Canadian Transport and Environmental Concerns

Canada has one of the most advanced transportation systems in the world. The government has been keen on improving its transport sector as a way of spurring economic growth. According to Blue, in modern society, people’s movement has become very important as the world becomes a global village (72). Trade, tourism and all other aspects of socio-economic and political life rely on the transport sector. It explains why the government has invested a lot of resources in this sector to improve it. As critical as it is in the socio-economic and political developments, the transport sector is faced with a major concern of environmental pollution.

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The more we have transport vessels on roads, rail, water, and air, the more greenhouse gases are emitted into the environment. Sometimes the marine transport causes direct oil spillage on water bodies, endangering marine lives. In 1896, Svante Arrhenius stated that continued use of carbon-based fuel could lead to climate change (Blue 72). However, many people dismissed his claims. Over 120 years later, it is becoming evident that global warming is a reality, and the combustion of fossil fuel is its primary cause. The transport sector is believed to be one of the main emitters of greenhouse gases that cause global warming. In Canada, the transport sector stakeholders are increasingly getting concerned about the increasing emission of greenhouse gases. In this paper, the researcher will look at the environmental concerns in Canada’s transport sector and how it can be addressed.

Trends in Transport and the Environment from 1990 to 2010

According to a report by Aglukkaq, the transport sector in Canada has experienced massive growth in the transport sector since the end of the Second World War (18). This major war was not fought on Canadian soil, which means that its infrastructure was not affected. After the war, the government and private sector started investing heavily in this sector. Today, the country has one of the most developed marine, air, rail, and road transport infrastructure in the world. However, these developments have directly caused massive pollution in the environment, causing major concern to the transport sector stakeholders. As by Blue says, climate change is now a reality, and the Canadian government is committed to promoting initiatives that can reduce the rate of carbon emissions in the country (88). The following table shows the rates of emissions of greenhouse gases from 1990 to 2011 by industry.

Table 1: Greenhouse gases emissions in Canada by industry from 1990 to 2011. Source (Aglukkaq 21).

The year 1990 The year 2000 The year 2005 The year 2011
Transport 128 155 168 170
Oil and Gas 101 150 162 163
Electricity 94 129 121 90
Buildings 70 82 84 84
Trade Industries 93 85 87 78
Agriculture 54 66 68 68
Waste and Others 50 51 49 49
National Total 591 718 737 702

The information in the table above was analyzed statistically to understand the trend since 1990. The graph below shows the outcome of the analysis.

Greenhouse gases emissions in Canada by industry from 1990 to 2011.
Figure 1: Greenhouse gases emissions in Canada by industry from 1990 to 2011. Source (Developed by author).

The statistics above show a very worrying trend, specifically in the transport sector, in reference to the emission of greenhouse gases. It is clear from the data obtained that Canada’s transport sector is the leading cause of the emission of greenhouse gases. Its emissions are twice as much as what the country’s industrial sector emits. It is a more dangerous sector to the environment, in terms of emission of greenhouse gases than the oil and gas industry. Another worrying trend is that other sectors of the economy have made progress towards reducing their carbon-related gas emissions. The electricity, industrial, and wastes sectors have made positive steps in reducing their emissions. Buildings and agricultural sectors have stopped growth in the level of their emissions. However, the transport and oil and gas sectors have registered continued growth in their emission. Of the two industries, the oil and gas sector shows better improvement, having increased its emission level from 162 to 163. The transport sector moved from 168 to 170 between the years 2005 and 2011.

According to Blue, the Canadian government has spent a lot of resources to try and improve the transport sector in a way that would cut down the emissions of greenhouse gases, given that it is still one of the country’s top sources of air pollution (28). The progress has been made, as shown in the report by (Aglukkaq 54). The figure below shows an analysis of data from this source.

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Emission intensity in the transport sector.
Figure 2: Emission intensity in the transport sector. Source (Developed by author).

As the figure above demonstrates, there was a slight increase in the intensity of emissions from 1990 to 1995. According to Gilbert and Perl, during this time, Canada was experiencing rapid economic growth and movement of goods and passengers were at an all-time high (30). The increase was also attributed to using the old model of diesel engines that would emit a massive amount of carbon gases. However, things started changing in 1995. Although the emission of these gases was still increasing, the rate they were emitted was dropping significantly. The trend has remained the same from 1995 to 2016. A report by Gilbert and Perl attributes this positive change to several factors (47). Many Canadians have embraced the use of the bicycle when going to work or school instead of using cars, buses, or train. Others also prefer walking to work if they stay close enough. It means that the demand for metro transport services is not rapidly increasing as it used to be in the 1990s. The emergence of new engines, which are energy-efficient and alternative energy sources, have also played a part. These factors are discussed in detail in subsequent sections of this paper. It is necessary to look at the different modes of transport commonly used in Canada and how each contributes to the emission of greenhouse gases within the country.

Air

In the modern global society, air transport has become critical in the socio-economic and political development (Gilbert and Perl 23). Air transport is very active in Canada. People traveling from other parts of the world to Canada or Canada to the rest of the world heavily rely on air transport. Air transport is also becoming important within the country, especially when traveling long distances, and time is of the essence. Air transport is particularly popular because it is a fast and efficient means of transport. However, it is also considered one of the top air polluters in the world. The jets used in the country consumed tons of gases, leading to direct emission of carbon-related gases into the air. Canada is one of the countries currently working on introducing the use of green energy in the airplanes to help reduce their level of emissions into the air.

Green energy is meant to supplement jet fuel as a way of cutting down carbon emissions. Although this is an area of technology that still needs further development, the stakeholders have shown their willingness to embrace it to protect the environment. In a report by Gilbert and Perl, it is unfortunate that air transport has failed to cut down on its emissions of carbon gases despite the campaigns to fight climate change (47). It is one of the sectors that have continued to increase in its emissions of these gases. Aglukkaq attributes this fact to the growing demand for air transport services in the country and the region (44). More people are traveling from and to Canada regularly, and their preferred mode of transport is air.

Given that modern engines that use solar and other green energy are yet to become practically functional on planes, the use of jet fuel is still popular. The stakeholders will need to find a way of solving this problem without necessarily reducing the number of people relying on air transport. As discussed in subsequent sections of this paper, alternative sources of energy may need to be embraced.

Marine

Marine transport is also becoming increasingly popular in Canada’s freight movement as the country strives to improve the economy. The marine transport is very popular among the companies importing and exporting various products. It is a preferred mode of transport for bulky and heavy products such as cars, oil, etc. Marine transport is not very popular with passengers regularly. Recreational services offered by cruise ships are still common among the local and international tourists. Although this sector is also responsible for air pollution in the country, one of the main concerns that environmentalists have raised is oil spillage. Sometimes oil being transported in these ships spills in the high seas, which causes serious negative consequences for marine life. Technologies are emerging to help combat the negative environmental impact of using ships in the high seas.

Rail

Rail transport is one of the modes of transport that have registered massive improvement over the past years. In Canada, steam and coal locomotive was very popular in the 19th century and a better part of the 20th century. The 21st century saw the emergence of a modern electric train currently used in major urban centers in Canada. As some of the Canadian cities started growing rapidly in population, it became necessary to have modern modes of transport that can quickly and efficiently move the masses over short distances. Electric train engines emerged as a replacement for the coal and diesel locomotives (Peoples 45). Currently, the country has one of the most developed rail transport systems in the world. The use of electric trains has significantly reduced the emission of carbon gases into the air. A study by Gilbert and Perl shows that rail transport has played a significant role in cutting down pollution in the transport sector (112). The train carries many people on a single trip, and the fact that it uses electricity instead of carbon fuel means that it has limited environmental hazards. Most of the trains in the country serving short and long distances use electric engines. They are becoming very popular because of their high speed, comfort, and reliability.

Road

The road transport remains the most commonly used mode of transport in Canada. Air, rail and marine transport may be limited in one way or the other in terms of where they can reach. However, cars can be used as long as there is a path that can allow their movement. This mode of transport is cheap and offers privacy for those using personal cars. However, it is one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases. Large engine cars and buses, consuming a lot of petrol and diesel remain popular in Canada. They pose serious environmental threats if they are used more often. The growing population of the rich and the upper-middle-class members of the society mean that some of the top cars known to consume a lot of gas will continue to be on our roads. However, it is important to appreciate that Canada is one of the world’s countries keen on introducing carbon-free cars on the roads. Canadian Electric Vehicles Limited has received massive government support to help manufacture electric buses. Solar-powered cars are also becoming popular. It is a sign that shortly road transport will not be a major environmental threat.

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Mitigating Environmental Pollution

The transport sector is the backbone of the Canadian economy. As the country’s population continues to increase, it is expected that the sector is going to become even more significant than ever before. However, environmental concerns are real, and the country must work closely with other countries to ensure that there is sustainability in our economic activities. The negative impact of the activities in the transport sector must be effectively addressed by the stakeholders. Finding ways of addressing the environmental concern will help ensure that people can still rely on the transport sector without causing any significant harm to the environment. The following are some of the possible ways of dealing with the problem based on studies conducted by Blue (41).

Promoting the use of alternative energy sources

The use of fossil fuel has helped transform the world into a global village where people can move from one place to the other within a short time. It has also improved the movement of goods. However, scientists have proven that indeed the use of fossil fuel has a significant impact on the environment. Time has come when Canada has to be part of the solution in finding alternative sources of energy that can be used in the transport sector instead of fossil fuel. The emergence of electric cars and trains was a major achievement towards having a carbon-free transport sector. However, more still need to be done to ensure that alternative energy sources can completely replace the use of fossil fuel in rail and road transport. Technological advancement is also necessary to reduce the reliance on fossil fuel in the air and marine transport (Peoples 34). The use of green energy in the transport sector is the only way of overcoming this problem.

Culture of cycling or walking to work

According to a survey conducted by Blue, Canada is one of the countries that have embraced the walk-to-work culture (56). In major towns within the country, there is an emerging culture where people walk to work instead of using buses. The younger generation prefers cycling to work or school. The report shows that the emerging popularity of walking or cycling to work is attributed to the growing number of highly educated and scientifically empowered people who know and appreciate that the environment is delicate and needs to be protected. They know that by avoiding their personal cars or even public transport can help protect the environment. The government is currently creating paths for cyclists and those who walk to work or school. The trend is having a significant impact on reducing the level of environmental pollution from the transport sector. Further awareness campaigns may be necessary to encourage more Canadians to walk to work, cycle, or use public electric trains.

Use of public transport instead of personal cars

Canada has one of the top living standards in the world. Many Canadians can afford to purchase personal cars to facilitate their movement. However, the more cars we have on our roads, the bigger the transport sector’s danger to the environment. People must embrace using public transport instead of personal cars (Peoples 67). Large buses can carry up to 70 people or more per trip. Instead of having seventy cars on the road, it can be important to have just one bus carrying seventy people. It not only cuts down the level of carbon emission but also the national expenditure on this sector.

Investing in technology

A report by Gilbert and Perl recommends further investment in the transport sector (90). The government and private sector companies should work closely to solve the problem of environmental degradation in the transport sector. This report suggested that a public-private partnership should be encouraged when trying to find a lasting solution to this problem. Most private sector players only spend their money on research if they are assured that the returns from such projects will exceed the resources used. However, the truth is that some of the benefits that will be achieved from such innovative research may benefit not only these private sectors but also their rivals. Hence they may not achieve the direct economic benefits desired. Having government support may motivate them to engage in such research projects.

Conclusion

The Canadian economy is one of the largest in the world. This economy heavily depends on the transport sector. The research conducted shows that the country has advanced air, road, rail, and marine transport infrastructure to help it in socio-economic and political development. However, scientific studies show that this sector is one of the top emitters of greenhouse gases. To achieve sustainable growth, the public and private sectors need to work closely to ensure that pollution in this sector is reduced. New technologies should be used to find ways of addressing this problem.

Works Cited

Aglukkaq, Leona. “Canada’s Emissions Trends.” Environment Canada, vol. 18, no. 4, 2013, pp. 1-80.

Blue, Elly. Bikenomics: How Bicycling Can Save the Economy. John Wiley & Sons Publishers, 2013.

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Gilbert, Richard, and Anthony Perl. Transport Revolutions: Moving People and Freight without Oil. Earthscan, 2008.

Peoples, James. The Economics of International Airline Transport. Emerald Publishers Limited, 2014.

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