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Greenhouse Gas Emissions

The Greenhouse Effect is an undisputed phenomenon, and there are many naturally occurring greenhouse gases. Certain human activities, however, add to the levels of most of these naturally occurring gases, and this is why Greenhouse Gas or Carbon Emissions is at the center of the climate change debate.

Anthropogenic Emissions

The observed increase in the Earth's temperature associated with global warming is believed to have been caused by the relatively recent increase in greenhouse gas concentrations from human activity. Industrialized activities such as fossil fuel burning, cement production and tropical deforestation have increased the CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, and industrialized agricultural practices such as factory farming have led to a significant increase of methane from overproduction of living organisms who release this gas, such as sheep and cattle.

More greenhouse gases in the atmosphere basically means more IR absorption and recycling of that energy back down to Earth, where it raises the Earth's temperature. While industry in general is often blamed directly for these emissions, sometimes the consumer forgets that he or she is indirectly responsible as well, by purchasing their products and refusing to relinquish or scale back on current lifestyles that contribute to the problem.

Canada's Contribution

Canada, like the U.S., is a wealthy industrialized country and one of the largest global emitters of the greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. According to a study by the U.N., Canada's total CO2 emissions alone for the year 2002 was 517,157 thousand metric tons, making Canada 8th on a list of almost 200 countries in terms of annual CO2 emissions. Canada is one of the greatest consumers of energy per capita, burning the equivalent of roughly 7,700 litres of oil per person each year. This is roughly 50 times the consumption rate of Bangladesh, a country that stands to be largely eliminated by climate change-induced sea level rise.

On a sectoral basis, the energy industry and the transportation sector contribute the greatest share of emissions. For individual Canadians, transportation accounts for almost half of greenhouse gas emissions, primarily due to automobile use. Energy use in the home accounts for the other half of greenhouse gas emissions produced by individual Canadians. Canadians spend about $75 billion annually - 10 percent of our GDP - on energy to heat homes and offices, and to operate cars, factories and appliances. This is equivalent to $2,500 per person.

Montreal traffic jam

Clogged and congested, drivers suck back exhaust during their commute to and from Montréal's gridlocked island.