Focus on pollution, not climate

To the Editor,

Re: “Dysart approves climate change plan,” Haliburton Echo, Sept. 1, 2020

Dysart council has approved a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) which it directly controls by 30 per cent, by 2030. This plan therefore must assume that Dysart has an emissions level problem, or why else would it have been approved by council with no apparent discussion of the financial costs and measurable (?) benefits it will yield (at least none that were mentioned in the Echo article).
From reading the article, the undisclosed costs of implementing this plan which come to mind include:
Incremental cost of constructing new “green” buildings, however defined (solar panels?), compared with energy efficient conventional buildings.
Retro-fitting existing municipal buildings (what does this entail?).
Installing vehicle charging stations in municipal parking lots (will a fee be charged for their usage to recoup some of those costs?). Where will “green” municipal vehicles be re-fuelled, and what will those stations cost taxpayers?
Incremental capital cost of replacing all municipal vehicles with “green” vehicles over 10 years.
Cost/time impact this may have on the productivity of municipal employees who use municipal vehicles, if any.
Installing weigh scales at landfill sites and capturing and analyzing that data.
Implementing and enforcing a (presumably mandatory) organic waste program where none exists today.
Perhaps the highest costs will be related to vehicles and buildings, but as they only produce 14 per cent of Dysart’s emissions, does that make sense?
But let’s take a step back for a minute and think this all through.
The earth’s atmosphere is made up of nitrogen (78 per cent), oxygen (21 per cent), argon (0.93 per cent) and carbon dioxide (0.04 per cent). Human activity accounts for 3.6 per cent of CO2 emissions, with the remaining 96.4 per cent coming from vegetation, land and oceans, all of which absorb more CO2 than they emit.
The same can be said for Canada, with 347 million hectares of forested land (318 billion trees) and only 1.7 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions. An average 10-year-old tree will absorb 22 kg of CO2 per year, releasing enough oxygen back into the atmosphere to support two humans.
Here in Haliburton, where all you can see are forests and lakes, I’m sure the CO2 absorption-to-emission ratio is far higher than in Canada as a whole.
And we can’t change the earth’s climate. It has been changing for hundreds of millions of years and will continue to change. We learned this in science class, or at least I certainly did – many years ago.
Pollution, not “climate,” is a real problem that humans can impact. Air, land and water pollution are a concern to anyone who truly values life and nature. Resources (i.e. money) to reduce pollution are scarce and so must be focused on those areas most in need, which vary from place to place.
In Haliburton, we have very clean air, thanks to our geography, and clean lakes thanks to their constant renewal from the rivers and streams flowing through them, as well as an excellent program to regularly educate users and inspect waste water systems.
But, as the article/plan correctly identifies, land waste has the potential to become a significant pollution issue in Haliburton, especially as more and more people make this their permanent home.
This is where, in my opinion, this plan should be focused: Reducing/eliminating landfill waste (aka land pollution). Easier said than done when you don’t have “curbside pick-up” and can’t effectively limit bags (people will unfortunately just drop them at the gate after hours, feeding the bears and creating a mess) or enforce compliance.
Separating organic waste makes sense, as long as it can be disposed of properly. Backyard composting in rural areas, where many residents are seasonal and the woods are full of hungry animals is challenging, to say the least.
The solution is not to transport all this growing mountain of waste to Chatham in diesel guzzling transport trucks, but to efficiently dispose of it locally, perhaps by investing in high efficient incineration – something not mentioned at all in the plan, but a solution successfully embraced by some European nations (i.e. Denmark).
And what about the endless piles of junk people leave spread across their rural properties? Are those old autos and tractors leaking toxic chemicals into the soil?
Finally, I would be interested to know what type of vehicles all council members who approved this plan (presumably without knowing the cost to taxpayers) are driving. Are they all “green”? And are they all composting their organic waste today?

Dave Love
Haliburton Lake

This is a postscript from:
Robert G Miller, Dip Chem Eng., B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., C. Chem, F.SME

First, I totally agree with Dave Love.
For the scientists who really understand the difference between climate variation and the current hysteria surrounding carbon dioxide emissions, the mile high glaciers covering Haliburton did not melt because of any effect from mankind. It was caused by the conditions resulting from the Milankovitch cycles.
Considering the number of vehicles passing through the town of Haliburton, any changes that the township plan makes would not be measurable. If you cannot measure the difference, then the action makes no sense.
Put resources towards something that you can have some positive effect upon such as ensuring our lakes are protected. End camp fires and all wood burning, they cause more pollution than dozens of cars.

Robert G. Miller, Ph.D.
Haliburton Lake