New report sounds the alarm on climate change

By Valerie Shore

Weaver. Photo: UVic Photo Services

Canada must commit to a stringent and binding agreement on climate change at the upcoming Copenhagen conference on climate change, says University of Victoria climatologist Dr. Andrew Weaver.

Weaver is one of 26 international authors of “The Copenhagen Diagnosis,” a new report that updates climate change science since the 2007 assessment of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

The report was released on Nov. 24 by Australia’s University of New South Wales in advance of the pivotal United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Dec. 7–18.

Weaver is the only Canadian contributor to the report and was the lead author for the sections on permafrost, sea ice and ice-shelves. He also worked extensively on the oceans and sea levels chapters.

“Most decision-makers are operating on the assumption that the latest information on climate science is the 2007 IPCC report, which is actually based on the science as we understood it in 2005,” says Weaver. “An awful lot has changed since then.

“In a nutshell, we’re in a lot worse shape than we thought,” he says.

The report concludes that global climate change is occurring much faster than predicted and that global emissions must decline rapidly within the next five to 10 years for the world to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Among the report’s observations:

Global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels are around 40 per cent higher than in 1990.

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are shrinking at an increasing rate.

Summer sea ice in the Arctic is retreating 40 per cent faster than previously projected.

Sea levels have risen 5 cm over the last 15 years—80 per cent higher than predicted.

To stabilize climate, concludes the report, global emissions of carbon dioxide and other long-lived greenhouse gases need to reach near zero well within this century.

“The Copenhagen conference represents the last chance for the world to keep the global temperature rise below 2°C—a number that most countries around the world have agreed to be the upper boundary of acceptable global warming—says Weaver, who is the Canada Research Chair in Climate Modelling and Analysis.

He says the developed world must commit to reducing carbon emissions by 80 per cent by 2050 and 50 per cent globally. A third of those reductions are needed by 2020.

“The Canadian government says it is committed to keeping global temperature increases to below 2°C, but it can’t say that without a stringent binding agreement,” says Weaver.

Canada needs to take a progressive role and show international leadership. We have to start turning the corner now. The urgency can’t be overstated.”

The full text of “The Copenhagen Diagnosis” report is available online at

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