Alberta scientist distorting policy discourse?

Blog, Commentary, Environment, Joseph Quesnel

David Schindler is a widely-recognized biologist at the University of Alberta. His opinions should not be dismissed. However, when it comes to the debate on human-caused climate change the good doctor departs too closely into the realm of activism, as opposed to disinterested scientific inquiry. Case in point is Schindler’s widely reported comment that he wonders if Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith believes the “flat earth” debate is still going on, based on comment she made where she stated she did not believe the science on climate change was “settled.”

Without being a scientist, the fundamental science involved in establishing the spherical nature of our earth is quite different than the level of certainty involved in climate change. Even if one argued the evidence is numerous and incontrovertible.

The comparison is intended for quick emotive effect. With all due respect to Dr. Schindler, it is more befitting a hyper-charged pundit than a renowned scientist.

Schindler’s language approached activist territory in the past given his repeated use of the term “Tar Sands” instead of the scientifically-correct “oil sands.” Tar sands was used in the past by all parties, but a quick Wikipedia search reveals that bitumen is chemically distinct from tar.. One would think a scientist like Schindler would avoid imprecise language.

Another problem is “tar sands” is language preferred by anti-oil sands activists and is almost invariably these days used in the pejorative. It is meant to evoke images of the Land of Mordor in the famed Lord of the Rings series.

Schindler has produced some excellent research on envirommental monitoring of the oilsands that deserves attention, but his activist-esque forays are placing him closer to Suzuki, who never really learned to separate his ideologically-charged activism from pure research.