By G.S. Strong and Garth Mihalcheon
Covid-19, political tensions and the U.S. presidential election and its aftermath have dominated the news and social media coverage for more than a year. Meanwhile, the climate crisis has not disappeared, and recent climate research suggests that earlier climate predictions and IPCC reports have been too conservative. The IPCC insists countries must develop more ambitious climate plans to keep global temperature increases below 1.5°C. These plans and the IPCC target seem doomed to failure because they emphasize the use of various unproven sequestration processes to both reduce emissions and extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, with less emphasis on the more immediate need for reductions in industrial emissions.
Climate scientists rarely engage in public discussions on climate change solutions. That tradition of avoidance is no longer valid in the face of this greatest threat ever to humanity, for it represents what Klein (2020) calls the ‘new climate denialism’. Given the magnitude of the crisis, Canada’s climate plan presented under Bill C-12 is insufficient to “do our fair share” to restrain the climate juggernaut. We believe Canadian scientists are equipped to play a more direct role in convincing the federal government to strengthen this plan. Other groups such as Cologna et al. (2021) are also calling on scientists to play a more active role in policy advocacy. We suggest a way of strengthening their voices through interdisciplinary networks.
The Canadian plan, presented as Bill C-12 in parliament, provides no details or demands on industry to reduce emissions. It then leaps into a promise to “reduce Canada’s carbon emissions by 40%–45% by 2030”, while immediately following, one notices “from federal facilities and conventional fleets,” a deception never mentioned in news releases. The baseline year for Canada is 2005, when emissions peaked at 730 MT. One can interpret ‘net-zero’ then to mean keeping emissions at or below 730 MT each subsequent year. Canadian media and the public have applauded the plan, and even environmental watchdogs like the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace, and Pembina Institute have given it tacit support as ‘a good start’. However, people are slow to catch on that ‘net-zero’ could mean that carbon emissions will continue unabated through 2050!