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Is your SUV melting the North Pole? 


Nigel Hannaford

Calgary Herald

December 7, 2002


WITH the Liberal government about to stuff Kyoto ratification through Parliament on Monday, one might suppose the subject of two excellent books on the subject to be just in time to say goodnight.  Not so, though.


As Messrs. Chretien and Anderson are about to find, ratification is one thing; implementation is another.


It is, therefore not too late at all for Ontario professors Christopher Essex and Ross McKitrick (Taken By Storm:  the Troubled Science, Policy and Politics of Global Warming) and Calgary’s own inimitable Ezra Levant (Fight Kyoto) to join the debate – especially if it means pointing to the quality of the science upon which the Kyoto protocol is based.


That’s really where it should have been all along.  The argument about diminished growth, while true, should never have been the issue.


Let’s give the Kyoto enthusiasts credit for this much:  if they are truly correct that your choice to drive an SUV is melting the North Pole, then parking the best is no more tan your civic duty.  Further, governments of the world would be justified in doing whatever it took to cut greenhouse gas emissions, and Canada should lead the way.


But, of course it is not so clear-cut and the great contribution of books like these is to challenge the party line.


Take, for instance, the very notion of average global temperatures.


On a planet with cold extremities and a warm equatorial belt, average temperatures are about as useful as the average telephone number in the Calgary phone book.  Sure, you can figure it out, but the one calculation wouldn’t give you Calgary’s average opinion and the other doesn’t tell you anything useful about a highly variable, churning atmosphere.


Nor does it recognize that scientists have opinions too; after all, if everybody knew what they were doing, they wouldn’t call it research.


The oft- quoted Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report that underpins the protocol purports to be the voice of 1,700 scientists concerned about climate change.


Yes, they are concerned.  That doesn’t mean they agree.


The report, in fact, is just a literature review of their work, with a 10-page introduction suggesting a degree of unanimity that doesn’t exist among them.


Yet, because the IPCC, global warming caused by human activity is considered a fact and costly interventions in the lives of Canadians justified with a fervour approaching religiosity. 

It is the doctrine of certainty with which Essex and McKitrick take issue. 

Using the example of weather they note that, though thunderstorm mechanics are well understood, they’re too complicated to be computed.  Same with the rest of the atmosphere. 

Think about it; why would we be able to predict the atmosphere of 100 years hence when we can’t be sure of the weather forecast for a long weekend? 

So why spend billions of dollars to such an uncertain end, rather than on adapting our lives to what we see happening? 

Long before people in Bangladesh are flooded out, they need clean drinking water. 

Essex and McKitrick do some serious debunking.  Of course, the true believers will say they’re wrong too, but at least they do three things. 

One, they offer facts and arguments, rather than a mere mirror of the IPCC’s appeal to authority. 

Two, they credit everybody with good intentions. 

Three, recognising that politicians demand a certainty scientists can’t deliver, they propose a better way to make policy on questions such as this where from the macro perspective, everybody – no matter what their narrow specialization -- is an amateur. 

Levant’s take on it is typically combative. 

He does not assume the best of intentions on everybody’s part and devotes an entire chapter to UN promoter Maurice Strong, crediting him with the inspiration of Kyoto and comparing him to Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the would-be world conqueror from and early James Bond film. (The bespectacled Levant does not compare himself to Bond, however.) 

One of the particular strengths of Levant’s book is an annotated reprinting of the protocol itself.  As a piece of prose, it is about a s tempting as a long drink of warm water; I have often wondered I one Canadian in 100,000 has ever read it. 

It is, however, much enlivened by his annotation, which makes clear what a racket is the plan to trade the right to emit carbon dioxide.  The east Europeans having decommissioned their dirty industries, Canada will now buy form them the right to emit the CO2 they wouldn’t be producing anyway.  So more CO2 is produced, but money flows form Canada to Russia.  Brilliant. 

Levant ends on a hopeful note, pointing out the constitutional defences the provinces have against federal attempts to enforce this legislative pi-in-a-poke. 

Both books are racy, anecdotal and accessible.  If you ever wanted the contra view on Kyoto, her it is.  Lord, knows, we’ve had plenty of the other.


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