The War on Carbon Emissions
War on Carbon Emissions
We have scientific evidence which shows that if we allow a 2° C average rise in global temperature we will likely face catastrophic climate change. The Paris Agreement calls for a 1.5° C limit to warming. Our governments are planning for a 3° C rise in temperature. This is untenable.
If we have any hope of leaving a habitable planet for our great grandchildren we have to move fast. We need to drastically cut our CO2 emissions immediately; we need a war effort: The War on Carbon Emissions.
When you find that you have dug yourself into a hole the first rule of thumb is to stop digging!
The ultimate goal of the war is to cut our emissions by 80%. The building sector is the most logical place to start the war. Natural Resources Canada, along with Canada Mortgage and Housing, have known for 40 years how to build buildings that use no fossil fuel to heat or cool them. All of the research has been done. First, the Saskatchewan Conservation House project was built in Regina in 1977. Based on that project, Germany created the Passivhaus (Passive Buildings in English) program in the 1990s. Then Germany created the Passive House Planning Package (PHPP) - one of the most powerful design tools available for designing low energy buildings. So we have established the why and the how, there is no need for more studies or pilot projects; we just need to do it.
The government, in its first battle with CO2 emissions, will give clear instruction to the building industry that all new buildings must be built to have no operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. A tight timeline will be adhered to. This will be the largest mobilization of workers in Canada’s history. All hands will be on deck for this effort.
To achieve this goal, the government will implement a mandatory emergency training program for all architects, builders, engineers, city planners, trades people, etc. Passive House is the most rigorous and widely applied global building standard that has been developed. It ensures highly energy efficient, durable, and cost-effective building envelopes and ventilation systems. Therefore, the government will enlist Passive House Canada to implement a train-the-trainer program across Canada. The government, as in previous war efforts, will provide training facilities, staff, and supplies. This is a war that must be won no matter the cost. Just like the “World War II”, “War on Terror” and the “War on Drugs” there will be no shortage of money. The Bank of Canada will provide the money required at low interest, and Carbon Bonds will be sold to engage the population in the fight.
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council will be instructed to further develop the technology needed for these zero emissions buildings. All insulation materials will be tested to -30° C under real world conditions to ensure their suitability for our climate. Insulation material will be required to meet a renewable standard.
The first battle with carbon emissions will be the easiest. The next and more challenging target will be existing buildings. A full program will be developed for all existing building archetypes. Buildings will be assessed as to their suitability for deep energy retrofits. All existing archetypes that meet the criteria will have best practice lists developed, and all renovations will be done to this standard, which will be compliant with the new zero-emissions code. Engineers will be hired to do this work. They will be supplied with all the tools and facilities that they need to complete this task, also with a very tight timeline. Every Government building including all municipal buildings will be retrofitted to the zero-emissions code.
Incentive programs will be developed and fully funded to move this effort into the private sector. The Bank of Canada again will provide financing and more Carbon Bonds will be issued.
Carbon Capture and Storage in Buildings.
The new method of construction has another advantage in reducing GHG emissions. The use of wood framing (as opposed to concrete or steel) and large quantities of cellulose insulation actually stores carbon in the structure. The Passive House/zero-emissions path would necessitate using large quantities of cellulose. On average 6000kg to 9000kg of cellulose per 2000sqft. of building will be installed to meet the insulation requirements.
The cellulose molecule, C6H10O5 is about 40% carbon and burning it as wood or decomposing it as paper in a landfill releases many greenhouse gases: CO2, CH4, CO, and the nasty NO2. For example, every 1000g of wood burned releases 1900g of CO2 back to the atmosphere. Better to sequester the carbon for as long as possible, in a Passive House building, rather than light it on fire.
The positive repercussions of this comprehensive program will be felt in every part of Canada. Full employment will be the norm. Every building will provide healthy indoor environments for Canadians, reducing our health care costs. Pollutants from producing heating and cooling energy will be removed from outdoor spaces. The inherent economic efficiency will give us an advantage over countries that do not drastically reduce their emissions. Our economy will shift from non-renewable resource extraction (tar sands, natural gas, mineral extraction, and unsustainable forestry) to renewable resources, ecological forestry, renewable energy, and sustainable agriculture – all in the war effort against carbon emissions.
Added: Wed May 9th 2018