LETTERS: Calm down and look at the evidence of climate change

McQuay letter makes claims regarding climate that are not supported by evidence

To the Expositor:

In my reading of the October 10 article by Jan McQuay entitled ‘Watching the rise of alt-right politicians,’ I sense a bit of confusion with regards to my comments regarding Shellenberger. It is he who penned the phrase, “If renewables are cheap, why is electricity so expensive.” His concern of course is that California power rates are increasing like ours here in Ontario. He sees nuclear power as a rational option for the state. I only made reference to his work to demonstrate that the recognition that renewables are not a viable option for low cost reliable power is not limited to the right of the political spectrum.

Regarding the claim that importing hydro-electric power from Quebec could be a low-cost option is certainly a position that I agree with. If a proper cost benefit analysis had been done by the McGuinty government years ago, and if the results were analyzed correctly, we would be importing Quebec power now. However, he did what he did and we are where we are. The province of Ontario is now saddled with high cost renewable energy contracts which we need to do something about.

The McQuay article then launches into a number of claims regarding climate that are not supported by evidence and I would like to point out a few.

First there is the claim that global warming is responsible for an increase in extreme weather events. I will deal with the hurricane issue. The recent hurricane Michael in Florida resulted in plenty of hype in the press but if we looked at hurricane history there is nothing unusual going on. The US National Hurricane Centre is charged with keeping tabs on this subject and holds data which most climate scientists use. A plot of the data for Florida will show that from 1900 until now, there is no trend in either intensity or frequency. If a plot is generated for all landfalling major (Cat 3 +) hurricanes for the entire USA, an actual decline is evident. If one looks at the other categories of extreme weather events, the same pattern emerges. I reference (again) the IPCC report of 2012 dealing with extreme weather events. The report concludes that there is little or no evidence to support a claim that a warming climate is influencing extreme weather events. One of the problems with this issue is the hype that is associated with these events. They make great press and charlatans like Al Gore take advantage. Our politicians also make claims that lead to confusion. For example, our federal minister for the environment claimed that floods in the prairie provinces this spring were “the face of climate change.” Actually, when people build on a flood plane, there is a distinct possibility that water is going to end up in the rec-room. They are called flood plains for a reason. Which reminds me of George Carlin and his rant about “people worrying about everything.” He cited the building of houses on the slopes of active volcanoes and then the residents wonder why there is lava in the living room.

Another claim that I take exception to is the thought that there is no debate among climate scientists and the whole thing is a plot by oil interests. Just to be clear about what I am referring to, most scientists would agree that carbon dioxide is a green-house gas and human activity is increasing the concentration of this gas. There is considerable debate among climate scientists about how much this increase is affecting the climate. The issue of natural variation is also the subject of much debate. Here is a sampling of prominent scientists that argue that we all need to calm down and look at the evidence: Richard Lindzen, atmospheric physicist; Judith Curry, climatologist; Freeman Dyson, theoretical physicist; Roger Pielke Jr, political scientist; Roy Spencer, meteorologist; John Christy, climate scientist.

The demise of the polar bear is another classic media spin that I would like to deal with at another time as it will take a dedicated article to do it justice.

Finally, please don’t think that Naomi Klein is an economist as declared in the McQuay article. She spent a few years at the University of Toronto but did not graduate. It is not clear what she studied but it is evident that she never darkened the doorway of an economics lecture theatre.

Shane Desjardins