Climate science tells us that the greenhouse gases we emit today will determine the trajectory of our climate for thousands of years into the future. In other words, we are setting in motion processes with profound impacts on human and natural systems, some of which have the potential for irreversible change. This constitutes an emergency. The projections of future greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere tell us that the remaining global carbon budget to limit global heating to 1.5°C will soon be surpassed without transformative action (see Climate Science 101 for more).
The science is clear about what we need to do to limit global heating; reasons for action are clear. With every additional ton of emissions that enters the atmosphere, the scale and scope of physical and human impacts increase. These impacts are generated globally, but are felt locally. Some of the physical impacts, both current and expected, include (but are not limited to): sea level rise, mass floods, fires and biodiversity loss. In many cases, these impacts are being felt disproportionately by communities who have emitted the least (e.g. small island nations, developing states, Indigenous communities, and more – read Climate Justice 101 to learn more). We know that all projected impacts will be more widespread and more extreme under a 2°C scenario than a 1.5°C scenario[2, A.3]. Climate change is also causing or will cause greater risks of heat-related morbidity and mortality; amplified heatwaves in cities; shifts in the geographic range of diseases, including malaria and dengue fever; higher likelihoods of undernutrition, particularly for those of lower socio-economic backgrounds; and a greater prevalence of outmigration in agricultural-dependent communities. Canada already faces forced migration due to climate change and shifting livability concerns from communities at risk of mega-fires. For our local UBC community, these impacts are front and centre; health risks from wildfire smoke characterize the summer months and the Vancouver coastline is being reduced by sea level rise. In sum, the impacts are present and growing – and it will take bold action and 1.5°C-compatible targets to mitigate the impacts ahead of us.
Unfortunately, current targets are inadequate; between our lack of progress and our continued commitments to increase fossil fuel production, the world is far off-track from limiting warming to 1.5°C. Rather, current trajectories indicate at least 3 degrees of warming are likely without a course-correction; Canada is warming at twice this rate. Global emissions have increased by 1.5% per year for the past ten years, with 2018 marking the highest level of global emissions ever on record (55.3 Gigatonnes of CO2e); and the commitments proposed to reduce emissions are far short of the necessary reductions to meet a 1.5°C scenario (read the Emissions Gap Report). Current policies related to fossil fuel extraction and production place the world on a trajectory to more than double the allowable emissions that would be compatible with a 1.5°C scenario (read the Production Gap Report). Our leaders are proposing wholly inadequate collective commitments to rein in GHG-intensive activities, and we need to establish a new path if there is any hope of limiting global heating to a hospitable level for humanity and biodiversity to flourish. In other words, we are facing an emergency.
In declaring a climate emergency, UBC has committed to aligning the university and its operations with the 1.5°C scenario. We know that the emissions of today affect the future, and that there is a small but feasible carbon budget left. Transformative, systemic change centred in justice and urgency are in order, and there is no time to waste. For more on how UBC can respond to the Climate Emergency, see UBC’s Role 101.
 Hoegh-Guldberg, O., D. Jacob, M. Taylor, M. Bindi, S. Brown, I. Camilloni, A. Diedhiou, R. Djalante, K.L. Ebi, F. Engelbrecht, J.Guiot, Y. Hijioka, S. Mehrotra, A. Payne, S.I. Seneviratne, A. Thomas, R. Warren, and G. Zhou, 2018: Impacts of 1.5ºC Global Warming on Natural and Human Systems. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I.Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T.Maycock, M.Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.
 IPCC, 2018: Summary for Policymakers. In: Global Warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC Special Report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [Masson-Delmotte, V., P. Zhai, H.-O. Pörtner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Péan, R. Pidcock, S. Connors, J.B.R. Matthews, Y. Chen, X. Zhou, M.I. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, T. Maycock, M. Tignor, and T. Waterfield (eds.)]. In Press.
 UNEP (2019). Emissions Gap Report 2019. Executive summary. United Nations Environment Programme, Nairobi.
 SEI, IISD, ODI, Climate Analytics, CICERO, and UNEP. (2019). The Production Gap: The discrepancy between countries’ planned fossil fuel production and global production levels consistent with limiting warming to 1.5°C or 2°C. http://productiongap.org/