Countering the effects of climate change

Climate change affects us all. And the signs that the world’s atmosphere has heated up are glaring: milder winters, slightly warmer summers, the increasing number of warmer days and nights, less frigid cold and more frequent thaw, more precipitation, be it rain or snow.

More heat in the atmosphere intensifies evaporation, which in turn injects more humidity and more energy into the air. This increases the risk of violent weather like powerful winds, nasty thunderstorms and torrential downpours.

Indeed, the effects of climate change have already permeated Québec’s environment and quality of life on several fronts:

  • Water: Its levels and quality have suffered.
  • Air: Pollen levels have increased.
  • Fauna: Some species have seen their numbers decline.
  • Flora: Forest diversity has changed.
  • Nature settings: Permafrost has melted, areas have been flooded, and coast lines have eroded.
  • Infrastructure: Roads are under pressure, as are water-management facilities.
  • Economy: Catastrophes hurt the economy, witness the 1998 ice storm, whose damages amounted to $5.4 billion.
  • Public health and safety: During the 1998 ice storm, 28 people died, 945 were injured, and 17,800 were forced to evacuate.
  • Shorelines and human habitats: The fall 2017 and spring 2019 floods wreaked havoc on residents and their homes and inflicted heavy financial losses.

We’re all part of the solution

The cumulative effect of each of our daily individual efforts to fight climate change really do make a difference.

In this section, you’ll find an array of simple actions designed to change certain habits, so we reduce our carbon footprint and better adapt to the effects of climate change.

Objective 1 – Reduce wasteful energy consumption

  • Turn off the lights in unoccupied rooms.
  • Install energy-efficient bulbs, such as LEDs.
  • Lower the temperature during the night and when you leave the house.
  • Unplug devices and appliances that you’re not using.
  • Install programmable electronic thermostats.
  • Shop for appliances bearing the ENERGY STAR label.  
  • On sunny days, close the curtains in summer and open them in winter.
  • Improve your home’s insulation for winter weather (window caulking, weatherstripping, etc.).
  • If you have a pool, use a solar blanket to preserve heat, equip your filter with a timer and rely on a solar water heater.

All these measures not only help reduce how much energy you consume, but also benefit you personally. For instance, a programmable thermostat will cut back on your yearly heating costs by as much as 10%; and by weatherstripping or caulking your windows, you can slash the amount of heat your home loses by up to 40%, which means you’ll burn less energy to heat it.

Objective 2 – Avoid using wood as your primary heating source

Heating with wood is a major source of contaminants in the atmosphere. What’s more, smoke from wood burning lingers both inside and outside the house and can negatively affect health.

So, to heat your home, it’s best to opt for cleaner energy sources like electricity. If you want to use a fireplace or a wood-burning stove, do so sparingly, especially on smoggy days. In addition, be sure to buy a model that complies with the by-law on wood-burning appliances and whose particle-emission rating is about 1 g/h.

Objective 3 – Replace your old heating system

Your home may have an older heating system or water heater powered by oil or another fossil fuel. By replacing them with units that run on renewables like electricity, you’ll improve your home’s energy efficiency, reduce your greenhouse-gas emissions … and save money.

Objective 4 – Reduce, reuse, recycle … and compost

By consuming less at source, as well as recycling and reusing existing items, you cut down on the amount of raw material extracted and processed to make new products. This in turn reduces greenhouse-gas emissions linked to the use of new items.

Composting also produces less greenhouse gas than does the decomposition process inside landfills, which releases massive amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

When you sort your waste, you and your family take stock of what you’re throwing away, and that heightens your awareness of avoidable waste and poor consumption habits. And when you waste less, you spend less and keep more money in your pocket.

Objective 5 – Eat and buy local

Eating local products is healthy both for you and for the environment. What’s more, it’s easy: just look for logos and certifications used to identify food sourced right from here (Québec Vrai, Aliments du Québec), or join a purchasing collective in your community that supports farmers’ produce baskets and solidarity markets, for instance. 

Buying local and seasonal means leaving a smaller carbon footprint, sustaining business in your area and savouring the freshness and variety of regional produce.

If you’re renovating or building, try to use local materials with a small carbon footprint, such as Québec softwood. Along with its esthetic appeal, softwood from Québec is a renewable resource that produces less greenhouse gas than do many other current construction materials.

Objective 6 – Choose reusable over disposable

Of course, when you select items that last, you help wean yourself off single-use ones. Fewer paper towels, towelettes, as well as plastic razors, dishware and utensils … that means much less waste heading into landfills and a reduction in the greenhouse gases generated by both their production and their disposal.

Objective 7 – Leave the car at home: walk, bike, or take public transit

Opting to travel by means other than your car is a powerful way to lessen your climate impact. Be it for work or for personal business, try to use public transit or active transportation like walking or cycling.

Remember that public transit can be faster than your vehicle, especially at rush hour.

If your destination is close by, consider biking, as it’s faster than walking and can even prove quicker than public transit and driving. Bikes are relatively inexpensive to both buy and use, they don’t pose a parking problem, and they help keep you fit.

Finally, consider getting your kids to walk or bike to school.

Objective 8 – Obey speed limits

Avoid driving faster than posted speeds on the highway, and use your cruise control.

As soon as you accelerate beyond 90 km an hour, your fuel consumption increases substantially. So, by maintaining a constant and reasonable speed, you reduce your greenhouse-gas emissions and save a lot of gas.

Objective 9 – Avoid letting your car idle

The longer you leave your car idling, the more fuel it burns and the more greenhouse gas it emits. Turning the engine off saves you money and protects the environment. For instance, if during the winter you let your car idle for 30 minutes a day over two months, you’ll go through a full tank of gas without having driven a single kilometre. Consider switching the ignition to OFF!

Objective 10 – Buying a new vehicle? Choose an energy-efficient model

By buying an energy-efficient vehicle—electric or hybrid, for example—you’ll obviously save on fuel while cutting down on greenhouse-gas emissions for years to come.

Objective 11 – Conduct regular maintenance on your vehicle 

Well-maintained cars and trucks run more efficiently. For instance, keeping the motor properly tuned and the tires properly inflated not only extends their life, but also burns less fuel.

Objective 12 – Plan your outings to minimize driving around

Of course, the less you use your car, the less it pollutes. Keeping your driving to a minimum is a healthy habit to embrace for you and your whole family.

Planning your outings helps you avoid costly, time-consuming back-and-forths.

When it’s vacation time, consider taking the bus or the train if possible, and instead of taking a more-polluting international flight to a far-off destination, why not travel around the province to keep things “local”?

Remember that trains and buses burn much less fuel than do planes and cars driven solo, and Québec is teeming with fascinating landscapes and tourist spots that many of us have yet to discover.