Ladies and gentlemen, we have quorum. I'd like to call the meeting to order.
Welcome to meeting number 11 of the Legislative Committee on Bill .
We have two witnesses with us today in person and one via teleconference. In person today we have Professor Richard Peltier,
from the Physics Department of the University of Toronto, and Mr. John Stone, Adjunct Professor at Carleton University and member of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Welcome to you both.
And from the University of Victoria we have Professor Andrew Weaver, from the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.
We'll start off with the usual for witnesses: we give each witness about 10 minutes and try to keep it to 10 minutes, if we can, so that we get maximum questioning in. We'll go through all three presentations and then we'll open it up to questioning from members of the committee.
We'll start in a little different order than that showing on your agenda. We'll start off with Adjunct Professor John Stone from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Professor Stone, the floor is yours.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Chairman and members of this legislative committee, I'm grateful for the opportunity to appear before you today to share with you some of the main conclusions of the recently completed report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Working Group I on the physical science basis of climate change.
First, I have some general comments.
With this report, the debate on the science of climate change is effectively over. There can no longer be any question that the climate is changing. According to this report, warming of the climate system is now unequivocal. According to the Oxford English Dictionary definition, this implies that the science is now unambiguous.
Furthermore, most of the observed increase in globally averaged temperatures since the 1950s is, it is now very likely, due to human activities that have given rise to increases in atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. “Very likely”, in the words of the IPCC, means at least a 90% certainty. Scientific results don't often get as clear as that.
The IPCC report is authoritative and well balanced and reflects peer-reviewed work of thousands of scientists around the world. As an assessment, however, it treats new results with caution and is therefore somewhat conservative.
My own reading of the literature suggests that the climate change is actually speeding up and that the trends are no longer simply linear. In my view, this suggests an urgency to addressing the issue of climate change. There is, indeed, a growing body of literature that suggests that the longer we delay tackling the threat of climate change, the greater will be the risks and the greater will be the potential costs.
Let me talk a little bit about what we have observed, and first about the root cause of the threat; that is, the changes we have made to the composition of the atmosphere mainly by the burning of fossil fuels.
The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide in 2005 exceeds by far the natural range over the last 650,000 years. That is over some six or seven ice ages. In short, we have taken the atmosphere into unknown territory.
More worrying is that the annual growth rate of carbon dioxide concentration is now larger than it has been since continuous records were begun in about 1960, and that is consistent with the continued growth in emissions. We are clearly far from stabilizing, let alone reversing, the root cause of the problem.
We know from well-established physics that increasing the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will affect the climate, and indeed, that is what has been observed. Eleven of the last twelve years are among the warmest in the instrumental record, roughly since 1850, and the linear trend in warming continues to increase.
Global average temperatures have increased by almost three-quarters of a degree over the past 100 years. We now have evidence that the oceans also have warmed and in fact have taken up almost 80% of the heat added to the climate system, which has resulted in temperature increases down as far as three kilometres. This heat in the oceans will take centuries to work itself through the climate system.
Global average temperatures are now higher than at any time in the last 1,300 years, and projected patterns of warming would continue these recent trends. It is extremely unlikely that observed changes over the past 50 years can be explained without invoking the increases in greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere.
In addition, average Arctic temperatures have increased at twice the global average rate over the last 100 years, and Arctic sea ice extent has declined by almost 3% per decade, with much larger decreases in the summer, and there are signs that these rates of decline are in fact increasing.
More intense and longer droughts have been observed over wider areas since the 1970s. At the same time, the frequency of heavy precipitation events has increased. There is observational evidence for an increase in the most intense hurricanes in the North Atlantic since about 1970. Outside the Tropics, mid-latitude westerly winds—the sorts of winds that hit the west coast in December—have strengthened in both hemispheres since the 1960s. That's what we've observed.
As for the future, over the next two decades, at least, further global temperature increases of 0.1 degrees Celsius per decade are in fact inevitable because of what we've already done to the atmosphere. All scenarios of future emissions project that the warming could in fact be twice as large as that. Best estimates of temperature increases by the end of the century range from 1.8 degrees to 4 degrees Celsius, with a forecast sea level rise from roughly 0.2 to 0.6 metres. In addition, snow cover and sea ice are expected to contract, with the possibility that arctic sea ice will be almost entirely absent in summer. Hence, there will no longer be multi-year ice by the latter half of the century. Weather and climate extremes, including heat waves, droughts, heavy precipitation, and winds will continue to become more severe and frequent.
Recent observations of unexpected acceleration in the flow speeds of out-lake glaciers from Greenland and Antarctica, from the ice sheets there, have led scientists to recalibrate their understanding of glacier physics. Contraction of the Greenland ice sheet is projected to indeed continue to contribute to sea level rise.
Current models suggest that ice mass losses increase faster than gains due to more precipitation if the global average temperatures are greater than 1.9 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. I may note that we're almost halfway there. If sustained for several millennia, the ice sheet would completely disappear, with a sea level rise in the order of seven metres. We haven't seen such sea level rise since the last interglacial period some 125,000 years ago.
To conclude, as I suggested, with this report, the debate on the science of climate change is effectively over. We now have to focus on solutions before it's too late. This will be the subject of the next two IPCC working group reports.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Members of the committee, John has covered almost every single point that's contained in the Summary for Policymakers of the AR4, and I'm not going to go through the process of repeating them once again.
What I thought I would do is focus on the high latitudes of this hemisphere and the comments the report makes about the situation northern Canada can expect to experience, if not in the next one or two decades, then certainly within the next century.
One of the primary fingerprints of the model predictions and surface observations of the process of global warming is that it is characterized by extremely high amplification at high northern latitudes. I think John has mentioned that we are observing, and models are correctly predicting, a difference by about a factor of two in the increase in mean surface temperature between the globe as a whole and the polar cap.
This has enormous ramifications for our country. For example, two years ago, in the Arctic Climate Impact Assessment report, which was precursory to the present AR4, there were detailed analyses performed of expectations about what the coverage of the Arctic Ocean by sea ice is liable to become before the end of this century.
It's very clear that by 2050—perhaps a little later, but about the middle of this century—there will exist for a significant period of time in the Arctic Ocean a continuous seaway. This has enormous implications for Canadian sovereignty. It has become much discussed in the popular press over the past month or so.
But it is just one of the issues we have to face in our most northern regions. We're beginning to observe very significant areas of permafrost degradation, and the ice cover in the Queen Elizabeth Islands and the Canadian archipelago is also experiencing a very significant decline.
I want to point especially to something that is not covered in the AR4, because these are results that have really come into the scientific literature only in the past six months or so. These results have to do with an experiment that is presently flying in space. It's an experiment called the gravity recovery and climate experiment. It's a two-satellite NASA–American–German collaboration that is flying a tandem of satellites over the pole, which are used to measure the time-dependence in the planet's gravitational field. This system has been focused very strongly on Greenland. One thing that has been very clearly established, based upon only four years of GRACE gravity field observations, is that the Greenland ice sheet is beginning to lose mass at an accelerating rate. Over the past four years, the rate of mass loss has increased by about a factor of four. This reinforces the comments in the AR4 to the effect that outlet glaciers on Greenland have begun to speed up.
This is an extremely important fact of the ongoing change in global climate: high-latitude amplification; increasing rates of mass loss in both alpine glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet.
And the report draws attention to a very important piece of observational evidence from the earth's past, specifically to a time in the past about 120,000 years ago, which is the so-called Eemian interglacial. This is the last time in Earth's history when the northern regions of the planet experienced a degree of warmth similar to the present. In fact, during the Eemian interglacial, the temperature within the polar cap was about five degrees warmer than it is at present. Our AR4 projection is that we should hit that increase in temperature in the polar cap again by about the middle of this century.
In the Eemian interglacial, when temperatures in the polar cap reached this level, the Greenland ice sheet was significantly smaller than it is today. And there was a very significant rise in mean sea level associated with that time, somewhere between four and six metres of sea level rise; we think about four metres associated with the loss of Greenland ice and as many as two metres associated with the loss of west Antarctic ice.
The interest here is a consequence of the fact that during the Eemian interglacial era, these changes, this shift in the temperature in the polar cap, took place on a very long time scale. The system moved very slowly into this new state of a relatively large diminution of polar ice. The experiment we're performing today is an experiment that's being performed on a very much shorter time scale. Our system is way out of radiative equilibrium, we call it. It's never been in a state like this before. The changes in greenhouse gas concentrations have occurred so rapidly that heat is being trapped out of radiative equilibrium primarily in the earth's oceans.
What this means in terms of the ability of Greenland and the west Antarctic ice sheet to maintain stability is an open question. Our climate models have no skill at all in predicting how ice sheets should respond to this out-of-equilibrium radiative regime. This really reinforces the fact that we are performing an experiment on the planet on which we have no way of predicting the outcome. And it should be a cause of great caution in terms of how we approach this from a policy perspective.
Thank you, Chairman.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee.
I'd like to echo what Dr. Peltier said regarding the very wonderful summary that Dr. Stone made about the IPCC Summary for Policymakers.
Let me say I've been involved in the last three IPCC assessments: the second one, which appeared in 1995-96; the third that was published in 2001; and the last one that appeared, at least the Summary for Policymakers, in 2007.
I would rather not be prescriptive as to the type of things the government should do, so I'm going to make myself available for questions on the science.
But I want to raise one small issue that was touched upon by John Stone, and that issue is the commitment to warming that is already in the cards for change that has occurred. If you look at the report, what you'll find is that even if we were to maintain and stabilize emissions immediately--and it's not even emissions, but levels of carbon dioxide immediately--we're still committed to a 0.1-degree-per-decade warming, up to a total of about half a degree warming in the centuries ahead.
Every policy option that's on the table, that is, all of the various scenarios put forward by the various working groups of IPCC, leads us to about a 0.2-degree-per-decade warming over the next couple of decades. The difference between the scenarios lies after that point, so the decisions we make today are really coming to effect on time scales greater than two decades.
We have decisions that lead us to paths where atmospheric carbon dioxide levels can stabilize, or those business-as-usual type scenarios where it doesn't stabilize. The time scale over which this occurs.... And if you ask the question, what levels of carbon dioxide or emissions do we need to get to as a globe, the working number is that if we get below 60% to 90% global emissions reductions, then we will stabilize carbon dioxide levels at greater than the level that is above a two-degree warming, and that's not necessarily an acceptable level.
So the types of targets that people are looking at are the targets greater than 60%, of the order up to 90% by the year 2050, in order to stabilize levels of greenhouse gases at a level that is not deemed to be “dangerous”. That level of dangerous is often defined to be two degrees or so, and the reason why it is defined to be that is because our estimates of when Greenland ice sheets, for example, past the point of no return, are shortly above a two-degree warming, about a 2.5- to three-degree warming.
I'll stop there and be ready for any questions on any aspect.
Thanks very much, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to all three of you, Professors. Is that right? All three of you are certainly doctors. Anyway, thank you very much for coming.
I'd like to go back, revisit with you, and get your advice on two separate matters, the first of which is what appears to have been put to bed.
The pro-science and anti-science factions have been battling each other internationally and domestically in this country for decades. This is the first point to which I'd ask all of you to respond. Isn't it clear that the Kyoto Protocol itself calls for all signatories to invest heavily in the science of climate change, and that the notion of the science being certain or uncertain is in fact a mug's game? Science ought to be seen instead in terms of being complete or incomplete. For average Canadians who are watching, when is science ever complete?
As point number two, can you help both us and Canadians who are watching to understand what the linkage is between the scientific work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the work that has been ongoing on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and particularly the Kyoto Protocol, which sprang forth from the Framework Convention on Climate Change?
I'd like to remind everyone here that it was our government that created the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, in response to our Kyoto obligations. It's headed up by Dr. Gordon McBean and is just a stone's throw from here, on Sparks Street.
Can you help us to understand those two things. Someone opened by saying the debate over the science is dead, but from elected officials, unelected officials, and industry representatives, we're still hearing doubts and aspersions being cast upon the science. In the past, it has come more principally from the oil and gas sector, the energy world. It's less so from there today, but it's still emanating from that sector and other sectors.
So can you help us to understand those two questions: one, the completeness and incompleteness of science; and two, linkage to the IPCC and the Kyoto Protocol.
I'll try to respond to the first of these questions concerning the completeness of science.
I very strongly agree with you that science is an ongoing enterprise. I commented at the end of my presentation, for example, that we are unable to predict what may be one of the most important impacts of global climate change, namely the stability of the cryosphere. The implication of that is that our scientific understanding is incomplete. We're unable to embody sufficient understanding in our models to make credible predictions.
What we can say on the basis of the AR4—and I don't think I would go further than this, and I don't think my colleague intended to go further than this—is that the science is unequivocal. I think what he meant to say was that it is unequivocal in the sense of the conclusion reached. With a high level of confidence, humankind is responsible for the majority of the warming that has occurred over the past four decades.
I think that's the guts of the comment in the AR4 report, but that doesn't mean the science is over. There is still a great deal that we have to understand if we're able to make credible predictions of very important aspects of the climate system.
I'll try to answer that, if I may.
Both are creatures of the United Nations. The IPCC was created by governments in about 1988 in order to provide them with authoritative information assessments on the state of knowledge of the science—and I use that word very broadly—of climate change.
Its first assessment was completed in about 1990, and this coincided with a large intergovernmental meeting in Geneva called the Second World Climate Conference. The results of the IPCC's first assessment were presented there and led to the desire to create a negotiating body. This led to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The second IPCC report was completed in about 1995, and it is probably no exaggeration to suggest that in fact this led and gave a considerable impetus to the completion of the negotiations on the Kyoto Protocol.
The third assessment was completed in 2001, and to some extent it's still a little too soon to understand exactly what the implications of that report will be on the UN framework convention process.
Now we've come to the fourth assessment that will be completed this year, in 2007.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Welcome to the committee, and thank you for the information you've given us. We're read it, but it's always pleasant to hear it in person.
Since we've been studying Bill C-30, we have focused more — and will continue to focus a great deal — on reducing greenhouse gas emissions at source. How can we achieve our Kyoto targets? What technologies can we put into effect? What tax or regulatory instruments should we use to combat climate change?
We talk a lot about reducing emissions at source, but your presentations lead me to talk to you more about adaptation to climate change. Government policy, whether it be that of the current government or that of the previous government, contains no policy on adaptation to climate change.
You spoke about a risk of rising sea levels and impact on populations farther north. What aspects should a policy on adaptation to climate change address? Should the maritime regions be included in such a policy? Should more vulnerable Aboriginal populations located in northern Quebec, where the permafrost will be melting, be given special attention? In a Canadian perspective, what fundamental aspects should a policy on adaptation to climate change include?
I could address some of that, if you wish.
First off, I'm loath as a scientist to discuss which policy options should be taken. We're here as scientists to give you the best available science, so that you can make the best-informed decisions as to a policy.
What is it that the science is saying? The science says, for example, that if we cut emissions of carbon dioxide by 50% globally towards the end of this century and stabilize it, we end up equilibrating at a level with atmospheric carbon dioxide that is four times pre-industrial levels. That's a level that has not been seen since the Jurassic, the Cretaceous, the Triassic, when the dinosaurs roamed. That's not acceptable.
That's one extreme that is not acceptable. Emissions must be cut much more than that and on a time scale of the middle of this century for us to move to a climate that will not have major catastrophic effects on large ecosystems both here and abroad.
The question, then, is what we do. That's up to you. We need to cut emissions. We know what the problem is; the problem is carbon dioxide. We know where it's coming from; it's coming from emissions in the combustion of fossil fuels. It's now up to the engineers, the policy-makers, the economists to put forward the ways by which we can eliminate those carbon emissions into the atmosphere.
Thank you for that question.
Yes, in every individual chapter you must have agreement. Some people will make a big deal that there's no such thing as consensus in science, but in fact there is. There's consensus that we're going to use words such as “likely” and “very likely”, which have a probability attached to them. You'll find that when you come to consensus, the extremes are not there. This is a very conservative report.
In fact, people have actually studied the results and the predictions, projections, from the IPCC, since its first report in 1990. They looked at what has actually happened over the last two decades, since IPCC started issuing their projections. You'll find that what happened was within the bounds projected by IPCC, but at the upper end of those bounds.
So you should view the IPCC projections as being very conservative, although not in the political sense. It's conservative in that it's not alarmist; it's very middle of the road and good science by the world's best scientists.
If we today, immediately, stabilize our level of greenhouse gases, we still have half a degree of warming in store. We've had one degree of warming—it's actually slightly less—and it's half of that again. It's committed, no matter what, even if we immediately stabilized emissions.
We've looked at these experiments. Some have argued that the time scale for carbon dioxide is 50 to 200 years in the atmosphere. It turns out, actually, that as you saturate more and more in the atmosphere, that time scale becomes longer and longer. So if we were to ask the question what happens if we burn our existing known resources of carbon—where does the atmosphere stabilize, and can we draw it down, if we burn our known reserves of carbon, 5,000 petagrams of carbon—we're going to end up with CO2 levels stabilizing at 700 to 800 parts per million, and the drawn-down time from that is on the time scale of tens of thousands of years; that is, the system becomes saturated.
So the answer to your question is, we have warming in store for centuries no matter what we do. The question becomes, what do we want the path of society to end up in? Do we want to end up in an Easter Island type of scenario, or do we want to end up in one that's more sustainable?
I was involved in chapter 10, which is the chapter that looks at what will happen in the future, at global climate projections. Not a single one of our statements was changed.
The only differences between the Summary for Policymakers as put forward by the scientists and the one that was finally approved is that there's a bit more addition. I think that tells you.
I don't know how many of you have actually passed the Summary for Policymakers to policy-makers, but it's clearly written by scientists. Most policy-makers view this as gobbledygook.
In terms of what was added, for example, we put forward a figure that had a probability distribution function in it, showing how the probability distribution function evolved with time through the 21st century. What came out of plenary in the recent assessment in Paris was that they wanted SPM-7 to be added. That's a stick chart that is easier to understand, so that figure was added to our chapter in order to expand upon the more complicated figure. We also had a table added from some of the results that were in our chapter, but there was no substantial change.
So there was no change at all in the text in terms of anything of any scientific merit. The scientists wouldn't allow it. They would be up in arms if this were to happen.
Thank you, Mr. Chair, and thank you, witnesses, for appearing today.
I've found this quite depressing. In fact, for the last several years, I have to comment, being on the environment committee and being from northern Alberta and seeing the changes, there's no question that I believe in climate change. Something is taking place.
I want to read some information and I want comments about Canada being a global leader and about how we can make sure that as a global leader somebody actually follows us so that our lead makes a difference.
I read an article from the Ottawa Sun on the top 10 reasons why Kyoto is doomed to fail. I'm just going to go through them very quickly, and I'd like your comments.
The first was that the United States, which produces over 20% of global emissions, doesn't participate.
The second is that China, the second-greatest emitter, at 14.8%, is exempt from reducing greenhouse gases.
The third is that the European Union, which is the third-biggest emitter at 14%, is reaping the benefits of East Germany's financial and economic collapse, so it really doesn't have to meet any emission targets.
Russia, the fourth biggest, at 5.7%, had economic collapse, so they're more or less in the same position.
India, the fifth, is exempt for many targets because it's a developing country.
Australia is not involved in it. It has the highest per capita emissions of carbon dioxide on the planet, due to its reliance on coal. But still, it would be able to actually increase its emissions.
The most disturbing was that 850 coal-fired energy plants are planned over the next few years: 562 in China, 213 in India, 72 in the United States. None of these is covered by Kyoto. In essence, just these 850 coal-fired plants are estimated to pump five times more carbon dioxide into the air than Kyoto would remove, even if every other country hit its 2012 emissions.
The eighth reason is that.... Canada, of course, is only 2% of global emissions, so even if we hit our targets, to do which this article suggests the only way we could is to buy hot air....
In essence, gentlemen, they're saying Kyoto is mainly about transferring wealth from first-world countries to third-world countries. And this seems to be the only effective mechanism that's out there, except maybe for APAC 6.
I'm wondering what your comments are in relation to Kyoto and Canada's being a global leader instead of a follower.
Could I comment on this point? I think it's a very important one.
All of the points you've listed are fair enough. But what we're talking about here, and what I think is required, is a major change in the way our economic system operates. In my view, we are challenged by global climate change to basically reinvent the way we operate.
Current legislative circumstances mitigate, in my view, against innovation. Our companies, our corporations, because of the regulatory environment they do not face, feel no incentive to innovate. We have allowed them, because of the lack of legislative drive, to become Luddites, to live in the past. We've given them no incentive to create.
As my colleague John Stone has said, what we're after here, and what we should be trying to do in our legislative regime, is to have our country lead. And we're not going to do this without producing the incentives that only legislation can deliver. We don't want Luddites; we want creative companies that are world leaders, leading a society that also aspires to world leadership.
It's your job, in my view, as legislative people to produce the kind of legislative regime that will lead the country forward and have our companies create and innovate, rather than rest on their laurels, which is what many of our companies have been doing for far too long.
The question of sea levels rising is a very interesting and important one, but it requires some subtlety of thought. For example, Canada, which was covered by ice until around 12,000 years ago up to a thickness of four kilometres through most regions, is experiencing a very strong rebound of its crust out of the sea. For example, in the Hudson Bay region, the land is rising out of the sea at a rate of around 1.5 centimetres per year.
In many of the regions in eastern Canada and the western Cordillera, the land is still rebounding out of the sea. So sea level rising is not so much of a problem for these regions, because of the post-glacial crust rebound.
However, in the high Arctic, there are regions that were not covered so heavily by ice, where sea level rise could have a substantial impact, especially along the coast of Russia, but not so much the coast of Canada, which mostly was covered heavily by ice.
The issue of global sea level rise is of enormous importance in many parts of the world, but each region can expect to experience different impacts.
Thank you. I'll do my best. It's a very good question.
As my colleagues have said, there's no getting away from the fact that over time we are going to have to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases, perhaps by as much as 60% and maybe even more. That depends very much on our carbon-cycle models and lots of other things. Because of the inertia in the climate system, because of the inertia in our socio-economic systems, the fact is that certain impacts are going to happen anyway, and we can't ignore those.
Those impacts will differ depending on who you are, where you live, and what you do with living. There are certain regions--for example, in the Arctic--where, as Dr. Peltier was saying, climate change is exacerbated and where the impacts can already be seen. The people who live in the Arctic are very aware of climate change and what they've seen, and of the threat to their health and their livelihoods. In some such places it makes some sense that one needs to think about adaptation.
Other places, because they may be rich or because of other factors, are perhaps not so vulnerable. Africa, for example, is argued to be very vulnerable. I have the pleasure of being associated with the program run by the International Development Research Council, with funding from Canada and the U.K., that looks at adaptation in Africa, because it's understood that Africa is one of the most vulnerable places. I would argue that if they're vulnerable, then their security is our security, and that Canada has a vested interest in actually trying to help those vulnerable countries to cope with climate change, because if we don't, I think there will inevitably be repercussions for Canada.
I'd certainly like to welcome our guests and thank them for their presentations here today.
Dr. Stone, in your presentation you made a comment about striving to meet the levels, but levels that are not dangerous to our livelihood, if I took you correctly. Because greenhouse gases remain in the atmosphere for decades, as you have said, we are already committed to additional climate change even after emissions have been reduced. It's there and it's facing us, and we have to develop the necessary measures to adapt to those changes.
I wonder if you would care to comment on what you believe—and anybody can answer—are the keys to creating an environmentally sustainable economy, trying to mix the concerns we have with the environment and the concerns we have with being able to live and work in this country.
It seems that most of the people who have made presentations to us are either on one side of this or the other. But in listening to you people this evening, I've found that you're in the middle of it. You're concerned about climate change, but at least you can elaborate on that somewhat. It seems to be a major concern for Canadians.
I'll just close, if I could, with the fact that when you ask Canadians today, the number one concern they have is the environment. Right behind that, though, they're very concerned about their livelihood.
Let me just make a few comments.
It's my own personal feeling that we won't be able to successfully tackle the issue of climate change if we regard it simply as an environmental issue. There is no doubt that it's an environmental issue, but it's a matter of how it's framed. I think this is key to what was asked earlier about how we get other countries involved.
We have to frame it in ways in which we can build a certain mutuality, in which we can build a certain cohesion, a certain grouping of interests, so that we look at climate change in many ways: as a matter of technological competitiveness; in terms of health; in terms of development; in terms of energy security; and in many other ways.
If we look at it in those terms and frame it in those terms as well, we'll be able to get more people to the table. We'll be able to get this agreement among countries, for whatever reasons they want to look at the issue, to tackle the issue of climate change.
Yes, I'd like to comment on this point too, and really go back to several of the comments I made before.
On this problem of climate change, we have to get the economy working for us rather than against us. It seems to me that this is really the job of the legislative regime, right?
Clearly, no single company wants to take a leadership position on this issue. It's a matter of competitive disadvantage. That's why a legislative regime that encourages mandatory efforts to work toward a less carbon-rich development regime is absolutely crucial.
We can't expect our companies, as individual companies, to take a leadership position in this, because they'll see themselves to be at an enormous competitive disadvantage. We have to make a regime that levels the playing field and makes it possible for them to compete on that playing field, to our collective advantage.
There are a couple of things. First of all, why would you not want to develop alternate clean energy sources when the entire world is a marketplace and a consumer of energy? The people with the widgets out first in front of everyone else are the people who are going to stand to benefit, because there's no reason not to have some clean, sustainable energy when it's available, rather than burning something that provides all sorts of other negative effects in terms of health, air quality, etc.
The second thing is that it seems to me that it's not a level playing field. The reason why is the way we cost energy. When we cost something, what is the environmental cost associated with the combustion of fossil fuels? Is there one built into the cost?
If you have a nuclear power plant and you build it, my understanding is that you have the decommissioning cost built in right up front in the commissioning of the plant. If you build a coal plant, all you have to do is find a coal field, build a burner on top of it, and burn it. Who is paying the cost of the emissions from that coal plant? I don't know. Probably nobody. Therein lies where I don't think the playing field is level.
I would defer to economists on this, because I think we really need to reconsider this. They know much better how these things are dealt with economically.
Let me try to answer that and make a couple of points.
First, the co-chairs of the IPCC Working Group I were Susan Solomon, who is an American, and Dahe Qin, who is Chinese and is actually the head of the China Meteorological Administration. Both of them are impeccably well-qualified scientists. You couldn't find better scientists. It was because they are so good that they were able to get all the rest of the scientists to work together.
What's interesting about the IPCC process, as Andrew Weaver said at the beginning, is that it's actually drafted by scientists and it's based on peer-reviewed literature, which is literature that's in the journals and has gone through a very rigorous process.
What happens in the plenaries—for example, in Paris—is that governments negotiate the Summary for Policymakers. The Summary for Policymakers is the short version. It's again drafted by scientists, and governments' role is to ensure that it's understandable, accessible, and balanced. Of course, different governments have different views of what defines “balance”. In the end, though, they are not allowed to write anything there that the scientists do not agree with.
In the end, what this means is that the final time the gavel comes down, all the governments present there agree that the Summary for Policymakers is an adequate, proper, and balanced assessment of the current state of knowledge.
Based on the round of questioning from Mr. Scarpaleggia, I'm almost tempted to hand my time over to him, just for drawing out that great information that it was Conservatives like Thatcher and Mulroney who were acting early on climate change. Coupled with this government's proposals to begin tackling this issue, that leaves us wondering where the Liberals were for over a decade.
An hon. member: Hear, hear!
Mr. Jeff Watson: I actually want to pick up from where Mr. Manning was beginning to point the direction. There are a couple of areas that I want to probe. One is on the international target side, but I'll get to that in a moment.
I want to talk about the challenge to imagine, as Mr. Stone put it, the keys to creating the environmentally sustainable economy. Can you enlighten us a little bit in that direction?
In terms of the science, you've certainly painted some of the realities we could be facing over the next few decades. Can you point us in the direction of some of the ways that we need to change? What are those keys to the environmentally sustainable economy, in your opinion?
Mr. Watson, thank you very much.
We've gone through the normal rounds. We have a little less than 25 minutes left, but we have a couple of items to deal with.
Is it the consensus of the committee that we finish there? Okay. I appreciate that.
I want to thank the witnesses.
Professor Stone, Professor Peltier, and, Professor Weaver, thank you very much for the time you spent with us and the dialogue back and forth. I'm sure it's been helpful to the committee.
I hope you enjoyed dinner, and, Dr. Weaver, I hope you enjoy yours, wherever it is.
I'll wait until our other committee members are aware. That's all right, we'll just pass the motion while they're busy.
Some hon. members: Oh, oh!
Mr. Nathan Cullen: The main thing concerns the February 26 meeting. If committee members will look at it, we have FCM. From the clerk, I believe Équiterre is almost certain, but we can't get a hold of Camco. Then on March 1 we have only two witnesses again.
The motion essentially puts the March 1 meeting up to the February 26 meeting. Similar to tonight, I suspect that we'll be able to get through both of those, but even faster.