This morning I wanted to try something new, so I swam to work. You know, through this soup we Torontonians sometimes refer to as “air.”
Southwestern Ontario is seeing some of its highest temperatures ever recorded today, and last night was Toronto’s warmest evening on record. Add to that the deadly pollutants that make up smog, and we’ve got one thick, sticky, stinky situation on our hands. (Stephen Colbert has started referring to environmentalists as “airhuggers.” As in, crazy hippies who are so out of touch with reality that they think breathing air is important.)
Unfortunately, all this heat doesn’t appear to be a coincidence. The Earth is warmer than it’s been in 400 years or longer, and the science suggests that human activity is the cause.
One of the best ways we know of to heat this planet up as fast as possible is by using lots of energy on things like air conditioners. So, when it got hot today, of course the natural thing to do was crank the AC. People in my office building have been shivering all day, and during one meeting I noticed pronounced goose bumps on my arms — it’s genuinely cold. (That might have something to do with what the people who make the decisions are wearing.)
The result is, we’ve burned too much fuel, which is making it too hot in here, so we’re going to turn up our air conditioners, which necessitates burning even more fuel, which in turn will make it even hotter. And the circle of life goes on. (Never mind that a recent 40-year study showed air pollution deaths in Toronto outnumber deaths caused by extreme heat 8 to 1.)
Heat was the number one story on the radio this morning, with the IESO predicting we’d break another energy consumption record by 5pm today.
They were wrong — it only took us until noon. Ontario’s demand for power reached 26,331 megawatts, topping last July’s record 26,161 megawatts. Power consumption has continued to break records every hour since. The IESO is now predicting that we’ll hit 27,225 megawatts any minute now. Brownouts and blackouts are a serious possibility, though not as serious as the increased numbers of people who will show up at emergency rooms and/or die prematurely today because of smog-related respiratory problems.
What should the government do? For one, make energy prices reflect their real cost. The fact that my office is still too cold for comfort, even in the face of all this, is a pretty good indicator that energy prices are too low.
What can you do (besides turn stuff off)? I recommend making use of this handy vacation planning calendar.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go change into my swimsuit for the long swim home.