Tag Archives: climate change

What the heck is the IPCC and why does its report on climate change matter?

So I have discovered this great online learning tool called wildflowers Coursera. There are a number of different courses you can take that are offered by universities and I am currently enrolled in a course on Climate Change. This is also a credit course but because it deals with science I wanted to do the free online course first and then consider taking it for credit. For those of you who are life learners, I would highly encourage you to check it out. It’s extremely well done.

I read an article in the Globe and Mail recently by Andrew Weaver with the headline – “Now that climate change is beyond doubt, focus on solving it

One of my objectives in taking a course on Climate Change is that I want to understand the global policy initiatives and the science more clearly so I can make more informed decisions on a course of action or activism.

“Climate Change is Beyond Doubt”

So back to the headline – ‘Climate change is beyond doubt’- where does this consensus come from? Well, it comes from the IPCC report that was recently released that shows that scientists are 95-100 per cent certain that humans are causing global warming. Levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide are higher than at any time in the last 800,000 years.

So what is the IPCC and why does what they report matter?

The IPCC stands for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It was created in 1988 by the United Nations Environmental Program and the World Meteorological Organization to provide the world with a clear scientific view on the current state of knowledge on climate change and its potential environmental and socio-economic impacts.

Thousands of scientists from all over the world contribute to the work of the IPCC on a voluntary basis. This body does not conduct research but rather reviews current science, studies and papers to provide an objective assessment to policy and decision-makers.

IPCC is made up of three working groups:
– the first group addresses the science of climate change
– the second climate impacts, adaptation and vulnerability including effects on human health and the environment
– the third group addresses climate mitigation

Each group draws on a wide range of scientists that are selected by a process ensuring that a broad range of disciplines are represented.

The IPCC is one of the largest scientific collaborations ever undertaken. These scientists meet regularly and collaborate to provide the most accurate data possible for governments and governing bodies to draw on. If criticisms are leveled at the body, it’s that they are too conservative in their views.

Key findings (via Globe and Mail) m this report which was released in September 2013 are:

Global warming is “unequivocal,” and since the 1950’s it’s “extremely likely” that human activities have been the dominant cause of the temperature rise.

Concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have increased to levels that are unprecedented in at least 800,000 years. The burning of fossil fuels is the main reason behind a 40 per cent increase in cabond-dioxide concentrations since the industrial revolution.

Global temperatures are likely to rise by 0.3 to 4.8 degrees C, or 0.5-8.6 F, by the end of the century, depending on how much governments control carbon emissions.

Most aspects of climate change will continue for many centuries even if carbon-dioxide emissions are stopped.

Sea levels are expected to rise a further 26-82 centimetres by the end of the century.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass over the past two decades. Glaciers have continued to melt almost all over the world. Arctic sea ice has shrunk and spring snow cover has continued to decrease, and it is “very likely” that this will continue.

It’s “virtually certain” that the upper ocean has warmed from 1971 to 2010. The ocean will continue to warm this century, with heat penetrating from the surface to the deep ocean.

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Bill C-38 Sucks But There’s Still Hope

Bill C-38 – the omnibus bill that contains changes to retirement age requirements and numerous changes to environmental protection is upsetting for a number of reasons. Green Party leader Elizabeth May provides a summary of the changes of the proposed legislation in this excellent piece and how it will impact the environment.The Burnaby Now also wrote about the impact of this legislation  on fish habitat. Richard Poplar in this weekend’s Globe wrote a guest editorial piece called “Forget Hockey and tuition: If anything calls for a riot, it’s Harper’s stealth governance.” that outlines why we should really be angry.

In spite of this there is a lot cool stuff happening that gives reason for hope and optimism. Through my work I encounter numerous individuals, businesses and organizations who are committed to mitigating their environmental impact.

Simon Fraser University, Pacific Blue Cross, VanCity, Hemlock Printers, Ritchie Brothers, Earls Restaurants, the folks at SeaChoice  to name just a few and of course the amazing people at Climate Smart. Climate Smart works with municipalities to match funding for companies wanting to take a workshop that uses software, and coaching to help SME’s measure and reduce  their carbon footprint.  Cut Carbon Cut Costs is their tag line and it underscores the positive message that sustainability is also money-saving and cost effective. When I see organizations on a local level doing this kind of thing it gives me hope. I love it.

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David Suzuki: What’s so radical about caring for the earth and opposing Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline?

Here’s an excellent editorial piece by David Suzuki and communications specialist Ian Hannington in this week’s Georgia Straight about our government and the proposed development of the two pipelines. Very well done.

By David Suzuki, January 17, 2012

Caring about the air, water, and land that give us life. Exploring ways to ensure Canada’s natural resources serve the national interest. Knowing that sacrificing our environment to a corporate-controlled economy is suicide. If those qualities make us radicals, as federal Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver recently claimed in an open letter, then I and many others will wear the label proudly.

But is it radical to care for our country, our world, our children and grandchildren, our future? It seems more radical for a government to come out swinging in favour of an industrial project in advance of public hearings into that project. It seems especially radical when the government paints everyone who opposes the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline project as American-funded traitors with a radical ideological agenda “to stop any major project no matter what the cost to Canadian families in lost jobs and economic growth.”

It’s bad enough when our government and its “ethical oil” and media supporters don’t tell the truth, but it’s worse when they don’t even offer rational arguments. Their increasing attacks on charitable organizations and Canadians from all walks of life show that if they can’t win with facts, they’ll do everything they can to silence their critics. And we thought conservative-minded people valued free speech!

The proposed Northern Gateway and Keystone XL pipeline projects and the massive, mostly foreign-controlled expansion of the tar sands are not about finding the best way to serve Canada’s national interests. If we truly wanted to create jobs, we would refine the oil in Canada and use it to reduce our reliance on imported oil, much of which comes from countries that government supporters say are “unethical”. If we really cared about using resources for the national interest, we would slow development in the tar sands, improve environmental standards, increase royalties and put some of the money away or use it to switch to cleaner energy, eliminate subsidies to the fossil fuel industry, and encourage Canadian companies to develop the resource.

Instead, we are called radicals for daring to even question the wisdom of selling entire tar sands operations to China’s state-owned oil companies and building a pipeline so that the repressive government of China, rather than Canadians, can reap most of the benefits from the refining jobs, profits, and the resource itself. We are radical because we are concerned about the real dangers of oil-filled supertankers moving through narrow fiords with unpredictable weather conditions and through some of the last pristine ecosystems on Earth. We are condemned by our own government because we question the safety of two pipelines crossing more than 1,000 streams and rivers through priceless wilderness—a reasonable concern, in light of the more than 800 pipeline spills that Enbridge, the company in charge of the Northern Gateway, has had since 1999.

And so here we are, a country with a government that boasts of our “energy superpower” status but doesn’t even have a national energy plan. A country willing to sacrifice its manufacturing industry, its opportunities in the green-energy economy, its future, and the health of its people for the sake of short-term profits. A country hell-bent on selling its industry and resources wholesale to any country that wants them, without regard for the ethics or activities of those countries. Continue reading

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