Alice laughed. "There’s no use trying," she said. "One can’t believe impossible things."
"I dare say you haven’t had much practice," said the queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."
—Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871) by Lewis Carroll
Alberta Premier Alison Redford and federal Environment Minister Peter Kent must have clones of Lewis Carroll’s queen as advisors. Otherwise, how could they expect the public to believe the impossible things they’ve said recently about climate change and the oil sands?
Climate campaigners point out that it is illogical for Redford and Kent to boost the idea that we are facing a carbon-dioxide induced climate crisis while at the same time lobbying to expand the oil sands, one of the most CO2-intensive energy sources on the planet. They are right. It is analogous to a doctor telling a patient they need to lose weight while also encouraging them to eat more chocolate cake.
But we’re encouraging Canadians to reduce other fattening foods, oil-sands peddlers Kent and Redford would object.
But it doesn’t work like that. Whether you want to lose weight or reduce CO2 emissions, decreasing consumption of calorie-intensive foods or CO2-intensive energy sources is clearly the way to start.
There are other "impossible things" Redford and Kent’s Alice through the looking-glass advisors apparently want us to believe.
They tell us that we are facing a CO2-induced global warming crisis even though warming stopped 17 years ago. This lack of warming while CO2 levels rose almost 10 per cent was not predicted by the computer climate models that are the primary basis of the alarm. Yet Redford and Kent expect Canadians to support their spending billions of dollars more on the issue because the same computer models forecast climate Armageddon for later in the century.
They also want the public to believe that, while seasonal forecasts for Canada made a year or less ahead of time are less accurate than the throw of a dice, global climate model predictions of the distant future are meaningful.
Environment Canada makes periodic seasonal (i.e., three-month) temperature and precipitation forecasts for Canada. Over time, EC keeps track of their forecasting skill, how their predictions compare with what really happened. For seasonal forecasts made 10 to 12 months in advance, their accuracy is typically less than 50 per cent.
Even when their forecasts for a season are made on the first day of that season, their skill is abysmal. For temperature predictions, the historical per-cent correct is not significantly better than chance over about half the country. Precipitation forecasts are even worse, deviating so far from reality that they fall well below chance for most of the country.
Despite these failures Kent wants us to believe that "Canada understands first-hand the importance of addressing short-lived climate pollutants, which have an impact on the rate of Arctic ice melt," as he said in his speech on Wednesday in Washington DC.
No, we don’t know that at all. Since we are yet unable to make reliable forecasts for three-month periods, even when done just before the periods start, there is no chance of being able to understand what impact short-lived climate pollutants have on the rate of Arctic ice melt, or any other climate phenomena for that matter.
Nevertheless, as a result of his apparent belief in yet another "impossible thing," Kent just dedicated millions of dollars more to appease climate campaigners. He might as well throw the money down a hole in the arctic ice. The federal government has spent $10 billion on global warming since 2006 while having had no measurable impact on climate. These plans, however, did divert vitally-needed funding away from real environmental problems such as the massive clean-up needed of toxic waste dumps across Canada.
In Jonathan Swift’s 1738 farce Polite Conversation, Lady Answerall said "she cannot eat her cake and have her cake." Yet Kent and Redford are trying to do exactly that by boosting two hopelessly incompatible policies at the same time — stopping climate change and promoting oil sands expansion. Since the oil sands have immense value to Canada and the world, while the climate scare is based on a flawed interpretation of the science, it is obvious which policy must be sacrificed.
Tom Harris is executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition. Dr. Tim Ball is an environmental consultant and former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg. Both act as advisors to the Frontier Centre for Public Policy.