Let’s talk about climate change

It is Let’s Talk Energy Week. So let’s talk about the energy issue that is on everyone’s mind. Climate change.

A couple of weeks ago, Dr. Brenda Kenny, CEPA’s former president and CEO, spoke at the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy. We wrote a whole post about her lecture on the energy trilemma (can you have security, sustainability and prosperity), but in this post we want to zero-in on some important things she said about climate change.

What does CEPA think about climate change?

At CEPA, we base our decisions on science and facts, and the science is showing us this is a real issue. In her lecture, Dr. Kenny explained that the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made it “pretty obvious” that humans are influencing climate change.

We think the world needs innovation to solve this global problem and developing renewable energy sources is an important part of that (in fact, some of the larger pipeline companies we represent are big investors in non-emitting power). But, we also believe that if we want to come up with effective long-term solutions, we need to be realistic about . . . well . . . reality.

Here’s the reality:

1.  We still need oil and gas

Forecasts show that due to a growing and more prosperous world population, renewable energy is a long way away from catching up with growing global energy demand.

“Even as renewable forecasts point to a good improvement in non-emitting energy, the world-growth forecasts, particularly in Asia, are overtaking those renewable additions,” explained Dr. Kenny. “It is predicted that the growth of energy needs on a global level will call on at least as much fossil fuel use 30 years from now as today and possibly even more.”

2. On a global scale, Canada’s impact is very small

According to Environment Canada’s National Inventory Report, as of 2007, Canada’s energy-related emissions made up about two per cent of the global output. Dr. Kenny explained that within Canada, oil sands make up only five per cent of our emissions.

“On a global level, that’s 0.15 per cent, total,” Dr. Kenny stated. “And yet, you would think from some of the rhetoric, that oil sands production is some how going to be the death of the planet.”

So what is the solution?

During the Q & A period of the lecture, Dr. Kenny stressed that a solution to the global climate change problem is not shutting down the Canadian energy industry.

“(Shutting down the industry) will make zero difference materially in terms of global emissions; it will make zero difference globally in terms of energy use, because there is still vast reserves elsewhere; and it will take away from the innovation that is available in Canada that could actually have a ripple effect around the world in terms of conservation and smart production,” she said.

Dr. Kenny stated that Canadians need to be pragmatic and work together. She used Alberta’s Climate Change and Emissions Management Corporation as an example. The corporation (full disclosure, Kenny is a board member) uses carbon taxes to fund clean technology projects.

“We may be desperately concerned about climate change, and we should be, but we will not be any more successful in the next 30 years than we have been in last 30 years unless we actually start to think and behave differently around this issue,” said Dr. Kenny.

The Canadian Energy Pipeline Association represents Canada’s transmission pipeline companies who operate approximately 115,000 kilometres of pipelines in Canada. In 2012, these energy highways moved approximately 1.2 billion barrels of liquid petroleum products and 5.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Our members transport 97 per cent of Canada’s daily natural gas and onshore crude oil from producing regions to markets throughout North America.