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CUPE’s National Environment Committee sees the just-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report as the strongest indicator yet that everyone – governments, employers, workers, and individuals – has to get onside to combat climate change. The committee views climate change as much more than an environmental issue: it’s an urgent societal problem affecting everyone.

Co-chair Rh’ena Oake summarized the committee’s perspective: “We have irrefutable evidence that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise at or above the current global rate, we can expect changes to our climate significantly greater than any previously observed.”

The IPCC reported on February 2 from Paris that there is no doubt the world is heating up and human activities are the cause. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) established the IPCC in 1988. The latest IPCC report is the fourth in a series of major documents that encompass the findings of hundreds of the world’s top climate scientists.

The IPCC report says sea levels will rise over the 21st century by around half a metre, snow will vanish from all but the highest mountains, deserts will expand, oceans will become acidic, leading to the destruction of coral reefs, and deadly heat waves will become more prevalent. Major social upheavals linked to these environmental effects are also imminent. Temperatures are expected to rise on average 1.1 to 6.4 degrees Celsius by 2100.

The last half-century period was likely the hottest in at least the past 1,300 years. The hot spell is so significantly different from anything in the climate record that it must be linked to human activity.

Oake says the report helps show we need: “A collective will and commitment by our elected leaders to drastically slash emissions, a commitment to work toward a wholesale clean-up of the energy system and the courage to act.”

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