This story was originally published by UNDARK and appears here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

On April 4, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the final instalment of its Sixth Assessment Report, an epic synthesis of science exploring the causes and consequences of climate change. This latest document focused on the causes — chiefly, the rampant emission of greenhouse gases — and how to reduce them, fast.

As one of the lead authors of the new report, I and more than 230 scientists from around the world collectively reviewed over 18,000 scientific articles and responded to around 60,000 reviewer comments over the course of more than three years. Our goal was to compile the most accurate and nuanced picture of current climate science and social science and to use this to inform international climate change treaty-making and policy design. The result was a nearly 3,000-page document that details a stark, urgent threat — but that also gives us reason for optimism.

First, the grim news: Average annual greenhouse gas emissions were the highest during the past decade than they have been in human history. This, despite escalating social movements, high profile declarations, and splashy vows from political and business leaders to integrate climate into investment and business decisions. Without immediate, deep, and accelerating emissions reductions in all sectors and in all regions of the world, the goal of limiting warming to no more than 1.5 C — the threshold for avoiding the worst, but not all, impacts of climate change — will be out of reach. The human and environmental toll of such a scenario is unfathomable.

But glimmers of hope also emerge from this report. For the first time, we’re seeing evidence of real, sustained decreases in greenhouse gas emissions from some countries. These reductions aren’t blips that can be attributed to the economic recession of 2008 and 2009 or to the hardships inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, they are the result of effective and, in some cases, targeted efforts to scale up renewable energy, electrify transport, enhance building efficiency, foster compact, sustainable communities, and otherwise reduce society’s carbon footprint. In some countries, these reductions are deep and comprehensive enough to be consistent with limiting global warming to 2 C, the overarching target set in the Paris Agreement of 2015.

These signs of progress also point to a path forward. The solutions to climate change now exist; we just have to adopt them.

In the energy supply sector, which is responsible for around a third of global greenhouse gas emissions, a particularly major transition is required. Limiting warming to 2 C will require us to prematurely shut down oil and gas infrastructure by mid-century. In other words, we will have to leave fossil fuels in the ground, and the new infrastructure that continues to be announced in countries like Canada may end up as stranded assets by 2050. Coal, of course, will have to go. Absent effective carbon capture and storage, neither of which is currently used widely or well enough to measurably impact our climate goals, coal use will need to decline by up to 92 percent by 2030.

There are promising indications, however, that a transition in the energy sector is already underway. As we watch the volatility of gas prices, we’ve also seen the price of renewable energy fall. The costs of photovoltaics used to harvest solar energy plummeted by around 85 per cent over the last 10 years, surpassing even the most optimistic projections. Likewise, the price of wind has come down around 55 per cent over the same time span, and the price of lithium-ion batteries — crucial for when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow — has come down by 85 per cent as well. Fuels like hydrogen and biofuels will fill in the gaps to support a transition in aviation and heavy shipping.

Our report also suggests vast potential to shift our cities toward low-carbon, resilient development. Cities are responsible for more than two-thirds of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is where the transport, building, and infrastructure sectors collide to shape individual decisions. Demand for transport can be reduced by locating homes near workplaces, recreation, and services. The remaining emissions can be dramatically reduced by encouraging a shift toward electric vehicles powered by clean energy sources and toward active transport, like walking and biking. Efficient buildings that use zero net energy or produce zero net carbon emissions will also be critical, and we find evidence that these buildings are springing up in every climate.

Opinion: The nearly 3,000-page document details a stark, urgent threat — but it also shows a clear path forward.

But it’s also important not to pin responsibility for mitigating climate change on the individual. We can only choose low carbon transport if the infrastructure is available and affordable; we can more easily make our homes energy efficient if incentives and building codes support these changes. The link between collective decision-making, at all levels of governance, and individual behaviour is a powerful one.

Ultimately, the new IPCC report lays bare the state of our efforts to mitigate the worst harms emerging from the rampant burning of fossil fuels. It shows that we cannot reach our broader sustainable development goals of a vibrant natural environment, clean water, peace, zero poverty, and healthy communities without addressing climate change. It just won’t work. Our report shows that addressing climate change is a matter of justice, and that a stable climate is the foundation upon which our societies thrive. We now have the solutions, and the path ahead is difficult, but clear.

Dr. Sarah Burch is a Canada Research Chair and executive director of the University of Waterloo’s Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change. She is a lead author of the IPCC’s 6th Assessment Report.

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Article: "There are promising indications, however, that a transition in the energy sector is already underway. As we watch the volatility of gas prices, we’ve also seen the price of renewable energy fall."

Renewables may be competitive on price, but the profits are still in fossil fuels. All the sunk costs that need to be recovered are in fossil fuels.
Who will curtail the O&G industry's record profits?
Who will force the industry to internalize its climate, environmental, and health costs?
Who will correct the market failure that fills investors' pockets with billions of dollars, including subsidies from taxpayers?
Who will stop the Big Banks from underwriting new fossil-fuel projects, much less force them to pull out from existing ones?
Our governments continue to prop up the O&G industry with massive subsidies:

"Yet another platform promise from the Liberals is to phase out subsidies for the fossil fuel industry by 2023. Canadian governments have been promising to end these subsidies since 2009. It is therefore already hard to trust this commitment, and it is rendered even more dubious by the Liberals’ slippery definition of what exactly constitutes a subsidy.
"In a recent interview with the National Observer, Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson said he does not consider all transfers of government money to given to companies in the industry to be fossil fuel subsidies. He does not see giving money to them to slightly reduce their emissions from producing oil and gas to be a subsidy. He does not see giving them billions in a wage subsidy to be a subsidy. And he doesn't think it's a subsidy when his government pays to clean up old abandoned 'orphan' oil and gas wells that companies should have paid to clean up but routinely don't. It makes it hard to know what the Liberals mean when they say 'eliminate fossil fuel subsidies.'"
"The Liberal Climate Plan Is New Denialist Trash", (Media Co-op, Sep 16, 2021)

Climate Action Tracker's 2021 report rates Canada's efforts overall as "highly insufficient". Same rating since 2011 -- in every year but one in the last decade.

Once again, as with many contributions of Mr. Pounder, a resounding "Amen"!

You two are starting to look like another brand of conservative "trolls" as devious as "new denialists" by hiding in plain sight behind a persona of being the only ones truly serious about climate change. Which most of us actually are, but also acknowledge the equally undeniable systemic and political reality.
As I've said in my comment under the Toronto Star story, the giveaway is the avidity, first off, the usual going too far, which shows trademark right-wing extremity by insisting that the Liberals and Conservatives are interchangeable, which is not true, a further reminder of that other solidly right-wing wheelhouse of DISINFORMATION, them being very much the authors thereof.

As for the article itself, I'd really appreciate Dr. Burch's comment on the "grey hydrogen" scheme the current federal administration is mindlessly locked in to.

Is it not somewhat understandable that whomever is in governance in this country, as is evidenced in all democracies right now, (France just exemplified that familiar 60/40 split where the 40% has scarily devolved there as everywhere into full-on "convoy") has to move rather carefully under the circumstances, with 40% of Canadians generally voting conservative? And the majority of corporate leaders are likely in that camp, not to mention the mainstream media, and then there's the algorithms of social media where so many get their "news," algorithms that supercharge "misinformation" and are wreaking havoc with the truth, which is arguably all we really have here. In this capitalist system, men such as Zuckerberg who want to rule the world are becoming almost as powerful and wealthy as the government, putting us at a crossroads, and in an information war.
What we need to do is unite the left, and the fact that the NDP, at least federally, has now been convinced of the right-wing danger at hand, reminds everyone, especially conservatives, that progressives ARE the 60%. The majority that is, while we are still trying to call ourselves a democracy.