Before rushing into a climate-change panic, we need a real public debate

Paul MacRae.
Times Colonist, May 22, 2007

Last month, in a free-time political broadcast on CBC, Langley Tory MP Mark Warawa observed: “Without question, climate change has become the number one environmental concern for all nations. Some have even called it the greatest environmental challenge the world has ever faced.” (The italics are his.)

The greatest environmental challenge the world has ever faced? Greater than the series of ice ages that have dominated the world’s climate for the past million years? Greater than the asteroid that killed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago?

For a scientific (as opposed to political) perspective, here’s what University of California archeologist Brian Fagan has to say about global warming: “About 15,000 years ago, the ice sheets began to melt in earnest. The dramatic environmental changes associated with this warm-up make the climatic changes predicted by doomsday-sayers for the next millennium look puny in comparison” (italics mine.)

Warawa also stated: “Science has shown that Canada could be affected by climate change more than other nations.”

True, Canada will be affected by climate change. But the overall effect on this country will be positive, not negative. Canada is a northern nation; warming will open up lands to cultivation and habitation that have previously been inaccessible. Global warming problems such as drought may be severe for the countries nearer the tropics, but not for Canada.

The climate-change nightmare for Canada and the planet is not global warming but global cooling and a return of the glaciers, which is expected in a few thousand years or even sooner.

In the shorter term we can expect cooling trends like the Little Ice Age (1400-1850), which followed the Medieval Warm Period (900-1350) when Greenland really was green and global temperatures were higher than today’s. Which is odd, since those higher temperatures couldn’t have been triggered by human-caused greenhouse gases.

But, then, Warawa’s boss, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, knows all this. In 2002 as leader of the Canadian Alliance he noted: “We’re gearing up now for the biggest struggle our party has faced since you entrusted me with the leadership. I’m talking about the battle of Kyoto–our campaign to block the job-killing, economy-destroying Kyoto accord.”

He was right in 2002, but his government has done an almost complete about-face in 2007 to bring in Kyoto Lite, an exercise that will cost Canadians about $8 billion a  year and have, as Harper must know, no effect at all on global warming. We might as well be doing a Rain Dance.

Why has Harper changed his mind? Possibly because so many Canadian voters have bought into the “science” behind global-warming doomsday-sayers like former U.S. vice-president Al Gore and his Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth. Unfortunately, much of Gore’s data is dodgy at best. For example, anyone who reads the newspapers knows by now that the polar bears are not endangered, as the movie says–there are more polar bears in the Arctic now than have ever been recorded.

Using science to attack science

Just as disturbing is the way Gore uses science to attack science in his book Earth in the Balance, the basis for An Inconvenient Truth. For example, he writes that Francis Bacon, the father of modern science, assumed “that human intellect could safely analyze and understand the natural world without reference to any moral principles defining our relationships and duties to both God and God’s creation.” In other words, as part of his “science,” Gore is bringing Creationism in through the environmental back door.

Nor, in his chapter on climate change in Earth in the Balance, does Gore offer any explanation, beyond volcanic eruptions, for why earth’s climate for the last million years has been so hot and cold before human beings appeared. He is silent on causes (the occasional volcanic eruption alone won’t cause these long-term climate fluctuations) because looking at the facts would destroy his case for human-caused warming.

A recent British TV documentary, The Global Warming Swindle, which takes a close look at Gore’s science, should be must viewing for Canadians. The film is available on YouTube; for some reason, it hasn’t so far been shown on North American television, perhaps because it offers a convincing alternative point of view to the “consensus” that humans are at fault in warming.

For example, Swindle notes that in An Inconvenient Truth, Gore has got his cause and effect wrong in claiming that more (human-caused) carbon dioxide is causing higher global temperatures. In fact, the geological record shows rising global temperatures come centuries before increases in atmospheric CO2. And what causes global temperatures to rise? The scientific evidence points not to human activity but to fluctuations in the amount of sunlight the earth receives.

The British film basically demolishes almost every one of Gore’s points, as did a British judge, yet it is Gore’s movie that is being considered as part of the curriculum for Canadian schoolchildren.

That’s not surprising. Canadians have been widely exposed to only one side of the global-warming debate. As a result, no Canadian political party feels it can get a majority without bowing to the environmental lobby.

Harper could have taken another course. His government could have educated the Canadian people about what Harper, I’m sure, knows to be the scientific truth: that the current global warming is part of a normal planetary cycle, that the human role in global warming is peripheral, and that human beings are quite capable of handling climate change without hysteria (as our ancestors have done for the past million years).

At the very least, before Canadians spend $8 billion a year for no practical effect, shouldn’t there be a vigorous debate in the House and among the public that looks at all sides of the issue?

So far, that debate hasn’t happened. If it did, and was based on the climate facts rather than fear-mongering like Warawa’s and Gore’s, I believe the doomsday-sayers would lose.