VICTORIA – On most issues this column discusses, the feedback I receive is generally negative.
One exception has been human-caused climate change, where my mail runs three to one in favour of a skeptical approach. Most express relief at having someone question the exaggerated or false claims advanced by environmentalists who strive to paint Alberta and B.C. as home to uniquely evil climate crimes.
As mentioned last week, this is an urgent issue in B.C. as the government pushes to develop liquefied natural gas exports.
The B.C. Liberal approach to limit only the “intensity” of greenhouse gas emissions from LNG production, and make no commitment on the majority of emissions from upstream gas production, looks like the effective end of Gordon Campbell’s crusade to lead North America in “climate action.”
The government has also abandoned Campbell’s collapsed effort to set up a cap-and-trade system with various U.S. states to regulate emissions. Which brings me to a key reason for public skepticism.
Going back to Jean Chrétien’s lip service to the Kyoto Accord, the world-wide effort to rein in fossil fuel emissions has been a smog of hypocrisy, hollow promises and failed experiments.
The next grand climate summit is scheduled for Paris next summer, although the vast international green bureaucracy will first have to jet to Peru for a pre-summit summit in December. Expect dancing polar bears in the hot sun.
The European Union has just agreed to a Campbell-like new target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 per cent by 2030. But that’s dependent on the Paris summit reaching a legally binding international deal, something the United States remains unwilling to do. Meanwhile, Germany is building new coal-fired power plants.
In Ontario, a grandiose scheme to replace coal-fired power with wind, solar and other renewables has produced steeply rising electricity rates and a political scandal over a cancelled plan to build gas-fired capacity.
The public continues to be bombarded with ginned-up stories of environmental destruction. You may have seen shocking TV reports in October of a “haul-out” of thousands of walruses on beaches around the Chukchi Sea in Alaska and Russia, with animals trampling each other.
The World Wildlife Fund and U.S. biologists rushed to media to frame this as a crisis caused by a lack of sea ice.
This claim has been demolished by Susan Crockford, an evolutionary biologist who teaches at the University of Victoria. Her paper and brief video document a long, pre-industrial history of these events. She concludes that they are a sign of overpopulation in the now-protected walrus herds.
Crockford’s website debunks similar claims made about supposedly disappearing polar bears that have been a mainstay over the years to drive the global warming catastrophe narrative.
In terms of actual reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, there are signs of progress. The United States has made considerable strides, thanks to abundant shale gas that has allowed it to switch from some of its 600-odd coal-fired power plants.
Which brings us back to B.C.’s push for natural gas exports. The NDP claims to support this, but has spent hours in the legislature warning of a giveaway of the resource, imagined fracking disasters and LNG tanker explosions and everything else they can dream up to throw at it.
This is the same party that campaigned against the carbon tax in 2009 and hasn’t had a coherent energy policy since.
But this isn’t some partisan game. It’s about whether B.C. maintains its gas industry. And so far natural gas is the only thing that has substantially cut carbon emissions.
Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc