A thermometer isn’t blue, red, orange—or green. It doesn’t give us a different answer based on which political party we support. But increasingly, today, our perspective on climate change—Are the impacts serious? What should we do to fix it?—depends not on the science but rather on our political ideology.
Climate change is a big problem, a global problem; and we know that our own personal choices—reducing food waste, increasing energy efficiency, flying less often—will only get us a fraction of the way there. It’s true that Canada is responsible for about two percent of global carbon emissions each year. But if you count up all the carbon we as a nation have released since 1900, we’re in the global top 10. Per person, we emit the same amount of carbon as two and a half people living in the United Kingdom, 10 people in Zimbabwe, and more than 20 people living in Yemen today. That’s not fair, especially when you consider that some of the people who emit the least, in the world’s poorest nations, are also the most vulnerable to the impacts of a changing climate.
We have the technology, human capital, and resources to reduce our emissions today without facing immediate energy poverty. These factors are what the Paris Agreement calls common but differentiated responsibility: climate change is a global problem, and we as Canadians have a lot to contribute to fixing it.
As a climate scientist, I (Katharine) know that the climate system doesn’t care how we cut emissions: but the science is clear that the faster we do so, the better off we’ll all be. And if we want to meet our part of the Paris Agreement, to hold the increase in global temperature to below 2.0C and 1.50C if we can, we don’t have a lot of time.
As an economist, I (Andrew) have spent a lot of time thinking about how we can cut emissions through climate policies. How you define our action relative to others is subjective, but I like to view Canadian policies through a global lens. If the world acts as we do, would we reach our global goals? Today, that answer is mixed. If everyone in the world implemented our current policies, we’d see significant emissions reductions. But if everyone lived and used energy the way we do, we’d be in much deeper trouble.
That’s why, heading into the election, we were so interested to see our political parties’ proposals for cutting our carbon emissions and preparing for the impacts of climate change on our country. Here’s what we think of them.
Canada’s energy sector: its future is often seen as foggy and facing inevitable decline. But the fossil fuel energy sector does not equal our entire energy sector.
Canada’s clean energy sector will employ 559,400 Canadians by 2030—in jobs like insulating homes, manufacturing electric buses, or maintaining wind farms. And while 50,000 jobs are likely to be lost in fossil fuels over the next decade, just over 160,000 will be created in clean energy—a net increase of 110,000 new energy jobs in Canada.
So finds Clean Energy Canada’s new report, The Fast Lane, modelled in collaboration with Navius Research. This future-looking study follows our historical analysis from May (Missing the Bigger Picture, which found 298,000 Canadians already employed in clean energy as of 2017) and provides a clear roadmap for Canada’s future.
When it comes to Canada’s energy future, there’s a fast lane called the clean energy sector, and a slow lane, fossil fuels.
Jobs in our clean energy sector are set to grow nearly four times faster than the Canadian average between 2020 and 2030, while jobs in our fossil fuel sector will decline half a percent annually over that period. Clean energy’s GDP contribution will also increase 3.4% a year, more than double the national average (1.5%).
It has been a little under four years since 196 countries negotiated the Paris Agreement, under which they committed to taking steps to limit the increase in global average temperature this century to well below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over preindustrial levels, and ultimately to limit that increase to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F). Under the agreement, each signatory submits its own national plan, setting targets for emissions reductions and specifying pathways by which it aims to meet those targets.
Despite the 2015 agreement, global carbon emissions increased 1.7 percent in 2017 and a further 2.7 percent in 2018; it has been estimated that the rate of increase in 2019 will be among the highest on record. The last four years have been the hottest on record, with 2019 on track to make it five. But analyses suggest that fast action now can reduce carbon emissions within 12 years and hold global increases below 2 degrees C and perhaps 1.5.
Are countries making progress? What kind? We got together with the Climate Action Tracker to see who’s dragging their heels and who is making the best efforts. The CAT covers all the biggest emitters and a representative sample of smaller emitters. Their data covers about 80 percent of global emissions and approximately 70 percent of the global population, and grades countries based on how likely their Paris commitments and actions, if replicated by other nations, would be to achieve a world of 1.5 degrees C of warming.