Senator Galvez in the Lab

What is Climate Change?

The Earth’s atmosphere and oceans are unequivocally heating. This phenomenon, a result of rising anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions is expected to worsen over the next century unless society undergoes a swift and far-reaching transition towards low-carbon energy sources.


Use the tabs below to explore the issue of climate change.

Causes of Climate Change

The extraction, refining, and burning of fossil fuels to produce petrochemicals and to generate electricity and heat emit the vast majority of total global greenhouse gas emissions. In fact, 78% of the total increase in emissions between 1970 and 2010 is due to fossil fuel combustion and industrial processes. Regrettably, fossil fuels have worked their way into almost every facet of our modern lives with oil, coal, and natural gas comprising, in 2019, a combined 85% and 64% of global primary energy consumption and of electricity generation respectively.

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Impacts of Climate Change

Current average global temperatures (0.8 – 1.2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures) are leading to more intense heat waves, sea level rise, severe weather events increasing in frequency and severity, and a loss of biodiversity. Each of these climate change impacts in turn causes a series of downstream impacts which infiltrate every facet of our society.

McKinsey & Co. group climate change impacts in a five-systems framework:

  • Livability and workability: Hazards like heat stress could affect the ability of human beings to work outdoors or, in extreme cases, could put human lives at risk. Increased temperatures could also shift disease vectors and thus affect human health.
  • Food systems: Food production could be disrupted as drought conditions, extreme temperatures, or floods affect land and crops, though a changing climate could improve food system performance in some regions.
  • Physical assets: Physical assets like buildings could be damaged or destroyed by extreme precipitation, tidal flooding, forest fires, and other hazards.
  • Infrastructure services: Infrastructure assets are a particular type of physical asset that could be destroyed or disrupted in their functioning, leading to a decline in the services they provide or a rise in the cost of these services. This in turn can have knock-on effects on other sectors that rely on these infrastructure assets.
  • Natural capital: Climate change is shifting ecosystems and destroying forms of natural capital such as glaciers, forests, and ocean ecosystems, which provide important services to human communities. This in turn imperils the human habitat and economic activity.

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Climate Change Commitments in Canada

In 2019, the Canadian government made a commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

The Paris Agreement

The 2015 Paris Agreement is a landmark treaty which urges parties to limit global warming to 1.5 ˚C above pre-industrial levels, stipulates that developed countries shall financially support less developed nations in their transitions to a low carbon economy, and provides a framework achieving those changes.

To achieve these targets, the 197 signatories are obligated to put forward their targets in the form of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) which are renewed periodically.

Solutions to Climate Change

Climate change needs to be addressed in terms of mitigation and adaptation.
Mitigation is the practice of lessening the extent of these climatic changes – reducing our impact on the environment.
Adaptation, meanwhile, is the practice of bracing our institutions and infrastructure for the impacts of climate change – reducing the environment’s impact on us.

Carbon Pricing

In June 2018, the Greenhouse Gas Pollution Pricing Act came into effect, mandating that each province must develop and implement an adquate carbon pricing system. In the event that a province chooses not to develop and implement their own system, they will be subject to the federal backstop price on carbon emissions of $20 per tCO2e (tonne of CO2 equivalent) intially, rising by $10 tCO2e per year.

Fossil Fuel Subsidies

Canadian governments subsidize fossil fuel exploration, drilling, transportation, and export by hundres of millions of dollars each year. These subsides are inconsistent with the nation's domestic and international climate change obligations

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Carbon Capture and Storage

In order to meet our climate change emissions reductions obligations, carbon capture and storage (CCS) will be required.

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Climate Accountability

in 2019, the Canadian government announced its commitment to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. However, this commitment will need to be enshrined in legislation in order for the government to be held accountable.

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Latest News

CBC

Majority of Canadians and Americans agree on climate change issues, poll suggests

2020/06/28

IEA

A sustainable recovery is within our reach if governments act now

2020/06/21

CBC Op-ed

New advocacy group joins push for green recovery from COVID-19's economic shock

2020/05/19

CICC

Marking the Way: How Legislating Climate Milestones Clarifies Pathways to Long-Term Goals

2020/05/01