Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, members.
I was only asked yesterday afternoon if I would come to speak to you, and I am always delighted to do that. It didn't give me very much time to prepare a presentation specifically for you, I'm afraid. At lunchtime today I gave a lecture to the Ottawa chapter of the Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society. If you would allow me, I would use some of that presentation to talk to you and to illustrate some of my points. It is much more scientific than I think appropriate for this audience, so I won't go through all of the diagrams in detail, but I urge you more to listen to what I'm going to say.
I think it's important for you all to understand what the IPCC is--that's the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change--and how it does its work. The IPCC was set up twenty years ago by the United Nations with the express purpose of providing to governments information on our state of knowledge of climate and climate change, and to do that in a balanced, authoritative, clear and accessible manner. It's important for you to understand that the IPCC does not do research; it assesses the products of research.
The assessments are written by scientists—Francis Zwiers here is one of the committee lead authors. They compose three massive volumes: one is on the science; one is on the impacts adaptation; the final one is on mitigation, on emission reductions and technology and economics. Each of those is then condensed into what is called a summary for policy-makers, and there are three of them. I have copies of them here with me today. They are actually now available on the IPCC website in all six UN languages. So I encourage you to see them.
The significance of the summary for policy-makers is the following. Although they are drafted by scientists, they're actually negotiated with governments. Nothing goes into them that the scientists do not believe is supportable. Therefore, they are scientifically rigorous documents. By having governments there, one ensures that the summaries for policy-makers are balanced and they're accessible, they're in a language that governments can understand, and they provide useful information. The key to it in the end is that when the summary for policy-makers is agreed to by governments, they're effectively owned by all governments. So these three summaries for policy-makers are owned by the Canadian government, the Government of the United States, the Government of Russia, the Government of Saudi Arabia, and the like. I think it's important for you to understand.
Now, there's a fourth volume, which is called a synthesis report, and we worked on that last week. It's also now available. The synthesis report contains several significant, clear, and I think important messages. I'll go through them, and this is my own interpretation, my own words.
The first message is that climate change is a reality and the evidence for that is now unequivocal.
The second message is that we human beings are the main cause of those changes in climate and that observed temperature increases since the middle of the 20th century are very likely due to human activities. When the IPCC uses the term “very likely”, it's a calibrated language, and it means it's stated with at least a 90% confidence. In science, if you get 90% confidence that's usually as good as it gets.
Furthermore, it concludes that we are already committed to some impacts because of what we've already done to the composition of the atmosphere, and therefore that some impacts are now inevitable. If we do not curtail growth of our emissions, those impacts are only likely to increase, and some of them may be abrupt and irreversible. Because of that, in my view, adaptation no longer is a policy option; it becomes a policy imperative.
The good news, according to the IPCC, is that we can actually do it. We can stabilize emissions at levels that will avoid dangerous anthropogenic influence with the climate system. In fact, we have the technologies already that we can start to implement. For that to happen, it's important that governments give clear encouragement, that there are clear policies, that there are clear and acceptable incentives.
The final point in my view as an old policy wonk is that climate change really has to be seen in the context of development. It is an environmental issue--that's how it was first defined--but it also can be defined as a development issue, as an energy issue, as a security issue. The broader one understands how one frames the issue, then in my view the broader the coalition of interest that one can bring together to solve it.
This diagram in front of you shows the temperature record over the last 150 years. Accompanied by it is the text above, the exact language from the Summary for Policymakers of working group one. As I said earlier, it just concludes that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal”. What you can see from this diagram is a series of black dots, and that's the global mean temperature for every year, going back to about 1850. The interesting point is if you try to draw a straight line through the last 150 years, you will get the red curve. If you try to do it for the last 100 years, you will get the purple curve, for the last 50 years you will get the orange curve, and for the last 25 you'll get the yellow curve. What I'm sure is evident to you is that the closer one gets to the present, the steeper that curve is. In other words, the closer one comes to the present, the rate of temperature increase seems to be increasing.
There is similar evidence of an acceleration of the increase from sea level rise and from Arctic sea ice extent, and several other indicators. For example, global sea level rise in the years between 1961 and 2003 rose at about 1.8 millimetres per year, but over the last 10 years, from 1993 to 2003, that rate was actually double.
Satellite information shows quite unequivocally that the average Arctic sea ice extent has shrunk, particularly in the summer, by as much as 7.5% per decade to a level this year that is lower than we've ever seen it before. There's also evidence from mid-latitude westerly winds, the sorts of winds that struck Vancouver and Stanley Park a couple of years ago and Halifax the year before, that have strengthened in both hemispheres. The evidence on tropical cyclones and hurricanes is much more subtle, but there is strong evidence that the strongest of the hurricanes have increased in frequency over recent years.
So if there indeed is evidence that the climate has changed, one needs to ask if it's due to natural or to human causes. The answer is clearly the latter; it is due to human causes.
The right-hand side of this diagram shows some of the evidence that has been brought to bear to support that conclusion. I'm not going to go into detail, but basically the black line you see is the observations you saw in the previous diagram, and the blue line is the result of output from the climate models, if you force the climate system over the last 100 years only with natural forcing, which means changes in the solar variability, and volcanos, and the like. The orange graph on the upper part of that diagram shows you what would happen if you added anthropogenic forcing, which is primarily that due to greenhouse gases and aerosols. Although at the beginning of the century the fit using only natural forcing is not bad, as you come to the present date the fit gets worse and worse. In fact, you cannot fit the observed lines without evoking the forcing of greenhouse gases.
On the left-hand side is a rather complicated diagram, but in short what it shows is that the forcing due to solar variability is in the order of one-tenth of that due to natural anthropogenic forcing. This is, again, a complicated diagram, and I apologize for it, and I'm not going to go through all of it.
On the left-hand side there are some model runs done with lots of computer models of the climate. It shows that with all of the IPCC's emission scenarios, in the next two or three decades there's almost the same warming regardless of what scenario you use, basically due to what we've already done to the composition of the atmosphere, and that is that you're going to get a warming of about one degree by the year 2025.
If you go out to the end of the century the choice of scenarios does make a difference, and the warming is between 2°C and 3°C. To put that into context, the warming in the last century was 0.6°C. The 3°C rate is therefore a fivefold increase over what we saw in the last century.
There are other results that show what would happen if you could freeze the concentrations at certain levels. The climate system, because of inertia, because of its memories, keeps on growing in temperature and the sea level keeps on rising for several centuries afterwards. In fact, if you could freeze the concentrations in the atmosphere at today's level--which of course is entirely hypothetical, you can't do it in reality--then over the next two to three decades you will have an increase of 0.1°C per decade. That's because of the climate system inertia.
There's also inertia, of course, because of our technological and socio-economic systems. We can't go out and overnight have everybody drive a Prius or change all the coal-fired power plants to renewable energies. That also has an inertia, and it means that we are more likely to see a 0.2°C increase in each of the next two or three decades, about which we could do nothing. In other words, what it says is that in fact that part of history has already been written.
I'm not alone in this concern. The chairman of the IPCC at the press conference in Valencia on Saturday was quoted as saying “What we do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”
I'm not going to go into all of this diagram, but what you see there is a diagram from the third IPCC assessment, and it talks about several different reasons for concern, which range from threatened ecosystems to the possibility of rather large discontinuities in geophysical systems.
The synthesis report looked at these and concluded that the five reasons for concern that were identified in the third assessment remain a viable framework for considering vulnerabilities, and--this is important--that these reasons are assessed in the fourth assessment to be stronger than in the third assessment. That's due to increased confidence that temperature increases greater than 2°C are likely to lead to significant threats to many ecosystems and have consequences for biodiversity, and there is increasing evidence from some of the extreme events we've seen that there is indeed a greater vulnerability. There is greater evidence that specific groups, such as the poor and the elderly, are much more vulnerable than we anticipated in the third assessment report.
And all of that allows some scientists to draw the diagram on the right-hand side—you won't see that in the third assessment, and you shouldn't take it too literally. But it's, again, an illustration, a schematic that shows the reasons for concern have become stronger.
The IPCC also looked at regions and sectors that are going to be impacted in the future and drew diagrams. You can't see these that well; you can see them better in the material on the web. There's one here, which is for sectors; you can see it for water ecosystems and the like. There's also a table, which is in the synthesis report, on the threats to geographical regions.
It also was able to identify regions that are particularly vulnerable, and I will mention them. There are four. The first is the arctic, because of high rates of projected warming on the natural systems. There's Africa, because of current low adaptive capacity as well as the large projected climate change impacts. There are the small islands, due to the high exposure of their populations and the infrastructure that's at risk from sea level rise and increased storm surges. And there are Asian mega-deltas, due to the large populations there that are exposed not only to sea level rise, but to increasing storm surges.
This slide gets back to the root causes of what I term the threat of climate change, and that's what has happened to the composition of the atmosphere. We now know that we have taken the composition of the atmosphere into areas we have not experienced for the last six or seven ice ages, going back at least 650,000 years if not a million years. We have therefore taken the atmosphere into uncharted territory. That is why, in my view, climate change should be viewed as a threat.
There is indication from recent publications that the rate at which CO2 is building up in the atmosphere has increased, and the emission of greenhouse gas is now higher than any of the plausible emission scenarios that the IPCC had previously developed. This diagram shows in brief that in order to stabilize emissions we will have to peak global emissions at a certain level and then come down. The rate at which one does that depends on the stabilization level one chooses. That's of course not entirely a scientific decision; it's much more of a political decision. It depends on what you think is at risk and what you value.
The economic results depend on whether you look from the top down or the bottom up. If you look from the bottom up, you're essentially looking at various technologies and trying to estimate what they can achieve. If you look down, then you use these equilibrium economic models and understand what the economic system can tolerate.
But it's estimated that if you want to achieve no more than a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere, the cost will be between a 3% decrease in global GDP and a small increase compared to the baseline. Baselines, of course, are rather difficult to estimate, but at worst the impact on the average annual reduction in GDP until the middle of this century will be in the order of 0.1%. I'm not an economist, but I think that is usually regarded as a rounding error by most economists.
It's not my assessment that the public in general is becoming inured to this. Certainly that's not the case in Europe, and certainly not if you go to Africa. In fact, it's quite the opposite.
I think science and the scientists have done a marvellous job raising awareness of this issue and putting it on the public policy agenda. And I think the scientists have provided a lot of information.
The problem seems to be that although people are often aware of it and know it, it's been difficult for them to internalize it and realize that in fact this is not an abstract problem, but they're in fact part of the problem and can be part of the solution. I think that's where we're going to have to work hard in the future.
Now, on the process of the IPCC, as I said, behind each of these reports there is a 600-page scientific document. It's more like a graduate textbook. It's really not accessible to many policy-makers, so the IPCC has developed this idea of producing summaries for policy-makers. I think this is unique within the UN intergovernmental process.
The summaries are drafted by the scientists, and then they're presented to governments. There are several review stages, involving both governments and experts, to make sure that what's written is accurate and useful and, more than anything else, is balanced.
Then we come to a plenary session of the IPCC, where many of these summaries for policy-makers are worked on; in fact, it's a form of negotiation. We start with what the scientists have written, and then governments will ask questions or suggest slightly different interpretations of what's been drafted. Of course different governments look at science in different ways; that's to be understood. But my assessment is that most governments, with occasional lapses, have actually been very constructive in this process.
I really am sorry if I embarrass Dr. Gray here, but certainly in Valencia last week the Canadian delegation was extraordinarily constructive and very helpful in the process.
But the end point is that when the gavel comes down on the final words of this document, then all the governments who are present in the room at the plenary session essentially own the document; they buy into it and say yes, this is accurate, valuable, usable, and we pay attention to it.
My background is in risk management. When you see a problem, you look for the causes of the problem and fix it. I like to use analogies. If I had a leaking roof, I would look to see where the leak is coming from. I would see if it's something that needs to be fixed by something I can do, or if I need a professional. Basically I would fix it so that I don't have further damage.
My background was working with engineers and police and finding out where vehicle crashes were happening. It would often require professionals to take a look to show the reasons and the causes of a problem we were having at a specific intersection, and if we do this, it will likely solve the problem. Of course, we would try that and do those improvements and hopefully we wouldn't have the crashes.
I'd like to focus, and I encourage members at the committee to focus, on the solutions. I think all around the table we acknowledge that there is an urgent situation. We need to address this. Rather than getting into the specific technologies at this point, I'd like to get that in the second half of my questioning time.
How important is it for us to deal with this globally and for every major emitter to participate in reducing greenhouse gas emissions?
When I was at the Globe G8+5 conference in Berlin, and some of the people here at the committee were there with me, we heard from a legislator from India. He shared that there are a thousand villages there that have no electrical power. The quick and easy way for them to provide electrical power to improve the quality of life for those thousand villages is to burn coal, which causes not only pollutants to enter the air but also greenhouse gas emissions.
In the summary for policy-makers—I think it was in chapter 3 or 4—it talked about how important it is to change our lifestyles. I think the encouragement is for us to realize that the industry has to clean up and we have to use technologies to clean that up. We also individually have responsibilities to change the kinds of vehicles we drive, the amount of energy we use for vehicles, transportation, also improving our homes. Maybe it means a new furnace, new hot water tank, or changing to energy-efficient light bulbs, or whatever. That's one side of the equation.
The other side of the equation concerns the demands of people globally who want a better standard of living. If we become more efficient, and we need to, and it's actually fun to do...the other part of the equation are the people globally who want a better quality of life. That means more energy, more greenhouse gas emissions, and more pollutants.
I guess the first question I have--and hopefully I'm making sense here--is how important is it that we have not only Canada, with our policies and our government committed that we are going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020 or more, but also that we have countries like India, China, and the United States also buying in, committing that they are going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and that they commit to targets and goals to reduce? I believe it's these major emitters that have to be part of the solution. Otherwise we're not going to be able to globally achieve reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr. Weaver, could you and Dr. Stone comment on that?
Climate change is a global issue. It's a global issue, as Andrew Weaver said, because the CO2 that we emit stays in the atmosphere for a long time. It is well-mixed, and it doesn't matter where it comes from.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, when it was finalized in 1995, recognized that. The wording of the convention talks about common but differentiated responsibilities, and these depend on a country's per capita emission. China's emissions as a total are the same as those of the U.S., but the per capita emissions are far less. In other words, China per capita still has lesser emissions than the U.S.
A notion of common and differentiated responsibilities also looks at questions of wealth. There are some countries that, through technological wealth, economic wealth, human wealth, or whatever, actually have the ability to reduce the emissions more than others. You talked about some countries that, like India, are still in poverty.
The third reason, and there are probably more, happens to do with history: that it is we in the industrialized world who are responsible for most of the emissions in the atmosphere at the moment, and therefore it is we in the industrialized world who are responsible for many of the impacts we are already seeing and are going to see in the future.
Yes, we do need to have everybody on board, but we have to understand that different countries have different abilities to contribute. I think that what the developing world is looking for is for us in the developed world, the industrialized world, to show an example—to lead—and that means Canada. I think it's in all of our interests to make sure that the development paths of these developing countries don't necessarily repeat our development paths; that we somehow provide them with the technologies, the wisdom, and the know-how.
The bottom line, as far as I am concerned, is that, true as all those arguments may be—and I think you posed a very important question—we have to start, and we have to start now. If we continue to prevaricate and say “No, after you, Alphonse”, etc., we'll never get the action that we absolutely need.