What's the rush? Why stop coal by 2015?

If you work backwards from the numbers, the conclusion is inescapable – we only have a short time to start rapidly reducing emissions, or global warming is going to slip out of control. Some say it already has, but we think that if enough of us take action, we can avoid disaster.

The argument for a 2015 deadline:

First, there is broad agreement that if we keep global temperature increases below 2 degrees Celsius, it is “likely” that we’ll avoid irreversible, runaway climate change. Likely, but not for certain, and there is ongoing debate that an increase of even 1.5 degrees above the global, average, preindustrial temperature would be too risky to chance.  Bottom line: everyone agrees that warming above 2 degrees would be a disaster.

Second, given the relationship between emissions of heat-trapping pollution and resulting increases in temperature, there is also broad agreement that to avoid this 2 degree increase in temperature, emissions from developed nations need to peak by 2015 and rapidly decline for many years after.

If we miss the 2015 deadline, atmospheric CO2 levels continue to rise and we have to cut back even more steeply, over a shorter time period, to avoid runaway climate change. In short, if we don't start reducing by 2015 -- which will already be hard work -- then it is very unlikely we're going to get it done at all.

The 2015 cutoff isn’t a radical proposition:  the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, top scientists and Nobel laureates, and even the White House agree that we need to meet this deadline.  A recent Scientific American article says we're getting close to the point of no return and calls this "the crucial decade." You can read more on the science behind this deadline here.

British Columbia has announced ambitious plans to cut emissions here at home, but our government continues to promote the expansion of mining and export of coal abroad. The emissions from this exported coal are currently equal to the total emissions we produce here at home, and if government and industry get their way, these emissions will double again.

In effect, we’re exporting our dirty work offshore, making minor tweaks to business as usual here in BC, and giving ourselves a big pat on the back for being at the cutting edge of the fight to stop climate change.

What’s happening is wrong and it puts our future at risk.

Government says emissions from BC’s coal exports are someone else’s problem.  We say green leaders take responsibility for their actions, and if public pressure is what it will take, we’re ready.

A dramatic look at the numbers:

1. How quickly emissions are rising right now, and how quickly they need to go down starting today if we are likely to avoid the 2 degree tipping point: trillionthtonne.org (if we wait till 2015, they need to go down even faster)

2. A count down to the point of no return – one estimate of how long we have before emissions absolutely have to start going down to avoid disaster: onehundredmonths.org (this doesn’t exactly sync with more recent 2015 target dates)

3. Not so dramatic, but an excellent site for monitoring rising atmospheric CO2 levels and understanding their implications for our future on earth: co2now

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A new coal port for Metro Vancouver? Bad idea! - stop coal