Opinion

GUEST COMMENT: Government must get its act together on climate change

By Tom Harris

American President Barack Obama has indicated that ‘stopping climate change’ will be an important focus of his second term.

Because our climate policies are closely tied to those of the U.S., it is therefore crucial the Canadian government finally gets its act together on the issue.

If it doesn’t, we will be swept up in increasingly expensive programs that many in the Conservative party, Prime Minister Stephen Harper included, must know are utterly futile.

Before first forming government in 2006, Harper, a longtime climate realist, promised the Conservatives would re-examine the file and handle it more sensibly. But they haven’t. Despite strongly opposing the Liberal government’s decision to add carbon dioxide (CO2) to the list of toxic substances in the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, the Conservatives have left the benign gas on the list.

This provides the legal foundation for costly and useless CO2 emission regulations now being imposed sector-by-sector across Canada. Carbon dioxide is in no way toxic and should be immediately removed from a list that includes mercury, lead, arsenic, sulfuric acid and PCBs.

Billions of dollars are being wasted trying to reduce CO2 in other ways as well, all based on the improbable assumption that emissions contribute to climate problems. Most egregious are pointless and potentially dangerous projects to stuff CO2 underground. Such speculative programs must be cancelled and the money transferred to worthwhile environmental initiatives such as cleaning up toxic waste dumps and reducing air pollution where it is a problem.

Vast sums of money are also dedicated to wind and solar power, energy sources that have little chance of becoming economical in the foreseeable future. This raises electricity prices and drains funds away from upgrading conventional power systems we need to survive.

Wind and solar power have had decades to mature. If they are not yet ready for head-to-head competition with conventional power systems, then stop throwing good money after bad.

All government climate programs focus on possible warming impacts. The far more damaging effects of cooling are ignored. A drop of two degrees Celsius, for example, will result in the loss of virtually all of our wheat harvest –while, if it warms, we simply adopt farming practices used to the south of us. We must concentrate on preparing for dangerous possible climate change, and that is unquestionably not warming.

Environment Minister Peter Kent promotes a worldwide climate treaty based on the United Nations Cancun Agreements. He does not seem to know that Cancun has an out-clause for developing countries that is not available to those in the developed world.

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 little climatically and simply transfers wealth and jobs from developed to developing countries. Kent must stop promoting what is, in effect, another Kyoto Protocol.

To substantiate its climate plans, the Harper government continues to use the rhetoric employed by previous Liberal governments. Kent is clearly being misled by activist scientists within Environment Canada who assert that there is no credible evidence to support the climate skeptics’ perspectives.

But the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change demonstrates the alarmists are mistaken. Citing hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific papers, the panel shows how the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has ignored or misinterpreted much of the research that challenges the need for CO2 controls.

Harper must order ministers to stop using the damaging and erroneous language of climate alarmism. Taking their talking points from David Suzuki while completely ignoring reports such as the NIPCC is feeding the fire that threatens to burn down Canada’s economy.

Aside from the Dec. 15, 2011 testimony of four climate experts before the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, the Conservatives have not permitted well-qualified scientists who disagree with climate catastrophism to testify in government hearings. Instead they invite members of non-governmental organizations with no training in science to testify in support of the scare. This must stop.

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.”

This is the year they must at last do this on climate change.

Tom Harris is executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition.

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