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May 04 2011

20:56

Facing Four More Years of Harper Inaction, Canadians Must Rally Their Own Climate Leadership

Earlier this week, Canadians flocked to the polls for the fourth time in 7 years. This time around, the election was triggered when the minority government led by Conservative Party leader Stephen Harper was found in contempt of parliament in March for failing to release information related to the costs of proposed crime legislation and the purchase of stealth fighter jets.

From the moment the election was announced, Harper derided it as ‘unnecessary’, and ‘unwanted’ even though public polling clearly indicated widespread displeasure with his handling of the economy, public programming including programs for women, the environment, and for proroguing parliament twice. After the 2008 election, when voter turnout was the lowest in Canadian history (59% overall, and a dismal youth turnout of 37%), people wondered if this so-called ‘unwanted’ election would fail to motivate voters to the polls.

While pundits and pollsters made their best guesses leading up to election day, no one correctly anticipated the outcome. With just under 40% of the vote, the Conservatives finally won the majority they have coveted since ascending in 2006. The New Democratic Party (NDP) won 102 seats and formed the official opposition for the first time in history. The Liberal Party was reduced to a mere 34 seats, and the Bloc Quebecois lost 90% of its seats to end up with 4. On the positive side, Green Party candidate Elizabeth May won her party’s first seat in North American history.

Of the 14 closest ridings that Conservatives won seats, the combined margin of victory in all those ridings was 6,201 votes. That means the real difference between a Harper minority and majority was just over 6,000 votes. While 5.8 million people voted for Stephen Harper, another 9 million – the ‘real majority’ – voted for change. But, with his new majority, Harper no longer has to worry about impediments to his extreme ideology; he can ram his anti-science, pro-polluter agenda down the throats of the Canadian public. That spells trouble for Canada's environment, and it's especially bad news for the global climate.

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Despite the news headlines of Harper’s ‘victory,’ sixty percent of Canadians still don't support his economic policy. Harper will likely table the same budget that he presented before the election. It focused on the economy and jobs - and no, I don't mean green jobs. Instead, Harper continues to promote and prioritize policies that hold Canada back from a prosperous clean energy future.

The Harper budget proposes to slash funding for clean energy programs and efficiency incentives – all significant job-creation vehicles that happen to protect rather than harm the global climate system.

The Conservatives have yet to introduce climate legislation to meet science-based international commitments to rapidly curtail global warming pollution. Harper’s position isn’t expected to improve over his last 5 years of inaction and obstruction, during which he failed to put in place any meaningful policy to meet his own weak pollution reduction targets (that aren’t even science-based). These policies made Canada a laughing stock in Copenhagen and Cancun. Now, with four years of unchecked Harper power, we’ll likely see more of Harper’s embarrassing stonewalling at international climate change summits including this fall in Durban.

What else have we to look forward to?  Will the government continue to muzzle scientists, who are required to seek ‘pre-approval’ before speaking with journalists?  

Will Harper even end the wasteful stream of $1.4 billion in taxpayer subsidies to incredibly profitable oil and gas companies? Will he even continue to pay lip service by calling for a gradual phase-out of a small portion of these polluter subsidies? 

The world’s scientists have cautioned that climate disruption won’t wait four more years for a real Canadian action plan to materialize – if it does then – so we must act now, with or without Harper.

Even though we have our work cut out for us, this election caused a noticeable shift in Canadian politics, one that not only felt inspiring during the run-up to the election, but also one that produced a tangible outcome. The feeling that I have is like nothing I've ever experienced, and I know I’m not the only one who feels it.

A movement was born over the past few weeks, when Canadian youth woke up and engaged in politics. They are organizing. 

In my free time outside work obligations, I am one of those organizers. Some friends and I recently staged an action outside of a Harper press conference in Victoria. We criticized Harper’s campaign for failing to mention the issues that really mattered to young people – including climate and the environment.

Because of recent pressure on the Conservatives for kicking a student out of a rally and attempting to nix a special ballot on a university campus, a group of us were invited in (with no media present) to speak with the Prime Minister. In typical Harper fashion, we were allowed to ask 2 questions, the first about post-secondary education, the second about Canada’s horrible reputation for climate change inaction.

Demonstrating how out of touch he is with the most pressing challenge facing humanity, Mr. Harper seemed unfamiliar about the upcoming UN climate talks in Durban, and when he talked about Canada’s representative at the most recent climate talks, he referred to “Minister Prentice” (wrong guy, it was John Baird). At that moment, I worried for the future of my country.  

And I'm not alone. Many people fear what a Conservative majority will mean for the issues that many Canadians care about: banning dangerous tanker traffic on the west coast, ending dirty energy subsidies, and creating binding legislation for global warming pollution reductions. We are faced with an uncertain future, while scientists continue to alert us that there is no time to waste. 

We must work together to hold this government accountable. We need to work together for our First Nations communities that are suffering environmental anguish, for the accountability and oversight necessary to rein in the dirty tar sands boom, and for investment in a renewable energy future. We must demand a clean future, and a world that is safe for our children. 

Over the coming months and years, we must be vigilant, and work with an urgency and sense of purpose. We don't have time to wait for a new government to respond to the environmental crisis. We must respond now.

We must lead now. To the 'real majority' of Canadians out there, are you ready?

December 03 2009

18:06

Elizabeth May: An Informed Look at the East Anglia Emails

How dare the world’s media fall into the trap set by contrarian propagandists without reading the whole set?

Canadian Green party leader Elizabeth May has done, here what most journalists have not: she read ALL the leaked emails and comments on the basis of primary sources.

Her conclusion? We've been had.

Read her whole analysis below:

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And now to discuss those hacked emails

Strange, isn’t it that media are not wondering about who hacked into the computers and who paid them?   Or why Dr. Andrew Weaver’s office in Victoria has been broken into twice.  My guess is that all the computers of all the climate research centres of the world have been repeatedly attacked, but defences held everywhere but East Anglia.

The scientists at East Anglia, plus colleagues around the world, are being hung out to dry as though they did something wrong.   I did not want to spring to their defence until I read all their emails.  Yes, all 3,000 or whatever of them…. Starting from 1996, these good and decent scientists write to each other on email as colleagues and often as co-authors of work in paleoclimatology.  Tough stuff using proxy records to figure out what the temperature was in as many data points as you can find on the planet, going back as far as you can.  (Dendochronology chat: Tree rings telling you more about summer temperatures than annual, and mostly from the boreal region). They wrote each other sharing ideas for handling the records from tree rings.  They struggled with how to re-calibrate surface sea temperature records.  This was a neat thread. Turns out those navies around the world kept records of the temperature of the sea water before using it in the steam room engines.  The temperature records shifted when they stopped using wooden buckets and moved to canvas buckets.  Tough work evening out the temperatures so they are comparable.   Or the sorting out of the famous Winter Ice Fairs on the Thames. Lord Lawson and his ilk love this anecdotal stuff.  Little Ice Age.  Turns out there were weirs on the Thames that kept sections fairly shallow. Once the weirs were removed the river never froze solid again. 

These stolen emails are also opening up the personal lives of private and serious scientists.  Illnesses, family troubles. Cheery notes of “need to get this surgery over and then I will get busy with my review,”  “getting married, did I mention, will work on this next data set a soon as I am back from my honeymoon...” or their Christmas emails… sent up to Christmas Eve and back to work before Boxing Day was over.  Wives with cancer, at hospital, revising papers, while awaiting birth of first grandchild.  These guys work without a break. They never once suggest “cooking the books” or fudging the science.

How dare the world’s media fall into the trap set by contrarian propagandists without reading the whole set?

Yes, it was a trap.  An elaborate sting operation….  At first the emails talk about requests for data, and they mention to each other that so and so wants the data, I just referred them to all the data we have placed in the public domain.  Sometimes they write that they sent more on request, but something seems strange as they do not think the people wanting the data are actually proper scientists. The emails are the story of serious science up against blogs.  Here is one of the emails as they begin to realize they cannot win…

 from December 2, 2008:

Message from Gavin Schmidt at NASA To Ben Santer at Lawrence Livermore Labs, copied to Phil Jones at East Anglia and others:


"Ben,
there are two very different things going on here. One is technical and related to the actual science and the actual statistics, the second is political, and is much more concerned with how incidents like this can be portrayed.  The second is the issue here.....

Thus any increase in publicity on this -- whether in the pages of Nature or elsewhere -- is much more likely to bring further negative fallout despite your desire to clear the air.  Whatever you say, it will still be presented as you hiding data.

The contrarians have found that there is actually no limit to what you can ask people for (raw data, intermediate steps, additional calculations, sensitivity calculations, all the code, a workable version of the code on any platform, etc) and like Somali pirates they have found that once someone has paid up, they can always shake them down again."


He goes on to suggest that the university and directors of programmes just point out where the data can be found in the public domain and urge them to try their own calculations (if they have the competence.) He suggests they point out how it can be done by getting a grad student to work up the data from public sources that the contrarians keep demanding...  

The enormous volume of emails give a picture of thoroughly decent scientists increasingly finding themselves in a nightmare. One refers to the atmosphere moving to something akin to that created by Joseph R. McCarthy.  Their professional reputations are suddenly at risk..  They write each other in disbelief, protesting “I have never been political. I am an honest scientist.”  They are threatened, and "sting" operation FOI requests are set up to ensnare them and keep them from doing their work.

 

And now the worst of the worst are gleefully eviscerating my new friends (yup, that’s how you feel after reading these guys’ emails for the last dozen years, like putting on the kettle and hoping they drop round for tea.)

 

Worst of the worst? Patrick Michaels of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.  He was once at the University of Virginia and considered a decent scientist.  He is famous for giving testimony attacking Dr. James Hansen to the U.S. Senate showing how wrong Hansen’s projections were. Only he had redrawn Hansen’s graph to make it wrong!  (He admitted this when I cross- examined him on CBC Sunday Morning’s programme “Kyoto on Trial” in 2002).  And all the media cheerfully quote Michaels doing his impersonation of serious scientist deeply troubled by emails that suggest the East Anglia group had little use for him.  


More hacked emails will apparently be released soon.  The one scientist I think has some explaining to do is Dr. Wang at State University of NY at Albany who has told colleagues for years he has the hard data from Chinese meteorological stations, but never seems to be able to produce it.  It is a very small piece of data in the scheme of things, but Wang should either produce the data or explain where he got the numbers. 

Certainly nothing in these emails suggests any problem with fundamental science.  Dr. Phil Jones who headed up the Climate Research Unit at East Anglia has just stepped aside during the investigation.  My money is on a full exoneration for him. 

Meanwhile, the walking propaganda machines for the fossil fuel industry will continue their Disinformation Pyramid Scheme.  Only responding to each lie with a well-referenced fact, duking it out with these guys on blog sites and newspaper letters to the editor will help keep the truth in mind. 

In the meantime, if you want to get to know some wonderful scientists, their life is on display on a Russian server.

 

 

 

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