I call the meeting to order. We have a piece of business just before....
Mr. Regan, you'll be particularly interested in my first announcement. I have talked to members of the Liberal Party and Conservative members about getting our esteemed people who were at the Bali meeting to come here. Everyone wants them to come. I'm proposing that we ask our clerk to send a letter inviting them here. I would suggest this be right after our last scheduled meeting—I think it's on the 11th—and that they be asked to appear at the meeting following that. I trust that meets with everybody's approval. We will wait and see our response and if we need to do anything further, but I think this will certainly satisfy the requests I've had.
I've met with our speakers, and I certainly want to welcome you to this session on . The order we'll go will be: Mr. Rutherford, Mr. Stone, Mr. Weaver, and then Mr. Sauchyn. By their agreement, they've asked that that be the order we follow.
My intention is that at 5:15 p.m. we then deal with the motion of Mr. Scarpaleggia. That would give us 15 minutes, and then I think members are aware we have a vote when the bells start at 5:30.
That would be our procedure.
I would ask our guests to be as brief as possible. I do have a little grey box that most of you are certainly familiar with, so I will know how long you have been. Certainly I'd ask you to keep it to within five, seven, eight minutes, or thereabouts, so that we have maximum time for questions.
We'll start with Mr. Rutherford, please.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I'd like to bid you all good afternoon and thank you for requesting this appearance by the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, which I am representing today.
CMOS is the national society of individuals and organizations dedicated to advancing atmospheric and oceanic sciences and related environmental disciplines. We're the major non-governmental organization serving the interests of meteorologists, climatologists, oceanographers, limnologists, and a whole slew of scientists across the country. We have more than 800 members from research centres, universities, private corporations, and government institutes. Many of the scientists involved in leadership positions within the IPCC review process are members of CMOS.
The Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, which is associated with CMOS, will distribute $110 million between now and 2010 in the form of research grants to university researchers in atmospheric and climate sciences. Funding for that foundation runs out in 2010. We would certainly like to see it continue.
As many members know from our previous appearance before this committee, CMOS endorses the IPCC process and its conclusions. We urge all segments of Canadian society to act upon the recommendations that flow from the science revealed by that process.
This bill would seem to be a step in the right direction. The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which Canada has ratified, requires nations to act in such a way as to avoid what's called dangerous anthropogenic interference, or DAI, with the climate system, without actually defining what that is. Hence, much of the work of the IPCC has dealt with quantifying the extent of human interference with the climate system and its consequences for local climates, and the impacts of those changes on local ecosystems, both natural and managed. This has refined our knowledge of the likely consequences of human-induced climate change and helped us understand which of those should be considered dangerous.
The IPCC has also refined estimates of the probability of various outcomes, and hence it has improved our understanding of risk, which is defined as probability times outcome. We think that risk analysis should be the basis for all policies dealing with risk.
In 2005 the U.K. hosted an international conference in Exeter on avoiding dangerous climate change. Papers at that conference took us closer towards a definition of dangerous interference, in terms of what is dangerous to whom and by how much. The result was that there's now a long list of outcomes, both global and local, linked to various degrees of warming, which make clear that even the amount of climate change already experienced satisfies the definition of dangerous to at least some people, somewhere, on the globe.
Some of these physical outcomes, such as a shutdown of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation or a collapse of the ice sheets of Antarctica or Greenland, may well have thresholds or tipping points, while others may simply become more and more serious as time goes on. So the judgment of what is dangerous really depends on what you are interested in, who you are, and where you are.
Both the Exeter conference and the recent fourth assessment report of the IPCC provide strong evidence that a global temperature change larger than about two degrees Celsius from pre-industrial values should be avoided in order to avoid what we've called DAI. The science provides a way to link that value with a range of values of CO2 concentration or, equivalently, to link a target value of CO2 concentration with a range of values of temperature change, with probabilities for values within the range. Finally, the science provides a way to link the target value of concentration with the mission targets that must be achieved.
The result is that there's reasonably good agreement that in order not to exceed this two degrees Celsius limit with at least a 50% probability, the atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration should not be allowed to exceed about 450 parts per million, except perhaps for a temporary overshoot—but it should be temporary. In order to assure that, global emissions need to be reduced—and the estimates vary from about 40% to 95%—from the levels they were in 1990. Large reductions are certainly required, but there's still a fair amount of uncertainty.
The so-called annex one countries--that is, the developed countries--according to the IPCC, should reduce their emissions by about 80% by 2050 and even further after that.
It's also clear that the sooner emissions are reduced in the short term, the easier the targets will be to achieve. In fact, the price of delay beyond, I would say, 10 or 15 years will be failure because you simply won't be able to reach the target. The target is not easy to reach. It's going to require a number of different measures. There's no one measure that will solve it. A number of new technologies and a number of existing technologies will have to be deployed.
Some will argue that because Canada only contributes about 2% of global emissions right now, it won't make much difference what we do. Why should we feel any great obligation to solve a problem created largely by others? However, on the basis of emissions per capita, Canada is the worst performer in the world, and getting worse with every increase in energy expenditure required to extract bitumen from the Alberta tar sands and upgrade it to synthetic crude oil.
But it's not just our current performance that is bad. In terms of accumulated per capita contribution to the present burden from the start of the Industrial Revolution to the present, Canada ranks just behind the U.S.A., the U.K., and Germany and well ahead of Russia, Japan, and China. So we're already major contributors to the current problem, and if we continue on our current path we'll soon be the worst in the world in terms of accumulated per capita contribution. We're not in a good position to argue that others should solve the problem. We have to do our part.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for the opportunity to again appear before you and to share with you some of the scientific understandings regarding the increasingly urgent need to address the threat of climate change. Much of what I have to say is contained in the recently completed IPCC fourth assessment report. My remarks will focus on the long term but also on the immediate future.
In general, decision-making concerning the appropriate level and pathways for greenhouse gas emission reductions will be an iterative and, as Ian mentioned, risk management process. An explicit long-term goal is regarded as being absolutely essential. Without such a goal, none of us--individuals, businesses, or other levels of government--have a clear direction for policy and action. Such a goal must be strong enough to stimulate the necessary ambition.
One also needs short- and medium-term objectives from which it is still possible to reach the desirable long-term goal. Once each short-term objective is reached, decisions on subsequent steps can be made in the light of new knowledge and the decreased levels of uncertainty.
Now, ideally, the choice of a long-term goal is the product of solid science and wise political decision-making. The science can inform the process, but in the end, it depends on what we value, and this is best determined through a political process.
To illustrate, we can consider a table from the IPCC Working Group II summary for policymakers, which I've distributed to each of you. I'm grateful for your indulgence in allowing me to distribute it only in English. I do apologize; it is also available in French on the IPCC web page, and I will give the details of that to the clerk.
The table brings together what we know about some of the anticipated climate change impacts across several key sectors--water, ecosystems, food, coasts, and health--as a function of globally increasing temperatures. As you go from left to right, the impacts occur at higher temperatures. If you value biodiversity, for example, you can see that a temperature rise above one degree Celsius could lead us to losing about 30% of species.
Many people who have looked at such diagrams and others have come to the conclusion, based again on value judgments, that we should avoid an increase of more than two degrees Celsius above 1990 levels. This is the goal adopted by the European Union and much discussed in Bali recently.
To understand what we would have to do to achieve this goal, we need to look at some of the so-called stabilization scenarios in the IPCC Working Group I contribution. It is estimated that if we are able to stabilize concentrations of all greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at the equivalent of 445 to 490 parts per million of CO2, then we could limit global mean temperature increases to between two and 2.4 degrees Celsius. That's above pre-industrial levels.
Such a stabilization level--that's roughly, as I said, 450 parts per million of CO2 equivalent--implies concentrations of carbon dioxide alone in the order of 350 to 400 parts per million, which can be compared to today's level of 380 parts per million.
So we're clearly not going to be able to meet this goal without some overshoot from which we will have to recover. In order to reach this two degrees Celsius goal, it's estimated that global greenhouse gas emissions would have to peak before 2015 and be at least 50% below current levels by 2050, the middle of the century.
Now, these are global numbers, and indeed achieving these low emission scenarios requires a comprehensive global mitigation effort.
The IPCC's fourth assessment report contains, in one of the chapters, some estimates of what this would mean for industrialized countries. Countries like Canada would need to reduce emissions by 2020 by somewhere between 20% and 40% below 1990 levels and in 2050 by approximately 60% to 95%. These ranges cover levels suggested in the bill under examination.
Emissions in developing countries, on the other hand, would also have to be reduced. They would have to start to be below the current business as usual emission pathways by 2020 and be substantially below this pathway by 2050. Scenarios with such global greenhouse gas emission reduction targets will require increased energy intensity and carbon intensity improvements of somewhere in the order of two to three times historical values.
Let me switch to the other end of the spectrum and talk about what we have to do now. Very simply, in my view, time is running out. What we do in the next decade or so will be critical to tackling the long-term threat of climate change. For example, the locking effects of infrastructure technology and product design choices that were made by industrialized countries in the post-Second World War period, when we had low energy prices, are responsible themselves for our current increases in greenhouse gas emissions.
Delaying decisions will seriously constrain opportunities to achieve future low emission levels and they will raise the risk of progressively more severe climate change impacts. It's been estimated that with each 10-year delay in a mitigation, it implies an additional 0.2 degrees to 0.3 degrees warming over a 100- to 400-year time horizon.
There is already, at the present time, an additional 0.6 degrees of additional warming in the bank because of our previous activities, so decisions to delay emission reductions are likely to be more costly and more risky.
To conclude, Mr. Chairman and members, let me quote from the speech by the chairman of the IPCC at this year's Davos meetings in Switzerland:
||There would be dramatic loss of political power and influence for nations that stand unmoved by the growing global consensus for “deep cuts” in emissions of GHGs with a sense of urgency.
Thank you very much for inviting me to provide some testimony here. What I would like to do is provide a bit of background with respect to a declaration that was put forward by scientists to Bali at the meeting that was held between December 3 and 14, 2007. This is a 2007 Bali climate declaration by scientists. I'll read it to you. It says:
||The 2007 IPCC report, compiled by several hundred climate scientists, has unequivocally concluded that our climate is warming rapidly, and that we are now at least 90% certain that this is mostly due to human activities. The amount of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere now far exceeds the natural range of the past 650,000 years, and it is rising very quickly due to human activity. If this trend is not halted soon, many millions of people will be at risk from extreme events such as heat waves, drought, floods and storms, our coasts and cities will be threatened by rising sea levels, and many ecosystems, plants and animal species will be in serious danger of extinction.
||The next round of focused negotiations for a new global climate treaty--within the 1992 UNFCCC process--needs to begin in December 2007 and be completed by 2009. The prime goal of this new regime must be to limit global warming to no more than 2ºC above the pre-industrial temperature, a limit that has already been formally adopted by the European Union and a number of other countries.
||Based on current scientific understanding, this requires that global greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced by at least 50% below their 1990 levels by the year 2050. In the long run, greenhouse gas concentrations need to be stabilized at a level well below 450 parts per million, measured in CO2-equivalent concentration. In order to stay below 2ºC, global emissions must peak and decline in the next 10 to 15 years, so there is no time to lose.
||As scientists, we urge the negotiators to reach an agreement that takes these targets as a minimum requirement for a fair and effective global climate agreement.
In my years as a climate scientist, since the 1980s, I have never before witnessed such a spontaneous coming together of scientists around the world. This declaration was put forward by a number of scientists at the University of New South Wales in Australia and was signed by between 200 and 250 of the world's top climate scientists. This is not something that was driven politically. It was not something that was driven by special interest groups. It was driven by the scientific community to try to feed into the Bali process--a process that seems to be ignoring what the scientific community is telling the world's leaders, including those leaders in Canada.
I'm speaking to you as the lead author of the IPCC's second, third, and fourth assessments, back in 1995, 2001, and more lately 2007. I'm also the chief editor of the Journal of Climate, which is the premier journal for publishing new scientific research in all aspects of climate science.
When we talk about Bill , one of the key things you'll ask is whether 80% is the right number or whether 70% is the right number. I'm not going to speak to a particular number. What I can say is that any stabilization of greenhouse gases at any level requires global emissions to go to zero. There is no other option. To stabilize the level of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere at any concentration that is relevant to human existence on the planet, we must go to zero emissions. The reason is that the only natural mechanisms for the draw-down of carbon dioxide on longer time scales occur through weathering of rocks, which happens on hundreds of thousands of year time scales, and the dissolution of carbon carbonates from the sediment of the ocean, which happens on tens of thousands of year time scales.
Things like the terrestrial biosphere saturate out this century and can no longer take up any more carbon dioxide. The ocean, as it warms, also begins to lose its effectiveness at taking out carbon dioxide.
So in order to stabilize, we must have global emissions go to zero. That's a big task, and it requires leadership. I'm hoping, as a Canadian, that we in Canada can show such leadership.
Another way of looking at this is that there has been a lot of focus in terms of emissions and a lot of focus in terms of stabilizing at a level of greenhouse gases. The climate system doesn't care about the emissions today or yesterday; what it cares about is accumulative emissions of carbon dioxide since pre-industrial times. We've put out about 458 billion tonnes of carbon to the atmosphere since that time, and it turns out if you want to not break the two-degree threshold with a 66% probability, we only have another 484 billion tonnes we can put out, and that's from now until eternity. We're putting it out at more than 10 billion tonnes a year, so you can see the challenge is large.
I'll end there and urge you to take this bill seriously and move toward implementing policies in Canada that will show leadership internationally.
In fact, it was minus 37 degrees Celsius this morning when I called for a cab and minus 52 degrees Celsius with the wind chill. So I'm enjoying the balmy weather in Ottawa; therefore I'd like to thank you for this opportunity to visit Ottawa again and to have some other meetings at the same time.
I represent an organization called the Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative, which was created to inform decision-makers in the prairie provinces about the consequences of climate change.
The previous speakers have provided the strong scientific arguments for stabilizing greenhouse gas emissions. I will speak to the other scientific underpinnings of ; that is, the statements in the preamble that refer to the scientific evidence for the impacts of increased levels of greenhouse gases and for the threats to the economic well-being, public health, and natural resources and environment of Canada.
A large number of facts and figures are available in the fourth assessment report of Working Group II of the IPCC in support of these scientific underpinnings. However, this IPCC report defines the scope and severity of the global problem; for a Canadian perspective, Natural Resources Canada has led, for the past two to three years, a major national scientific assessment of climate change impacts and adaptation. Within weeks, the Government of Canada will release this major scientific report that presents the synthesis and interpretation of more than 3,000 studies by more than 110 authors.
As the lead author of this report, and with the knowledge of the secretariat in Natural Resources Canada, I am able to report today that this assessment report makes it clear that significant impacts are occurring in all regions of Canada and that the number and severity of the impacts will continue to increase.
In addition to the urgent action required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rate of climate change, the national assessment notes the critical importance of adaptation.
Allow me to give just two examples, from the prairie provinces, of the consequences of climate change for two fundamental Canadian natural resources: trees and water.
With the recent and inevitable warming, Canada's boreal forest will change dramatically as a result of increased disturbance and moisture stress. In fact, as a result of global warming, the boreal forest has begun to change, impacting the communities and economies that depend upon it.
It's likely that the institutions of Canada have enough capacity to manage a forest that has undergone moderate change; however, without deep cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, scientific studies indicate that we will entirely lose the southern boreal forest. It will disappear, along with the economies that depend on it.
But the major concern for western Canadians is the threat of global warming to water supplies. With recent warming, water supplies in the summertime have begun to decline as runoff from snow melt has declined and shifted earlier into the spring and as summers have become longer and warmer.
Once again, some change is manageable. In fact, in some parts of western Canada where there are reliable water supplies, farmers have begun to capitalize on the longer, warmer summers. However, rising greenhouse gas emissions will cause regional warming and impacts on water resources that quickly create major challenges for sustaining the economies and communities of western Canada.
With the projected and recent increase in population and industry, especially in Alberta, the demand for water will soon exceed supplies from the conventional source of water, which is snow melt runoff from the eastern slopes of the Alberta Rockies.
The tipping point is very close. Climate change is closing the gap between water supply and water demand. In fact, in some river basins in southern Alberta, the water supplies are now fully allocated.
The most costly natural hazard in Canada is prairie drought. Of the five most damaging climate events in Canadian history, four are prairie droughts. The other is the ice storm of 1998. The most threatening scenario for people, especially on the prairies, is a prolonged drought, and as the climate warms, this scenario becomes increasingly probable.
Some government and industry leaders believe or have stated that taking strong action to reduce greenhouse gases will devastate economies. In fact, we heard just a couple of days ago from Premier Stelmach that reducing emissions in Alberta will shut down the oil sands. I would like for once to see the scientific evidence of this. I would like to see the factual support for this argument. It seems to be lacking.
In fact, careful studies have derived estimates of the cost of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Credible studies estimate the cost of stabilizing greenhouse gases is something on the order of one half to one and a half per cent of global GDP per year. I can refer you to one such study entitled A cost curve for greenhouse gas reduction, a global study of the size and cost of measures to reduce greenhouse gases by some consultants from Norway whose clients include 70% of Fortune magazine's most admired companies.
Although deep emission cuts will have economic, social, and perhaps political costs, the actions proposed in Bill are critical in terms of preventing a possibly devastating degree of climate change. Climate change and its consequences will almost certainly accelerate through the coming decades. We urgently need your leadership and federal policy to enable individuals, institutions, and communities to adapt to the impacts of climate change because already we are locked in to increasingly serious impacts in the immediate future.
A comprehensive climate change strategy is required to avoid the adverse consequences of climate change and to address the influence of human activities on the climate of Canada, the impacts, the risks and opportunities, and the necessary adjustments to public policy, resource management, engineering practices, and infrastructure design.
Public policies must be developed to enable adaptation, to discourage maladaptation, and to build adaptive capacity. Already the provinces are developing and releasing climate change plans and announcing targets. Yesterday in Vancouver, I read today, the western premiers signed an agreement for collective action to deal with climate change impacts on Canada's water and forests.
Also, some local governments, and industry and communities, are taking aggressive action. The federal government must play a crucial coordinating and enabling role. Without decisive national action and policy, there is the risk that federal politicians will lag far behind. Federal policy-makers are at risk of failing us at every level, regional, national, and on the world stage, and in the meantime the provincial governments are taking action.
I speak for many scientists when I conclude that Canada can and must take action now on climate change. Thank you.
It seems to me that's a bit like saying I've had my cake and you're not going to get yours.
I alluded to looking at this from the point of view of contributions to the problem per capita. If you do it that way, it's clear that the developed countries are the villains, and the underdeveloped countries, who recognize very clearly that the developed countries are the villains, say, “You've done all of this; we want to do the same thing. We're going to do it more intelligently than you, but inevitably our emissions are going to rise, because we're still in an energy-intensive phase of economic development.”
We have to somehow get away from the notion that we need to spend ridiculous amounts of energy to accomplish anything. Even in the report from the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy it's clear that there are many ways we can reduce both our energy consumption and the emissions we're producing to get that energy.
There's no mystery about this. There are well-known technologies around, and there are other technologies that we haven't imagined yet that will help us get there. But we have to either determine to get there or we have to implement policy measures that force us to get there, such as those the national round table recommends—things such as a carbon tax, which will simply make the production of energy-using fossil fuels too darned expensive. People will naturally find cheaper ways of doing it, and hence emissions from fossil fuel burning will decline.
I think an equitable way to look at it is that every inhabitant of this earth ought to be treated fairly. I don't think it's fair that a citizen of Canada, Europe, or the U.S. should enjoy an energy-intensive lifestyle that produces tonnes and tonnes of carbon per year, whereas a resident of Africa is not allowed to do that—or of China, India, Brazil, or any of these economies that are developing. Equity would say that we should all try to reach a relatively uniform low level of production of carbon emissions per unit of happiness, or GDP, or whatever it is you want.
Let me look at it in a slightly different way. There are, as Ian mentioned, what might be regarded as moral questions, the fact that a large part of today's increases of temperature are due to our emissions in the past and that our emissions per capita are simply higher than those almost anywhere else.
The answer I would give as to why we should we do it is that it's because we can do it. I believe there are wonderful and marvellous opportunities available to us for Canada to grasp this nettle and seek to make our contribution to reducing emissions and to producing the sort of economy and industries that will see us into the future.
What worries me is that if I look, for example, at Denmark, they are now the world leaders in wind power. Their government took them there, and they have now a competitive advantage. Similarly, Germany is now the world's leader in solar power. The U.K. are becoming the world's leader in financial instruments. My worry is that if we do not act soon, we're going to be left behind. We will end up on the wrong side of history, and we don't have to be there.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you for coming here to give us, as Mr. Weaver said, a realistic, rather than alarming, take on the situation.
If we have one regret about the Bali conference report, it is probably the failure to include in the “road map” a reference to the two-degree Celsius threshold. When the question is relegated to footnote status, it is difficult to establish a national and international consensus on the question of reducing greenhouse gas emission levels.
Mr. Sauchyn, you indicated in your presentation that Bill C-337 was a decisive initiative in the quest to stop climate change from reaching devastating proportions. Mr. Stone talked about the importance of reducing greenhouse gas emissions anywhere from 20% and 40% by the year 2020 as compared to 1990 levels. This is one target that was proposed by certain countries in Bali. The range mentioned is between 20% and 40%, while the bill proposes a 25% cut in greenhouse gas emissions.
Fundamentally, reducing emission levels by 25% by 2020 over 1990 levels is not a conservative objective. Some countries, Germany in particular, are calling for a 40% reduction in emission levels; Europe is proposing a 30% reduction, provided industrialized nations come on board.
Is the 25% target high enough to prevent the potentially catastrophic situation that Mr. Sauchyn alluded to?Should we not amend the bill and set even more ambitious targets?
With your permission, Mr. Bigras, I will answer that question in English.
One of the things I was trying to say in my opening remarks is whatever level you choose to stabilize and whatever pathways you choose and whatever contribution you choose, it's informed by science, but it has also to be as a result of a political process. There are political decisions to make, political decisions because it depends on values, what you value and, among what you value, what you do not wish to see disappear as a result of climate change.
It's also a matter of our values when one talks about the level of ambition. What level of ambition does Canada want to display internationally? That's as a result of how we are regarded internationally, but also, as I said earlier, as a result of what we want to achieve as an economy. So although you can go through scientific arguments and say yes, as I think all four of us have said, we need globally to reduce emissions by 2050 by at least 50%, you have to think of what part of that 50% is Canada going to contribute. And that is partly scientific, but it's going to be partly political.
My own view is that you need a level that is going to unleash the innovative strengths of Canadians and be a real challenge. It needs to be ambitious. So in that argument, one might say that the stronger the level of ambition, the better.
Thank you, Chair, and thank you to our guests.
Before I get into questions, I just wanted to pass my congratulations to one of the panellists, and I'm not sure of the others, who was involved in the IPCC process. Certainly, for the award bestowed upon them, the Nobel Prize, I want to say personally, and on behalf of Canadians, congratulations, because I think that's something we haven't celebrated enough. That work was done with contributions from right around the globe, but many were from here in Canada.
I know, Mr. Stone, you were part of that. I don't know if other panellists were part of that process.
Mr. Rutherford, you're indicating so.
Congratulations to you, Mr. Weaver and to Mr. Stone. I think I speak on behalf of everyone here, and certainly Canadians, when I say how proud we are and were when you received that award.
I just want to start my questioning on the science and the projections of future climate change, because what we're really trying to do in this bill, and what our party is bringing forward, is setting goals. As you mentioned, Mr. Stone, we have to set goals long term, but we also have to be aware of what we need to do in the short term, if you will. You have to plan long term to be able to take action in the short term. Some of us plan our lives that way on our better days.
I want to start on the projections of future changes in the climate. When you look at the difference between the southern and northern atmospheres, a lot of this debate has spilled over into people saying, as was already mentioned, that we in the north are only responsible for 2%, and that while, okay, we're not doing too well per capita, we're in a northern climate. I'd just like to get, in terms of the science, the projection of future changes in climate. What is expected to be the greatest change in terms of latitudes, if you will? Are the changes mostly going to be in the northern latitudes or southern latitudes?
Maybe, Mr. Stone, I'll ask you first, and if others wanted to kick in, they can, because I think this will give us a picture, as we're talking about a global phenomenon here. So who is it going to affect the most, and what changes can we expect in the north vis-à-vis the south?
Dr. Stone talked about temperatures, and about how temperatures amplify warming in the high latitudes in the Arctic. Another key issue, of course, is water. There's quite a solid understanding as to what will happen in terms of projected changes in precipitation.
For Canada, it means actually an overall enhanced likelihood of precipitation but also, at the same time, an enhanced likelihood of drought. So when it rains, it rains in increasingly likely bigger events, coming in the winter, and there's an increased likelihood of drought.
At the same time, we know that our friends to the south, in the southern U.S., are going to experience less rain overall and an increased likelihood of drought.
This poses a real predicament in terms of water availability in North America, with Canada getting more throughout the year and the subtropical regions, including the southern U.S., getting less. Currently it's a real problem, of course, because they're draining the Great Plains aquifer at about 40 times the rate it's being replenished.
So there will be, in North America, water crises this century.
I'll answer that question, but if I may, I'd like to give an answer to the previous question as well. I just want to emphasize a point.
It matters to us how climate change affects other parts of the world. Climate change will exacerbate the differences between the rich and the poor, between the developing countries and the developed countries. I believe Canada has a vested interest in ensuring that the weakest, the most vulnerable, are protected as much as possible.
I have the privilege of working some of the time with the International Development Research Centre on a project to enhance the adaptive capacity in Africa. I think it is in Canada's interest to do that.
Turning now to your question on technologies, I don't have full command of all the technologies, and I presume you were talking primarily about Canadian technologies. Let me just mention, too, that one is on the use of our biosphere, what you'd call biofuels.
I'm not necessarily thinking of liquid biofuels, which have received a lot of media attention, but simply the use of solid waste from agriculture and from forestry that we can use for heat and electricity generation. We have a lot of potential there. Some of that was spearheaded by an organization called BIOCAP Canada, which unfortunately hasn't received new funding.
I suppose the other one I might mention is actually construction. We have tremendous ability to construct energy efficient offices and houses and the like. I think that's another one of those areas that we can export.
I'm sure I've forgotten lots of others. You'll have to excuse me; this is not really my area of expertise.
I'd like to thank the witnesses for being here. We've heard from each other on numerous occasions, so it's good to see each of you again.
To be able to move forward you need to look at where you are and at a bit of your past, but keep your focus on moving forward and on the goal. We're well past the debate on the science of climate change. Globally there is an agreement that we have a problem, and a big problem.
This government became government two years ago, and I'm not going to dwell on the past, but we found ourselves in a situation where we were going in a direction we didn't want to go in. So we've set some targets in Canada that are some of the toughest targets in the world. Each country is unique in its own situation, where it is beginning. When you have a government that's actually serious about doing something.... In Canada this government is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions: absolute reductions of 20% by 2020 and 60% to 70% absolute reductions by 2050.
What we are dealing with today is providing the science on Bill . Bill C-377, I'm sure you're aware, is a post-2012, post-Kyoto Protocol bill. Over the next two years there will be negotiations ongoing as to what that post-2012 agreement is going to look like.
The presenter of Bill C-377 is the leader of the NDP, , and he was here a week ago and shared his vision for the bill with us. I'd like to share that in a minute, but with your focus as scientists, I'd like your critique on Bill C-377.
I'd also like your critique on adaptation. Many of you said in your presentations that we are already experiencing impacts from climate change, and will continue to, and they will increase; that's going to happen. What we need to do as citizens of this world is together reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have to do that. We agree with that, but in Canada what do we need to do in preparation for adaptation?
We have all just come back from a break, and I've had numerous discussions with numerous constituents. One of the comments stuck out in my mind. It sounded like a comment that I read before Christmas break from Rex Murphy. This constituent said how important it was and agreed with the message that Canada was taking to all these international conferences and meetings of the mind that everybody has to participate in. You can't have 30% of the people trying to solve the problem; everybody needs to participate and do their part. Canada has a unique situation, as does every country, and everybody needs to do their part.
Mr. Rutherford, I heard your same comments, and I asked those same questions of myself. Should somebody in India be able to have electricity? Absolutely. Your comment was “I've had my cake and you can't have yours”. I agree, that is a moral question, and people in India, China, or Africa need to be able to improve themselves and have a quality of life, yet protect the environment. This constituent said, “Mark, the way I see it, it is like a big pail of water with hundreds of holes in it and water is squirting out in every direction, and you as a government are plugging one of those holes. And it's lofty, it's good, it needs to happen, but we need everybody plugging their hole so that we can save that pail of water or save this globe.”
I thought it was a somewhat interesting analogy. That did remind me of what Rex Murphy said. He said:
||...there can be no serious argument for Canada to make mandatory commitments, while exempting the giant emitters of the world such as China and India. This is like plugging a leak while ignoring the flood.
That's a very similar analogy.
When Mr. Layton came and spoke on Bill C-377—I want to get specifically to the bill now—he made his presentation. The targets, the objectives, he set out in Bill C-377 would be an 80% reduction by 2050. We've identified some benchmarks along the way: a 25% reduction in 2020 and interim targets at five-year intervals.
He then went on to say those targets are based on The Case for Deep Reductions, a report by the Pembina Institute and the David Suzuki Foundation. He also said, “I know that Matthew Bramley will be your next witness...and he will be describing his research and this report”.
When I had an opportunity to—
Chair, I'm just going to ask people not to interrupt, because I'm trying to make a point here.
My question of Mr. Layton was, “Have you costed your plan?” And he said, “This is a set of targets. It will be up to the governments of the day to advance plans and figure out how we achieve these targets.”
So my question is, how important is it to have this costed so we know it's realistic, keeping in mind each country has unique situations? I believe we have very, very aggressive targets. Bill C-377, which we're talking about, and that's what you're here for, has not been costed.
I asked Mr. Bramley the same thing, or I think one of us asked him. He also said, no, it hadn't been costed. Both of these witnesses have said they were hoping the government would do that.
How important is it that we cost this so that Canadians, so that this government, so that each of us involved, are going into this with our eyes open? How important is it that it's costed?
First of all, number one, Bill C-377 isn't all that much different from what you started off your speech by saying: the Government of Canada is committed to a 20% reduction by 2020 and 60% to 70% by 2050.
Has the Government of Canada costed them? I also don't think they have, because frankly I haven't seen their costing either.
I think what's been put in the spirit of Bill C-377 is something that's consistent with the European Union and the path they're taking, in terms of setting a target based on scientific evidence with respect to the two degrees Celsius threshold. I think that's what's important, and I think that's what's lacking in the Canadian context: picking targets that are working with other areas.
In terms of your comment on India and China, I think that's a very valid point, and—I've said it before—a framework already exists for dealing with that. Such a framework existed when the Montreal Protocol was signed. In fact, Minister Baird pointed out in Bali that he thought we should have a deal much like the Montreal Protocol, which had leadership being shown by the developed nations.
There's a thing call convergence and contraction or contraction and convergence, which is a framework for moving the world toward zero emissions, and that framework is where you converge and contract to eventual zero per capita emissions. It would give recognition to the fact, for example, that in Canada, since pre-industrial times, the cumulative emissions to the atmosphere of Canada of greenhouse gases is the same as India's. So it's very difficult for us to say to India, with 34 times the population of Canada, that in fact they're the source of the problem, when our emissions, with our 2%, are the same cumulative as India. The atmosphere doesn't care about year to year; it cares about cumulative emissions.
Thank you very much, and I shall be very brief.
I've now appeared before this committee in one form or another four times in the last 12 months, I suppose. I certainly have been very encouraged by the words I've heard from the present government, Mr. Warawa, of their intentions to tackle this issue. But I want to see the legislation, I want to see the regulations, I want to see the caps put on industries--I want to see all those things. Words are simply not enough. We've got to move on to the next stage. I, personally, would encourage you and your colleagues to do that.
I believe that Bill C-377 is a useful contribution. The way I read it, it talks about having medium- and long-term goals. As I said in my introductory comments, I think it's absolutely essential in order that industry and we all have a long-term picture, and it challenges us and gives a level of emission.
Of course, we need to cost whatever plans they have from whatever party we have and in whichever country we're talking about. That's only good public policy. I will just have to assume that whatever plans are presented to Parliament and to the Government of Canada and to Canadians are properly costed. Yes, I agree with you.
I will indeed. Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My question was more from an actual science position, because I have heard from these gentlemen before, as you know, and I was wondering if they, in their expertise, looking at international examples, could advise on what has worked and what has not. So from a science perspective, it was definitely appropriate, notwithstanding the muddles from the other side.
I've heard much testimony on in the environment committee before, and actually I think from three of the four gentlemen here today. It's fair to say that many people want the result, the result of cutting emissions no matter what, and are prepared to do so at any price—and we heard Mr. Weaver earlier. I think it's fair to say that a lot of people have that position, and other people have the position that they want to look at the price, and whatever is reasonable we'll cut that much.
Would it be fair to say that this government has actually taken a position that is fairly moderate and is more right down the middle, with, quite frankly, the most aggressive targets in the world that I'm aware of, mandatory targets, including the ecoAUTO strategy, and so on? Would it be fair to say that this government has taken a more middle-of-the-road approach than the two extremes that I've put out as hypotheses?
That's a very good question and a very open question. I can imagine myself taking many hours to answer it, but let me say just a few things.
I think there are some statements, conclusions, and findings in the fourth assessment of the IPPC that perhaps could be brought to the fore. One is that “climate change is now unequivocal”, and that's a quote. Secondly, it is very likely that the cause of it is due to human actions--that's almost a quote. Thirdly, there is evidence already of impacts as a result of anthropogenic warming. Unless we control and reduce emissions we are going to experience more and more impacts of greater and greater threat. We are already committed to some impacts as a result of past emissions, and therefore adaptation is no longer simply a policy option; it becomes a policy imperative,
Many of the economic calculations that have been done have suggested that the targets can be reached without breaking the bank. Several were mentioned at the beginning of this hearing, and in fact it amounts to perhaps a 0.12% annual change in GDP. So that's another point. Technologies exist today that can allow us to at least stabilize today's emissions for the next 50 years.
Those are some of the conclusions from the IPPC that I think could help this debate, this dialogue.
I hope I haven't been too long.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
My question takes us back a little in history, but also as we head to the future. For our guests here, for quite a number of years industry complained. In fact, it was 13 long years they complained that they weren't getting direction in this whole area. They wanted direction, but they weren't getting it, so there was no action really taken over that period of time.
Then at Bali, just of late, under section 71, there was a notice to industry that they were going to be regulated, that they would have to report their GHGs. Those targets for final emissions will be coming out within the year ahead here, so that is substantial, at least when we make a comparison with what's been done in the past.
In particular, going back to the benchmarks from Kyoto, in four years from now, under Kyoto, we were supposed to be about 6% below 1990 levels. I'd like you to respond to this for a moment. We would probably be having a rather different discussion at this point if we had gotten with it a number of years ago, if we'd been moving on this, but this wasn't occurring.
Can you give me a different sense of what might have been as compared to where we're at now--actually changing the economy, signals to the industry and the effect on the economy? How different might it have been compared to where we're at now and the very difficult kind of task we have?
There are concrete measures being taken in terms of establishing hard targets. Industry is on notice for the first time. They have some policy direction they never had before.
Who wants to respond first?
Sure, I'm happy to respond.
First of all, I don't disagree that there was a lack of leadership on the kind of portfolio for years. There's no doubt about that. I still think we're in the realm of talking. I'm really hoping we're going to see something.
You mentioned that the business leaders were looking for guidance. In fact, on October 1, the Canadian Council of Chief Executives issued a statement calling for aggressive action to tackle climate change. In fact, one of the things they talked about was an environmental tax, which is a euphemism, of course, for a carbon tax. At Bali, too, 100 of the world's biggest companies called on governments to take action. I think business is looking for the rules of the game to be made.
I'm hoping we'll let bygones be bygones and move on. There's no question that nothing happened in the past. I don't think you're going to get anybody to stand up and say we're meeting Kyoto targets. We're not.
On the other hand, I also wouldn't laud the fact that you're getting companies to report, because being a party to the UNFCCC, Canada has to report its emissions anyway. To some extent, industry is already reporting its emissions--for Canada to meet its requirements under the UNFCCC's reporting of its emissions.
Again, I wish we would get beyond the rhetoric of what has happened--because clearly nothing has happened--and move towards the future of doing something. The opportunity is there for whatever government wants to take it to show real leadership to Canada and the world. I don't care if it's Conservative, NDP, Liberal, Bloc Québécois, or Green, so long as someone does it.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
I'd like to say that I think it's a very good motion on the face of it. Being the member for Fort McMurray and 25% of northern Alberta, I would love to have you all come to Fort McMurray. In fact, I've invited this committee at least five or six times before.
The difficulty will be, of course, that you won't be able to find a hotel room; you would have to camp in my backyard. So let's not do that. It's a little chilly--minus 42 degrees this morning.
I have an extensive background: 40 years in Fort McMurray. I think you need a balanced perspective. I've been on the water issue in Lake Athabaska for the last two years, while everybody else was not even thinking about it.
I want to point out a couple of things that I think all members of this committee should listen intently to. On the east side of Lake Athabaska, which is the largest lake in Alberta—and only a third of it is in Alberta—is a uranium mine that has been in existence since the 40s and 50s, and that has been leaching uranium, in my opinion, for years and years. I've been to that mine three or four times.
As well, we have thousands if not tens or hundreds of thousands of years of oil sands leaching into the Athabaska River. As many of you may know, it actually is on the surface and right on the edges of the river, and you can see it in the summertime, in plus 30 degrees, leaching right into the river.
So be aware of those factors.