Curb emissions with facts and science
Re: “Kingston climate change symposium fosters local action,” Jan. 16.
Organizers of last week’s third Kingston Climate Symposium deserve applause for encouraging an important discussion about solutions we and our civic leaders can take to curb harmful emissions and cool an overheating planet.
But the symposium may have given a one-sided picture to its audience and, through the Whig’s report, to your readers with a presentation from Forests Ontario and its promotion of wood building products.
We believe it is important that people have the whole picture when it comes to curbing emissions.
For instance, there is a growing body of evidence, much of it Canadian, that is questioning current assumptions about wood’s carbon footprint and suggesting that the advantages of wood as a building material are overstated.
As an example, the International Institute for Sustainable Development found serious gaps in how carbon is being measured in building products such as steel, concrete and wood. Among the IISD’s most significant findings is that current life cycle assessment models do not account for biogenic carbon losses that could represent up to 72 per cent of a wood product’s carbon footprint. When these emissions are taken into account, concrete’s embodied footprint could be up to six per cent less intensive than that of wood products, changing the outcome of carbon comparisons from “advantage wood” to “advantage concrete.”
This is good news for Canadian cities like Kingston that depend on concrete to improve the quality of life of their citizens with safe and reliable roads, bridges, transit systems, libraries, schools and living spaces. In other words, the world’s most consumed, resilient and durable resource can also be one of the most environmentally friendly.
Further evidence about the hidden carbon footprint of wood was released last month by Toronto-based Wildlands League, entitled “Logging Scars,” which found that the wood industry’s reforestation efforts are significantly less successful than assumed.
The Whig’s story also reported on the symposium’s discussion about the ability of trees to sequester carbon from the atmosphere. The fact is that much of that carbon is released back into the atmosphere when trees are harvested into wood products.
Your readers should also be aware that concrete absorbs harmful carbon from the atmosphere. This process is known as “carbonation,” and it is an important consideration in measuring the carbon impact of building materials.
The superior advantage of concrete’s ability to absorb carbon is that, unlike wood, it will never release carbon back into the atmosphere. Concrete is 100 per cent recyclable, and it can be crushed and reused again and again. In fact, crushed concrete will absorb even more carbon from the atmosphere. Wood products, however, inevitably end up in landfills at the end of their useful life, where they emit gasses more harmful than carbon.
Whether builders use concrete, wood or steel, they need an accurate assessment of the impact of their choices on the environment. All materials must and will play a role in reducing carbon, but there are no silver bullets and diligence with the science is a must.
President and CEO, Cement Association Canada
Water levels have been higher
Great letter from Steve Manders in the Whig-Standard this week. Many memories of what he talked about — we went to school in Point Pleasant at R.G. Sinclair Public School.
Having had discussions about lake levels and reading other stories about rising waters, I decided to go down to the bottom of Bayridge Drive where it meets Front Road. I took a picture of a small dock reaching out over the water. The water level was about four feet below the dock. OK, when the lake was at its highest last year, the water was almost above that dock. The high water the year before covered it. Today, the water has receded down to normal levels.
There are those who want me to believe the water levels are still high. No, they are not, and the picture I took can attest to the fact. All I can respectfully say to the alarmists is to stop fearmongering.