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Thesis defences

PhD Oral Exam - Daniel Horen Greenford, Geography, Urban and Environmental Studies

Safe ends with just means: Charting a course to a fossil fuel free economy for Canada and beyond

Monday, September 19, 2022
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

This event is free


School of Graduate Studies


Daniela Ferrer


Henry F. Hall Building
1455 De Maisonneuve Blvd. W.
Room 1269-3



When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.

Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.


In this dissertation, I explore drivers of and solutions to the climate crisis. I intend to inform a broad audience of policymakers, climate advocates and activists, and the general public. This dissertation comprises three papers: 1) an overview of effort sharing and decarbonization literature, and a theory for reconciling what should be done versus what is deemed feasible or practical (with a Canadian case study); 2) a framework for climate testing proposed fossil fuel infrastructure that can be used to evaluate an individual project's compatibility with global or domestic emissions reduction targets (with a case study of Canadian gas); and 3) an analysis of the potential for a shift towards services to mitigate GHG emissions and other environmental impacts. The results of paper 1 show that under a relatively ambitious but still insufficient decarbonisation program, Canada is projected to accrue a climate debt of 6 to 52 GtCO2e by 2050, which could be valued at $0.8 trillion to $6.5 trillion using the best estimate for the social cost of carbon. Paper 2 concludes current plans to pursue Canadian gas production are at odds with national and global climate efforts. In general, papers 1 and 2 contribute policy tools needed for Canada and similar wealthy fossil fuel producing nations to do their fair share of a global energy transition, even when a domestic energy transition is constrained politically or technologically. Paper 3 shows that when accounting for household consumption of employed people as induced by income paid by their respective sectors, there is no benefit to growing cleaner sectors over dirtier sectors. This exposes the limited benefits of economic structural changes, which have been proposed as a means to decouple economic growth from GHG emissions. These findings may be used to inform policymaking, so that appropriate emphasis is placed on behavioural, technological, and structural changes to the economy. Together, realizations from this dissertation can be used to craft fair and practical policy for a just transition for Canada, through integrated domestic and foreign policy, which also could serve as a model for other affluent nations.

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