IPCC report raises the stakes for climate change inaction

A report tabled this month by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is clarifying the need to address the causes of climate change while there is still time left for our efforts to avert catastrophic outcomes.  The report was unequivocal, stating that, the world must utterly transform its energy systems in the next decade or risk ecological and social disaster.   Placed against the backdrop of Canadian political discourse which is locked into an argument over the necessity and usefulness of a carbon tax, and the report shows we are well off course.

The truth is we have been for decades. Now we are forced to reconcile ourselves with Canada’s numerous false starts, overly modest goals, and political expediency.  The Kyoto Accord would have set us on a better path, but our commitments were never acted upon, the same is holding true for our current commitments.  The IPCC report gave a shiver-inducing timeline for the world to act in order to avoid the worst case scenarios.  But we are already starting to see the shape of the world to come if we do not address the causes of climate change.

The impacts in Canada are obvious: longer heat waves, species extinctions, crop losses, increased frequency and intensity of floods and forest fires, heat islands, disruption of our ecosystems, and other extreme weather events such as the recent tornados that battered suburban Ottawa region. There are also examples right here in Algoma-Manitoulin-Kapuskasing such as this week’s washouts that closed Highways 17, 129, and 101, as well as the tornado that hit Wiikwemkoong First Nation this past summer to name a few.  There’s no question as to whether these events are happening more frequently, the only question is about whether we will be part of a solution or not.

The debate – if that’s even the right way to frame the issue – pits politicians beholden to carbon intensive interest such as energy producers against the majority of the scientific community who have warned for years that we are marching to a future that will be defined by catastrophe.

What is becoming clear is that we have little time left to act.  The other reality is that the cost of reacting to weather related emergencies is mounting.  The President of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), reports that more than half of their operations are now in direct response to weather-related events, and many others are compounded by climate shocks and stresses. If this is the situation now, it is difficult to comprehend the scale of crises confronting vulnerable communities in a world that is 1.5°C or 2.0°C hotter.

According to the IPCC, the world needs to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 45% by 2030, compared to 2010 levels.  They also explain the use of oil will have to decrease by at least 80%. Buying a pipeline like Trans Mountain and opening the door to Energy East's return is not how Canada will succeed in fighting climate change.

The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development has slammed the government on a number of occasions for their disastrous record in protecting the environment. The OECD has already given them numerous warnings. Now, thousands of scientists and experts from around the world are sounding the alarm.  The time for nice words has come and gone.  Canada needs to be a world leader in the fight against climate change – we are running out of other any other option.