Goodbye, gas furnaces? Why electrification is the future of home heating

From electric baseboards to heat pumps, here’s a closer look at the options

The burning of fossil fuels to heat our homes is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in this cold country. Green builders say we need to decarbonize heating by going electric if Canada is going to meet its climate targets. (Shane Fowler/CBC)

It’s a stereotype, but it’s true — Canada’s winters are cold. And many of us stay toasty by burning fossil fuels such as natural gas in our furnaces or the boilers that feed our radiators.

In an effort to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions and meet targets to reduce global warming, the U.K. has proposed banning fossil fuel-based heating in new homes by 2025. Cities in the states of CaliforniaWashington and Massachusetts are also trying to phase out natural gas.

If your home is hooked up to a district heating system, where a utility supplies heat directly, you may be able to tap into a variety of greener energy sources.

But if your home relies on its own individual heating system, as most do, what are the alternatives to fossil fuels and will they work in the colder parts of this country?

Here’s a closer look.

How much does heating buildings contribute to CO2 emissions?

About 45 per cent of Canada’s emissions come from burning fossil fuels to make energy, including heat and electricity — quite a bit more than transportation (28 per cent), the Prairie Climate Centre reports. Of that, about half is from houses, shops, schools and other private and public buildings. The other half is from industry.

Nearly 70 per cent of the energy used in the residential sector comes from fossil fuels, a 2014 study estimated. Forced air furnaces and hot water or steam boilers with radiators, which most often burn fossil fuels such as natural gas, make up a majority of the primary heating systems in Canada, Statistics Canada reports.

How important is it to decarbonize heating?

“Very important,” said Fin MacDonald, program manager of the Zero Carbon Building program at the Canada Green Building Council, a non-profit that advocates for and certifies green buildings. In provinces such as B.C., Ontario and Quebec whose power grids don’t produce a lot of emissions, fossil fuel combustion from buildings represents the biggest source of carbon dioxide, he said.

That’s certainly the case in Vancouver, where more than half the greenhouse gas emissions come from buildings, said Brady Faught, green buildings engineer with the city.

While people may be concerned about a car idling for 10 minutes, Faught says “your house is basically idling all day.”

And it’s not just the gas it’s burning that’s the problem. Natural gas or methane — a greenhouse gas that traps heat far more effectively than carbon dioxide, causing much more global warming per molecule — also leaks from the entire distribution system used to deliver gas to people’s homes and furnaces, Faught said.

Using natural gas for heating generates emissions not just from burning it, but also from leaks through the system. (Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

How can emissions from home heating be reduced or eliminated?

Buildings heated with fossil fuels can cut some of their emissions by reducing the need for heating through things like better insulation and reusing “waste” heat.

But in order to make a big difference, the green building industry is looking to electrify heating.

“The only fuel that we can truly make 100 per cent carbon neutral is electricity,” MacDonald said.

That’s why the City of Vancouver is trying to come up with regulations and incentives for homeowners to electrify their home heating.

“The ultimate goal is zero emissions,” said Faught, whose job is to develop policies to encourage green retrofits for single-family homes in Vancouver.

In provinces with an electrical grid based mostly on hydro, nuclear or other non-fossil fuel energy sources, such as Ontario, Quebec and B.C., replacing a gas-burning furnace with an electrical heating system can nearly eliminate a home’s emissions.

In some provinces, such as Alberta and Saskatchewan, power is largely generated by burning fossil fuels. For now, homeowners who want to cut heating emissions need to go beyond electrification and also install green power generation, such as solar panels.

What are some of the options for heating your home electrically?

  • Baseboard heaters are the most common option in use across Canada. They’re powered by electrical resistance heating, just like your toaster and oven. Electric forced air furnaces, electric convection heaters and electric radiant floors also use electrical resistance heating.
  • Heat pumps are far more efficient, because they simply move heat into your home, rather than generating heat. There are two kinds:
    • Air source heat pumps, which draw heat from the air. (Yes, it can work even when it is very cold outside, just as your freezer can use its heat pump to cool itself to -18 C in a 20 C kitchen.)
    • Ground source heat pumps, which draw heat from the ground and are sometimes referred to as geoexchange or geothermal heat pumps. However, MacDonald says the industry is trying to move away from calling it geothermal, as it gets confused with geothermal power generation.

What are the pros and cons of baseboard heaters and other electrical resistance heaters?

Baseboard heaters are popular because they’re very cheap and easy to install.

However, those and other kinds of electrical resistance heaters are very inefficient.

“They’re like just having a toaster running in your house all day … resulting in high electric bills,” said Faught.

For those reasons, baseboard heaters are often popular in rental units where landlords install them and tenants pay the cost of electricity.

This home in Edmonton is ‘net zero energy,’ meaning it produces as much energy as it consumes using solar panels on its roof. It also doesn’t generate emissions from heating, as it relies on an air source heat pump for heat and hot water. (Cooper & O’Hara/Builtgreen Canada)

That said, it’s possible to bring the cost down in a small home by making the building more airtight and better insulated.

David Turnbull, a former homebuilder and current manager of Enerspec Energy Consulting, said his company built a townhome complex in Edmonton where units were relatively small and so well-insulated that “you could almost heat the house with two hair dryers.” In that case, baseboard heating made financial sense.

When does installing a heat pump make sense?

Heat pumps are way more efficient than electrical resistance heating. Both MacDonald and Faught say it’s possible to get 300 per cent efficiency from a heat pump — that is, you can get three kilowatts of heat for every kilowatt of electricity you put in. They’re especially efficient in spring and fall.

However, MacDonald says heat pumps tend to produce a lower temperature heat than burning fossil fuels, and therefore don’t heat a building as quickly.

That means a building needs to be airtight and well insulated to keep the heat from escaping and reduce the “heating load” before you should consider this as an option — and even more so the further north you go.

This is the basement of a demonstration net zero home in Ottawa. Instead of a furnace, it has a cold climate heat pump and a drain water heat recovery system. (Gordon King Photography)

Faught says air source heat pumps can heat an airtight, well-insulated home to a comfortable temperature until it gets to about -10 C outside. In places with colder winters than that, supplementing with baseboard heaters may be necessary with conventional air source heat pumps. However, some manufacturers have brought cold climate heat pumps on the market that they say can deal with outside temperatures down to -25 C or -30 C.

One big advantage of heat pumps is that they don’t just heat homes, they can also cool them.

In fact, air conditioners are technically heat pumps. The difference with the heat pumps capable of heating homes is they can run in reverse.

What’s the difference between air source and ground source heat pumps?

Air source heat pumps are cheaper and easier to install, but less efficient and more expensive to run. That’s because the ground temperature tends to remain stable all year round — containing more heat in the winter and more “coolness” in the summer than the air.

However, ground source heat pumps tend to be a lot more expensive — and require more space — to install because it’s necessary to dig deep to access stable underground temperatures.

Ania Kania-Richmond stands with her husband and children in front of their certified ‘passive house’ in the EchoHaven development in northwest Calgary. The house has no furnace. It is heated with passive solar energy, supplemented by electric radiators when needed. (Dave Will/CBC)

That can be particularly costly in places where the ground is bedrock, said Turnbull. It’s more economical if you’re building on clay or sand, he said, and especially if you’re digging anyway — for a parkade, for example.

What about solar?

Solar power is useful for generating green energy to run devices like heat pumps in provinces with a fossil fuel-based electricity grid.

However, there’s also solar thermal energy, where heat is collected directly rather than by generating electricity.

The Drake Landing Solar Community in Okotoks, Alta., is a district energy project that uses solar thermal heating with underground storage. (Mike Ridewood/Natural Resources Canada)

MacDonald said that tends to be more expensive than other options and requires lots of space for the solar panels. Because most of the heat is collected in summer, it also needs to be stored somewhere.

“If you have a pool, perfect,” he said. If you have a ground source heat pump, in theory you can also store the heat in its underground heat exchange loop.

Turnbull and Faught both think solar technology is not quite ready for heating individual homes in Canada (although solar thermal heating with storage has been successfully tested for district heating in Okotoks, Alta.).

What are governments doing about this?

In Canada, the federal government is holding public consultations on proposed changes to the National Building Code and its National Energy Code for Buildings. Some jurisdictions such as Vancouver are also coming up with their own regulations and incentives to encourage electrification, especially in new homes.

The city’s climate emergency response report  proposes that by 2025, all new and replacement heating and hot water systems should be zero emissions.

“Having a fully electric house without a gas line is the direction we want to go,” Faught said.

Turnbull says governments need to plan to phase out fossil fuels in home heating.

“It’s an inevitability that we are going to get off them.” SOURCE

 

Clearcutting B.C. forests contributing more to climate change than fossil fuels: report

Protective wrap surrounds seedlings newly planted on a clearcut hillside along Highway 14 on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Western Forest Products Jordan River Managed Forest area. The wrap helps to protect and nurture the seedlings.

 Protective wrap surrounds seedlings newly planted on a clearcut hillside along Highway 14 on the west coast of Vancouver Island in the Western Forest Products Jordan River Managed Forest area. The wrap helps to protect and nurture the seedlings. CP PHOTO/Don Denton

While B.C. aims to drastically cut fossil fuel emissions, a new report from an environmental action group says the province should end an even more dangerous contributor to climate change: clearcutting forests.

The report released last week by Sierra Club BC found 3.6 million hectares of forest were clearcut across B.C. between 2005 and 2017 — an area larger than the size of Vancouver Island.

Those areas are considered “sequestration dead zones” for 13 years after they’re clearcut. That means until newly-planted trees grow and mature, the areas release more carbon into the atmosphere from decomposing matter and soil than those young trees can capture and absorb.

 Conservationists attack NDP government over old-growth logging

After reviewing provincial data, the report found logging in B.C. contributes 42 million tonnes of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Add on the 26 million tonnes of carbon per year that cannot be captured because of clearcutting, and those emissions outpace the 65 million tonnes of emissions recorded annually in B.C., mainly from fossil fuels.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

“At a time when we urgently need to be reducing all forms of carbon pollution to defend our communities from the climate crisis, clearcut logging in B.C. is making the problem notably worse,” the study’s author and Sierra Club BC’s senior forest and climate campaigner Jens Wieting said in a statement.

“We can only have a stable climate if we protect intact forests, and we can only sustain intact forests if we stabilize the climate. Both are only possible if we reform forestry and give up clearcutting.”

READ MORE: District of Peachland asking province for pause on watershed clearcutting

According to Sierra Club BC, the province does not include forest carbon emissions in its official greenhouse gas inventories.

That practice should change immediately, the report argues, with the group calling for more government research and monitoring along with an overall end to clearcutting, primarily within old-growth forests.

The report found of the 3.6 million hectares of clearcut forest studied — which amounts to just over nine per cent of B.C.’s total forested land — 1.9 million hectares were old-growth forests.

Those old-growth trees are the best defence against carbon emissions due to their great capacity for capturing the gas. According to the report, B.C.’s old-growth rainforests can store over 1,000 tonnes of carbon per hectare, which is one of the highest rates on the planet.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT
 Plan to allow logging of old growth forests draws criticism

“By clearcutting old-growth and older forests, we’re fuelling more global heating,” Wieting said. “We’re putting at risk the future of communities, the forests that remain standing and current and future forestry jobs.”

In his own statement, Nelson city Coun. Rik Logtenberg said local governments’ efforts to reduce carbon emissions will do little to lessen impacts on the climate unless clearcutting comes to an end.

““Clearcutting the forests that surround our communities can have serious impacts on watersheds, dirtying drinking water and putting us at greater risk from flooding, landslides, droughts and wildfire,” said Logtenberg, who also chairs a group of elected leaders known as the Climate Caucus.

“We need provincial leadership to reduce all emissions, including those from forestry, and we need reformed forestry laws to protect and restore forests as a natural defence against climate change.”

READ MORE: B.C. climate plan targets cleaner industry and transportation to hit emission targets

The province’s CleanBC plan, unveiled just over a year ago, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2030, based on 2007 levels.

Legislation was introduced earlier this year that would set interim emissions targets that will help reach that goal.

While the plan includes initiatives to reduce pollution from industry — primarily oil and gas — and pushes towards energy-conserving buildings and electric vehicles, it does not mention the forestry industry or logging practices.

STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

In a statement, the Ministry of Environment said it does record emissions from forestry operations, but does not apply them to the province’s emissions totals “as is standard carbon accounting practice around the world.”

.

 Disturbing finding about destruction of old-growth rainforest in B.C.

 

The Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development added it introduced the forest carbon initiative in 2017, which includes planting more trees and hauling away residual waste from forest floors.

The initiative, which is jointly funded by the province and the federal government to the tune of $290 million, has led to the replanting of roughly 12 million trees on the coast and in the Cariboo, with an anticipated 70 million more anticipated by 2022.

The ministry also anticipates 55,000 hectares of fertilization along the coast between 2019 and 2022, after seeing 14,000 hectares fertilized over the past 18 months.

READ MORE: B.C. bans logging in sensitive border area after urging from Seattle mayor

In a statement, BC Council of Forest Industries president and CEO Susan Yurkovich didn’t dispute the Sierra Club’s science, but pointed to its track record in “sustainable forest management.”

“Each year, we harvest less than one per cent of the working forest land base and three trees are planted for every one harvested,” she said. “We have more forested areas certified to internationally recognized sustainability standards than any other jurisdiction in the world.”

STORY CONTINUES BELOW ADVERTISEMENT

Yurkovich went on to say buildings and products created with forested materials also store carbon dioxide, helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  SOURCE

The power of earthworm poop and how it could influence climate change

‘They could have as much of an impact as, let’s say, wildfire,’ according to expert

These worms (Lumbricus terrestris) were added to an agricultural experiment in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que., to evaluate their soil-forming capacity in a cold, humid region. Its poop traps carbon in soil. (Submitted by Joann Whalen)

There is a confounding mystery wrapped up in the tiny turds of two different types of earthworms, and the secrets locked inside are influencing climate change around the world.

Scientists say some earthworm species are potentially speeding up climate change by feeding on leaves, then pooping out a mix that’s fodder to tiny microbes and fungi that spew carbon into the atmosphere. By contrast, other worms are helping lock carbon in soil.

Canada is ground zero for this paradox. Earthworm populations are growing as warmer temperatures allow the invertebrates to move farther north than ever before.

And no one knows exactly how much carbon they are helping release into the atmosphere.

“Some of the early work has shown that they could have as much of an impact as, let’s say, wildfire,” said Sylvie Quideau, a professor of soil biogeochemistry at the University of Alberta.

It’s possible, she said, worms in Canada could release millions of tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere in a year, but that estimate is still subject to a lot of uncertainties, including the rate of earthworm invasion across the country.

Sylvie Quideau, a professor of soil biogeochemistry at the University of Alberta, says early work on earthworms show ‘they could have as much of an impact as, let’s say, wildfire.’ (Submitted by Sylvie Quideau)

The most common earthworms that live in leaf litter, on forest floors or in the top layers of soil are called Dendrobaena octaedra. They eat plant debris, and their poop, also known as casts, is more easily broken down by microbes and fungi that then release carbon dioxide.

“Microbes find earthworm poop very attractive,” said Quideau.

The more earthworms there are, the more plant debris is broken down at a faster rate and the more carbon gets released into the atmosphere.

This kind of carbon being released from Canada’s boreal forests is new, according to Quideau, since earthworms are not native to the country. They were wiped out during the last ice age.

The earthworms here now, save for some found in British Columbia, are invasive species transported into forests when Europeans arrived or brought them in from the United States as fishing bait.

“Earthworms can both be allies and enemies,” said Joann Whalen, a professor in the department of natural resource sciences at Montreal’s McGill University who has studied earthworms for 20 years.

In agriculture, earthworms are beneficial, said Whalen: They help make soil more fertile, and allow water and roots to more easily enter the ground.

In spring, it is common to see spherical lumps of earth on the soil surface. These earthworm casts are a mixture of soil and organic residues that all earthworm species poop out or egest onto the soil surface. The white object is a toonie, to give an idea of the cast size. (Submitted by Joann Whalen)

In the boreal forest, worms can do more harm than good.

Some eat the leaf litter covering the forest floor, and many plant seeds need that thick covering to grow in. Without it, the seeds can’t take root, said Whalen, which means earthworms can reduce plant diversity in the forest.

But earthworms aren’t all bad. There are some burrowing species that actually trap carbon in the soil, because their poop binds it more tightly and makes it harder for microbes to break down.

Often sold as fishing bait, Lumbricus terrestris is a common deep-burrowing earthworm found in Canada. It can be identified by the small mounds of earth it leaves on lawns or in forests.

How much carbon is being trapped by these worms and whether it’s enough to offset the carbon other worms are helping release isn’t clear. Finding the answer to that question is part of Quideau’s research.

“What keeps me up at night is wondering if I can quantify their effect on climate change,” she said.

‘Earthworms can both be allies and enemies,’ says Joann Whalen, a professor in the department of natural resource sciences at Montreal’s McGill University. (Submitted by Joann Whalen)

Whalen isn’t losing any sleep over worms. She said the carbon dioxide coming from decomposing plant material is a natural process, and worms help it.

“I’d be more concerned about what people are doing in terms of utilizing fossil carbon that had been buried for millennia and is now being released into the atmosphere.”

Still, in Canada, the earthworm invasion continues.

Erin Cameron, an assistant professor in the department of environmental science at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, has been monitoring the invasion’s progress since 2006.

In northern Alberta, she’s been studying how fast earthworms are spreading, and has discovered they are moving north at a rate of 17 metres a year. The earthworm population appears to have grown as well.

Dendrobaena octaedra is one of the most common earthworms that live in the leaf litter on the forest floor or in the top layers of soil. (Submitted by Erin Cameron)

The most abundant kind of earthworm she finds live in leaf litter or in the top layers of soil, the ones that help release carbon into the air.

“Earthworms may benefit from warmer temperatures in Canada’s North, for example, because that may currently be restricting the distributions of some species,” said Cameron.

So as climate change continues to warm the country, earthworms could continue to become more abundant and possibly drive more climate change.

Erin Cameron, an assistant professor in the department of environmental science at Saint Mary’s University, has been monitoring the earthworm invasion’s progress since 2006. (Submitted by Erin Cameron)

Quideau doesn’t think there’s anything that can be done to stop the worm march through Canada.

“What’s important is that we can understand, quantify their effect better so that we can project better in the future what their influence will be. There might be ways then to manage a forest.”

She and other researchers hope to do just that in the next few years. They want to crack the secret of earthworm poop, and determine how much carbon earthworms release and store in the earth. SOURCE

Landmark study shows how to change the building sector from a major carbon emitter to a major carbon sink

Carbon capture
© Builders for Climate Action

When made from the right materials, buildings can be a solution, not a problem.

We recently called Chris Magwood a TreeHugger hero for his work on the embodied carbon of building materials. He has been a voice in the wilderness about the subject for a while, and just completed his university thesis on the subject. Now he has put his thesis into an accessible graphic form, which is available through a new organization, Builders for Climate Action.

Chris Magwood at the Green Building ShowChris Magwood at the Green Building Show/ Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

The study complains that “the response to building-related emissions has been to focus solely on energy efficiency, but this may result in initiatives and policies that will raise emissions rather than lower them.” We have covered Magwood’s work on this before, but it has never been more clear: Building a highly energy-efficient structure can actually produce more greenhouse gases than a basic code-compliant one if carbon-intensive materials are used.When in fact, if designed out of the right materials, “we can feasibly and affordably capture and store vast amounts of carbon in buildings, transforming the sector from a major emitter to a major carbon sink.”

The first, very important lesson is that we have to stop equating energy with carbon. So where now we have people talking about net-zero energy buildings or net-zero carbon, they are very different things. You can build a net-zero energy building that still puts out a lot of carbon, either upfront or through operating energy if it uses natural gas for heating.

time and carbon© Builders for Climate Action

 

So we used to talk about embodied energy, but now we call it embodied carbon. And like me, Chris doesn’t like that term; I use Upfront Carbon emissions (UCE), while he uses up-front embodied emissions (UEC). And where people never paid much attention to this, it’s now a very big deal. If we are going to keep the temperature rise below 1.5°C, we have to stop building out of materials with high UEC right now. I am not crazy about this graph he used where the upfront emissions in gold are shown as not increasing (they do, because we build more buildings each year) but the point made is still true- between now and 2030, the vast majority of CO2 emissions from new buildings is from upfront carbon, not operating emissions.

low rise buildings different materials© Builders for Climate Action

That means building out of low-carbon materials at higher densities; Magwood’s sweet spot is a four storey multifamily building, which could be built out of materials that store carbon rather than emit it- straw, wood, linoleum, cedar.

what a difference it would make© Builders for Climate Action

If you look at the volume of residential construction from 2017 and compare your standard residential construction to carbon storing building, there is an incredible difference.

There are many findings in this report that are counter-intuitive and that will be controversial.

  • Reducing upfront carbon emissions is more important than increasing building efficiency.”Up-front embodied emissions for buildings materials must be measured and policies enforcing caps developed for fast reductions.”
  • Switching to clean or renewable energy is more important that increasing building efficiency. “Clean energy is critical for the building sector to meaningfully reduce its carbon footprint and policy efforts must be focused on this goal”
  • Net-zero energy codes will not significantly reduce emissions in time. “Policy makers and regulators must aim for true net zero carbon buildings, not net zero energy buildings.”

Others are incredibly positive and give hope that we can actually use buildings for carbon capture and storage.

  • Available, affordable material options can reduce net up-front carbon to zero, eliminating this large source of emissions. “Building sector leaders should be ambitiously move to make buildings with zero up- front emissions.”
  • Material selection is the most impactful intervention at the individual building level, with reductions of up-front emissions of 150%. “Designers and builders can completely transform the carbon footprint of their buildings through carbon-smart material choices”
Carbon use intensity© builders for Climate Action

We also need to stop thinking about energy efficiency on its own; Magwood proposes the term Carbon Use Intensity (CUI) a mix of Upfront Carbon Emissions plus (Energy use intensity X energy source emissions)= CUI

The results of this study demonstrate that we are capable of making low-rise residential buildings with a net zero embodied carbon footprint, and that we can even surpass this threshold and create buildings that actually have net carbon storage rather than net emissions. Plant-based materials STORE more atmospheric carbon than was emitted in harvesting and manufacturing. This opens a whole new category of building materials with CARBON REMOVAL AND STORAGE POTENTIAL!

Combining upfront and operating emissions© Builders for Climate Action

Magwood and his report make it very clear: buildings don’t have to be part of the problem. They don’t even have to be net-zero. They can actually become part of the solution to the climate emergency. They can be seriously carbon negative. There is no reason that we couldn’t build much of our low-rise housing this way; many others have also noted that the “missing middle” housing is the most economical option for building affordable housing quickly.

Next Steps© Builders for Climate Action

Chris Magwood and the Builders for Climate Action have demonstrated a path that can make low-rise, missing middle buildings into a climate change solution. They have laid out the steps that we need to follow. It’s doable, and we have to start right now. Read the entire report and support Builders for Climate Action.

How this Ontario cemetery is going green

In the green-burial section of Glenwood Cemetery, in Picton, there’s no steel, no concrete, and no formaldehyde — just bodies, sometimes blankets, and earth

A person crouching down in a green space
Helma Oonk, general manager of Glenwood Cemetery, examines a young wildflower in the new green-burial section. (David Rockne Corrigan)

PICTON — Most of Glenwood Cemetery’s 25 hectares are manicured and marked with gravestones, but not those in its southern end. They’ve been left in their natural state: sunlight pokes through towering maples; deer graze on flowers on the forest floor. But sticking out through the underbrush are 35 orange flags, each one marking a future burial lot — and signalling that, at Glenwood, interment is going green.

On this day in early June, Helma Oonk, the cemetery’s general manager, and Sandra Latchford, its board chair, are surveying the section and explaining why it represents the next chapter in the cemetery’s 136-year history.

“Number one and two are gone,” says Oonk. “And, last week, I sold grave number seven. And number 17, in the corner, is on hold for someone from Kingston.”

In May, Glenwood became the second Ontario cemetery to receive certification from the Green Burial Society of Canada, a national non-profit organization that sets standards for green burials, and announced that it would be adding more environmentally friendly burial options.

“People realize, ‘Oh, I don’t need a vault’ or ‘Oh, I don’t need embalming,’ and it’s actually not allowed [in this section]. No concrete, no steel casket. If you just want to be rolled in your blanket, that’s fine, too,” says Oonk. MORE

The most effective way to tackle climate change? Plant 1 trillion trees

After protests, Ontario’s Ford government withdraw its cancellation of Ontario’s tree planting program for one year. However, Ford’s cut-first-think-last basic policy  remains in place.

Carpeted in trees, the 2.82 million hectare Chiribiquete National Park in Colombia sucks CO2 from the atmosphere.
Carpeted in trees, the 2.82 million hectare Chiribiquete National Park in Colombia sucks CO2 from the atmosphere.

London (CNN)What’s low-tech, sustainable and possibly the most effective thing we can do to fight climate change? Planting trees. A trillion of them.

Tom Crowther is a climate change ecologist at Swiss university ETH Zurich. Four years ago he found there are about 3 trillion trees already on earth — much higher than NASA’s previous estimate of 400 billion. Now, his team of researchers has calculated there is enough room on the planet for an additional 1.2 trillion — and that planting them would have huge benefits in terms of absorbing atmospheric carbon dioxide, the main driver of climate change.
“The amount of carbon that we can restore if we plant 1.2 trillion trees, or at least allow those trees to grow, would be way higher than the next best climate change solution,” Crowther told CNN.

Global tree density, calculated by Crowther's team. Existing forests are shown in green, potential forests are yellow.

Global tree density, calculated by Crowther’s team. Existing forests are shown in green, potential forests are yellow.
Because his research is currently under review for publication in the journal Science, he says he can’t share exact figures of how much extra CO2 could be stored by those trees. But he points to numbers from Project Drawdown — a non-profit that ranks climate solutions by the amount of CO2 they could remove from the atmosphere. Its number one ranked solution — managing the release of HFC greenhouse gases from fridges and air conditioners — could reduce atmospheric CO2 by 90 billion tons. Crowther says planting 1.2 trillion trees would give a reduction “way above” that figure.
To put that in context, global CO2 emissions are around 37 billion tons per year.  MORE
RELATED:

Fighting climate change by tackling food waste

One-third of all food worldwide ends up in the garbage, with industrialized countries contributing the most. A new foodsharing platform wants to help tackle the impact this has on our climate.

Man working at Leipzig bakery (DW/K. Palme)

It’s raining cats and dogs as Jonas Korn rescues baked goods from being thrown away. It is midday on a Saturday and the Falland bakery in the south of Leipzig is getting ready to close. Five baking trays with cakes, donuts and fruit pastries are lined up on a long counter in the entrance area. Behind it, ten boxes are stacked with rolls, croissants and loves of bread.

“If you were to put all this in a trash can, it would be full. It would fill a 120 liter dumpster,” muses the 26-year-old student.

Read more:  Waste food and emissions: Landfill or the plate?

In order to make sure the leftover products are distributed instead of discarded, Jonas has brought reinforcements: three fellow campaigners from the organization Foodsharing. The online platform links more than 50,000 “food savers” with businesses that want to give away food for free instead of throwing it away.

“According to 2011 estimates, one-third of all food produced globally ends up in the garbage,” says Rosa Rolle, head of the Food Loss and Food Waste Project at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

In total, that is 1.3 billion tons of food per year that goes uneaten. The FAO estimates that collectively this food waste has a CO2 footprint of 3.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide. These figures don’t include the CO2 emissions produced when forests are cleared for animal farming or to create soybean or palm oil plantations. In other words, if food production were a country, it would be the third largest CO2 emitter in the world after the US and China.

Infografik Lebensmittelverschwendung durch Konsumenten EN

MORE

CO2 levels at highest for 3 million years — when seas were 20 meters higher

The last time CO2 levels were as high as today, 3 million years ago, Greenland (pictured) was mostly green and sea levels were 20 meters higher. Photo taken on March 30, 2017.The last time CO2 levels were as high as today, 3 million years ago, Greenland (pictured) was mostly green and sea levels were 20 meters higher. Photo taken on March 30, 2017.

(CNN)The last time carbon dioxide levels were this high, Greenland was mostly green, sea levels were up to 20 meters higher and trees grew on Antarctica, according to scientists who warned this week that there is more CO2 in our atmosphere today than in the past three million years.

Using a new computer simulation, researchers at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), in Germany, found that the last time the earth’s atmosphere had a CO2 concentration as high as today’s was during the Pliocene epoch, the geological period 2.6-5.3 million years ago.
CO2 emissions from human activities are the leading cause of climate change. MORE

How to Keep your #ClimateHope Tanks Full

How To Keep Your #ClimateHope Tanks Full, Below2C

The tide of public opinion about the urgency of climate action is turning. And once it crosses that tipping point, it isn’t going back. We are close to that historic moment.

The promise of youth striking from school around the globe under the banner of #FridaysForFuture, combined with the groundswell of ordinary citizens flocking to the Extinction Rebellion movement, is causing consternation to world leaders who are failing to deal adequately with the world climate emergency before us.

My recent piece on #climatehope for 2019 is followed by this blog post resourced from the Climate Reality Project.  MORE

Related:

What gives me Climate Hope for 2019