Accounting for a University’s greenhouse gas emissions and its Ecological Footprint and Biocapacity.

Eric Miller

Universities are increasingly asked to report on the full scope of greenhouse gas emissions from their operations, plus those which are embodied within goods and services that are purchased, plus those embodied within commuting by students and faculty and staff. This is conceptually straightforward but methodologically difficult because it requires integrating a broad set of physical and monetary data with coefficients that tend to be unavailable at the relevant spatial and temporal scale. The resulting mass of emissions is a useful disclosure, although it is somewhat challenging to communicate as a measure of significance about how universities are supported by ecosystems around the world.

This presentation will highlight innovative approaches used to estimate greenhouse gas emissions, and Ecological Footprint, and Biocapacity, attributable to York University over a five-year period. The GHG Protocol was used to specify emissions within scopes 1 or 2 or 3, which relate to different aspects of control and ease of measurement or estimation. Ecological Footprint Standards were applied to provincial, national, and global data to estimate footprint components of cropland, grazing land, built-up land, fishing grounds, forest products, and forest-carbon-uptake lands. Ecological Footprint was compared to the sum of Biocapacity managed by the university across its multiple campuses.

Results reveal the absolute and relative significance of emissions from buildings and combustion equipment such as the university’s powerplant and vehicles, and indirectly attributed to all purchases and reimbursement of expenses, commuting, and from commerce on campuses and university investments. Recommendations were made to enhance the precision of results, and ease of generating them and attributing them to the university’s missions. Insights from this project are transferable to other universities, and comparable to average Canadian university emissions.

Estimating the relationship between biophysical and financial indicators: the case of the Canadian oil sands.

Charles Guay & Mathieu Perron-Dufour

Respecting the average global warming target set in 2015 in Paris necessitates a reduction in fossil-fuel production. As of 2022, the objective is in stark contradiction with the current financing of fossil-fuel production by major banks and institutional investors globally as well as in Canada. Amongst the obstacles to a rapid transition in the financing of energy production projects is the relative ignorance by the scientific community of the relationships between biophysical quality of energy carriers and technologies (cleanliness, net-energy return, etc.) with financial indicators (market price, costs of production, profitability, etc.) Energy return on energy invested (EROI) is a ratio of net-energy production developed in Ecological Economics to estimate the biophysical qualities of energy carriers and technologies. So far, only a scant and highly theoretical literature exists on the relationship between biophysical and financial indicators of energy resources. The community is thus unable to address pressing issues such as: does the declining quality of remaining fossil fuel reserves poses a risk for the stability of the financial sector to the extent that it is engaged in financing fossil-fuel production? Are changes in the profitability of energy production to be expected from changes in net-energy return? This proposal has 2 objectives: 1) theoretically, to investigate the connection (if any) between the biophysical and financial properties of energy resources, and 2) empirically, to rigorously test the existence of this relationship by taking the Canadian oil sands as a case-study. We use data on the standard EROI of diluted bitumen and synthetic crude produced via open-pit mining of oil sands from 1997 to 2016 and systematically compare these indicators with their market price, production costs, and price-to-cost ratio via a multi-linear regression model. Preliminary results indicate no such relationship exist, suggesting biophysical and financial indicators are sui generis realities.

Diversity and sequential pattern of farming households’ responses to climate-induced food insecurities in northern Ghana.

Balikisu Osman

The northern part of Ghana is a climate change hot spot. Studies covering various communities in the region show increasingly truncated growing seasons, windstorms, and heavy flooding events and their intensifying impacts on food security. Smallholder farmers cultivating food crops mainly for household consumption are among those facing the dire consequences of climate impacts on food security. Although these households are usually assumed to be passive victims, they have long adjusted their livelihoods, adopting various strategies and actions to manage the impacts of the changing climatic conditions and the associated seasonality in food availability and access. My research aims to analyze smallholder farming households’ responses to climate-induced threats to food security in northern Ghana. It is informed by six months of intensive fieldwork and data collection through household surveys and focus group discussions. Findings reveal that northern Ghana farming households adopt diverse strategies and actions to manage climate-induced food crises. Among the key strategies include production intensification, sustainable land management, harvest/post-harvest loss prevention, market-based strategies, income diversification, consumption management, reciprocity-based strategies, asset liquidation, and migration. Further evidence reveals that households may respond sequentially in the following order: trading and by-day labour jobs, eating or cooking less, selling livestock, and migration. Based on these findings, my research suggests that households adopt diverse response strategies out of the necessity to maintain basic consumption in the seasonally distressed environment within which they find themselves. The findings presented here advance existing evidence (see Corbett, 1988), showing that sequencing in households’ response actions is a tactical way of managing critical assets for both current consumption needs and agricultural livelihood sustainability.