Climate change? Of course, but …

Allan Châtenay, who is President of the seismic data company Explor, takes issue with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Environment Minister Catherine McKenna in an open letter (an e-mail, actually) that he shared on social media. It is a bit long but it is well worth reading and considering:

(sent via email 21-Oct-2017)

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau and Minister McKenna;

Canada has a problem.

Climate Change is Killing Us.

Or more precisely, your view of climate change is killing us.

The first issue is to understand the words “climate change.” In the recent public discourse, “climate change” has come to mean “blaming humans for changing the climate by using oil and gas and coal.” That creates a major difficulty, because it means that anytime the uninformed see an aspect of climate that either they haven’t seen before or an aspect that is genuinely changed, the underlying assumption is that it must be our own fault and it must be change for the worse. This view of our climate as primarily anthropomorphic is useful for scaring the populace into submission so you can tax and regulate us to death, but in fact it is the modern-day equivalent of the geocentric view of the universe dating back to Ptolemy.

So, let’s be clear. There is no doubt that the climate is changing. The climate has always changed and always will. The climate will never stay the same – nor should it. The only thing more absurd than denying climate change is thinking that humans can stop it from changing. But when people today say the words “climate change” they mean something else. They mean that humans are to blame.

It is only natural that because we humans tend to incorrectly perceive ourselves as the centre of things we would tend to blame ourselves when the earth’s climate changes. This flaw in human thought is not new. 

The Maya, Inca and Aztecs used to do the same thing. In a vain attempt to control the weather and the resulting crop yields, they would engage in human sacrifices including decapitation, blood offerings and live heart extractions. If those efforts didn’t work and the crops failed, then the assumption would be that they didn’t do enough of it – leading to more sacrifices. Today it seems obvious to almost all of us that blood offerings don’t change the weather. I find it strange though that when the sacrificial offerings are from our own treasury, especially if the victims of sacrifice are either corporations or wealthy individuals, you and many other Canadians continue to believe essentially the same thing. And what leaders know is that being the master of the sacrifice concentrates power in those conducting the ritual.

Your government’s view that Canada can stop the global climate from changing by taxing Canadians, killing billions of dollars of new projects and chasing foreign investment away when none of the major global powers are doing the same is profoundly harmful and irresponsible. You have created a graveyard of cancelled mega-projects that are severely damaging to Canada but that strongly benefit other nations for no good reason. The Energy East cancellation resulting from the NEB including ‘climate change’ considerations in its evaluation of that project is the latest serious casualty. Insanity! You should be ashamed that we will now unnecessarily import oil from dictatorships when we could be building a stronger Canada.

Just 18,000 years ago almost all of Canada sat under giant thick sheets of ice. Both the Cordilleran and Laurentide Ice Sheets were continuous sheets thousands of kilometres across and several kilometres thick. They melted entirely without human intervention (as did their equivalents in Asia and Europe). They melted so quickly that the rocks upon which they rested (including the Canadian Precambrian Shield) are still rebounding from the rapid removal of their incredible weight. Sea levels have risen over 100 metres during that period separating Alaska from Russia and modifying ocean currents around the globe. The changes we are observing and living through at present are simply the tail end of that monumental transformation and are absolutely in keeping with natural climate change. 

Imagine the energy required to melt several continental ice sheets thousands of kilometres across and several kilometres thick, thereby raising the sea level by over 100 metres in just a few thousand years – a blink of an eye in geological time just on the edge of recorded human history. Let the fact that humans had nothing to do with that sink in, and then ask yourself how taxing Canadians and issuing government subsidies to install windmills and solar panels will stop that sort of planetary-scale climate change.

Rather than the disaster that you would have us believe has befallen us or will befall us in future, what we have in fact observed is that access to abundant and reliable energy has increased human life spans, reduced famine and suffering and lead to unprecedented levels of prosperity around the globe. Access to secure sources of energy reduces the impact of climate to humans, not the other way around.

Today, humans are more able to respond to natural disasters than ever before largely because we have access to abundant energy – and this is a good thing. Life before hydrocarbon energy was available was much harder and many lives were cut short by starvation and disease. Today, anti-hydrocarbon positions are written with computers made of and powered by hydrocarbons by people who got to work in a vehicle powered by hydrocarbons, who demand access to health care that is only possible because of hydrocarbon energy and who go on vacations to warmer climates in planes powered by hydrocarbons. The hypocrisy is telling – no opponent of hydrocarbon energy seems prepared or willing to live without it – including you and your government.

It is noteworthy that the two primary products of hydrocarbon combustion are H2O and CO2, which (along with the sun and nutrients from the earth) also happen to be the very building blocks of life on earth. This is because hydrocarbons are themselves the natural product of organic growth and decay. The primary indisputable and measurable impact of increased levels of CO2 on earth is that plants will grow quicker – which is why greenhouses routinely pump CO2 into their greenhouses (to levels 300% higher than current atmospheric levels) to accelerate plant growth. CO2 should be celebrated just as water is, not vilified as a ‘pollutant’ – which it clearly is not.

There is no invisible thermometer controlled by taxation and regulation and subsidy that will change the output of the sun or our relationship with the sun. It turns out that the earth and the sun and the universe at large just don’t care that much about humans or our actions. The simple fact of the matter is that we are vastly more affected by the planet than the planet is by us – and one day in the distant future we will simply be another sedimentary layer in the geological record.

However, just as Galileo was persecuted during his time for advancing a heliocentric theory and questioning the geocentric view of the universe, those of us who question this anthropocentric view of climate are now also subject to ridicule and persecution. 

This persecution takes shape in the notion that if I deploy scientific knowledge to refute many of the alarmist claims made by those who believe climate change is anthropogenic, then I must be a ‘denier’ – an epithet closely linked to neo-Nazism that would subtly try to link me to that horrible way of thinking.

Statements like “the science is settled” or “97% of scientists agree” are extremely troubling as they are themselves anti-scientific and designed to suppress the relentless questioning that is essential to the scientific method. Even Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s statement that “the good thing about science is that it’s true whether or not you believe in it” misappropriates the scientific method to declare science as an infallible source of truth rather than a process of finding and discovering truth through questioning and testing. People in your government tend to say things like “Canadians know…” or “We all know…” when it comes to the anthropocentric view of climate change. In fact, we may not know, or we may know the opposite.

Instead, I prefer Albert Einstein’s statement that “The important thing is to never stop questioning” as the ultimate piece of scientific advice.

The anthropocentric view of climate change has confused the masses and under your leadership is causing Canada to make a series of terrible decisions. In subscribing to this ill-conceived view of hydrocarbon energy as a bad thing, Canadians are suffering terrible casualties to your Liberal government’s economic friendly fire.

I have no doubt that you believe you are doing the right thing and that your intentions are good. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and history is full of leaders who destroyed their nations in fits of madness and in pursuit of vanity and folly.

It is high time you considered that you might be wrong. Many of us can already see that you are.

Best Regards,

Allan Châtenay

Let me hit on the central points with which I agree 100%:

There is no doubt that the climate is changing. The climate has always changed and always will. The climate will never stay the same – nor should it. The only thing more absurd than denying climate change is thinking that humans can stop it from changing. But when people today say the words “climate change” they mean something else. They mean that humans are to blame;”

Your government’s view that Canada can stop the global climate from changing by taxing Canadians, killing billions of dollars of new projects and chasing foreign investment away when none of the major global powers are doing the same is profoundly harmful and irresponsible. You have created a graveyard of cancelled mega-projects that are severely damaging to Canada but that strongly benefit other nations for no good reason;”

There is no invisible thermometer controlled by taxation and regulation and subsidy that will change the output of the sun or our relationship with the sun. It turns out that the earth and the sun and the universe at large just don’t care that much about humans or our actions;” and

I have no doubt that you believe you are doing the right thing and that your intentions are good. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and history is full of leaders who destroyed their nations in fits of madness and in pursuit of vanity and folly.

no_coal_200Clean_Water_Drop_smaller_1355257576_5940I am not a climate change denier. I do not even challenge the view that we, humans, can and must be a lot more careful with how we treat the atmosphere ~ the air we breathe, and the water we drink and the soil in which we grow our food. These should be the centrepieces of any good government’s environmental policy: a healthy and productive  natural environment which benefits us all, but not the children’s crusade that is the modern climate change movement.

downloadThere are even some possible roles for fiscal measures in an environmental policy ~ yes, even for a carbon tax. The slogan “Make Polluters Pay” is a good one … IF, and only if we all understand that there is only one polluter and it is 1011271not an oil company or a tar sands mine or even a huge, dirty coal fired power plant: the only polluters are us, the people who drive cars, heat our homes and buy groceries that were trucked into the market from across town or across the continent. If we want to use a carbon tax, for example, it really ought to be for one purpose only: to change how the polluters (we, ordinary Canadians) use energy. We already use the so called “sin taxes” on alcohol and tobacco to change behaviours ~ and the evidence suggests that they work. Maybe, if we really want our friends and neighbours to use energy in a more environmentally responsible way then we should:

  1. Tax “incorrect” use ~ i.e. gasoline and diesel fuel should be used only for mobile applications, not for e.g. electrical power generation or to heat homes; and
  2. Tax the end user ~ you and me ~ every time we fill our gas tank (rather than walking to the store) or turn up the thermostat (rather than putting on a sweater).

Maybe we can find ways to reward e.g. First Nations or provinces who work with the private sector to make Canada energy self sufficient … concomitantly maybe there are ways to (fiscally) punish those that obstruct national projects. But, above all, we must remember, as the Financial Post reminds us,  that “With the recent cancellation of TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline — after the company spent $1 billion in attempts to jump through ever-changing regulatory and political hoops — it is time to remind ourselves as Canadians where much of our country’s recent economic uptick originated … [the] … Answer: In resource exploration and extraction … [and] … This was illustrated again recently, just before the TransCanada announcement, with Statistics Canada’s recent release of key census data. The data revealed how median Canadian household income rose to $70,336 by 2015, up almost $6,900 from $63,457 in 2005 or nearly 11 per cent … [further] … The provincial breakdowns are even more revealing than the national figure. Median income went up by $20,161 in Saskatchewan (37 per cent), $18,151 in Alberta (20 per cent) and $15,068 in Newfoundland and Labrador (29 per cent) … [but, this is] … where a caveat should be added to the Statistics Canada commentary that “high resource prices” explain significantly increased incomes. High resource prices — be they for oil, gas, lumber or minerals — help, but only if a province or region allows its resources to be explored, extracted and then shipped to market … [thus, for example] … Quebec missed much of the benefit of higher resource prices because of some local and political opposition to oil and gas development. But of note, when the resource sector was allowed to thrive in Quebec, it did. As Statistics Canada observed “several metropolitan areas in resource rich areas had relatively higher income growth.” They include Rouyn-Noranda (+20.4 per cent), Val D’or (+18.0 per cent) and Sept-Îles (+13.4 per cent). That’s more “green” in the pockets of workers … [therefore] … The lesson should be obvious: One comparative economic advantage for Canada is in natural resources. And this matters not just for faster-growing median incomes but also for drops in poverty. For example, resource-friendly Newfoundland saw the St. John’s low-income rate fall to 12 per cent from 16 per cent. Saskatoon’s low-income rate fell to 11.7 per cent from 15.2 per cent.

We are a resource rich nation and our general prosperity, the “common wealth” of the federation depends upon extracting and selling minerals, oil, gas and lumber and, and, and … BUT there is no reason that we cannot be a resource superpower AND have a clean, healthy, pleasant natural environment.

coderre_trudeau-e1441288607238photoBut we should all get behind Allan Châtenay because he’s right: Prime Minister Trudeau’s and Minister McKenna’s views on and policies toward climate change are, indeed, “killing us.”

Canada can, and must, do better.

 

 

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