Having just returned from 3 months in Mexico, I am convinced we have to totally rethink our lifestyle in Canada. In Mexico our default mode of transport was our feet. We walked everywhere and when we couldn’t, (too far, with friends, grocery runs, etc.) we took a bus, Uber or cab. Yes, I can hear the yeah, buts….it’s different here.
When we got back to Winnipeg, we saw the 8 lanes of bumper to bumper traffic on Portage Ave going zoom, zoom, zoom and it suddenly dawned on me. We have to rethink and change our lifestyle, no matter how uncomfortable this will be. In Canada our default mode of transport is of course the private car powered by hydrocarbon based fuels. For those of you who already ‘get it’, ie what follows from this, congratulations! For you others, please read on.
As I learned from Mark Carney in his recent book Values, in order to limit global temperature rise to 2 Deg C from pre-industrial levels the world has a global carbon emissions budget. That is in terms of the amount of GHGs (greenhouse gases like CO2) released. These gases absorb or reflect heat back to earth causing increasing global temperatures which are leading to rising sea levels and more frequent raging wild fires, extreme heat events, droughts, floods, tornados, etc..
In fact each country has its own “carbon emissions budget“ and Canada is using its up already whether we are cognizant of this or not. We have to start designing communities so that the default mode of transportation can be walking and public transit again. A private car would only be used when other options are not viable. e,g, a road trip, commute to work. Apart from the GHG saving effects, we have found we are happier and healthier whenever we walk somewhere or take public transit- it simplifies things.
What about airline travel and discretionary cruises etc.? Economics can handle this in my view by increasing the cost of carbon emissions significantly thus deterring more and more of us from these types of activities. Heating your house you say. Zero emission electricity is the long term answer. Intercity travel? Busses, trains and zero emission cars.
Progress is being made. The cost of batteries, solar cells and wind turbines has fallen dramatically. Carbon capture technologies are proving more feasible. Companies and governments are starting to publicly explain how and when they will attain net zero operations. Incentives to purchase zero emission vehicles are here. So before you hop in the car without thinking, how about considering other options … such as walking more often.