Fast facts – Environment

Earth covered by vegetation and surrounded by white clouds, with one giant treeClimate change

The greenhouse effect is a naturally occurring process. The sun’s energy penetrates the atmosphere to warm the earth and the earth radiates heat back out. Some of the outgoing heat is absorbed by the atmosphere’s greenhouse gases and re-emitted back to earth, keeping the planet warm. Figure: Radiation and the Earth

Since industrialization began around the 1840s, greenhouse gases have been increasing in the earth’s atmosphere. Chart 1.2: Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, 1010 to 2004

In 2006, warmer-than-average temperatures were recorded across the world for the 30th consecutive year. Chart 1.1: Variation from mean global temperature

Increasing average temperatures are melting glaciers and polar ice caps and raising sea levels, putting coastal areas at greater risk of flooding. Climate change in Canada

Greenhouse gases contributed by households

Households accounted for close to half (45%) of Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2007.

Indirect emissions—from the production of the goods and services that we purchase—make up close to three quarters (73%) of household emissions while direct emissions—from fuel burned in our vehicles and our homes—make up the remaining quarter (27%). Table 7.1: Direct and indirect household greenhouse gas emissions

Purchases of electricity and food accounted for the greatest amount of indirect emissions in 2007. Table 7.2: Largest components of indirect household greenhouse gas emissions, 2007

Food-related greenhouse gas emissions

Fuel is used in many steps of food production: tilling land and sowing crops; manufacturing and applying fertilizers and pesticides; harvesting, shipping, processing and packaging.

Spending on food and non-alcoholic beverages from stores resulted in production of almost 46,000 kilotonnes of greenhouse gases, equivalent to 6.4% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Canada in 2003.

Meats accounted for the largest percentage (23%) of these food-related greenhouse gas emissions, while fish products contributed the least (2%). Chart 1.14: Greenhouse gas emissions associated with total household spending on food in 2003.

In 2007, an estimated 38% of solid food available for retail sale was wasted, the equivalent of 183 kilograms per person. Food in Canada

Household energy use and conservation

Canadian households adopted energy conservation practices in 2009:

Natural gas and electricity were the most common types of energy used for home heating in 2007, used by more than four-fifths of Canadian households. Energy use

In 2007, households in Alberta and Saskatchewan had the highest average household energy consumption and Quebec and British Columbia had the lowest. Table 3.2: Household energy use, by fuel type and by province, 2007 — Average energy use

Between 2003 and 2007, 50% of households that owned their dwelling and were not in apartments made at least one retrofitting improvement to their dwelling intended to reduce energy consumption, most often to doors and windows, siding and caulking. Table 7: Retrofitting practices by province, 2003 to 2007

Energy-and-water conservation devices are more likely to be adopted by households with higher education and income levels. Chart 3: Higher-income households more likely to use conservation devices

Recycling and other environmental behaviours

Waste diversion and recycling activities are on the rise in Canada. Nationally, diversion rates rose from 21.6% in 2002 to 24.7% in 2008. Table 8.3: Disposal and diversion of waste, by province and territory

In 2007, 95% of Canadian households had access to recycling programs. Almost all households with access to recycling programs (98%) reported that they recycled.

Only half of recycling households (52%) reported that they recycled all the recyclable waste they produced in an average week. Recycling by Canadian households, 2007

In 2006, recycling was the most common of six environmental behaviours by Canadian households and composting was the least common. Table 1: Household participation rates for environmental behaviours, by province, 2006.

Water resources

Renewable water resources have declined in Southern Canada over the past three decades. Chart 2.2: Trends in water yield for Southern Canada, 1971 to 2004

Only 9% of water withdrawn from the environment in 2005 was used directly by the residential sector while 66% was used in thermal-electric power generation. Table 3.1: Water use in Canada, by sector, 2005

Two-thirds of Canadian households drank primarily tap water in 2009, while 24% drank primarily bottled water. Table 4: Primary type of drinking water consumed, by province

Sixty-three percent of Canadian households had a low-flow shower head and 42% had a low-volume toilet in 2009. Table 1: Indoor water conservation practices, by province

Environmental protection

In 2011, 9.8% of Canada’s land and freshwater areas were protected.

Canadian businesses spent almost $9.1 billion on environmental protection in 2008, a 5.3% increase from 2006. Environmental protection efforts

Public transit

Two thirds of Canadian households (68%) lived within five minutes of public transit, and four out of every ten of those households used it regularly in 2007.

Among regular users, almost half used public transit only for non-work travel, while the rest used it for work travel or both purposes. Public transit in Canada, 2007

Weather

In the coldest winter month, Yellowknife is the Canadian capital with the lowest average low at -30.9 Celsius. Table: Weather conditions in capital and major cities—Temperatures

Tokyo’s total annual precipitation (1,563 mm) is higher than St-John’s (1,513.7 mm), the highest among Canadian capitals. Table: Weather conditions in capital and major cities—Precipitation

 

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