2013 must be the year the Harper government ‘gets real’ about climate change

Blog, Climate, Tom Harris

Left, right or centre, it makes no difference; the current approach pleases no one and will damage Canada and the Conservative Party in the long run

With President Obama’s re-election and his commitment to making climate change a major personal crusade during his second term, commentators are saying that 2013 will be the year of climate alarmism. Because our country’s climate policies are closely tied to those of the U.S., that is bad news for Canada.

And that is exactly why the coming year must also be the one in which the Canadian government finally gets its act together on climate change. If they don’t, we will continue wasting billions of dollars on what many in the Conservative party, Prime Minister Stephen Harper included, must know perfectly well is almost certainly a non-issue.

Before first forming a minority government in 2006, Harper, a long time climate realist, and the Conservatives promised to get to the bottom of the climate file and handle the issue properly. But they haven’t. Here are seven ways the Government is letting Canadians down on climate change:

  1. The Conservative government has left carbon dioxide (CO2) on the list of toxic substances in CEPA, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act. Removing it may be done unilaterally at any time by the Government without having to go through Parliament—that is how Prime Minister Paul Martin, over the loud protests of the then-Conservative Opposition, got the benign gas listed in CEPA during his final days in office. The listing provides the legal basis for increasingly severe CO2 emission regulations, which is the second way today’s Government has let Canadians down on the file.
  2. Ironically, the Harper government are now using CEPA to impose increasingly broader CO2 regulations across Canada, costing many companies, and so all consumers, vast sums of money. Among the serious problems the regulations will cause is the reduction of coal-fired electricity generation, the least expensive form available.
  3. Programs to reduce CO2 emissions, useless and potentially dangerous endeavours such as stuffing the gas underground, receive billions of federal and provincial taxpayer dollars.
  4. Working in cooperation with their provincial counterparts, the feds continue to lavishly fund wind and solar power projects supposedly to reduce CO2 reductions that, they say, are causing dangerous climate change. This is raising electricity rates across the country and draining funds away from upgrading conventional power systems we need to survive.
  5. All government climate programs focus solely on warming effects. The far more damaging impacts of cooling continue to be ignored. Environment Minister Peter Kent maintains that climate adaptation funds will ensure that the “reality of climate change [is] well understood and proactively managed.” But how can this happen if the Government only looks at half the issue? A cooling of 2 deg C, for example, will result in the loss of virtually all our wheat harvest. If it warms, we simply adopt farming practices used to the south of us.
  6. Kent continues to promote what is in effect a new Kyoto Protocol, an agreement that is bound to leave the developed world once again saddled with severe CO2 emission limits and developing countries with no controls whatsoever. He tells us that the treaty will apply to everyone, developing nations as well. But what we are not told is that there is an out-clause for poor countries that is not available to developed nations (see my articles on this here and here). This will make the treaty nothing but a pointless drag on Western economies. In the unlikely event that the hypothesis of dangerous human-caused climate change were true, a treaty that lets China and India off the hook will accomplish very little climatically and simply transfer wealth and jobs from developed to developing countries.
  7. To substantiate all of the above, the Harper government continues to use the same climate alarmist rhetoric of previous Liberal governments. We are headed towards a climate crisis unless we have massive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions across the world, Kent tells us. So, Canada is committed to a 17% reduction below 2005 levels starting in 2020. The climate change parts of the Environment Canada Website looks like a clone of the David Suzuki Foundation site, just as it did when the Liberals ruled.

The reason for Kent’s oversight is simple—he is being advised by activist scientists within Environment Canada who assert that there is no credible evidence to support the skeptics’ side of the argument. But the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change shows that this is completely false. Citing thousands of peer-reviewed scientific papers, the NIPCC shows how the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has ignored or misinterpreted much of the research that challenges the need for greenhouse gas controls. In other words, the science being relied upon by the Canadian government to create multi-billion dollar climate and energy policies is almost certainly wrong.

Staff in the Prime Minister’s Office should know better than to continue with this expensive charade. Surely they see that, at a cost of billions of dollars to Canadians and the alienation of many of their core supporters with expensive CO2 regulations, they are winning no friends among climate campaigners. Suzuki and fellow alarmists correctly point out that we would need dozens of Kyoto protocols to stop climate change, IF the science on which they are relying is right. And Kent continually says that the science is right. This is a serious strategic mistake.

The Conservative government seems to think they can continue to use the exaggerated rhetoric of climate alarmists but not employ the solutions such excited language demands. No matter which side of the debate one falls on, this is illogical. It is like saying that the planet is about to be hit by a civilization-destroying asteroid so the government is going to promote programs to reinforce our rooves. Whether one believed a dangerous asteroid was on the way or not, such an approach would be ridiculous. The Government’s approach to climate change is equally nonsensical.

A few months ago, during the height of the oil sands pipeline controversy, Harper asserted,  

“the only way that government can handle controversial projects of this manner, is to ensure that things are evaluated on an independent basis, scientifically, and not simply on political criteria.”

So, why don’t they do this on climate change?

2013 should be the year when the Prime Minister:

  • orders his ministers to stop using the damaging and erroneous language of climate alarmism. Taking their talking points from Al Gore, Suzuki and other climate activists and completely ignoring reports such as the NIPCC that show that the climate scare is groundless, is feeding the fire that threatens to burn down Canada’s economy. Why not cite climate realist documents instead of the politically correct but scientifically flawed UN IPCC?
  • removes CO2 from CEPA. Whether the gas is a cause of climate change or not, it is in no way toxic and so should not be on a list of toxic substances. Period.
  • suspends all CO2 reduction programs pending the results of open, unbiased hearings into the science of climate change. Aside from the December 15, 2011 testimony of four climate experts before the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, the Conservatives have been unjustifiably afraid to allow the well-qualified scientists who disagree with climate dogma to testify in Commons and other hearings into climate change. Instead they allow members of nongovernmental organizations with no training in science to repeatedly testify in support of the Suzuki/Gore approach to climate change. Why do the Harper Conservatives continue to capitulate to people who wouldn’t vote CPC if their life depended on it? They have a majority now. There is no election on the horizon. The opposition is in disarray. What are they waiting for?
  • lets the public and the media hear the whole story on this complex science. The Government wouldn’t have to take sides at all. Enthusiasm to “stop climate change” will evaporate from public consciousness as enough people come to understand that many well-qualified scientists assert that our CO2 emissions have at most a minor impact on global climate.

If the alarmists are right, then we are teetering on the brink of environmental catastrophe and current programs are utterly insufficient. If the skeptics are right then we are wasting billions that could be used for society’s other pressing concerns.

Either way, today’s approach to the climate file is nonsense — politically, financially and, most importantly, scientifically. When Canadians come to more broadly appreciate this fact, they will not look kindly on a party that knew better but not only let the hoax continue, but supported it.


Tom Harris is Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition – http://www.climatescienceinternational.org/ and an advisor to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.