IPCC report prompts emergency debate in Canada’s House of Commons

The landmark report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in October, Global Warming of 1.5 ,  continues to generate debate and reaction around the world.  On October 15, Canada’s  House of Commons held an emergency debate on Global Warming.  Request for the debate was led by Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, and was joined by Members of Parliament from the New Democratic and  Liberal parties.  The Conservatives did not support the request, according to reports by both CBC  and the National Observer  .  The official Hansard transcript of the Emergency Debate is here in English  and in French  . Although the debate fell along partisan lines, it also provided opportunity for Members from across the country to highlight clean economy innovations within their own communities, and many made statements calling for actions, not just more debate.

MayElizabeth_GPFrom Elizabeth May’s website : “The issue tonight is not to debate Canada’s current carbon plan, Canada’s current climate plan. This is not a status quo debate. We should not be scoring political points because one party did this and another party did that. We should be here as humanity, human beings, elected people for our constituencies who know full well that if we do not change what we are doing as a species, we will face an unthinkable world. The good news is we still have a chance to save ourselves. ”

Further, she likens the current situation to the crisis of the Dunkirk evacuation in World War 2, and calls for  leadership like that shown by Winston Churchill:

“This is when we need our Prime Minister to go to the negotiations in Poland, or to dispatch the Minister of Environment to the negotiations in Poland, and say, “We are stepping up. We are going to rescue everybody. We are going to be the heroes in our own story. We are going to adopt what the IPCC says we must do: 45% reductions by 2030.” …. We need to tell Canadians that we have hope, to not despair or think it is too late. They should not turn away from the IPCC reports. They should not be afraid because we cannot breathe in British Columbia in the summer because of forest fires. They should not give up. We will rally and marshal every small town, every big city, every Canadian group, rotary clubs, church groups, and we will tell those naysayers who think that climate change is about a cash grab that they are in the way of our future and that they must get out of the way.”

Political will and urgent action required to save our planet, IPCC Report warns

IPCC 2018reportThe world’s climate science experts have spoken in the landmark report released by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on October 8.  The full title is: Global Warming of 1.5 °C: an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty . That dry title doesn’t reflect the importance and impact of this report –  the first time that the UN body has modeled the difference between the impacts of the Paris agreement goals of 2°C and 1.5 °C, and an urgent, unanimous challenge by 91 scientists to the policy makers and politicians of the world to act on the solutions outlined in their models .  An IPCC official  quoted in a CBC report strikes the hopeful tone the report tries to achieve: “We have a monumental task in front of us, but it is not impossible… This is our chance to decide what the world is going to look like.”

The official report, commonly called  Global Warming 1.5  runs over 700 pages. The official press release  states:  “The report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require “rapid and far-reaching” transitions in land, energy, industry, buildings, transport, and cities. Global net human-caused emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) would need to fall by about 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030, reaching ‘net zero’ around 2050. This means that any remaining emissions would need to be balanced by removing CO2 from the air….Limiting warming to 1.5ºC is possible within the laws of chemistry and physics but doing so would require unprecedented changes”.  A 34-page Summary for Policymakers and a 3-page Headline Statements provide official summaries. Climate Home News offers  “37 Things you need to know about 1.5 global warming”  and  The Guardian offers summary and context in  “We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero or face more floods”  by Nicholas Stern and “We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN”  (also republished in The National Observer) .

CAN CANADIANS EXPECT URGENT ACTION? :  A thorough CBC summary of the report appears in “UN Report on global warming carries life- or- death warning” , and the Globe and Mail published “UN Report on Climate Change calls for urgent action to avert catastrophic climate change”    (Oct 8) – yet no official reaction has been released by the federal government of Canada. “Trudeau’s Big Oil-friendly decisions mean climate chaos”  from Rabble.ca contrasts the IPCC report with a brief summary of Canada’s recent policy failures. “No change to Canada’s climate plans as UN report warns of losing battle” appeared in the National Observer (Oct. 8).  The National Observer also posted “We challenge every Federal and provincial leader to read the IPCC report and tell us what you plan to do” on October 9, characterizing Canada’s current divisions over a national carbon tax as representative of the world’s dilemma – the failure of political will to act on known scientific facts.  350.org Canada also addresses the issue of political will with  an online petition   calling for an emergency debate in the House of Commons on Canada’s plan to limit climate change, in light of the IPCC report.

Opinion Pieces are still being written, including:  “To avoid catastrophic climate change, we need carbon pricing” by Dale Beugin and Chris Ragan of the Ecofiscal Commission in the Globe and Mail  (Oct. 9) which argues that  “The best that economics has to offer is telling us we have a key solution right under our noses. Carbon pricing is now a Nobel Prize-winning idea. ”

On Climate, Our Choice Is Now Catastrophe or Mere Disaster ” by Crawford Kilian in The Tyee  . ….” modern governments and most of their voters are sleepwalking into catastrophe. If anyone or anything can wake them up, we might have a chance. And if we don’t work hard to turn that catastrophe into a mere disaster, we won’t be able to say nobody warned us. ”

“Canada’s carbon-tax plan is collapsing just as the planet runs out of time” in the Washington Post (Oct. 9)…. ” Today, Canadians should take a minute to write to their elected officials provincially and federally and demand that we get the carbon tax done. Every elected official should take a moment to decide how they would like to be remembered. That is, assuming there will be anyone around to remember.”

WELL-INFORMED GLOBAL SUMMARIES :IPCC: Radical Energy Transformation Needed to Avoid 1.5 Degrees Global Warming”   and “Not Just CO2: These Climate Pollutants Also Must Be Cut to Keep Global Warming to 1.5 Degrees”appeared  in Inside Climate News. The World Resources Institute published “8 Things You Need to Know About the IPCC 1.5˚C Report” , accompanied by a  blog and infographic which  explains the consequential difference between 1.5 and 2.0 global warming levels. Climate Action International monitored the discussions leading up to the release of the report: here is their summary and a compilation of global reactions . A compilation of reactions from the academics at Imperial College and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment (LSE) is here.

A brief Comment was already issued by the policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, which calls the report a “conservative assessment” because it omits discussion of some of the largest risks and their impacts – notably  population displacements, migration and possibly conflict, as well as  potential climate  ‘tipping points’, such as disruption to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic and shifts in the monsoon in Africa and Asia.

Another key issue: the controversial role of geoengineering, such as carbon capture and storage or “carbon dioxide removal technologies”(CDR) .  “Negative Emissions technologies in the new report on limiting global warming” was posted at Legal Planet (Oct. 8) , pointing out how important geoengineering is in the report’s models. The author argues that ”  …. The text of the relevant chapter is honest about large-scale negative emissions, when it states:  “Most CDR  technologies remain largely unproven to date and raise substantial concerns about adverse side-effects on environmental and social sustainability. ” But the author argues that the message was deliberately watered down  in the executive summaries and in the Summary for Policymakers.

On October 4, just before the release of Global Warming 1.5, 110 organizations and social movements, led by Friends of the Earth International, released their Hands Off Mother Earth! Manifesto, which opposes any geoengineering solutions, including carbon capture and storage.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of this report, and it will draw more and more discussion as the UNFCCC meetings in Katowice, Poland approach in December 2018.

Links to IPCC 5th Assessment Reports, and Reactions

If somehow you missed the release of the two reports from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment, you will find Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaption, and Vulnerability (released March 31st) at:
http://www.ipcc-wg2.gov/AR5/. The second report, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change (released on April 13th) is available at: http://mitigation2014.org/. The final Synthesis Report is scheduled for release in October 2014. What follows is a series of links to summaries and reaction, especially with a Canadian viewpoint. “UN report highlights urgency of near-term carbon cutting” (April 13) in the Globe and Mail at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/world-losing-ground-in-climate-battle-says-un-body/article17949953/; “Only with Political Will can we Avoid the Worst” from David Suzuki at: http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2014/04/only-with-political-will-can-we-avoid-the-worst-of-climate-change/; “Dear Fossil Fuel Industry, It’s Over” at the Greenpeace Canada website at: http://www.greenpeace.org/canada/en/Blog/dear-fossil-fuel-industry-its-over/blog/48924/. There was no response from Environment Canada or the Prime Minister’s office.

From the U.S., several items from the New York Times are at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/01/opinion/climate-signals-growing-louder.html?emc=edit_th_20140401&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=67440933&_r=0, and http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/14/science/earth/un-climate-panel-warns-speedier-action-is-needed-to-avert-disaster.html?emc=edit_th_20140414&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=67440933&_r=0, with a widely cited OpEd on April 17th by Paul Krugman, “Salvation gets Cheap”, at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/18/opinion/krugman-salvation-gets-cheap.html?_r=0. From the U.K., The Guardian summary of U.K. reaction is at: http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/blog/2014/apr/14/climate-change-report-reactions-to-the-final-instalment-of-the-ipcc-analysis, and a portal to all Guardian coverage of the IPCC reports is at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/ipcc.

Divestment Still a Necessary Strategy as ExxonMobil Reports on Stranded Assets

The largest oil and gas company in the world, ExxonMobil, agreed under pressure from activist shareholders to publish a “Carbon Asset Risk” report on their website, to provide information to shareholders on the risks that stranded assets pose to the company’s business model, and how the company is planning for a low-carbon world. Stranded assets for Exxon are the carbon reserves which would need to remain in the ground if the world were to follow a carbon budget to keep below 2 degrees of global warming.

Some environmentalists are claiming this transparency as a victory – GreenBiz described it as “a pivotal milestone on the road to a low-carbon economy”. Bill McKibben, noting that the Exxon report was released on the same day as the IPCC Report, said it is “probably at least as important in the ongoing battle over the future of the atmosphere”. But McKibben sees “consummate arrogance” in Exxon’s statement that “we are confident that none of our hydrocarbon reserves are now or will become stranded”. For McKibben, the solution remains a divestment campaign – a strategy that Archbishop Desmond Tutu also urged in an April essay in The Guardian.

See “Exxon, Stranded Assets and the New Math” at GreenBiz: http://www.greenbiz.com/blog/2014/03/24/exxon-stranded-assets-and-new-math, and an article in the Wall Street Journal Market Watch at: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/landmark-agreement-with-shareholders-exxonmobil-agrees-to-report-on-climate-change-carbon-asset-risk-2014-03-20. But see also Bill McKibben’s article in The Guardian on April 3rd, “Exxon Mobil’s Response to Climate Change is Consummate Arrogance” at: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/apr/03/exxon-mobil-climate-change-oil-gas-fossil-fuels?CMP=twt_fd&utm_content=bufferfc5c8&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer, and Desmond Tutu, “We Need an Apartheid-style Boycott to Save the Planet” at: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/apr/10/divest-fossil-fuels-climate-change-keystone-xl.

For an overview of Stranded Assets, see Unburnable Carbon: Wasted Capital and Stranded Assets at:

Will the IPCC 5th Assessment Report Inspire Change?

The 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was released on September 27. Dealing with the physical sciences, the report projects future weather, ocean levels, global warming and carbon dioxide levels.  According to U.K.’s Guardian newspaper, the report provided the first “carbon budget” – how much carbon dioxide we can emit before global temperature increase exceeds 2ºC and the planet overheats. The bad news? We’d already used half of it by 2011, and could now be approaching two-thirds. Thomas Stocker, co-chair of the IPCC working group, points out that more fossil fuels exist than can be burned if we are to remain within the budget. In other words, some valuable reserves will need to remain untapped.

The Globe and Mail summarized early Canadian reactions to the IPCC report, and cited the absence of comment from Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s office. Provincial premiers have been similarly silent. The David Suzuki Foundation is one of the few Canadian organizations to have commented, highlighting provincial successes and calling for the federal government “to prioritize clean energy and eliminate the billions of dollars in fossil fuel subsidies.” The Climate Justice Project at the Canadian Centre for Policy Analysis analyzed the IPCC report in relation to British Columbia, and asks, “will LNG development blow B.C.’s carbon budget?”. The Pembina Institute released a brief statement. A call to arms can be found in the Opinion piece by Andrew Weaver in the Globe and Mail, which states, “While the U.S., the E.U. and even China are making a profound shift to address the root causes of climate change, the Canadian government continues to focus our economy predominantly around the extraction, transportation and combustion of fossil fuels. Even British Columbia, which used to be considered a leader in the development of climate policies, is now moving in the opposite direction with its focus on the development of a Liquefied Natural Gas industry. The IPCC report could and should inspire us to take a different approach.”


IPCC 5th Assessment Report documentation is available at: http://www.ipcc.ch/

“IPCC: 30 Years to Climate Calamity If We Carry on Blowing the Carbon Budget” in

“Around the World: Strong Reactions To Climate Change Report” (Sept. 27) in the Globe and Mail at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/around-the-world-strong-reactions-to-climate-change-report/article14566793/

David Suzuki Foundation media backgrounder on the IPCC 5th Report is at:http://www.davidsuzuki.org/media/news/downloads/DSF_IPCC_WG1_Backgrounder.pdf

“Will LNG Development Blow BC’s Carbon Budget?” is at the Climate Justice Project at:http://www.policyalternatives.ca/publications/commentary/will-lng-development-blow-bcs-carbon-budget

Pembina Institute response is at: http://www.pembina.org/media-release/2483

“Now That Climate Change is Beyond Doubt, Focus on Fixing It” (September 28) at the Globe and Mail at: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/commentary/now-that-climate-change-is-beyond-doubt-lets-focus-on-solving-it/article14588647/