The Canadian Weasel: A Whiny Species

Canadian Forest


So many Canadian trees are dying that on balance our forests emit more carbon than they sequester. The Canadian government is trying to weasel out of our CO2 reduction commitments by claiming that CO2 from our trees should not be counted because they are dying due to forest fires and insect infestations, which are not human caused.

This is just plain wrong, for two reasons.

First, climate change doesn’t care where the CO2 came from. The IPCC, in their most recent report, said we must reduce our emissions by 50% within 12 years or civilization will collapse. Soak that in while pondering the fact that the IPCC has a track record of being much too optimistic. Canada is one of the wealthiest countries on the planet which means our citizens can make do with a lot less of everything and still be better off than most people in other countries. Instead of trying to weasel out of our fair share we should be standing up and setting an example by reducing far more per capita than other countries.

Second, our trees are burning and being killed by insects because they’re sick, and they’re sick because ground level ozone, which is toxic to all plants, is rising. Ground level ozone is a byproduct of the fossil fuels our civilization burns. The trees are not sequestering carbon, like healthy trees are supposed to do, because of our population and lifestyles. Which is yet another good reason to cut more CO2 rather than whining like babies and trying to weasel out of doing the right thing.

Shame on us!  I used to be proud to be a Canadian.

For more on how ground level ozone is killing trees, see the work of Gail Zawacki.

Canada’s forests actually emit more carbon than they absorb — despite what you’ve heard on Facebook.

Our managed forest land hasn’t been a net carbon sink since 2001.

You might have heard that Canada’s forests are an immense carbon sink, sucking up all sorts of CO2 — more than we produce — so we don’t have to worry about our greenhouse gas emissions.

This claim has been circulated on social media and repeated by pundits and politicians.

This would be convenient for our country, if it were real. Hitting our emissions-reduction targets would be a breeze. But, like most things that sound too good to be true, this one is false.

That’s because trees don’t just absorb carbon when they grow, they emit it when they die and decompose, or burn.

When you add up both the absorption and emission, Canada’s forests haven’t been a net carbon sink since 2001. Due largely to forest fires and insect infestations, the trees have actually added to our country’s greenhouse gas emissions for each of the past 15 years on record.

Not surprisingly, then, Canada has historically excluded its forests when accounting for its total greenhouse emissions to the rest of the world. We had that option, under international agreements, and it was in our interest to leave the trees out of the total tabulation, since they would have boosted our overall emissions.

But, just in the past couple of years, we have taken a different approach. We are now making the case to the United Nations that things like forest fires and pine beetle infestations shouldn’t count against us, and that only human-related changes to our forests should be included when doing the calculations that matter to our emission-reduction targets.


9 thoughts on “The Canadian Weasel: A Whiny Species”

  1. Rob,

    Maybe not quite on point to your article, but here goes…

    Years ago, one of my uncles who was a “radical” environmentalist, told me that the personal car was one of the worst inventions ever. At the time, I failed to grasp what he was saying. I might have even dismissed the comment as a little crazy.

    Exact figures are hard to come by, but it looks like there is now something like 1.4Billion vehicles in the world traveling millions of miles of road networks. They burn mostly gasoline and diesel fuels by the billions of gallons, producing who knows how much Nitrogen Oxide, Carbon Monoxide, VOCs and other pollutants.

    “In the Earth’s lower atmosphere, near ground level, ozone is formed when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources chemically react in the presence of sunlight.” It seems reasonable to assume that the movement of 1.4Billion vehicles over millions of miles of road must produce a regular, constant, daily blanket of ground level ozone over vast areas.

    The above said, it is hard to find data showing changes in ground level ozone levels over time. The articles below suggest it has never really been methodically tracked.

    But we know vehicle numbers and traffic have increased exponentially. From Wikipedia: “The world vehicle population passed the 500 million-unit mark in 1986, from 250 million motor vehicles in 1970.”

    Well, the increase of vehicles and traffic is just one of many aspects of oil-powered industrial civilization that have increase exponentially since 1950 or so, at the expense of the natural world. I personally suspect the loss of trees, insects, etc., is not from just one cause, but the death by a thousand cuts sort of thing, from almost every aspect of industrial civilization.

    It seems that this industrial expansion only stops and declines if oil and its refined fuels become energetically remote. Maybe that is happening now, but generally most folks are still planning, and are still forecasting, growth and expansion. Any talk by any governments of emissions reductions is just a denial of reality of the need to consume and grow, until you can’t.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Cars are certainly up near the top of the list of destructive human inventions. Industrial agriculture is another. Neither would have been so bad had we used our intelligence to override our genes and constrained our population to say 100 million. But that’s apparently impossible with our strong tendency to deny unpleasant realities, and without denial we could not have evolved our intelligence. Nature simply won’t permit anything to evolve that contradicts the Maximum Power Principle (MPP).

      Cars are a great way to eliminate the finite (and precious) fossil carbon energy gradient as fast as possible. SUVs and trucks are now more popular than cars because they’re better at wasting energy. We also increased speed limits to waste more energy. And mothers now drive their kids to school rather than making them walk to waste even more energy.

      Check our these car production statistics. North America is now small potatoes. God help us.

      You are right that there may be other factors contributing to poor tree health. For example here in Canada the warmer winters have helped the pine beetle to spread.

      Gail Zawacki has documented the decline of trees everywhere on the globe, including areas without drought, so she argues there must be something ubiquitous going on, and makes a powerful case that ground level ozone is the culprit.

      I did a quick scan of the links you provided and observed they do not mention the impact of ozone on plant health. Gail found that there are very few scientists studying this issue, including professional foresters. She found it to be kind of a taboo topic, perhaps because there is nothing we can do about ozone short of winding down industrial civilization, or reducing our population.

      The same probably applies to CO2, except most people still deny reality and think we can solve climate change with solar panels and without lifestyle changes. They are in for a rude awakening soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. What then should the Canadian government do to reduce CO2 emissions?

    There isn’t enough time left to use the best solution which is to reduce our population. Nevertheless, the government should still implement population reduction policies because there are many other good reasons for fewer people.

    There isn’t enough time left to replace our fossil carbon energy system with a low-carbon alternative, and there are good reasons not to build out nuclear, which is the only technology that might help.

    This leaves only one choice, reduce the size of the economy so that everyone consumes less. In other words, make everyone poorer.

    There are three simple methods the government can use to contract the economy:
    1) Increase the interest rate.
    2) Decrease government spending.
    3) Increase tax rates.

    Any of these options could be implemented in a few weeks.


    1. “What then should the Canadian government do to reduce CO2 emissions?”

      If we did all that and left economically extractable timber, minerals, coal, gas & oil we would be invaded by a more powerful country – most likely the bloody empire next door, and they would consume it.

      It would be suicide.

      An invasion or demands could happen regardless. What would we do? Suck up to China & Russia? Fight?

      It’s to the last man standing and thus our only real world choice is to last as long as we can. Same as it ever was.

      There is a good reason why evolutionary & thermodynamic determinism is rejected/denied outright – not in control. Not up to the humans. MPP puppets.

      That is looking into the abyss and that’s too much for almost all people.

      Here’s book review I think you might find interesting, Rob. Stay Frosty.

      The Ape That Understood the Universe: Book Review

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What we need is another Charles Keeling to go out and regularly monitor ozone levels and produce another ‘Keeling Curve’ for the gas. Quite sure though, that it would be ignored just like his first.


  4. Gail Zawacki connects the dots between declining tree health and increasing methane levels…

    “Between the loss of a critical CO2 sink, and the unmeasured increase of forest methane emissions, the ongoing massacre of trees will ensure the 6th mass extinction proceeds much faster than even the most dire expectations. Methane-fueled wildfires will rage…and the scientists will continue to be puzzled.”


  5. Research has found Arctic soil has warmed to the point where it releases more carbon in winter than northern plants can absorb during the summer.

    The finding means the extensive belt of tundra around the globe — a vast reserve of carbon that dwarfs what’s held in the atmosphere — is becoming a source of greenhouse gas emissions responsible for climate change.

    h/t Apneaman


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