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Canada must prepare for both a low-carbon world and also for one in which the international community spurns climate action; otherwise, it will suffer job losses and social disruption, according to a new institute of leading experts.

The Canadian Institute for Climate Choices began operating during January, and simultaneously released an 80-page report examining the consequences of climate actions that Canada might take under a few different global pollution scenarios. CEO Kathy Bardswick said in an interview “No one knows how quickly the world is going to cut carbon pollution, and Canada must make decisions that account for the uncertainty, rather than be paralyzed by it.”

TWO EXTREME SCENARIOS

In one scenario, a massive economic metamorphosis occurs. Nations around the world cut their pollution severely over the next 10 years reaching the Paris Agreement goal. Global demand for fossil fuels plummets and proven reserves are left in the ground. A majority of electricity comes from renewable like solar and wind. If Canada remains committed to exports like oil and gas, an ill-prepared financial sector that holds more than $50 billion worth of loans to the sector would suffer dramatically and this would create “large-scale disruption and job loss in Canada.”

In another scenario, carbon pollution continues to be pumped into the air unchecked, and the world fails to achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal, leading to runaway climate change: collapse of ecosystems, accelerating global heating, coastlines that sink underwater, relentless extreme weather and mass societal unrest.

We must prepare for that world too, the report says, or become “caught in a continual cycle of impact and recovery.” People will become sick or die due to increasingly poor air quality and contaminated water. Insurance costs will skyrocket and companies will lay off workers. Food and water shortages will drive war, conflict and humanitarian disasters, including in Canada.

Based on current trends it’s reasonable to assume the reality will fall somewhere between these scenarios; thus making this kind of analysis useful for policy planners.

CICC

Bardswick said the institute was set up to follow a “rigorous peer review process” that will require “not only leveraging the expertise in our staff contingent, but also taking our work and sending it to external peer reviewers, so we have another independent set of eyes looking at the rigour of the research.”

The report was written by senior research associate Jonathan Arnold, vice-president of research Dale Beugin and clean growth director Rachel Samson, with support from six others inside and outside the CICC. It underwent peer review from 13 experts, such as Blair Feltmate, the head of the Intact Center on Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo and Francis Zwiers, director of the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium at the University of Victoria.

The Institute receives funding from 24 foundations and the federal government, but the government does not tell it what to research. The directors and expert panels decide the agenda, strategic plan and content, similar to the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy created by the Mulroney government in 1988.

Link to CICC: https://climatechoices.ca/

Report link: https://climatechoices.ca/reports/charting-our-course/