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about climate change

by Dr. Freda Pagani

Climate change is considered by many scientists to be the most serious threat facing the world today. The Kyoto Protocol is an international agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) that cause global warming, which contributes to climate change. Strategies for reducing GHGs include phasing out coal plants, expanding renewable energy sources and public transit, and creating new efficiency standards for vehicles and buildings.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is an international group of experts formed in 1988, which reviews scientific research, and offers assessments of climate change and its effects. There is now a broad scientific consensus that more than 2°C of average global warming above the pre-industrial level would constitute a dangerous level of climate change. The science indicates that industrialized countries need to reduce their combined emissions of GHGs to 25–40 per cent below the 1990 level by 2020, if they are to make a fair contribution to the necessary cuts in global emissions. Canada has already increased its emissions by more than 22% since 1990.

The IPCC follows strict procedures for developing its reports and has word for word consensus by all 120 participating governments on their contents.

The GHG pollutants we pump into the atmosphere are changing its composition, and preventing heat from escaping the earth’s surface. Today's atmosphere contains 32 per cent more carbon dioxide, the main GHG, than at the start of the industrial era. The result is global warming and climate change: altered long-term weather patterns.  And it has already begun - global average temperature has risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius since 1900, and the northern hemisphere is substantially warmer than at any point during the past 1000 years. Burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and gas is largely responsible for climate change. Deforestation and modern intensive farming methods also contribute to the problem.     

This greenhouse effect diagram shows us how GHGs affect climate change.

Sources: David Suzuki Foundation, climate change issues
UNFCC, Climate Change Science

about consensus & peer review

The climate change debate is centered on scientific research, findings, and terms such as “consensus”...understanding the science is not as important as understanding how scientific claims are reached, how scientific papers are published, and what ‘peer reviewed’ means. We must also take into account how the media gloms onto snippets of data and presents as fact (or absolute truths). In contrast, when scientists use words such as possibly, perhaps, or uncertain they are characterized as using guesswork. We often miss the interpretation behind the facts, and its one of the reasons why climate change and global warming continues to polarize, or paralyze, us.

When we hear that there is “no consensus” among scientists about global warming, we must take into account that there is no consensus among scientists on anything! Consensus means “every single person agrees” and this is why the term consensus in the global warming debate creates controversy. We need to look for (and use) terms such as: well established, well understood, well accepted, overwhelming majority of scientific opinion, uncontroversial, and preponderance of opinion. It’s nebulous for a reason.

In the peer review process, scientists want their work to be taken seriously; thus, their papers are submitted to peer-reviewed journals. The journals send those papers to experts in a given field, and those experts then try to prove or disprove its claims. The greater the prestige of the journal, the more rigorous the peer review before a claim will be published. When a peer-reviewed paper is published, it’s not saying its correct, it’s saying its worth looking at, and that it might be important.

Source:  Greg Craven, What’s The Worst That Could Happen, 2009

our ecological footprint

The ecological footprint is a measure of how our lifestyles impact the planet and other people, and calculates how much productive land, freshwater, and sea is needed to feed us, and provide all the energy, water, materials we use, and how much land is needed to absorb our waste.

The Earth is 11.2 billion hectares of biologically productive land and sea surfaces; for a population of 6.7 billion people, that is 1.8 hectares per person.

average ecological footprints (hectares):
United States 9.6
Canada 7.6
Australia 6.6
U.K. 5.6
Europe (EU-25) 4.8
Middle East & Central Asia 2.2
Latin America 2.0
China 1.6
Asia Pacific 1.3
Africa 1.1
global average = 2.2

The difference between our ecological footprint and biocapacity is called either ‘reserve’ or ‘deficit’ (overshoot). Globally, we are in a state of overshoot. To sustain our current rate of consumption we will need the resources of five planet earths. One of the best things we can do for our planet is to reduce our footprint. Calculate your own ecological footprint.

Source: William E. Rees, Our Ecological Footprint, 1996

did you know

  • One of the results of global warming is rising sea levels - a sea level rise around the Lower Mainland of between 50 centimetres and 1 metre or more is projected by the end of this century.
  • Gases have a huge volume for not much mass, a tonne of pure carbon dioxide at 25 degrees celcius, and 1 bar is about 560,000L, which is 560 cubic metres. That's roughly 20% of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
  • People don't realize that when a plane full of tourists flies from LA to Cairo so they can visit the Great Pyramid, one flight uses as much energy as it took to build the Great Pyramid.  (John Michael Greer)
  • The amount of energy being delivered into your car by the petrol pump is equivalent to the full output of a 30MW power station - a reasonable sized hydro station. So to fill your car you're taking the full output of a small power station for about 1 minute.”  (John Michael Greer)
  • An audit of West Vancouver emissions showed that 53% of emissions are from heating houses, 44% are from transportation, 2% are from waste and 1% are from municipal operations.
  • The City of Vancouver has the lowest per capita emissions (4.6 tonnes per capita) of any major North American City.
  • Our current methods of shipping, and distributing food, and products consume massive amounts of increasingly valuable fuel, and create another source of greenhouse gasses; global distribution systems generate almost 10% of today’s annual CO2 emissions. (Peter Senge, The Necessary Revolution, 2008).  For example, Senge tells us that:

Oone glass of orange juice = two glasses of oil
(to produce & transport)

north shore initiatives

Climate Action Plan

  • The City of North Vancouver was one of the first municipalities in the Lower Mainland to develop a Climate Action Plan. In 2005 it set a Corporate Goal to achieve a decrease of 20% below the 1995 baseline by the year 2010 and a Community Goal to achieve a decrease of 6% per capita below the predicted 2010 forecast.
  • The District of North Vancouver is revising its OCP to include targets for GHG reductions, and policies to achieve these targets.
  • The West Vancouver Climate Action Working Group produced its Plan for Reducing Emissions. It was unanimously received by Council on March 15, 2010.


  • Climate Smart is a social enterprise launched by Ecotrust Canada. It grew out of the recognition that the engines of our local economies - small and medium-sized enterprises - have been largely overlooked in the development of policies and tools to address climate change. Climate Smart works with BC businesses and organizations (on the North Shore and across B.C.), to take them through the process of measuring their greenhouse gas emissions, setting reduction targets, and better understanding the carbon offset market.

Cool North Shore

  • Cool North Shore (CNS) is a citizen-created, and driven initiative to help us become one of the most liveable, and sustainable regions places on earth. CNS sponsors Cool Drinks events to engage the community in climate change issues, create awareness, and inspire action.

other initiatives


mass participation in becoming carbon neutral

”Becoming carbon neutral is only the beginning. The climate problem will not be solved by one company reducing its emissions to zero, and it won't be solved by one government acting alone. The climate problem will only be solved with mass participation by the general public in countries around the globe.” (Rupert Murdoch)

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climate topics

-adaptation (2 to 4C) & weather
-cap & trade
-carbon capture & sequestration
-carbon offsets
-carbon tax
-climate refugees
-greenhouse gases & inventories
-peak oil
-polar ice caps
-rising sea levels
-snow packs




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