The Commons: Looking on the bright side of global warming

Peter Kent finds himself inconvenienced by unoptimized facts


The Scene. For sure, Peter Kent’s task is an unenviable one. He who must stand and take responsibility for the Harper government’s oft-lamented environmental policy—he who must be regularly derided by the opposition’s critics—is owed all of our empathy and perhaps even some of our charity.

But if anyone is to hold the title of Environment Minister, it might as well be Mr. Kent. He may lack the swirling bombast and fierce dismissiveness of John Baird, but after so many years in front of a television camera, he is an unflinching pitchman. And having, as a journalist, spent so many years listening to the spin of political and professional communicators, he is now an awesome weaver of words and assertions.

There he was a few weeks ago, for instance, responding to a question from the NDP’s Megan Leslie about reported job cuts at Environment Canada. “There has been a great deal of misreporting and uninformed comment on this issue,” he lamented. “There is a great difference between 776 permanent employees who might be affected, 300 positions which will be declared surplus, and the much-smaller actual number of employees who may eventually be separated from the department.”

No one is being fired, you see, merely separated from their place of work. Presumably by security guards who allow only employees to enter the building.

Or take, for another example, his response to Ms. Leslie’s complaint that the government was set to reduce its monitoring of the ozone. “I must say that while Nature is a worthy journal, the story to which she refers is completely without facts or science,” he declared. “We are not cutting any ozone-monitoring services or closing the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre, which Canada has hosted for years. However, we are optimizing and streamlining the way we monitor and measure ozone, making the best use of taxpayers’ dollars.”

Nothing is being cut, you see, only optimized and streamlined. Once total separation is complete, Environment Canada will be agile and quick and sleek. Like a polar-ice-cap-restoring panther.

“Today’s report merely echoes what our government has long recognized,” he said last week after the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy projected the cost to Canada of climate change to be in the billions, “and that is the importance of adaptation to climate change.”

“Mr. Speaker,” responded Ms. Leslie, “I guess it is time to learn to swim.”

Mr. Kent’s efforts are—how would he put it?—separated from optimization by the presence of Ms. Leslie, his primary counterpart on the opposition side. She is blessed of a certain ability to remain pleasant seeming even as she is sarcastically mocking everything about you. Unless she starts talking about a carbon tax, the government will have a difficult time portraying her as a monster hellbent on the destruction of the country.

The Environment Minister is also inconvenienced by the unoptimized facts. Whatever his government is doing with its ozone monitoring, for instance, it would likely seem less interesting if scientists hadn’t just discovered a sizeable hole in the Earth’s protective layer. And whatever the merits of the government’s plan, there would be less cause for the likes of Ms. Leslie to complain if the environment commissioner wasn’t saying things like “Since I began as commissioner three years ago, a recurring theme in my reports has been the significant gaps in the information needed to understand and respond to the changing state of our environment.”

It is probably helpful here to turn to the report released today by the commissioner. But since that is quite long, it is probably easier to turn to the news release explaining that report. The third and fourth paragraphs of that release read as follows:

The Commissioner’s Perspective notes that due to a lack of adequate management information, the government does not know what results have been achieved with the billions of dollars allocated to implement its climate change plans.

The report also notes that the federal government has not tracked the cumulative environmental effects of multiple development projects over time. As a consequence, decisions about oil sands projects have been based on incomplete, poor, or non-existent environmental information.

It is these bits to which the NDP, in their unending pessimism, clung. It is these bits which Mr. Kent, skipped past to get to the part about how the government has a plan.

“I am disappointed, though not surprised, by the opposition’s failure to recognize the commissioner’s positive words on our government’s accomplishments and our commitment with regard to oil sands monitoring,” Mr. Kent sighed. “For example, the commissioner says: ‘In my view, the federal government has taken an important step forward by both acknowledging the deficiencies of the current system and setting out a detailed plan to fix them.’ ”

Ms. Leslie was unpersuaded. “Why,” she asked, “have they given up on the environment?”

Mr. Kent was willing to meet this standard. “Mr. Speaker,” he assured, “our government has definitely not given up on the environment.”

The Stats. Suicide, nine questions. The economy, six questions. The environment, five questions. Afghanistan, military procurement and the G8 Legacy Fund, four questions each. The RCMP and bilingualism, two questions each. Syria, foreign aid and taxation, one question each.

Peter MacKay, nine answers. Stephen Harper and John Baird, six answers each. Peter Kent, five answers. Leona Aglukkaq and Ted Menzies, four answers each. Vic Toews, two answers. Steven Blaney and Bev Oda, one answer each.


The Commons: Looking on the bright side of global warming

  1. The govt hasn’t the slightest intention of doing anything about climate change….that much should be obvious to everyone by now.

    Kent just told you their Master Plan:

    “and that is the importance of adaptation to climate change.”

    ….which is remarkable, coming as it does, from a party that scoffs at evolution.

    • Emily How do you stop climate change?

      • By stopping what we did to cause it…by not.releasing gigatonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere.

        • Man-made CO2 is roughly 4% of the planets total. Some of that total is from the act of breathing. If you are really that committed to lowering your CO2 missions, sart holding your breath….NOW

          • Setting aside the questions of whether GW is occurring or not and whether man-made CO2 is a factor or not, CO2 from breathing isn’t relevant either way.

            If you think it is, can you elaborate?

        • Then you should be reducing your electricty use. Shut off your computer and don”t use your car and don’t watch TV. See how your answer is so shallow.

          • Like I said…. I don’t listen to daft slogans by ignoramuses.

  2. Why is this report only coming out now, I’d like to know?  Since it was prepared to be released in May, and an entire season has come and gone since then.  Yes, I know we had an election.  But that didn’t take four months.

  3. Photo caption – the environment minister sighs, a tear coming to his eye, as he gestures helplessly towards the empty space where his teleprompter should be.

  4. Oh, one is gratified that there has been provided more fuel for the Harper Haters, who had been having something of a lean time and, one hoped, were losing their edge. 

    Pray tell us just what the Gov’t of Canada should do about the hole in the ozone layer or about global warming in general?  My hope is that said Gov’t retains its stolid inactivity in the face of that discredited field of human delusion.   

    • Hey, great that you’ve got the whole Shakespeare thing going on.

    • Discredited field of human delusion?

      Saying it doesn’t make it so. Facts might, but you don’t have any do you?

      Simply put, unless someone can present a credible alternative to the Standard Model of Particle Physics and/or the the Rock-weathering CO2 Thermostat Model, then dumping excessive amounts of GHGs into the atmosphere has only one logical conclusion: climate change / global warming.

      I should note for the record that in the two decades that this topic has been seriously discussed and considered, there have been ZERO alternative models produced or even suggested.

      All the while, the evidence supporting the Rock-weathering Thermostat Model has become more and more conclusive. It goes without saying that no serious challenge to the Standard Model has arisen since its inception.

      Even a consistent story from those resisting climate science might be something, but instead they have provided nothing but a moving target in which they first deny something, and then when it has been shown that they are factually wrong, they move onto some other data-cherry-picking argument that is also eventually refuted.

      In fact there isn’t a single point I’ve seen to date where an issue brought up by deniers has born fruit in the end, but no matter, they’ll soon post another objection to keep up the appearance of there being something to debate.

      Such actions speak to the nature of climate change denial: The denial itself is the tactic.

      It’s obvious purpose is to create a sense of doubt where none truly exists.

      Truth is the first casualty, but not the last if we don’t come to grips with the impacts of our actions.

  5. “Mr. Speaker,” responded Ms. Leslie, “I guess it is time to learn to swim.”

    Ms Leslie should learn how to swim regardless because she lives near a great big body of water and wouldn’t want to drown. 

    If Ms Leslie wants to learn to swim due to global warming, she needn’t bother because the earth isn’t warming. And climate changes daily/weekly/monthly/yearly since time began and trying to stop the climate from changing is fool’s errand and going against Mother Nature’s grand design. 

    BBC Interview with Phil Jones is director of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia:

    Q: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?

    A: Yes, but only just.

    • http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8511670.stm

      Why don’t you post a link so everyone can read the interview in stead of cherry picking?

      How’s this for cherry picking?

      “How confident are you that warming has taken place and that humans are mainly responsible?

      I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed. As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.”

      • Fact: “there has been no statistically-significant global warming … Yes, but only just”

        Opinion: “I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed”

        Wall St Journal ~ A Trick Of The Mind:

        Beliefs come first; reasons second. That’s the insightful message of “The Believing Brain,” by Michael Shermer, the founder of Skeptic magazine. In the book, he brilliantly lays out what modern cognitive research has to tell us about his subject—namely, that our brains are “belief engines” that naturally “look for and find patterns” and then infuse them with meaning.

        Mr. Shermer marshals an impressive array of evidence from game theory, neuroscience and evolutionary psychology. A human ancestor hears a rustle in the grass. Is it the wind or a lion? 


        • I’m 100% confident that the climate has warmed…

          … As to the second question, I would go along with IPCC Chapter 9 – there’s evidence that most of the warming since the 1950s is due to human activity.”

          Utter bollocks. You’re still cherry picking…and grasping at straws. This is science right. Empirical testing attempts to account for personal bias.  

  6. China pollutes, what, a thousand times more than Canada? Just where are the Al Gores and others on this inconvenient truth? Isn’t it time to rescind the free pass to China? Surely, they can afford to clean up a little by now, no? Or does this not factor in to the agenda at this time?

    • China’s CO2 emissions are about 10 times Canada.  China’s population is about 40 times Canada.  Per capita we rock!

      Several years ago, China passed the US as the largest CO2 emitting country.  (They still trail per capita to the US as well of course)

      The issue with China is certainly not their past emissions (although they have had huge issues with local pollutants… think LA on steroids)  Before 2000, they were inconsequential.  Even their current emissions when considered per capita are hardly alarming.  However, given the economic growth in China and even larger growth in manufacturing future, projections for China out to say 2020 are a big issue.

      Given the above you would hope China would be world leaders in investing in energy conserving technologies and renewable energy.  It turns out they are.  So you could argue they are still not doing enough, but saying they have taken a “free pass” is simply at odds with the known facts.

      It would be nice if they were more accepting of political dissent and even better if they considered massive democratic reform, but that is another thread.


  7. Although there may be respectable arguments against human causes for the undeniable symptoms of warming, it is foolish to ignore those respectable arguments for. 

    Imagine a carload of teens driving on a foggy road to a party, and all the passengers are saying “Hey that looks like it might be a bad turn ahead. We should slow down.”

    But the driver says, “No way! We’re going to a party, and if we slow down we’ll be late.”

    Point is this: 

    “What if the passengers are right?” Then we go sailing over the cliff.

    “What if the passengers are wrong?” Then we’re late for the party.

    To quote: “You decide.”

  8. The caribou are sruggling in Northern Alberta, largely because of destruction to their habitat by the oil sands, Mr. Kent will solve this by massacring thousands of wolves, oepn season – because they may take down a caribou. One  extinction followed by the next – but lets all show our grandchildren pictures of these animals – it will be all that is left of them and don’t let on we did nothing to save them.  Someone who knows nothing of the environment but is simply a spin doctor, does not speak well for Canada. We are being universally condemned – and we should be.

    • Kadow1,
      Your caribou statement is absolutely wrong!

      • Read about the study below. I think you’ll find he does know what he’s talking about.

    • Sure;and there is even a current study out there to refute the alleged depredations inflicted on the caribou by the wolves. No matter they have a plan, part of which is to herd/pen the caribou up until what? i ask you…nuts…absolutely nuts. 


  9. It’s impressive in this thread how the used-to-be-climate-change-deniers-now-denying-the-problem-is-man-made are demonstrating their relentless ability to make it seem as though there is actual scientific uncertainty about what is happening. 

    • That’s plan B. Plan C is to claim it’s too late anyway. 

      • Actually.. it is too late. With Russian scientists having already discovered natural methane release in the arctic CO2 reduction is only going to limit the top-end of global warming, which will already be society crushing anyway. 

        Our best bet now is to focus on developing our food production, disease control, and water protection/purification capabilities, as well as strongly ramping up our military and coastal defense strength.

        • That’s a depressing thought. Why hav’n’t the methane seeps been detected in our Arctic yet?
          Why the military? I suppose conflicts over resources are inevitable.

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