail to truck in recent years, for a lot of reasons, none of which has anything to do with energy, energy costs, or emissions.  Moving freight from truck to rail would lower emissions, but its easier said than done, given the flexibility of the truck/road system.  Its interesting to note that trains move somewhere around twice as many tonnes per kilometre as do large trucks in Canada (about 330 billion vs. 175 billion) but the number is dominated by long hauls of bulk commodities, where trucks cannot compete with trains.(Ralph Torrie, Energy Expert)
  • Over the past 50 years, Curry calculates, the Atlantic has experienced a gradual 5 percent increase in evaporation rate. But a closer look at the data shows that the changes in salinity increased more quickly over the past 15 years, and that the ocean warmed more quickly in the past two decades than it did over the entire 50-year period. The key, Curry says, is that “water vapor is an important greenhouse gas.” Increased evaporation rates creates more vapor in the atmosphere, “which in turn should accelerate global warming,” she says, and there is a possibility that the changes to the hydrologic cycle could become a runaway process. That feedback loop could have serious consequences, though perhaps not as extreme as shutting down the so-called “conveyor belt” in the North Atlantic, originally suggested by Wally Broecker of Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory, that drives ocean mixing. Nonetheless, the research “is very much in line with what Wally says,” says Peter Rhines of the University of Washington, Seattle (
  • Earth at Night. The earth can be mapped at night from an image provided by all the lights that are burning. Here is a website that offers a composite (plotted as night passed over all the time zones) night view of the Earth from space. The image offers an interesting climate change geography lesson. How many cities can you identify without the geopolitical borders? What do you think are the effects of keeping all those lights burning, on total global greenhouse emissions? (Earth’s city lights, NASA)
  • I went to the winter conference of the Sierra Club’s NE Regional Conservation Committee. The had a good group of speakers all day, although I was there only for the afternoon, to check in with my old friend, Steve, who organized the event.There were about 30 people who attended and of them maybe two people were in their thirties. All the rest of us looked to be at least 50 with many a couple of decade older than that. Sonia Hamel of the MA Governor’s office presented on climate change and while she was speaking, I realized an aspect of the climate problem that I hadn’t taken fully into account before. CO2 stays in the atmosphere for 100 years so anything we do now will have an effect that is delayed probably beyond our lifetimes. We will have to change our lives significantly in order to alleviate the consequences that would otherwise occur five generations beyond, our great-great-great-grandchildren. What makes it even worse is that nothing we can do now will effect climate change now. We can move tomorrow to a zero emissions regime and still the CO2 we’ve already pumped into the atmosphere will keep on doing its work.


CO2 emissions per capita, 2000
United States 20.57
Luxembourg 18.24
Canada 17.13
Belgium 11.73
Czech Republic 11.56
Netherlands 11.13
Ireland 10.88
Finland 10.59
Russian Federation 10.34
Estonia 10.22
Germany 10.14
Israel 10.01
Denmark 9.38
United Kingdom 8.89
Cyprus 8.36
Greece 8.31
Kazakhstan 8.26
Austria 7.74
Iceland 7.69
Poland 7.58
Norway 7.48
Italy 7.38
Slovenia 7.27
Spain 7.13
Slovakia 7.01
Turkmenistan 6.59
France 6.18
Ukraine 6.08
Portugal 5.96
Sweden 5.86
Malta 5.84
Switzerland 5.8
Belarus 5.55
Hungary 5.51
Bulgaria 5.23
Uzbekistan 4.64
FYR of Macedonia 4.14
Croatia 4.06
Serbia and Montenegro 4.06
Bosnia and Herzegovina 3.86
Romania 3.85
Azerbaijan 3.51
Turkey 3.05
Lithuania 3.04
Latvia 2.76
Republic of Moldova 1.49
Georgia 1.2
Armenia 0.94
Kyrgyzstan 0.93
Albania 0.89
Tajikistan 0.72
Source: CO2 Emissions from Fuel Combustion 2002.
IEA Statistics, OECD


  • Small is Profitable: “Technologies tailored to the needs of the people, not the reverse, can improve the economy and the environment”
  • For more on how you can contribute to clearing Ontario’s air through your electricity purchases, please see our consumer-advice website (Electricity Choices)

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