OTTAWA – The Working Group 1 of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released its Sixth Assessment Report, laying out the current state of the climate, the role of human influence on climate change, as well as possible climate futures, and how we can limit human-induced climate change.
“The latest IPCC report makes for very sobering reading,” said Green Party Leader Annamie Paul. “It is the latest and most unequivocal alarm bell that the IPCC has ever sounded regarding the role of human activity on climate change and the impact of global warming on our planet.”
The IPCC report confirms that the global average temperature is now 1.1°C warmer than it was in 1850 -1900 and will probably exceed 1.5°C in the next 20 years. Human activity has warmed the atmosphere, ocean, and land at an unprecedented rate, and is causing widespread and rapid changes to our planet. The IPCC also reported today that human-induced climate change is the main driver behind many weather and climate extremes, including heatwaves, fire weather, heavy precipitation, droughts, and tropical cyclones, in every region across the globe.
Almost 600 people died a sudden death from the extreme heat in B.C. in just one week in June. As hundreds of fires burn in B.C., communities are evacuated, crops wither in the field on the prairies, and marine life bakes in the ocean, people in Canada are experiencing first-hand the tragic impacts of our warming planet in real time,” said Ms. Paul. “These Canadians need no further reminder that climate change is here, and that its impacts are devastating.”
One of the most painful conclusions of the IPCC report is that further global warming is now locked in, and that global surface temperature will continue to increase until at least 2050 under all greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions scenarios considered by the IPCC. In fact, many changes caused by past and future GHG emissions are irreversible for centuries to millennia. As a result, it is virtually certain that global sea level will continue to rise, and that ocean acidification and deoxygenation will continue to increase in this century. Mountain and polar glaciers will continue to melt for decades or centuries. Permafrost thaw is irreversible for hundreds of years, and continued ice loss over this century is virtually certain for the Greenland Ice Sheet and likely for the Antarctic Ice Sheet.
“Humans have already done a great deal of damage to our natural world through our activities, and particularly through our greenhouse gas emissions. We will sadly be living with these impacts for centuries to come,” said Ms. Paul.
However, while global surface temperatures will continue to warm for some time, there is still a lot at stake in reducing greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming.
“We need to double our resolve to reduce GHG emissions, because we know that, with every additional increment of global warming, the frequency and intensity of hot extremes, marine heatwaves, heavy precipitation, droughts, and intense tropical cyclones, reductions in Arctic Sea ice, snow cover and permafrost will continue to grow,” said Ms. Paul.
“The difference to our planet in holding global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels cannot be overstated. While 1.5°C global warming will provoke extreme weather and climate events, at 2°C global warming and above, such events will become much more frequent and intense.
“So, the question is no longer whether we can prevent global warming altogether, but whether we are willing to do what it takes to limit global temperature rise to at or below 1.5°C. Are we ready to do what it takes to prevent the most intense, frequent and catastrophic climate and weather events from coming to pass?
“The IPCC report was very hard to read. I know that it will frighten many people and cause feelings of hopelessness in some. We must acknowledge that fear, and grieve for what has been lost, but we must not let our sadness paralyze us into inaction or cause us to despair. Rather, the IPCC findings must strengthen our resolve to do all we can as a global community to avert the worst impacts of global warming.
“This report does contain rays of hope, hope that should create a sense of purpose and provoke decisive, rapid and ambitious climate action in Canada and internationally. The IPCC has said again today that the world needs to cut global emissions in half by 2030 and reach net zero by the middle of this century, and in doing so eventually halt rising temperatures.
“Unfortunately, the federal government is falling further and further behind our international partners in its climate action ambition and in doing its fair share. The U.K., with its gold-standard Accountability Act, has achieved 43 per cent GHG reduction below 1990 levels and recently pledged to achieve 78 per cent below 1990 by 2035. The EU countries recently pledged to cut GHG emissions by 55 per cent by 2030 and have set out a detailed and ambitious climate plan. The results of the government’s lack of ambition are clear:
- Canada’s current emissions are 21 per cent above 1990 levels;
- Canada has never achieved a climate target;
- Canada’s 40-45 per cent emissions reduction target is still significantly below global peers;
- Canada’s GHGs have risen in every year of the Liberal government’s mandate;
- Canada is one of the top five worst per capita GHG emitters in the world;”
Greens have been calling for a non-partisan, collaborative approach to the climate emergency for years. Our Green Recovery plan is ambitious and doable and secures Canada’s future sustainable prosperity. It calls for a 60 per cent reduction in emissions from 2005 levels by 2030 with clear enforceable targets and timelines, starting in 2025. Priority actions include:
- A detailed Carbon Budget setting out GHG emissions allowed to keep within the 1.5 degrees Celsius threshold
- A Carbon Border Adjustment – a tariff on certain imports from jurisdictions with weak climate policies
- Cancellation of all new pipeline projects (beginning with TMX), oil exploration and a total ban on fracking
- End all subsidies to the fossil fuel sector
- A Just Transition for fossil fuel workers
- A national electricity corridor allowing 100 per cent renewable energy to flow across provincial and territorial borders.
- Investments in renewable energy and cleantech
- Deep energy retrofits of building
- Annual increases in the carbon tax
“The fact that we failed thus far to limit greenhouse gas emissions does not mean that we must fail in the future. The upcoming COP26 climate summit in Glasgow is a perfect opportunity for countries to demonstrate that the IPCC’s message has been received loud and clear and will be acted upon at a scale that matches the challenge,” said Ms. Paul.
“The people of Canada have demonstrated time and again throughout this pandemic that they have the determination and ambitiousness to face tremendous challenges together. If we can combine this spirit with political will and leadership, Canada can become a global leader in limiting global warming, securing our planet’s future, and creating one of the most competitive green economies in the world. That thought fills me with a great deal of hope.”
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