Scrapping with the Climate Skeptics

This was published this morning in the Guelph Mercury, the local paper where I’m living. It is nice to get the last word in a scrap with the climate skeptics. Ross McKitrick is a nasty economics professor at the University here, and a climate change denier.

Professor argues the evidence isn’t there that greenhouse gases affect climate


GUELPH (Jan 19, 2005)

As the federal government considers relaxing the Kyoto accord’s strict emissions-cutting targets for large industrial producers, a local expert says Canada should think about abandoning the agreement altogether.

“I don’t think they can tweak the agenda and make minor changes at this point. They need to sit back and re-think the whole thing from the beginning,” Ross McKitrick, associate professor of economics at the University of Guelph, said yesterday.

“It just doesn’t make sense having everyone sign onto an agreement that no one has kept.”

The Department of Natural Resources is considering a proposal to ease requirements on large industrial polluters to cut emissions under Canada’s climate change plan, The Canadian Press reported yesterday.

But critics say the change would make it difficult to meet Canada’s targets under the Kyoto accord, which calls for a six per cent decrease in emissions from 1990 levels by 2010.

“That view is part of the problem with the Canadian approach,” said McKitrick, who co-authored a book that rebuts the view that we know the cause of climate change and how it can be controlled.

“The questions are complex and the evidence just isn’t there that greenhouse gases have an effect on climate change,” he said.

U.S. President George W. Bush pulled out of the Kyoto accord in 2001, saying it set unrealistic goals that could damage the American economy.

Ben Bradshaw, an assistant professor of geography at the University of Guelph, said Canada needs to recognize the difficulty with fostering economic growth and reaching greenhouse gas reduction targets.

Bradshaw said he believes the goals set under Kyoto can be reached, but only if Canada finds efficiency gains significant enough to counteract the pollution increase caused by economic growth.

“Our economy is required to expand on a yearly basis,” Bradshaw said.

“You will never hear a Canadian politician say, ‘If I am elected I will reduce the size of the Canadian economy.’ It just doesn’t happen.”

But as the economy expands, we pollute more and use more resources, Bradshaw said.

“Three and a half per cent growth sounds fairly modest. But at three and a half per cent growth, our economy will double in size in 20 years.

“If we make cars emit half as much greenhouse gas per unit and then double the number of cars on the road, the overall effect is moot.”

But McKitrick questioned the value of striving for those targets since the global community would need to take much more drastic measures to make any difference in the atmosphere.

There’s already 150 gigatons of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, that naturally circulates between the land, ocean and atmosphere, McKitrick said.

“Humans add about six or seven to that,” he said.

“So you would need to have every country signing on for a reduction of 50 per cent to make a difference. If we did that, we would start to see changes in our atmospheric (carbon dioxide) data in 10 to 20 years.

“Kyoto is big from Canada’s perspective but from the global perspective, it’s really a drop in the ocean. It’s a symbolic gesture.”

Canada’s goals under Kyoto are within reach and if anything, they should be made stronger, said Matthew Carroll, a member of the energy action coalition, a North American youth network that’s active on climate change and environmental justice issues.

There’s no way the government should be loosening emission requirements on large industrial polluters, Carroll said.

“That’s irresponsible both in terms of local air quality here and it’s irresponsible looking at Canada’s role as a global citizen,” he said.

He said the view that human-produced emissions don’t damage the atmosphere is simply wrong.

“It’s really sad that some people are still making their careers on the skepticism about global warming. They do an immense amount of harm,” Carroll said.

“The debate about climate change is over. It’s real, it’s happening and we need to deal with it.”

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