Every March the venerable World Wildlife Fund (WWF) spearheads an international global event where households and businesses turn off their non-essential lights for one hour to raise awareness about the need for revisions to climate change policy and our everyday energy usage. This year, Earth Hour takes place from 8:30-9:30 pm on March 23rd – in honour of this global moment of stocktaking, we’ve mapped greenhouse gas emissions by province and territory to get a sense of where our ecological activism needs to be concentrated.
Though personal vehicle use comprises only a portion of this form of pollution, we’ve also calculated the average number of kilometres driven annually by cars registered in each province to see where Canadian drivers spend the most time on the road.
Looking at the map, Alberta is clearly Canada’s climate change loser, pumping almost 250 megatonnes of GHGs into the atmosphere every year. The massive oil sands developments in the northern part of the province are certainly to blame for these sky-high numbers – beyond that, the province’s residents are particularly dependent on their cars, driving more per year than anyone else in the nation (greater than 30,000 km/car). Ontario comes in second (165.9 megatonnes) as the capital of Canadian industry, a hub for both manufacturing and distribution, as well as the most populous province. Quebec’s levels are more moderate – what this map doesn’t show is that their emissions are actually decreasing over time, likely due to their role as a leader in renewable energy generation. Unsurprisingly, the smaller provinces of the Maritimes do not contribute as much to environmental degradation as their neighbours to the west.
Given that driving and (traditional) car culture figure into global warming quite prominently we thought it would be useful to pair greenhouse gas emissions with driving data. Nova Scotia is in hot pursuit of car-crazy Alberta, with 28,806 km driven per car. Prairie neighbours Manitoba and Saskatchewan also have quite high values of 27,549 and 27,467 km, so it appears the geography and distribution of population in the Prairies definitely factors into regional car use trends there. Ontario is in the middle of the pack with 26,997 km, and the most frugal drivers in terms of distance travelled are British Columbians with an impressive 22,053 km driven per vehicle.
We can’t suggest that these stats are a comprehensive picture of regional activities affecting climate change as some data is missing (e.g. km driven for shipping purposes – that would spike Ontario and Quebec’s driving data) but there are some patterns worth noting. Turning off your lights for an hour on March 23rd is obviously not going to have any dramatic impact on climate change, but consider that event and this map an opportunity for some needed introspection.