Statement of the UBC Department of Botany on the Global Climate Strike

The Department of Botany supports the local and global actions of our members to increase awareness of the global climate crisis and to push for change. According to a recent report by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services “…the fraction of species at risk of climate-related extinction is 5 per cent at 2°C warming, rising to 16 per cent at 4.3°C warming. Therefore, scenarios show that limiting global warming to well below 2°C plays a critical role in reducing adverse impacts on nature and its contributions to people.”

The Department of Botany accepts that human-caused climate change is impacting populations of plants in wild and cultivated contexts, with consequential effects on natural and agricultural ecosystems. The data in support of this conclusion, and their consistency with underlying theory, are overwhelming. The global extent of the impact of climate change on Earth’s biodiversity is so alarming that it can no longer be ignored with inaction. We also recognize that while there is no reasonable doubt about the reality of human-caused climate change, there is much room for fruitful debate about ways to mitigate, slow, or reverse such change and its negative consequences for biodiversity.

The link between human-caused emissions of greenhouse gases and global warming has been well established by scientists since at least 1896, when Svante Arrhenius calculated that the effect of a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide would be an increase in Earth’s surface temperatures of 5-6 degrees Celsius. Since then, burning of fossil fuels has led to a 50% increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide over natural levels. Simultaneously, temperatures have risen dramatically. Predictions that are confirmed by data, in the context of robust models of how nature works, are the hallmark of good evidence-based science.

We applaud the student-led movement that is bringing increased attention to the dangers of unmitigated global warming. We call attention to the planned Global Climate Strike being called for September 20-27, with UBC and Vancouver events being planned for Friday September 27th. The Department of Botany stands together with students and instructors who wish to participate. We are aware that the University is officially open on that day. Hence, it is up to each person to make the decision of whether and how to participate, and we are equally supportive of those who choose not to participate. For instructors, we encourage that accommodations be offered whenever possible for those students who do participate in the Global Climate Strike. Regardless of the decision to participate or not, we urge instructors and students to view this event as a possible learning opportunity, as climate change is increasingly affecting all areas of human endeavour. Furthermore, we pledge that the Department of Botany will be discussing and implementing approaches to reduce and mitigate our own climate impacts.

Dr. Sean W. Graham 
Head of Botany