Federal government touts climate ‘crisis’ without sufficient supporting evidence

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Appeared in the Calgary Sun, March 13, 2024
Federal government touts climate ‘crisis’ without sufficient supporting evidence

Canada is, we are told, in a climate crisis. “Climate action can’t wait,” said Prime Minister Trudeau. “Together, we will beat this crisis while creating a green economy and new middle-class jobs for Canadians.” In a Guardian article, federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault said “the science is clear” that the “climate crisis is the biggest single threat we face as a global community.” And of course, the government’s new “Raising the Bar” campaign is very alarming, particularly the stuff about droughts and floods.

But have we seen significant increases in weather extremes? Is the strength of evidence sufficient to justify the panic-mongering language of a “climate crisis?” In a nutshell, no.

Let’s start with drought. The vaunted UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) asserted “medium confidence” that increased drought has been observed across the globe. And in  the Royal Society, one of oldest scientific academies on Earth, an international research team dug into the data only to find that in the “vast majority of the world, trends in meteorological drought duration and magnitude are not statistically significant, with the exception of some small regions of Africa and South America, which is also where data uncertainty is greater” concluding that “trends in meteorological drought severity in the last few decades are not observed globally based on precipitation data, and very few areas are showing changes in the severity of meteorological droughts.” Finally, according to the International Energy Agency, drought severity in Canada from 2000 to 2020 was only slightly above the global average.

Well, but what about floods?

Canada has plenty of those. The IPCC report finds it “likely” that heavy precipitation events (a major cause of flooding) have increased globally, at least over land areas with good data. The report has less confidence in places such as Africa and South America where we’re reminded the people are at higher risk from climate change because they’re poorer and less likely to adapt. But a 2017 report of the United States Global Climate Research Project found that while “detectable changes in some classes of flood frequency have occurred in parts of the United States” there’s no “significant connection of increased riverine flooding to human-induced climate change, and the timing of any emergence of a future detectable anthropogenic change in flooding is unclear.” Further, a recent UN report found with “high confidence” that “streamflow trends since 1950 are not statistically significant in most of the world’s largest rivers, while flood frequency and extreme streamflow have increased in some regions.” Does that sounds like a crisis?

The Trudeau government’s climate rhetoric has steadily ratcheted up over years, and settled on the panic-inducing language of “crisis.” We must follow government’s energy-diet, live smaller, less prosperous lives in less space, with less travel, and less, well, everything. Of course, the crisis rhetoric allows for no doubts, being absolutist in its claims that we are—right now—experiencing major increases in natural disasters fuelled by human-sourced greenhouse gas emissions.

But clearly, the scientific literature on extreme weather does not support this rhetoric. The actual data on extreme weather is scant, fragmented, contradictory and in all ways uncertain. It’s certainly not rigorous enough to justify the kind of exaggerated certainty Ottawa asserts nor the induction of climate panic.

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