Kudos to Environment Minister Peter Kent for giving Canadians a climate scare-free Earth Day

Blog, Climate, Tom Harris

The drive to ‘stop climate change’ now so dominates the environmental movement that important concerns such as river, ocean and ground water clean-up are often pushed aside. Earth Day Network, the major organization behind Earth Day, focused so intensely on climate change on their Website this year that one would think they were promoting ‘Climate Day.’

Earth Day has been hijacked by climate extremists. Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent’s Earth Day speeches were a welcomed exception to this problem.

Naturally, many politicians followed suit. President Barack Obama made climate the main emphasis of his Earth Day 2013 Presidential Proclamation asserting:

“We cannot afford to ignore what the overwhelming judgment of science tells us: that climate change is real and that it poses an urgent threat to our people and our planet. That is why my Administration set historic fuel efficiency standards that will nearly double how far our cars go on a gallon of gas while reducing harmful carbon pollution. It is why we made unprecedented investments in clean energy, allowing us to double renewable energy production in only 4 years. And it is why I am challenging Americans to double it again by 2020.

“Because climate change and other environmental problems cannot be fully addressed by government alone, we are also engaging key stakeholders at home and abroad. Last year, we launched a global initiative to cut short-lived climate pollutants that contribute to global warming. We have proposed historic investments in Land and Water Conservation Fund programs. And we continue to stand behind innovators and entrepreneurs who will unleash the next wave of clean energy technologies and drive long-term economic growth. At the same time, we are working to protect our communities and our economy from the unavoidable effects of climate change that we are already starting to feel.

“Today, America is sending less carbon pollution into the environment than we have in nearly 20 years. But we owe it to our children to do more. That is why I have called on the Congress to pursue a bipartisan, market-based solution to climate change. In the meantime, I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed our transition to sustainable energy.”

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry went even further, stating in his excited climate-focused Earth Day speech that,

“The science is screaming at all of us and demands action” on global warming.

Several states made seemingly impressive climate-related announcements on Earth Day:

  • Massachusetts launched the Electric Vehicle Incentive Program, to help the state reach their Global Warming Solutions Act emission reduction goals (25% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050).
  • Massachusetts also launched a new dashboard for Global Warming Solutions Act initiatives.
  • New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman said, “…we will continue to press for much tougher protections, including fighting against climate change pollution…”

In Canada’s House of Commons, opposition MP’s pounded the Government about climate change on Earth Day:

Ms. Kirsty Duncan (Etobicoke North, Lib.):  “The government has abdicated any national leadership role in combatting climate change, the most pressing environmental issue facing the planet.”

Hon. Thomas Mulcair (Leader of the Opposition, NDP):  “Under the successive Liberal and Conservative governments, Canada has failed miserably in terms of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions. The Conservatives made Canada the one and only country to withdraw from the Kyoto accord. Also for the first time, unlike any other country in the world, the Conservatives withdrew from the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification.”

Ms. Megan Leslie (Halifax, NDP):  “Earth Day is a good day to review the Conservatives’ environmental record. They withdrew from the Kyoto protocol … they called into question the science of climate change…”

Ms. Anne Minh-Thu Quach (Beauharnois—Salaberry, NDP): “We know that global greenhouse gas emissions are on the rise, and if we do nothing, we could surpass the 2°C threshold, which would have irreversible consequences. Denying the truth will not help us find solutions.”

Dozens of environmental groups issued similarly exaggerated climate-focused Earth Day statements.

  • Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said, “If you love the Earth, you need to know some things about tar sands crude – starting with how it would affect the climate of this wonderful planet we all share. Actually, “affect” is probably the wrong word. We’re talking wholesale destruction.
  • Gene Karpinski, president at the League of Conservation Voters, blogged, “One of the best ways to celebrate Earth Day is to continue working to combat climate change and protect our planet for future generations. With 2012 being the hottest year on record in the continental United States and climate change fueling deadly and costly floods, droughts, wildfires, and Superstorm Sandy, it’s clear that the time to act is now.”

Businesses used the heavy climate focus of Earth Day to their advantage as well, for example:

  • Solar Energy Industries Association inaugurated a new $7 million solar installation to supply power to insurance company Assurant Specialty Property. Assurant boasted that the project “translates to a reduction of more than 1,400 tons of CO2, or the equivalent of planting more than 33,000 trees or more than 280 acres of pine forest.
  • Aetna, one of America’s major health care benefits companies, announced that a new 975 panel solar array has been installed in Windsor, Connecticut to power a major portion of their facility there. Aetna proclaimed, “The environmental savings [sic] generated by the solar installation will equate to 189 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

This hijacking of the original meaning of April 22 by climate activists is a serious problem for Earth Day’s future. As the hypothesis that humanity’s carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming falls into disrepute, all those associated with the climate alarm will also lose credibility. Earth Day participants, indeed all practical environmentalists, must distance themselves from the ideologically-driven climate scare or risk the movement degenerating into irrelevance

Happily, and perhaps unexpectedly, Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent resisted the temptation to associate his Earth Day speech with the climate scare. In an announcement that included nothing at all about climate, global warming, greenhouse gases or carbon dioxide, Kent and his Alberta counter-part Diana McQueen instead discussed a practical, science-based plan to enhance public access to real pollution data from the oilsands.

Launch of the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Online Portal at the National Wildlife Research Centre in Ottawa (Minister Kent is third from the left; Minister McQueen is to Kent’s left).

Kent said in his Earth Day speech at Carleton University:

Almost one year ago, I had the pleasure of announcing, with Minister McQueen, the Joint Canada–Alberta Implementation Plan for Oil Sands Monitoring to ensure the environmental integrity of Canada’s oil sands.

“With this monitoring plan we committed to a scientifically rigorous, comprehensive, integrated, and transparent environmental monitoring plan to deliver the most scientifically-credible picture of the water, air, land and biodiversity issues in the region.

“And now I am pleased to be here again with my Alberta colleague to highlight this important next stage of progress that we are making under our partnership.

“Today, we are launching a new online Joint Data Portal for accessing oil sands environmental data.

“This Joint Data Portal provides the public with ongoing access to the credible scientific data collected through the Joint Oil Sands Monitoring Plan and the methodology used to produce it.

“It gives stakeholders access to the scientifically rigorous data necessary to ensure that this important resource is developed in an environmentally responsible way.

“And more importantly, it encourages informed discussions and analysis on the impacts of oil sands development.”

Even more important, is the fact that Kent’s speech and the associated media release and technical reports are completely climate scare-free. Even in his House of Commons responses to Earth Day attacks from opposition MPs, Kent avoided supporting the climate scare as long as he reasonably could, focusing instead on real environmental progress the Government has made on real environmental issues. Here are excerpts from his responses to demands of opposition MPs that he address climate issues:

Hon. Peter Kent (Minister of the Environment, CPC):  “Mr. Speaker, Earth Day is a wonderfully appropriate time for the opposition to reflect on the significant investments in budget 2013 in Canada’s environmental priorities. We have invested a quarter of a billion dollars in building up the Canadian weather service. We are investing in conservation of ecologically sensitive lands and fish habitat. There is renewed funding for Sustainable Development Technology Canada and new investments and tax support for clean energy generation.”

Hon. Peter Kent (Minister of the Environment, CPC): “Mr. Speaker, our government, as the opposition should know, is committed to developing Canada’s abundant natural resources while at the same time strengthening environmental protections. Earlier today, I had the pleasure, along with Alberta’s minister of the environment, to announce federal and provincial environmental monitoring data of air, water, and biodiversity on an Internet portal. This joint plan represents a scientific undertaking that is unprecedented in Canada.”

It was only later, in response to repeated baiting from opposition MPs, that Kent indirectly supported the climate scare by referencing the Government’s record in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Hopefully Kent’s real-world, science-based approach to this year’s Earth Day is an indication of the beginning of a shift in the Government’s focus away from futile climate control plans to real environmental protection that we can actually accomplish. The approach certainly worked on Earth Day 2013 where, aside from the predictable attacks from climate activists, most coverage of the Government’s announcement was positive.

Bravo, Minister Kent.


Tom Harris is Executive Director of the International Climate Science Coalition and an advisor to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.