The Climate Barometer: Around the world, around the world

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November 15, 2021

Our planet is heating up, causing tremendous upheaval for life as we know it.
Every Monday, The Climate Barometer from delves into
climate science and looks at what life on a changing planet will mean


When the best defence one can muster is that any deal is better than no deal, it's perhaps a sign that the deal in question might not be a particularly good one.

But that's the line UN climate secretary Patricia Espinosa trotted out in the aftermath of COP26, telling The Associated Press that "no deal was the worst possible result" and describing the Glasgow agreement as "a good compromise."

Highlights of that compromise include a formal agreement to focus on limiting global warming to 1.5 C above pre-industrial levels, tweaks to the rules around international carbon markets, and measures to reduce the use of coal and fossil fuel subsidies. Reparations for countries facing outsized climate change consequences did not make it in, nor did more international aid to help developing nations prepare for what's to come.

While Espinosa tried to put a positive spin on the conference, others who have long been on the front lines of the fight against climate change sounded worrying notes as COP26 drew to a close.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the Paris Agreement's goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 C is now 'on life support' due to what he described as insufficient commitments made in Glasgow.

Famous Canadian environmentalist David Sukuzi was equally pessimistic, telling CTV's Your Morning that he did not see a sense of urgency from world leaders that matched the severity of the climate crisis.

Indeed, the largest plank in Canada's climate plan sailed through COP26 unchanged. The government's aim is still to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40 to 45 per cent this decade, below the target set by the U.S. While environmental experts say that goal is achievable, Suzuki says he believes it will never happen -- just as no federal government has ever lived up to any emissions-reduction pledge.

Canadians, meanwhile, seem to see climate change as a problem that is hurting lives more than it is helping them. A Nanos Research survey found that Canadians are six times more likely to say climate change is positively affecting their health than to say it is negatively impacting it -- which may come as a surprise to those living elsewhere who might see cold, snowy Canada as a potential safe haven in a warming world.


Taking a look at stories about the environment that caught our attention this week
  • One of Canada's more under-the-radar commitments in Glasgow was a pledge to dedicate 20 per cent of international climate aid to addressing biodiversity loss. Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault says this will include projects like preserving natural areas and restoring wetlands. Remember: our planet is currently undergoing a mass extinction event, and it's been accelerated by human behaviour.
  • A first-of-its-kind map developed by a professor emeritus at Western University shows, in stark detail, the potential for flooding in Canada's low-lying areas over the rest of this century. It's estimated that the number of Canadians at risk of flooding sits at four million and is growing fast -- and we can look south of the border for an example of what will happen should that risk become reality.
  • While climate change is clearly not a hypothetical situation at this point, nuclear war most certainly is. If nuclear war were to break out, though, what would that mean for climate change? Researchers in the United States say it would destroy most of Earth's ozone layer, with devastating consequences for our health. You can read more about their forecast here -- and be thankful that for now, it still qualifies as science fiction.

An in-depth look at an important climate issue

If you're a regular reader of this space, then you know that we spend a lot of time talking about certain countries.

Canada is at the top of that list, for obvious reasons. Other regulars include the United States, certain major European nations, and China.

This week, though, we're going to turn the spotlight on a handful of countries that may never cross your mind. What they have in common, though, is that in one way or another, they all show us our possible climate futures.

We'll start with Madagascar, the Texas-sized island off the eastern coast of Africa. The World Food Programme estimates that 1.1 million of its citizens -- some four per cent of its total population -- already suffer from severe hunger. Climate change has brought the country drought, increased sandstorms and exceptionally warm temperatures, pushing more of its inhabitants toward starvation.

In the South Pacific country of Tuvalu, meanwhile, the battle against climate change isn't just about saving lives -- it's about saving the island nation itself. Tuvalu's foreign minister said last week that government officials are trying to figure out if their country would still be recognized under international law should it become completely submerged -- a worst-case scenario to be sure, but by no means an impossible one.

Of course, not every possible future will result in mass starvation or entire nations sinking off the map. Achieving a more optimistic outcome, though, will require significant buy-in from governments around the world.

In some countries, that's already happening. In some countries, other nations' vows to reduce emissions or go net-zero seem quaint and old-fashioned -- because they're already emitting less carbon dioxide than they take in.

That's the case in Bhutan, where forests absorb more than twice as much CO2 as its intentionally low-emissions economy pumps out. It's also the case in Suriname, and Panama is expected to be added to that list later this year. Read about how they've done it, and then consider what it would take to get the rest of the world on the same path.



CTV News Science and Technology Specialist Dan Riskin shares his exclusive insights

You don't have to tell anyone in Ontario or Quebec about the damage that can be done by gypsy moth caterpillars.

The invasive species ate its way through Central Canada this summer, gobbling up all the leaves they could find.

In addition to terrorizing trees, though, the caterpillars left a lesser-known problem for local waterways.

In this week's Riskin Report, CTV News Science and Technology Specialist Dan Riskin explains what scientists have just learned about how gypsy moths affect the careful chemical balance of lakes and streams.

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