Waterloo is home to one of the world's leading experts in climate change mitigation and sustainability transitions

Monday, April 4, 2022

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released a new report, Climate Change 2022: Mitigation of Climate Change. The IPCC’s Working Group III (WGIII) assessed methods for reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) and removing GHGs from the atmosphere. The report is important as it informs international negotiations at the UNFCCC to address climate change and tells us where we are in terms of our global greenhouse gas emissions, what steps we can (and already are) taking to reduce them, and how we can speed up this process while also taking justice and competing priorities into account. 

Sarah Burch, Executive Director at the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change and professor of Geography and Environmental Management, is a lead author for Chapter 17: Accelerating the transition in the context of sustainable development, and a contributing author for Chapter 13: National and subnational policies and institutions. She has worked with top scientists from around the world for the past several years to identify climate mitigation options and how they can be applied across all sectors and activities. These include energy, transport, buildings, industry, waste management, agriculture, forestry, and other forms of land management.  

The work of over 278 experts from 65 countries powerfully communicates the scale of the climate change challenge. Unprecedented levels of cooperation and creativity are required to put the world on a low carbon, resilient development pathway.

Sarah Burch

To at least halve emissions by 2030, the report outlines what these options would look like. Including: 

  • Limiting global warming will require major transitions in the energy sector. This will involve a substantial reduction in fossil fuel use, widespread electrification, improved energy efficiency, and use of alternative fuels (such as hydrogen). 

  • Cities and other urban areas also offer significant opportunities for emissions reductions. These can be achieved through lower energy consumption (such as by creating compact, walkable cities), electrification of transport in combination with low -emission energy sources, and enhanced carbon uptake and storage using nature. There are options for established rapidly growing and new cities. 

  • Reducing emissions in industry will involve using materials more efficiently, reusing and recycling products and minimizing waste. For basic materials, including steel, building materials and chemicals, low - to zero -greenhouse gas production processes are at their pilot to near -commercial stage. This sector accounts for about a quarter of global emissions. Achieving net zero will be challenging and will require new production processes, low and zero emissions electricity, hydrogen, and, where necessary, carbon capture and storage.  

  • Agriculture, forestry, and other land uses can provide large-scale emissions reductions and also remove and store carbon dioxide at scale. However, land cannot compensate for delayed emissions reductions in other sectors. Response options can benefit biodiversity, help us adapt to climate change, and secure livelihoods, food and water, and wood supplies. 

To help us further understand the report, Burch has been using Twitter to share the report’s findings. Follow her @SarahLynnBurch to learn more. 

The Working Group III report, along with two earlier reports on the physical science and impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability of climate change, are part of the IPCC’s sixth assessment of the state of the knowledge of the climate crisis. Together they show that the next few years are critical. We must limit warming to around 1.5°C (2.7°F). This requires global greenhouse gas emissions to peak before 2025 at the latest and be reduced by 43% by 2030; at the same time, methane would also need to be reduced by about a third. Even if we do this, it is almost inevitable that we will temporarily exceed this temperature threshold but could return to below it by the end of the century. Therefore, the time for action is now.  

A final synthesis report is scheduled to be released in fall 2022. University of Waterloo researchers have contributed to each of the IPCC assessments since it was initially formed in 1988.  

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On March 9, the University of Waterloo's Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change hosted an informative discussion on the findings of Health Canada's latest national report, Health of Canadians in a Changing Climate. The lead authors, Peter Berry, Rebekka Schnitter and Paddy Enright, reflected on key insights from the wide-ranging report and highlighted the priority knowledge gaps facing Canadians. This was followed by a Q&A with a panel of Waterloo's climate change and health experts, moderated by Dean of Faculty of Health, Lili Liu. Learn more about the key findings from the authors and the reflections from IC3 climate change experts. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has released the second report for its sixth major assessment of the science of climate change; Climate Change 2022: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Hannah Tait Neufeld, IC3 member and Assistant Professor, School of Public Health Sciences, is a contributing author for chapter 7. She discusses the impacts to Indigenous Peoples’ health and wellbeing in a changing climate.