rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Net zero offers affordable path to climate stability

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca for as little as $5 per month!

Wildfire in California. Image credit: Russ Allison Loar/Flickr

Another year, another record. Even with a global seven per cent drop in fossil fuel burning during the pandemic, 2020 tied 2016 for the hottest year recorded, making the past decade the warmest.

The previous record in 2016 was set during an El Niño event, which contributed somewhat to rising temperatures, meaning last year was likely the hottest in terms of global heating. Average global surface temperature was 1.25 C higher than the pre-industrial average, nearing the 1.5 C aspirational target the world's nations set under the Paris Agreement five years ago. In the Arctic and northern regions, average temperature was 3 to 6 C higher.

As the world heats up, we're experiencing ever-increasing impacts, from deadly heat waves to more frequent and intense extreme weather events. Last year, the Western U.S., Siberia, Australia and parts of South America were hit with some of the biggest, most expensive wildfires on record, and studies showed climate disruption played a major role. These fires release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and destroy important carbon sinks, driving warming even faster. Smoke and particulates also cause health problems and death.

Last year also set records for Atlantic hurricanes and tied 2018 for the most tropical cyclones.

It's dire, but there's still time to avoid the worst consequences -- if we act quickly and decisively.

New research shows global average temperatures could stabilize within a couple of decades if we quickly reduce net greenhouse gas emissions to zero. Reducing emissions to "net zero" means not releasing any more than are being removed from the atmosphere. Although dramatically bringing emissions down is the critical factor, methods to remove CO2 and other greenhouse gases -- such as forest and wetland protection and restoration, and carbon capture and sequestration -- can balance out some released emissions.

As the UN points out, affordable methods to get to net zero exist. At the end of 2020, 126 countries representing 51 per cent of emissions had either adopted, announced or were considering net-zero goals, according to the World Economic Forum. The European Union, Japan, South Korea and the U.K. have pledged to do so by 2050, as has the incoming U.S. Biden administration. Canada has introduced legislation but must do even more.

Previous research indicated rapid heating would continue long after we reduce emissions because gases such as CO2 and methane remain in the atmosphere for many years. New findings offer a hint of optimism. This is in part because as we bring emissions under control, natural systems such as oceans, wetlands and forests -- and possibly technology -- will remove some greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Of course, that means we must also take better care of those natural systems. It's all interconnected.

We're not on track to meet even the aspirational target of 1.5 C warming. We've already heated to at least 1.1 C above pre-industrial levels and are heading to 2 C or more. We're still looking at more heat waves, flooding, wildfires, disease spread, displacement of people and refugee crises, biodiversity loss and water shortages. But to avert even worse catastrophe, we can and must do all we can to bring it under control. We already have affordable methods to achieve net-zero emissions, and it's likely we'll continue to develop more and better solutions. Resolving the crisis will lead to a less-polluted, healthier world with greater opportunities for all.

Look at how rapidly the world has been able to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Not that it's under control, but vaccines have been developed in record time, and countries that have acted decisively to implement safety measures have seen success.

And the powerful computers that most of us now carry in our pockets and purses show how quickly technology can develop.

As climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe told the Washington Post, "It's no longer a question of when the impacts of climate change will manifest themselves: They are already here and now. The only question remaining is how much worse it will get. And the answer to that question is up to us."

We must all get behind rapid and decisive climate action. Taking steps in our own lives is important, but holding governments and industry to account is crucial. There's no time to waste.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Writer and Editor Ian Hanington.           

Learn more at davidsuzuki.org.

Image credit: Russ Allison Loar/Flickr

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.