Letter: A challenge to a letter writer’s climate change premise

The cost to individuals and families in Alberta is gut-wrenching

To the Expositor:

I write in response to a letter by Jan McQuay in the February 19, 2020 edition of this paper, ‘Does the Liberal government want to appease Albertans at any cost?’

The letter expressed concern about the Teck oil sands project which has since been cancelled. My purpose in drawing attention to the article is twofold. First, the contention that climate related catastrophic damage is mounting and this because of an increase in the release of greenhouse gases. Both premises are false. First a simplified example to illustrate the point. Four hundred years ago there were no houses of any kind build on the flood plains of the Red River. Today there are and occasionally they are subject to flood damage. Zero loss then and significant loss now. By the McQuay logic, this is proof of greenhouse gases influencing the climate.

We have been through the history of extreme weather events and Jan McQuay and others have been unable to point to any evidence supporting increases in any extreme weather event. If they did it would be in direct opposition to results published by the IPCC.

Regarding the increase in damages due to extreme weather events. It is a fundamental error to look at damages over time without factoring for increases in wealth as the above example illustrates. For this reason, responsible economists use losses as a percent of GNP to measure this factor. Roger A. Pielke, Jr. is a professor at the University of Colorado Boulder and has researched this issue in some detail. Here are a few facts from a 2018 paper by Pielke. Global weather losses as a percent of GNP have actually declined from an average of ~ 0.27 percent of GNP in 1990 to 0.19 percent by 2018. Overall losses as a percent of GNP have declined from ~ 0.31 percent to 0.25 percent for the same period. 

The second issue I would like to take up is the cost to individuals and their families as a result of the fear mongering and the spread of misinformation by the chattering class.

There are over four million people living in the province of Alberta. Unemployment, at the moment, is north of nine percent. One in five people under 20 are unemployed. Suicide rates are up 30 percent. It’s gut-wrenching!

Shane Desjardins