By Dr. Tim Ball
The Hamilton Spectator
(Hamilton Spectator File Photo: Scientist David
Suzuki’s statement ‘reveals he, too, is a biocentric romantic,’ charges Tim Ball, who claims many other scientists oppose the Kyoto accord.)
Environmentalists appear to have won Round 1 in the Battle of Kyoto. First, they succeeded in persuading Prime Minister Jean Chretien to ratify the treaty without properly consulting independent climate scientists, economists or energy engineers.
Next, they succeeded in getting $2 billion in the federal budget
diverted to the fairy tale quest of “stopping climate change” even
though no one has any idea how the money will be spent.
How did this happen? Do environmentalists actually support Canada’s plan-less ratification and now our even more absurd plan-less funding? Certainly I don’t, nor do many of my climate scientist-environmentalist colleagues. Years of intensive research tell us that Kyoto is based on insupportable science, won’t stop climate change, and is unlikely to protect the environment. Worse, it diverts money and effort from real problems, like soil erosion, ocean pollution and toxic waste sites. Many in the environmental justice movement can’t be happy with Chretien’s “leap before you look” ratification and funding strategy either.
Like many Canadians, these environmentalists are strongly motivated to protect the poor and disadvantaged and know that without careful planning, Kyoto could endanger the most vulnerable in our society, by increasing everything from basic food prices to the cost of heating our homes. While this won’t hurt the wealthy, justice environmentalists will view blind ratification and funding of Kyoto as a tremendous mistake without a fair and workable implementation plan. Similarly, managerial environmentalists must be shocked that Kyoto is
going ahead with no substantive debate or any understanding of how Canada would meet the targets. This group focuses on “sustainable development” and crafts carbon credit and renewable energy strategies to try to protect the environment.
Ottawa’s stakeholder sessions promised for the fall of 2002 were critical for managerial environmentalists, but Chretien’s sudden fixation with a pre-Christmas ratification forced cancellation of the meetings.
In fact, many Canadians who care deeply about the environment, are asking: Besides his own lust for a “legacy,” why is Chretien foisting Kyoto on the nation without due diligence? Whom is he trying to please? The answer is apparent when you examine the reaction to ratification by the Sierra Club of Canada and other “romantic” environmentalists. The romantic environmental movement advocates protecting the environment at all costs, effectively over- riding all other concerns in society:
education, security, prosperity, even human health and safety.
For example, in December 1999, David Suzuki said with reference to the possibility of Y2K problems, “I hope there is a major glitch. It might give Mother Earth a rest…. Chaos would happen … a global collapse would really make people think.”
Besides the fact that environmental protection would be the last thing on people’s minds in the event of world chaos, Suzuki’s statement reveals that he, too, is a biocentric romantic.
Ignoring the rest of the environmental community and most Canadians, romantics act as if theirs is the only “true” environmentalism in Canada. Two days after the ratification vote in the House of Commons, the Sierra Club held a ceremony in Chretien’s office, in which they gave him an award as well as a painting of a polar bear on thin ice, by Robert Bateman, himself a romantic environmentalist. Sierra Club president Paul Senez congratulated Chretien, saying, “Pursuing the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol in the face of the most intensive disinformation and lobbying campaign ever mounted by Canadian industry against an environmental initiative qualifies the prime minister for our respect and greatest honour.” Chretien did not contest Senez’s implication that Kyoto’s opponents were dishonest or funded by industry and so revealed the degree to which the romantics have infiltrated the Prime Minister’s Office. Despite serious problems with Kyoto’s science, economics and implementation, the romantics clearly succeeded in tricking Chretien into sweeping aside the concerns of environmentalists outside of the romantic movement so as to smooth the way to immediate ratification.
Federal Environment Minister David Anderson all but confirmed this when he told the Ottawa Citizen Dec. 18, “His (Chretien’s) critics, who frequently denounce this (plan-less ratification and funding), fail to realize it is one of the signs of his genius that he doesn’t want to know too much about certain things. He gets the right gut feeling. And he’s got the antenna, which very few people have, the political antenna.”
Prospects for the immediate future are alarming if the romantics
continue to have such influence during Kyoto’s implementation.
Emboldened by the success of their ratification campaign, romantics will use this momentum to convince the government to quickly enable implementation strategies that are as dangerous as they are unworkable. After ratification, Suzuki said, “It is crucial to move promptly to put in place measures that reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” We should ask why. Even if all countries signed on, the effect would be so small as to be immeasurable. We must take time to develop strategies that are realistic, even if the primary reason for ratifying was not.
Romantics know that to win the implementation debate, they have to quickly take advantage of the public’s ignorance in the relevant science and technology and, as they did in the ratification and funding battle, appeal to raw emotion. I reject this approach and continue to ask hard basic science questions such as the following:
1. If carbon dioxide (CO2) is a major driver of climate why is it that:
* Global temperatures dropped between 1940 and 1975 as human-produced CO2 levels rose quickly?
* Our most accurate satellite sensors indicate nearly constant
temperature since 1979 while CO2 levels have continued to increase?
* Earth was much warmer between AD 1000 and 1300 than today? What caused that warming? Were the Vikings driving Volvos?
2. If the poles are warming then why is it that:
* The overall ice mass of Antarctica increased in recent years?
* The Northwest Atlantic Ocean cooled significantly the past 50 years?
* Temperature has decreased at the South Pole since records began in 1957?
3. If computer climate model predictions are so reliable why is it they:
* Completely ignore water vapour, the most important greenhouse gas (97 per cent by volume)?
* Have been wrong in all forecasts?
* Can’t include clouds?
Since most romantics lack any formal science training at all, they are unable to properly address questions such as these. Instead they point to long lists of well-known people and organizations that support Kyoto, suggesting consensus is on their side. But consensus is not a scientific fact. Twenty years ago, the onsensus supported global cooling. Now the scientific evidence indicates modest global warming. If the consensus changes again, will we then advocate burning more fossil fuels to add CO2?
For fear that the public will come to understand the science, uninformed romantics behave like true believers in any fundamentalist faith — they try to bluster their way out of proper science discussions. Suzuki, who studied fruit flies, not climate change, when he worked as a scientist 20 years ago, employs this tactic often. He has accused me and other scientist environmentalists of being anti-environmental and funded by oil and gas companies, thereby diverting attention from our science concerns. In my case (and for most of my peers) these accusations are false and are merely a tactic used by those who will not, or cannot, discuss the facts.
This fanaticism is not unique to Canada. Dr. Steven F. Hayward, a senior fellow at the California-based Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, explains that internationally, “much of the enthusiasm for Kyoto derives from romantic environmentalism.” He and public policy specialist Christopher DeMuth describe in a recent paper how the romantics are responsible for “polluting our public discourse on the environment.” They explain, “Romantic environmentalism now consists largely of denying or confusing the realities of practical environmentalism. Its modus operandi is the dramatic claim of impending catastrophe and the moralistic attack on anyone who makes a compromise in the pursuit of environmental progress. Its preferred venues are TV talk shows and fund-raising appeals rather than the real work of environmental management.” One wonders, why Sierra, Suzuki and Greenpeace members aren’t on the front lines fighting forest fires? Hayward and DeMuth also explain how romantic environmentalism has led to “environmental correctness” — a demand that “all discussion of the environment be conducted with apocalyptic pessimism and with human civilization assuming a posture of guilt.”
Disagreement with that viewpoint is viewed as beyond the pale of respectable discourse. Romantics excel at condemning the existing structure but have had no viable alternatives. Unfortunately few Canadians are aware of this or how government and some media organizations have suppressed debate about the serious flaws in Kyoto’s scientific foundation.
The romantic environmentalism driving Kyoto undermines the public’s ability to think clearly, logically, objectively. It numbs Canadians into passively accepting the arbitrary, alarmist claims of pressure groups.
Stephen Schneider, professor of biological sciences at Stanford
University, clearly revealed how romanticists think when he advised scientists, “We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we may have. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” Canadians deserve better than having Kyoto and other major environmental funding decisions based on such deception and the gut feelings of one uninformed prime minister.
Tim Ball lives in Victoria. He was the first climatology PhD in Canada and worked as professor of climatology at the University of Winnipeg for 32 years. He is now retired from the university and is an environmental consultant.