May 12, 2021

Net Zero Part One: Defining the Terms

Net Zero Part One: Defining the Terms

“Net Zero by 2050” is all over the news these days. 

Countries, international organizations, corporations, cities and other entities are making grand commitments to the idea.

My view is that Net Zero by 2050 is a dangerous idea, and I am alarmed by how it is taking hold. I plan to write several blogposts on Net Zero by 2050 over the next few weeks to explain this view. This introductory piece lays the context for that series.

First, let me provide a quick definition of Net Zero by 2050. In simplistic terms, any entity abides by the goal of Net Zero if that entity emits no more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere than it draws out of it. Net Zero by 2050 means that the year 2050 is the target for achieving that emissions “balance”.  

That sounds straight forward, but it isn’t.

Is the starting assumption – that we can achieve this kind of balance – a fair one given the earth’s complexity? 

Is the fact that CO2 levels have been significantly higher in the past (before industrialization) not a consideration? The earth has seen higher and lower levels of CO2 before there was any significant human activity. So why should we assume that a “balance,” as we define it, is necessary?

And how do we assure that balance when there are all kinds of things we can’t control - like emissions from natural events like volcanoes, or windstorms? 

What about the fact that the science on emissions is changing?

How do we factor these things in?

And if we do commit to this kind of balance, what measure of government control does this represent? What will the cost of that control be? Should we not have some sense of that before we commit to it?

These are just some of the many questions that come to mind when discussing the idea of Net Zero by 2050. But it is really hard to get answers to these questions. More often than not what you do get is some version of “the sky is falling”. Politicians, business leaders, environmentalists say things like “we have to act now” or “time is running out” or “our future depends on it”.  But people have been using that kind of rhetoric about the environment for decades, and yet by virtually every environmental measure things are getting better

But no matter. Net Zero by 2050 is the latest version of the environmental scare tactic of forcing consumers to accept things like Trudeau’s carbon taxes, or green energy plans, or any other policy madness that really means expanding government control, enriching special interests, and hurting consumers.

We at Canadians for Affordable Energy find this really alarming: we think Net Zero by 2050 will definitely mean one thing: less affordable energy for Canadians.

Over a series of blogposts we want to shed some more light on Net Zero by 2050.