Kyoto's Bad Canadian Science Should be Martin's Major Concern

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Appeared in The National Post, December 12, 2003
Paul Martin has expressed discomfort of late with the lack of planning in the run-up to Kyoto implementation. He seems to feel that the cart had been put before the horse, in signing onto the protocol. A new report by a consultant to the Meteorological Society of Canada (MSC) strongly suggests that Paul Martin should be equally worried about the lack of science, and Canada’s lack of planning to improve that science. Failure at either of these endeavors will lead to wasted resources and failure to protect the environment or human health.

For years, scientists across Canada have pushed for a proper debate about the science of climate change. Dr. Madhav L. Khandekar, an ex-Environment Canada scientist wrote about the hazards of climate science abuse in the December, 1997, Canadian Meteorological and Ocean Society Bulletin. Mr. Khandekar explained that the attitude in Canada that climate science was a fait accompli was “unhealthy” and “does not serve the interest of many Canadians who would like to know the ‘real truth’ about greenhouse warming and its possible impact on Canadian climate.”

Skeptics of catastrophic climate change theory such as myself have long complained that the way governmental agencies conduct science is badly politicized. We have also complained about a lack of consultation - although some of the most reputable climate scientists in the world work in Canada, they have rarely been consulted or asked to advise the government on the science of climate change.

Just recently, The Impact Group, a contractor working for Environment Canada’s Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC), has released materials that support the contention that policy is driving climate science in Canada, not the other way around.

Elements of an “Action Plan for Climate Science Research at MSC” (obtained through an Access to Information request) indicate that Canada’s climate change science program is being driven by a predetermined political agenda with a clear disregard of scientific needs. The Impact Group observes for example, that Canada collects “less climate science data per-square-kilometer of any other major country.” It observes that “the archiving of climate data is so highly fragmented that it is difficult to find out what datasets are available, let alone how to access them.”

Yet the report shows that our resources are not being directed to remedy those information gaps. Rather, our climate resources are being directed toward finding ways to “mitigate” climate change before it’s even adequately measured. The Impact Group also points out that we are only just beginning “to unravel the complexity of the physical, chemical, and biological interactions that determine climate” and suggests that the manmade component of climate change is still to be discerned. Coming from a contractor to Environment Canada, that’s a pretty sharp divergence from the claims by Environment Minister David Anderson that the science of climate change is “solid” and “settled.”

And though the Impact Group points out that “leading up to Canada’s decision to ratify the Kyoto protocol, there was no neutral, independent scientific organization to which the Government of Canada could turn to validate Canada’s position,” the Impact Group itself failed to seek meaningful consultation with independent scientists. Over 90 percent of the scientists interviewed by The Impact Group were government employees, many of whom were inside Environment Canada. Not a single one of the 40-some Canadian and international climate experts who published open letters to Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin were consulted by the Impact Group in assessing the state of climate science in Canada and internationally.

Finally, the Impact Group report acknowledges what many Kyoto skeptics have said all along: Kyoto will not be the low-cost program it was made out to be by our political leaders. As the report notes, “Between 1997 and 2003, the federal government dedicated $1.7 billion to addressing climate change. The 2003 federal budget allocated an additional $2 billion to help implement the Climate Change Plan for Canada. These expenditures are merely the tip of the climate change mitigation, impacts, and adaptation “iceberg.” They represent only a small fraction of the funds the country will need to spend in the decades to come to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the unavoidable consequences of climate change.”

In signing on to the Kyoto Protocol, Jean Chrétien elevated policy over science, binding Canada to a potentially crippling energy-rationing scheme. When Paul Martin re-examines Kyoto, he should acknowledge that the science of climate change is not settled, and reopen the policy discussion in a transparent and consultative manner.

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