Canadian Consulting Engineer

Kyoto vote heralds changes and business for engineers

After much debate, and both opposition and support from engineers in Canada, the federal government has voted to ra...

December 11, 2002   Canadian Consulting Engineer

After much debate, and both opposition and support from engineers in Canada, the federal government has voted to ratify the Kyoto protocol. Despite a concerted campaign against the protocol by the province of Alberta, which fears for the impact on its oil industry economy, the Canadian government voted to back the accord on December 10, by a vote of 195 to 77. The Liberal, NDP and Bloc Quebecois parties voted in favour.
The ratification of this international treaty to reduce greenhouse gas emisssions will have a major effect on all aspects of construction as measures are taking to reduce the country’s consumption of carbon fuelled power. As part of its strategy the government has indicated it hopes to implement programs to do retrofits on 20% of residential buildings and 20% of commercial and industrial buildings by 2010. It also plans to implement emission reduction targets for industrial processes. Renewable power generating technology like wind and solar power will become another area that will keep consulting engineers busy for years. The 1997 Kyoto agreement committed Canada to reducing our level of greenhouse emissions to 6% below the 1990 levels by 2012.
Opponents of the Kyoto Accord dispute the idea that greenhouse gases from the burning of fossil fuels are causing rising global temperatures. A group of engineers and geologists in Alberta calling themselves the “Friends of Science,” for example, set up a web site arguing against the Kyoto Accord, saying that rising global temperatures are simply part of natural weather cycles that have gone on for millennia.
However, others — including the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, who recently voted at their annual meeting in support of ratifying the Kyoto Accord — believe that we have to act quickly to cut down on our use of fossil fuels. Their voices have prevailed.
Gord Miller, the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario recently released a special report in November. The report examines the validity of key scientific arguments for and against climate change, and focused much of its review on information compiled by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Based on these findings, Commissioner Miller found compelling evidence that the climate has changed over the 20th century, with the 1990s the warmest decade. He noted scientific evidence that oceans have risen much faster in the 20th century than the average rate over the past 3,000 years. There is also evidence of a major retreat of most mountain glaciers.
Miller said scientists have presented convincing evidence that the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – mainly carbon dioxide – is responsible for most of the change observed in the last 35 to 50 years.
Miller defended his stance on the controversial issue: “It’s not appropriate for me to suggest what the policy response to climate change should be in advance of a decision by the provincial government on this issue,” Miller said. “However, I think it is appropriate for me, as Environmental Commissioner, to review the scientific bases for the claims for and against climate change. I’m convinced, after our review, that climate change is occurring, and that it’s due to the increase in greenhouse gases coming from human activities such as burning fossil fuels.”

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