Author Archives: Emily

Keepin’ Carbon Underground

For the last 10,000 years during which human civilization has emerged, the planet has had a relatively stable climate. Carbon embedded in coal, oil and gas has been a major establishing feature of the climate around the world.

Since the Industrial Revolution, humanity has been burning those fuels at ever-increasing rates – rapidly returning that carbon to the atmosphere. As a result, we’re on track to heat up the planet by more than 5°C by 2100. That is far beyond the 2°C threshold of warming that scientists and policy-makers have widely accepted as ‘dangerous‘.

The solution to human-induced climate change is to leave most of the world’s remaining fossil fuels underground. That way, the carbon they contain will be kept in a place where it doesn’t affect the climate. To accomplish that, we are going to need to find alternative sources of energy. Nuclear fission is one of the temporary bridging options. However it has its own issues: it has non-renewable fuel and waste and proliferation problems. Ultimately, though, if humanity wants to power itself in a way that can be perpetuated forever and which does not threaten the climate, we’re going to need to draw the energy we need from renewable sources: hydroelectricity, solar power, wind, tidal, geothermal, and so on.

Given how much it would transform our world – and how many human lives that would harm – we need to keep most of the carbon still locked in fossil fuels underground.

Carbon footprints… of the dead!

Live hugging the tree, die hugging the tree.

So, you’re going to die. Someday. Probably. I mean, unless you are the (Dear) Supreme Leader Kim Jong-Il. In which case you’ll live in youthful glory forever.

And after spending your life avoiding flights, keeping the heat down, turning off the halogen bulbs, cycling to work, after you religiously keep taking that carbon footprint quiz online, there’s another question: you live green, so how do you die green?

Apparently the average cremation produces roughly 160kg of CO2. That’s four times more than your run of the mill burial.

A body might wait for a cremation in a refrigerator for up to 10 days. Again, another energy sink.

Well, apart from the whole cremation business, what about the embossed hardwood buried ten feet under?

According to one Australian government report, none of this is climate kosher.

Coffins made from recycled materials have less embodied energy than those made of hardwood and metal, and abstain from contributing to more deforestation. And being buried in a hand-dug grave, as opposed to a diesel-powered excavator hole will lessen your footprint, as bodies buried very deeply (sometimes more than 10 feet underground) are robbed of oxygen and produce methane as they decompose. And, I wouldn’t bother being buried in a vault either, as manufacturing a single vault can produce more than 130kg of CO2.

A simple hand dug burial has minimal carbon impact. And you can reduce your impact even further by planting a tree on your grave. A single tree has been reported to extract 37 tonnes of CO2 per year (PDF).

Any elaborate plans to be embalmed Pharaoh-style and then entombed in a concrete vault flanked by trumpeting angels may need to be revised.

March 3rd Rally Against RBC Oil Sands Support

Tomorrow, March 3rd, representatives from several First Nations groups are attending the RBC (Royal Bank of Canada) general meeting of shareholders at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

Their intent is to demand that RBC recognize the right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent for Indigenous communities and for the company to suspend its monetary support backing the tar sands expansion.

They intend to voice their concerns about the tar sands’ negative impact on the rights of Indigenous peoples, as well as the destruction of ecosystems and increase of Canada’s carbon emissions.

Speakers will include:

  • Eriel Deranger – Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
  • Gitz Crazyboy – Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation
  • Terry Teegee – Vice-Chief Carrier Sekani Tribal Council
  • Warner Naziel – Wet’suwet’en First Nation, Hereditary Chief
  • Ron Plain – Aamjiwnaang First Nation
  • Chief Al Lameman – Beaver Lake First Nation
  • Music will be provided by Samba Elegua

There will be a non-violent rally outside of the Convention Centre at 2:00 pm to show solidarity with First Nations representatives.

  • When: morning actions, rally @ 2:00pm, March 3, 2010
  • Where: Metro Toronto Convention Centre

For more information on the rally please contact: Dave Vasey (