A climate bomb is ticking, and the latest report from the world’s leading climate science body is a how-to guide for defusing it, says United Nations Secretary General António Guterres.

On Monday, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its sixth synthesis report. The report is the culmination of nearly a decade of scientific research and covers in overwhelming detail every corner of the climate crisis — from how bad it’s gotten to how bad it could get and what to do about it.

Every five to seven years, the IPCC publishes its key findings across three topic areas (physical science, adaptation and mitigation), and then pulls the most important information together in a synthesis report. The new report’s top-line message is that to prevent catastrophic warming, greenhouse gas emissions must be cut approximately in half this decade. If they’re not, the planet will continue to bake and is more likely to hit dangerous tipping points that when crossed lock in major, irreversible damage.

Canadian climate policy is considered “highly insufficient” by the independent Climate Action Tracker. For Canada to play its part slashing emissions at the pace required to avoid those tipping points, the economy will need to shift away from fossil fuels.

“The report makes the science very clear, once again, that avoiding the worst-case scenarios is only possible if we stop the expansion of new oil, gas and coal, and that we urgently need to focus on efficiency, reducing dependence on polluting fossil fuels, scaling up electrification of transport and renewable energy,” Tzeporah Berman, international program director with Stand.earth and chair of the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative, told Canada’s National Observer.

Canada's approval of new fossil fuel projects flies in the face of climate science, Tzeporah Berman, international program director with Stand.earth, said Monday. File photo by Alex Tétreault

“Our government's refusal to act according to the science and continue to expand LNG (liquefied natural gas) and fracked gas and oil drilling is not just embarrassing self-interest and ignoring the science, but it's completely ignoring the economic implications of the related rise of floods and fires and heat waves,” she added.

Berman pointed to the recent approval of the Cedar LNG project in Kitimat, B.C., and to the Bay du Nord oil project off the coast of Newfoundland approved last year, as two examples of Canada allowing increased fossil fuel production.

“We keep hearing in Canada that approving these projects is necessary for a strong economy… But in this report, the science is very clear. These projects will lead to more deaths, more migration, more floods, fires and heat waves, and greater economic instability,” Berman said.

"Avoiding the worst-case scenarios is only possible if we stop the expansion of new oil, gas and coal," says @Tzeporah, as the @IPCC_CH issues its final warning of the decade. #IPCC
An army officer helps to distribute masks to car passengers driving through the city of Palangkaraya, Central Kalimantan. Photo by Aulia Erlangga/CIFOR (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

University of Waterloo politics professor and energy transitions specialist at the International Institute for Sustainable Development Angela Carter said the IPCC report’s direction for Canada, beyond ramping up renewable energy, is to begin phasing out fossil fuel production.

“In Canada, we're in the situation where the oil and gas sector is the largest and fastest-growing source of emissions in the country, and the solutions that are getting public money are false solutions,” she said, referring to carbon capture and storage. “For Canada, our road to 2030 in trying to align with a net-zero future very much depends on how much we're willing to confront the oil and gas sector in this country.”

Rather than cutting production as climate science requires, carbon capture and storage is currently the centrepiece of Canada’s oil and gas industry’s stated plan to curb emissions. Last year, the federal government announced a carbon capture tax credit that would provide billions of taxpayer dollars to oil companies to invest in the speculative technology. In its report, the IPCC ranks carbon capture as the most expensive and least effective option to reduce emissions.

IPCC chart from the sixth assessment report shows various options to curb emissions. Screenshot by Canada's National Observer

Carter said because the next IPCC synthesis report won’t come out for years, Monday’s report is the last warning before the end of the decade — by which time, the world will need to have cut emissions in half to avoid crossing the dangerous threshold of 1.5 C degrees of global warming.

“If the next cycle takes six or seven years, we'll be right up on 2030,” she said. “So this is the information we need to know right now to kick us into a higher gear.

“There is a substantial emissions gap, and that needs to be corrected by global policies,” she added, referring to the gulf between the pledges countries have made to reduce their emissions and what will be required to avoid catastrophic warming.

University of Waterloo associate professor and energy transitions specialist with the International Institute for Sustainable Development Angela Carter says the latest IPCC report means Canada should not only invest in renewable energy but also shift away from producing fossil fuels. Photo courtesy of Angela Carter

Carter told Canada’s National Observer that Monday’s report underscored that rich countries are most responsible for the climate crisis, but poorer countries that have not contributed as much are bearing the brunt of global warming.

Today, in a world of 1.1 C warming, more than three billion people live in areas “highly vulnerable” to climate change, with roughly half the world’s population suffering from “severe water scarcity” for at least part of the year, according to the IPCC’s findings. All regions of the planet are baking under extreme heat, leading to higher mortality rates. Food-, water- and vector-borne diseases are on the rise, as are mental health issues associated with trauma from extreme weather events and loss of culture. Climate change is already causing economic damage across the agriculture, forestry, fishery, energy and tourism sectors, with those losses and damages concentrated in more vulnerable countries.

‘All hands on deck’

Recognizing the severity of the climate impacts already in plain view at 1.1 C warming, Guterres marked the IPCC synthesis report’s publication by launching what he calls an acceleration agenda. This “all-hands-on-deck” plan he proposed would see heavy-emitting rich countries, like Canada, the United States, Germany and other members of the G20, mobilize more resources to help developing countries slash emissions while simultaneously bringing their own net-zero targets forward a decade to 2040.

Specifically, Guterres is urging rich countries like Canada to end all international public and private funding of coal, scale up renewable energy to have an emission-free grid by 2035, stop any expansion of oil and gas reserves while cancelling new licences, phase out fossil fuel production and prepare energy transition plans to provide certainty for investors.

“We have never been better equipped to solve the climate challenge — but we must move into warp-speed climate action now,” he said.

According to the IPCC, there are several promising options to slash emissions at the pace required but also “a rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a livable and sustainable future for all.” The IPCC points to solar and wind energy, energy efficiency, green infrastructure, better crop management and reducing food waste as “increasingly cost-effective” and “technically viable.”

Harjeet Singh speaking after a press conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, during COP27. Photo by John Woodside / Canada's National Observer

In response to the IPCC’s report, Climate Action Network International head of global political strategy Harjeet Singh said: “Governments have no excuse to ignore the emphatic warning for this critical decade.

“Every fraction of a degree of warming puts us closer to breaching the 1.5 C survival threshold… Governments must strengthen efforts to protect communities from worsening and irreversible climate impacts, such as sea-level rise and melting of glaciers, which pose an existential threat to many communities,” he said.

“Scaling up finance must be the key lever to make the transition to a climate-safe future in a just and equitable manner.”

The IPCC specifically highlighted limited financing options as a barrier to cutting emissions and adapting to climate change in developing countries. It also noted that funding for fossil fuels still outpaces money for addressing climate change, and that improving access to finance for low-emission technologies would help speed up climate action this decade, when urgent action is required.

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Have we become too accustomed to these dire reports about the climate crisis? And why aren't we all out on the streets demanding action from our leaders?

I know. Unfortunately, since covid, being "out in the streets" seems to have become more of a social event and/or an opportunity for young men in particular to "vent" by succumbing to "mob mentality."
I keep hearing the phrase "political will" as the common impediment in all these climate change pronouncements, as if there was just some lack of energy or somesuch, but missing the opportunity to voice the other unvarnished truth by naming corporatism and the political right wing as the real obstacles. Isn't naming the enemy job number one?

We've been "out in the streets" in front of Minister Hajdu's office in our riding consistently, sometimes supporting youth climate strikers, sometimes as part of 350.org climate events. We typically draw between 30 and 100 people. That's enough to keep another narrative alive, but not enough for the Liberals to feel threatened. Where is everyone else? What do we need to do to get people out from behind their computers to push politicians to act differently? We're up against the total Liberal capture by the fossil fuel industry. We're going to need more people; otherwise, we know exactly what to expect.

It seems that most climate change mitigation that is recommended by the UN and WEF are measures that will most affect the poor and not those who are actually making the rules and causing the harm in the first place. Canada is presently engaged in escalating a war by selling arms around the world (massive pollution). Ban that. Private jets and air travel for pleasure. Not a peep. Over consumption (especially by elites). How about only allowing one house. It seems that those with billions who are some of the biggest personal polluters, will never have to sacrifice their excess. When they will do that, I'll know they are serious.

"All regions of the planet are baking under extreme heat, leading to higher mortality rates."

Hyperbole does not help.
Can we stick to reality, please?

Tzeporah Berman, int'l program director with Stand.earth, 2023:
“The report makes the science very clear, once again, that avoiding the worst-case scenarios is only possible if we stop the expansion of new oil, gas and coal, and that we urgently need to focus on efficiency, reducing dependence on polluting fossil fuels, scaling up electrification of transport and renewable energy.”

Berman on Alberta's climate plan 2016: "I understand that we produce over two million barrels a day, and that will increase under the new oilsands emissions limit. I am supporting that climate change plan."

Berman 2018: “In the environmental community, we need to hold ourselves accountable for vilifying those who work in the oil industry, for not acknowledging how we have all benefitted and continue to benefit from oil, for not acknowledging how painful change is and will be."

Companies like Exxon now find themselves in court for decades-long campaigns of deception, doubt-mongering, and denial of global warming. The chief obstructionists of climate action. Fossil fuel companies and their financial backers are climate criminals.

I will believe Berman to be a sincere and credible voice on climate issues when she settles on one position and sticks to it. She works both sides of the room like a politician.

She's with the "just transition" crowd though, so is still trying to offer carrots in the manner most common to the political left, hoping for reason to prevail. But a grind is creeping in now, finally, such as offering tax breaks for carbon capture to call the bluff of greenwashing oil companies supposedly "concerned" about climate change. As expected, they are now whining for MORE subsidy to match that of the Americans so they can "remain competitive."
The left probably appreciate manners more than makes sense, choosing sunny ways of going high while "they" go low, but the context of this country's current political reality that has become crystal clear under pressure is that the right wing obviously prefers intransigence and chaos above all else as exemplified by their mentors, the GOP.
Mere sticks sound wholly insufficient at this point i.e. bring on those lawsuits citing crimes against humanity, a charge more accurate than ever before, and in the upcoming federal budget, make that cap really hurt (and then some.)
But the left could also stay on point by simply declaring a plan to unite their parties, thereby preserving that noble adherence to democracy AND the greater good that they lay claim to. If nothing else it would expose the conservatives at their avid and fearful worst; remember their apoplectic reaction to the proposed coalition a few years back? They didn't care about that being democratic then, nor would they now, revealing their actual disregard of democracy itself. Again.
The Liberal/NDP agreement is a good starting point.