Written by: Youeal Abera, Staff Writer

On January 10, SFU Harbour Centre hosted a public lecture from Dr. Joeri Rogelj, a renowned environmental scientist and contributing author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In his lecture, titled “Solutions For 1.5 Degrees: Which Path to Climate Change,” Rogelj explained what must be done to keep global temperatures under 1.5°C above pre-industrial warmth.

Before touching on the specific methods and actions that could help maintain the global temperature goal, Rogelj explained where the figure of 1.5°C came from. Following IPCC’s two-year review of the most effective methods of reducing climate change, they concluded that a 1.5°C increase would be significantly safer than 2°C.

A 1.5°C global increase, Rogelj explained, can only be attained through carefully calculated carbon budgeting, limiting the amount of greenhouse gases released. After this, Rogelj offered a few strategic approaches to help achieve the 1.5°C goal which focus on removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from Earth’s atmosphere.

One approach Rogelj shared was reforestation, which involves planting and rebuilding large bodies of trees. Trees remove CO2 from Earth’s atmosphere, absorb it into the tree’s roots, and emit oxygen back into its surrounding environment.

Another of these strategies was bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). A refined form of environmental technology, BECCS involves building power plants which convert CO2 emissions in the air into more sustainable forms of energy, such as electricity or ethanol.

After going over carbon-removal options, Rogelj provided several other ideas. Among these were reverting to electricity to power our buildings and cities, substituting residual fossil fuels with low-carbon options for modes of transportation (i.e. using smart cars over gas-powered vehicles), and pushing for more environmentally sustainable agricultural processes, such as merging livestock and crop production.

Rogelj warned his audience that for limiting global climate increase to 1.5°C to be feasible, these methods and designs must be enforced within the next decade.

Following Rogelj’s lecture, Mark Jaccard, a professor at SFU’s School of Resource and Environmental Management, concluded by speaking to the audience about the significance of greenhouse gases as well as the collective responsibility the global community has in reducing them. He noted that reducing greenhouse gas emissions is “a global collective problem” and that government institutions are needed to solve it.

“It’s not good enough for us to say ‘look how stupid the politician is.’ We have to be able to design policies that a politician can do that would show leadership, do the right thing, and get them re-elected.”

Additionally, Jaccard shared a number of key practices that reduce greenhouse gases, such as pursuing carbon neutrality (obtaining a net-zero carbon footprint by balancing the amount of carbon released and taken from Earth’s atmosphere) and reverting to more sustainable eating habits (avoiding meat).

“Solutions For 1.5 Degrees: Which Path to Climate Change” is part of an ongoing lecture series from SFU’s Faculty of Environment called the Climate Future Series. Additional information on the IPCC, as well as the global incentive of keeping climate change to 1.5°C, can be found at their website.