Gaia’s a Denier

January 12th, 2010
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My Open Range column from the January 2010 issue of Alberta Venture magazine:

Alberta’s Climate Change Strategy made sense when the facts and the budget supported it. No longer

As a voter and taxpayer, I was willing to give the Alberta government a pass on its Climate Change Strategy. This despite its $4-billion price tag, whiff of 1970s-style corporatism and near certainty of spiralling into an open-ended commitment. Carbon Capture and Storage Council chairman Jim Carter – he of Syncrude, which knows how to run up a tab – declaring that grabbing carbon dioxide (CO2) from major industrial plant emissions, then injecting it into aging oilfields, would require a further billion in annual subsidies and “at least double” everyone’s electricity costs confirmed all three concerns.

Still, the strategy was potentially worthwhile if it appeased Ottawa’s global-warming angst enough to avert an economy-crushing carbon tax, cap-and-trade system or economic micro-regulation. In short, it was a high-risk, megadollar public relations exercise, the stakes being Alberta’s whole economic future.

I should have sided with former Wildrose Alliance Party leader Paul Hinman, who always said Alberta should dump the scheme. Though I shook my head at this naïveté, he was prescient. Today, Alberta’s future is at stake thanks to our self-created $4.3-billion deficit. We can’t afford an elaborate carbo-loading charade when we don’t know how to get through the next couple of years. Second, global warming theory has been comprehensively wrecked. Not brought into doubt or opened to challenge. Wrecked, shown by the private correspondence of its most zealous promoters to have been hot air all along.

The facts around “climategate” might seem a bit hazy to you. What happened was a brave whistle blower posted a large volume of internal e-mails and other documents from the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England. As climate scientist Pat Michaels explained in a recent article, the CRU was founded “…to produce the world’s first comprehensive history of surface temperature… and it served as the primary reference standard for the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change until 2007. It was this record that prompted the IPCC to claim a ‘discernible human influence on global climate.’” Virtually every national bureaucracy, Canada’s included, relies on the CRU to legitimize its own global warming orthodoxy.

The internal e-mails show CRU members and worldwide associates lamenting the past decade’s lack of observed warming – which should be good news, since they claim warmth equals apocalypse. The e-mails show them conspiring to prevent scientific papers with uncongenial results being published – manufacturing the very “consensus” upon which their authority rests. Like totalitarian enforcers, they scheme to purge dissenting scientists. They refuse to share their raw data, then collude to thwart freedom-of-information requests. They show obsession with computer models over actual research gathering actual facts, and apoplexy when models fail to match observed reality. Worst, their temperature record – the very reasons for their institute’s existence – is shown to be based on unreliable original data and so comprehensively manipulated that their own staff specialists can no longer unravel it.

So it seems even Gaia is a global warming denier. The comprehensive debauching of science by what one British scribe calls the “the thermomaniacs” should disgust every geologist, engineer and researcher in Alberta. It threatens not only climate science, but the very ability to view the world in rational terms and go where the truth leads. One of the foundational elements of Alberta’s immense success in energy exploration was the open sharing of oil/natural gas well data among all competitors. Debating and truth-testing our geological concepts put us decades ahead of countries with closed systems, helping the whole province to prosper. The Alberta way is a ringing testament to the power of objective facts. It’s the antithesis of the CRU and its associates.

Climategate brings me back to something I’ve clung to for two decades even as friends and associates buckled under the global warming “consensus”: it should always be about the facts and the science. If it’s happening and we’re the cause, of course we need to do something. If it’s happening but we’re not the cause, then presuming to alter the climate is psychotic. And if it’s not happening at all, then put the pedal to the metal of the biggest SUV you can afford.

The western world’s corporate sector shrank from this intellectual and moral challenge, surrendering its strongest ground, as climategate shows. Instead, it concocted endless rearguard actions of political lobbying and attempts at co-opting or redirecting the global warming movement through massive tranches of Danegeld (the tribute feudal lords once paid so as not to be pillaged by Vikings), generally employing taxpayers’ money and to no long-term effect beyond ratcheting up the demands. At once obsequious and defeatist.

Alberta’s oil and natural gas industry did itself and Albertans a grave disservice by going along. A province of scientists got scared of talking science. An industry of risk-takers who wouldn’t fight for their own lives! The entire senior leadership produced literally two or three individual exceptions. Former Talisman CEO Jim Buckee was among the few who, today, are also the proud. Many more in the technical ranks of numerous companies amassed volumes of data and were itching for a fight – if they’d had a shred of leadership.

Climategate moves the debate back where it belongs. In early December Australia’s Senate voted down its government’s cap-and-trade bill, and the Liberal opposition turfed its pro-cap-and-trade leader. The United States Senate is hardening against the House of Representatives’ cap-and-trade bill. Just before the Copenhagen thermomaniafest congressional leaders reminded President Obama only Congress can make binding international commitments like CO2 cuts. U.S. public opinion is in flood against global warming theory.

For Alberta, it’s time to forget the carbo-posturing, end subsidies for anything CO2-related and start talking facts and science. When even Dilbert’s making fun of the thermomaniacs, you know they’re in trouble.

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By George Koch