Greenhouse Gas Reductions a Bad Deal All Around

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posted July 23, 2003

With speculation that Paul Martin is considering the appointment of rabidly pro-Kyoto Maurice Strong as a senior advisor in his Prime Minister’s Office, it’s more important than ever that Canadians realize the dangers that greenhouse gas restrictions pose to their quality of life, the resources they need to fund health care and real environmental protection, and their ability to compete internationally.

Though it’s reasonable to worry about rapid changes in climate, Canadians have been sold a bill of goods regarding the solidity of climate science. Researchers at the United States National Center for Atmospheric Research, one of the leading climate modeling centers, says “It should be noted that the future climates simulated by these models [the Hadley and Canadian climate models used in the National Assessment] are in no way to be considered predictions or forecasts of the future. They are scenarios of the future and thus inherently uncertain.” They go on to say “Researchers should exercise extreme caution in the conclusions they draw from impacts analysis using the output from these climate models, given the uncertainty of the model results, especially on a regional scale.”

The United Nations 2001 climate report admits “Uncertainties are pervasive throughout climate change impact assessment. For some sectors, such as agriculture, uncertainty is large enough to prevent a highly confident assessment of even the sign of the impacts.” In plain English, that means the science isn’t good enough to tell us, in any given situation, whether climate change would cause harm or benefit! Of course, with the Orwellian doublespeak of the Chrétien government on the science of climate change, no such uncertainty is acknowledged.

Still worse than the misrepresentation of climate science that permeates debate over climate change are the anti-energy, anti-development measures sought by old-school environmental groups and Environment Canada bureaucrats that would ultimately give us less environmental quality, not more.

Increasing energy efficiency always sounds good, and it’s fine when it’s part of the natural process of technology advancement and market economics. But rushing it into place through regulation means increasing energy and technology costs, and wasting previous investments. That slows economic growth, which is itself a protective factor in human health and environmental quality. As numerous analysts have shown, when it comes to economic development and individual incomes, more prosperity means more environmental protection. As environmentalists, we should be the first to understand this since “everything is connected” is practically our mantra.

And shifting to “renewable” power also sounds good, until you realize that it’s not only expensive, it can’t come close to providing the power needed for industrial societies. A report by ecologists at Cornell University showed that even if deployed as thoroughly as possible in the United States, “renewable energy” sources could provide only 50 percent of the needs of the United States, while requiring nearly one-sixth of the entire land mass of the country. The situation would probably be worse for Canada, which isn’t likely to build more dams to generate renewable hydro power, and isn’t exactly known for massive quantities of uninterrupted sunlight or vast reservoirs of geothermal energy.

Increasing vehicle fuel economy also sounds good at first, but it generally means influencing the drive to favour smaller, lighter vehicles that use less power by imposing fuel-efficiency standards on automakers. The problem is, the market for such vehicles is quite limited, and as they lead to lighter, less powerful vehicles, such fuel-efficiency standards lead to increased risk of death in automobile accidents. Indeed, it was the imposition of fuel-efficiency standards in the United States in the 1970s that planted the seed of the sport utility vehicle trend by rendering the mid-size, not particularly profitable station wagon non-economic for automakers.

As for hybrid cars and fuel cells, don’t hold your breath: a recent article in the Globe and Mail newspaper points out that Canadians, who have very high environmental values, draw the line at buying hybrid cars that offer less performance than conventional gasoline cars at a higher price.

In the face of more and more studies questioning the linkage between the so-called greenhouse gases and recent changes of climate, and a mountain of studies pointing out the net-harmfulness of energy-rationing and greenhouse-gas restrictions, it’s more important than ever that Canadians ring up heir apparent Paul Martin and let him know that he should re-open the Kyoto file, restore honesty to the science debate in Canada, and avoid sacrificing Canadian quality of life on the altar of the Kyoto Protocol.

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