Bold Action on Climate Change – Where are the leaders?

Canada is a geographically large country, divided into geographic segments and politically disparate populations. We need leaders to lead us all to the fossil fuel free future.

Movement on the climate change front will only come if the people clamour for change. Politicians who make decisions on behalf of 37 million people will only act if they feel that political support requires it.

This support has to be communicated to them in every way possible: emails and letters to MPs, lawful demonstrations, dramatic actions in the streets, climate change questions in debates, individuals and groups divesting from fossil fuels, groups acting locally for change at the grassroots level, newspaper and online articles educating the public and demanding change, people and local environment groups working with local councillors for action on climate change at the municipal level and the City demanding change and action from higher levels of government, and clear action on reducing GHG emissions locally, not just plans.

Much of this support exists and in a way that is much more obvious than even a couple years ago. But it isn’t enough. The trajectory of carbon emissions from fossil fuel use is actually increasing globally and, despite Canada’s new net zero emission target by 2050, the federal Pan-Canadian Framework meant to address climate change doesn’t even meet our minimal Paris Agreement targets. The fossil fuel companies and their government partners are trying to tell us that we should support the sale of oil and gas as long as possible, as long as there is a market anywhere in the world for our product, that this makes us economically strong and without it, vague disaster. But we all know that every ton of carbon, wherever it is burned, adds to the burden on the entire planet and changes our climate just as it is changing the climate in the arctic or Bangladesh. All fossil fuel production must be wound down. But there is no plan to cease Canadian fossil fuel project approvals. Extraction of oil and gas continues unabated, in fact, it appears to be increasing faster than ever. This is completely inconsistent with a fossil fuel free planet. Whether this is ideology driven or driven by greed, it doesn’t really matter. The only thing that matters is that the climate is warming, droughts, fires and floods are destroying the livelihoods of millions of people around the world and the species that we humans share the planet with are suffering tremendous pain and loss of life as is becoming unbearable to watch right now in Australia. 

We need our elected officials to lead, to bring us together for a single-minded purpose. Save our planet. Our leaders need to voice why and how Canada will move forward to a fossil fuel free country. How we are going to be a rich and prosperous country in the new fossil fuel free economy? Lay out the plan on how we will get there. Shoot down the arguments against moving off of fossil fuels. Reassure fossil fuel workers that life will in fact be better for everyone in the long run. Lead other countries on how to do this. Demonstrate leadership in difficult times, because don’t let anyone fool you, there are going to be very difficult times ahead and everyone will have to do their part. Our leaders must provide a vision for Canada that inspires a largely apathetic populous. They need to show us they are serious, demonstrate it with decisions that prove they know what is needed. Don’t give us piecemeal solutions. Give us the whole plan. Communicate better and regularly, on CBC, on radio and TV, at local meetings and townhalls, lay it out for us in the newspapers. Where is our environment minister?  

Heat Pumps

Have you considered getting a heat pump to avoid using fossil fuels to heat your house? You may want to wait.

I have just recently had a gas furnace and heat pump installed, thinking that I could reduce my carbon footprint by using the heat pump as much as possible and the furnace only on really cold days. My mistake was …..

But let’s start with how I made my decision. I looked at the different types of heat pumps. First I looked at ground source heating where heat is extracted from the ground which is generally about 4° C year round. Much as I would have liked to go this route, a ground source heat pump was out of the question since I don’t have the yard space or the money to put in a ground source system. This type of system really needs to be put in at the time of building. Water sourced heat pumps also exist but you need a source of water. I had no lake in my backyard so that was out.

That left ducted or ductless air sourced heat pumps. I seriously considered the ductless heat pumps because of their efficiency. There are 2 manufacturers that make heat pumps that they claim work at temperatures to -30° C. What dissuaded me was the thought of water running through my walls and the possibility of leaks. As you may know, a heat pump works by condensing a substance (usually a refrigerant), making it hot and then pumping the substance into the house to the coils of a unit that can attach to part of your room or basement. As the blower in the unit blows air over the coils, the air heats up and is directed to warm your room(s). However, as cold air hits the warm coils, water condenses on the coils and the water has to drain to a location in your house, presumably through a pipe. In hindsight, that might not have been a bad idea. But then there are also refrigerant leaks to consider as the system ages.

Being afraid of leaks (rational or not), I chose a heat pump that would work in tandem with my new gas furnace and any condensate would drain into my already existing sump pump pit. Leaks of refrigerant would be confined to the basement. I needed the furnace because a heat pump becomes less and less efficient as the temperature outside gets colder.

I now have a much more efficient 2-stage gas furnace that works well and is much quieter than the old furnace. Time will tell if I see a decrease in the amount of natural gas I use.

I also have a new 1.5 tonne air source heat pump that the supplier assured me would work down to -15° C. It has a “heating seasonal performance factor” (HSPF) of 9.5. This is the heating efficiency rating. At the time of negotiations, I did ask about the wattage of the heat pump but I never got an answer. That should have been a red flag. My new heat pump keeps the house at my preferred temperature as long as the temperature outside is above about -8° C. At that point, the temperature in the house slowly decreases. The manual tells me that once the temperature gets to about 2° C below the thermostat setting, the furnace will kick in and the heat pump turns off. Ok, I can live with -8° C but it is a bit of a disappointment that I can’t use the heat pump in lower temperatures. Perhaps if my house was not a leaky sieve, the heat pump would perform better.

At the outside temperatures at which I have so far tested the heat pump (4° C to -8° C), the heat pump is on continuously below 0 and is on about half the time when the temperature is between 0 to 4° C. Perhaps at temperatures above 4° C it will be on even less. I hope so, because a test over several hours showed that the electrical usage was about 2kwh per hour. If it were on all day, that would be 48 kWh and for the month, that would cost me about $271 just for the heat pump depending on rates, time of day usage, etc. So, I will wait until the temperature warms up a bit and test it again. Stay tuned!

Moral of this story, unless you are using the heat pump as an air conditioner in the summer or you don’t mind spending a lot of money, or you have a source of really cheap electricity (like solar) or maybe if your house is well insulated and very tight, I would recommend waiting until there is better heating technology before installing an air source heat pump. Perhaps work on making your house more air tight with weather stripping, insulation and high quality windows and doors. If you are still keen on getting an air source heat pump, do your research and don’t be pushed around by any salesmen. Be sure to get a heat pump that has a very high efficiency rating – this means an HSPF rating as close to 14 as you can afford.

Have you experience with a heat pump? Please add your comments to this blog!

Protect Water: Boycott Nestlé

The Council of Canadians is currently running a campaign to protect underground aquifers from excessive exploitation by large multinational companies. They are drawing attention to Nestlé’s for profit water pumping and bottling operations in Southern Ontario and British Columbia. This, despite the outcries from local residents who believe that the water under their ground should first be used for local purposes, not bottled and sent away. Visit their website and show your support by clicking on the link:

TELL ONTARIO NOT TO SELL OFF OUR WATER TO NESTLÉ! – Environmental Defence is also mounting an anti-water bottling campaign. You can take action by filling out and submitting their form here.

The Ontario government has announced a proposal to extend the current moratorium on new and expanded bottled water permits to October 1, 2020, which, as explained by the Canadian Environmental Law Association, was put in place in 2016 and first extended in 2018.

You can make your voice heard by submitting your comments on the moratorium before December 18, 2019 on the Ontario Government website.

Pumpkins for Pigs

This year, OSEAN issued a call for pumpkins. Anyone who preferred to give their pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns to a farm rather than putting them in their compost were encouraged to drop them off at 2 different locations for pick up later by a local pig farmer. Given the huge interest – perhaps the pumpkin parade will be an annual event!

Climate Change – Ottawa’s Official Plan

April 13, 2019 Earth Day Event

OSEAN participated in the Earth Day event at Hunt Club-Riverside Park Community Centre last Saturday. Several well known Ottawans joined us for some fun playing the Minute-To-Win-It Plastic Sorting Game to see how well we could sort a pile of plastic in 1 minute. Most of us did very well but there were a few tricky items that Erin provided some educational guidance on.

John Fraser, our Ottawa South MPP, good heartedly joined in on the fun and maybe learned a thing or two about what can and cannot be recycled. It’s not always straightforward!
Les Schram from the Green Party joined Aija at the OSEAN table inside after learning about cloth diapers, beeswax food wraps and other OSEAN activities.

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