Combating greenhouse gases is crucial to the planet’s survival

To the Expositor:

In the letter ‘The rebate “undoubtedly” will not cover all the costs’ (May 1), Mr. Finlay repeats Premier Ford’s argument that reducing greenhouse gases through carbon tax and rebate (Carbon T and R) is costly. Before getting into that, here’s the United Nations’ concise explanation of the urgency of reducing greenhouse gases:

“Why is it necessary and even vital to maintain the global temperature increase below 1.5°C versus higher levels? Adaptation will be less difficult. Our world will suffer fewer negative impacts of intensity and frequency of extreme events, on resources, ecosystems, biodiversity, food security, cities, tourism and carbon removal.” 

When the planet heats up, weather patterns change, which has already resulted in record amounts of flooding, fires, drought and other impacts costing billions. You see it on the news every day and It’s not a blip. Climatologists predicted this, decades ago. It will get much worse if we don’t reduce emissions by 45 percent by 2030. It costs individuals in work lost, disruptions, clean-ups, repairs, rebuilding, and in insurance premiums if they can even get insurance, not to mention the taxes that go into government relief in disaster zones.

Weigh that against the Carbon T and R. Mr. Finlay in his letter said the rebate won’t cover all the costs. All the costs for whom? The rebate is a flat amount per taxpayer, based on 90 percent of total expected revenue, with an extra $17 for rural areas (an extra 10 percent). So let’s look at the “winners and losers.” If everyone used the same amount of fossil fuels (heating oil, gasoline, etc.) everyone in rural areas like Manitoulin would get back the full amount. Of course, some Ontarians use more fossil fuels than the average, so who are those people? My bet is that they are mostly suburban dwellers with huge homes and maybe a summer home, who commute 100 kilometres every day to and from work, and who fly on vacations. They will pay more, and frankly, they can afford it. Hopefully you claimed your rebate when you filed your income tax this year! If you live on Manitoulin and are an average consumer of fossil fuels, your rebate will cover your cost.

But that’s not the point of the Carbon T and R program. The point is to save the planet from disastrous global warming by providing an incentive to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. 

Of course, Premier Ford has launched a pro-pollution propaganda campaign, for example, forcing gas stations to post misleading stickers. And he’s launched a battle in court to make greenhouse gas pollution free again in Ontario. In Saskatchewan, a court already decided that the federal government has the right to tax greenhouse gases, but maybe Ford doesn’t care. Maybe he’s just pursuing the court case for propaganda reasons. Who knows? 

Mr. Finlay accused me of simplifying things too much in a previous letter. As he said, there are different tax rates for different fuels. Yes, because some fuels produce more greenhouse gases per litre than others. So here’s the “More than you ever wanted to know” part. One litre of gasoline produces 2.3 kilograms of carbon dioxide, while a litre of diesel or home heating fuel oil produces 2.7 kilograms.  It’s actually worse—these numbers do not include nitrous oxides or greenhouse gases produced in getting the fuel to your home or vehicle, which varies. 

For example, the greenhouse gas emissions from a litre of gasoline refined in Sarnia or Nanticoke is really about 2.9 kg if you include all that. Knowing that, it’s easy to figure out the greenhouse gases from the gasoline that’s likely in your tank. A full tank of say, 50 litres will create 145 kilograms of greenhouse gases.  How far you can go on that depends on your vehicle. My hybrid can travel 1,100 kilometres on 50 litres, but it’s still producing 145 kg because that’s what 50 litres produces when burned.

When we use fossil fuels, we produce the greenhouse gas pollutants. Teenage activist Greta Thunberg said, “We cannot solve a crisis by not treating it as a crisis.” We know there is a crisis, but we’re not treating it as a crisis because Conservatives like Ford, Kenny and Sheer, backed by Big Oil, are telling the fire department to go away while the house burns.

Some people would rather listen to the deniers than to climatologists. Others respond by saying it’s too confusing. Still others respond non-confrontationally, just taking personal responsibility, like driving and flying less or buying more efficient vehicles. I choose to speak up, because the house is on fire.

Jan McQuay