The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has released its fifth assessment of the state of play for the planet.
The contribution made by Working Group I is entitled: Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. From that title, it almost sound like it should be the sequel to a hit Hollywood movie.
Except it is not a sequel to a Hollywood hit. It is the latest report that confirms what many people - many scientists - have been saying for nearly two decades: The climate is changing.
It is fairly direct. For example, one of the first definitive statements says: Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased.
It goes on to say: Each of the last three decades have been successively warmer at the Earths surface than any preceding decade since 1850. In the northern hemisphere, 1983-2012 was likely the warmest 30-year period of the last 1400 years.
The word likely is added because although the most recent data for the past few centuries is very good, the further back we go in time, the lower the confidence limits. Still, this conclusion was ranked with medium confidence by the writing panel.
In other words, they are fairly certain that it is the case.
Further evidence in the report points out that: The atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years. Carbon dioxide concentrations have increased by 40 per cent since pre-industrial times, primarily from fossil fuel emissions and secondarily from net land use change emissions.
The rate of sea level rise since the mid-19th century has been larger than the mean rate during the previous two millennia," the report adds.
In other words, things are bad and getting worse. We know this with a high degree of confidence. And we know what is to blame.
So, without getting too much more into the science, lets talk about the politics involved.
Canada was a leading light in the battle with climate change during the 1990s. Generally speaking, Canadians are people that love the great outdoors. For many of us, our cherished memories involve camping in the woods or canoeing remote lakes.
The prospect that humanity could be damaging our environment led some people to become active environmentalists. And many, many more to become passive environmentalists.
The prospects of a planet without polar bears, arctic ice, narwhals and seals just didnt sit well with Canadians.
We signed on to the Kyoto Accord. We committed ourselves to trying to do something about changing the way that our economies operated for the sake of reducing our global greenhouse emissions.
We even led the charge to ban substances that damage the ozone layer, although that is a separate issue from climate change. It is not entirely unrelated, though, because it does illustrate how we can adapt our economy to new ways of doing things when there is political will to do so.
However, by the mid-2000s, we had a change in government and a change in emphasis. Jobs became the mantra. Jobs at all costs. Jobs are the only thing that matters. Jobs are going to drive our economy.
The federal government is not totally anti-environment. It just doesnt seem to think that environmentalists should be allowed to speak if what they say might hurt "Canadian economic interests.
I put the latter in quotes because I still havent really seen anything that tells me how making life better in Alberta and making international oil companies richer is of benefit to people living in B.C.
Pundits have argued that Alberta will pay more into the tax accounts of the country, but B.C. is a have province. We also pay into the government. The only way we benefit from Albertas largesse is if we start to collect from the government as a have not. That is not going to happen any time soon.
In any case, we have shifted politically or the government has swung to the right on the international stage. We are seen as country that does not believe in climate change and/or is unwilling to do its part to mitigate the coming disaster.
We are even perhaps going one step further now with the proposal to ship diluted bitumen to Asian markets. Bitumen is a fossil fuel. Combustion results in greenhouse gas emissions. Even the extraction involves greenhouse gas emissions. And the processing to both add and remove the diluents results in greenhouse gas emissions.
Piping Canadian crude to markets around the world doesnt help address climate change. And the fifth assessment of the IPCC says that burning fossil fuels is only going to make things worse.