Special Report: Climate Change

No Shortage of Denial About Global Warming

There's a pretty good case to be made that denial extends right through our consumer society, which dumps greenhouse gases into an atmosphere that is already obviously overloaded.

By Don McLean
Published March 23, 2015

Where does denial stop? One can sort of sympathize with Hamilton Spectator editor Paul Berton's reluctance to stop publishing climate change denialists.

Where would he stop? There's no shortage of those in denial, not just among individuals but also corporations and governments.

Take TransCanada Inc, the company that has been unsuccessfully trying for many years to get US approval for its Keystone XL pipeline so it can ship tar sands bitumen from Alberta through the Gulf of Mexico to foreign markets.

That line has been blocked by US President Barack Obama because emissions resulting from the 860,000 barrel-a-day facility will have a huge impact on global climate.

Far from taking a hint from this finding by the US Environmental Protection Agency, TransCanada is now proposing an even bigger alternative - an all-Canadian route dubbed Energy East running 4,600 kilometres from Alberta to New Brunswick's Atlantic coast at an estimated cost of $12 billion.

This company's denial extends beyond climate change to simple economics. The price of oil is currently less than half of what is required to extract and process Alberta bitumen, and expansion plans are being abandoned wholesale. Investing billions in a pipe to ship increased tar sands production denies both logic and reality.

It also ignores a comprehensive economic analysis published in January in Nature, one of the world's most prestigious journals, which says Alberta bitumen is far too expensive to ever be competitive. That's because the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has determined that only one-fifth of global fossil fuel reserves can be burned without pushing global warming beyond human control.

The advocates for the Energy East pipeline are just as much in denial as the most hardened Tea Party fanatics, even without taking into account their plan to convert a 40-year-old natural gas line for nearly all the route across Ontario's lakes and rivers.

Denial also characterizes the National Energy Board, the federal regulator charged with reviewing the Energy East proposal. Despite a petition of over 100,000 Canadians, the NEB is refusing even to consider the climatic implications of the 1.1 million barrel-a-day pipeline.

The Board claims its mandate to protect the public interest doesn't include climate change. Its receipt of over 2,200 applications to intervene in the Energy East review probably won't change that - although the vast majority are from individuals and organizations specifically concerned about climate change.

This is the same Board that approved the Northern Gateway pipeline proposal across wilderness British Columbia - a project that everyone acknowledges will never be built because of First Nation and other public opposition.

It's also the Board recently described [PDF] by Marc Eliesen, a former deputy energy minister in seven provincial and federal governments, as an "industry captured regulator" engaged in "a public deception".

Eliesen publicly said the NEB decisions:

reflect a lack of respect for hearing participants, a deep erosion of the standards and practices of natural justice that previous Boards have respected and an undemocratic restriction of participation by citizens, communities, professionals and First Nations either by rejecting them outright or failing to provide adequate funding to facilitate meaningful participation.

The NEB is clearly in deep denial, not just about climate change but also in thinking that its decisions retain any credibility.

That's even truer of our current federal Conservative government, which has built Canada's whole economic strategy around tar sands exports and the pipe dream that the country can be served by once again tying us to extracting and exporting raw resources (and the jobs that go with them).

As commodity prices crash, that strategy is clearly in tatters - leaving Prime Minister Stephen Harper deep in denial about both climate change and economic reality.

And beyond those more obvious ones, there's a pretty good case to be made that denial extends much further through our consumer society, which dumps greenhouse gases into an atmosphere that is already obviously overloaded.

Denial is clearly at work if we assume there won't be any nasty consequences from dumping our wastes into the water and air we depend on, spreading poisons on the land that feeds us, and erasing more and more of the web of life that sustains us.

Don McLean is chair of Friends of Red Hill Valley and coordinator of Citizens at City Hall, a volunteer group that has monitored city affairs since 2004 and distributes free news articles via email. The group can be contacted at info@hamiltoncatch.org.

31 Comments

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Read Comments

[ - ]

By MikeHaseler (anonymous) | Posted March 23, 2015 at 07:47:32

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By Henry and Joe (anonymous) | Posted March 23, 2015 at 10:19:33 in reply to Comment 110402

Yes, there is also a third side that never makes into mainstream press. This side says that current climate projections are too conservative, and the consequences of anthropogenic climate change will be more devastating that those predicted by the IPCC. Some predict extreme drought, flooding, catastrophic storms, followed by uprisings, anarchy and war.

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 23, 2015 at 07:58:07 in reply to Comment 110402

97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities, and most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.

But to be fair, there are also some oil industry executives and right-wing political flacks who feel differently so we should all just be quiet while the global scientific consensus gets drowned out by a well-funded lobbying campaign by corporate interests.

Permalink | Context

By GabrielN (registered) | Posted March 23, 2015 at 16:19:24 in reply to Comment 110403

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 23, 2015 at 19:34:13 in reply to Comment 110437

Tone and stereotyping aside, this part of your comment is spot-on:

put their efforts into alternatives discovery and that's how the hydrocarbons will be nullified

This is already well underway. Solar power is starting to become cheaper than fossil fuel. Divestment from fossil fuels and into renewables continues to accelerate. I've been watching this stuff for a while, and global shift to renewables is happening faster than I imagined possible. Awesome stuff.

So the amount of oil we are burning into the atmosphere can certainly start to decline in coming decades. From electricity generation, certainly.

And guess what? Like any resource or mineral, oil is still in the ground to use for appropriate applications. And the industry, like any, will scale back to demand, as the new industries boom.

So just because it will take a little longer to replace plastic with biodegradables, does not mean we should not start addressing what we can. And the "enviros", as you call people who care about our biosphere, are a source of pressure to make it happen faster.

Having a cell phone or computer does not disqualify one from advocating that we do not put all the oil that is under the ground, into our atmosphere and water.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2015-03-23 19:44:06

Permalink | Context

By Trololol (anonymous) | Posted March 23, 2015 at 17:58:35 in reply to Comment 110437

I sure hope you clowns are getting paid to scour the Internet looking for articles about global warming to troll. If you're doing it for free on your own time, that's just sad.

Permalink | Context

By notlloyd (registered) - website | Posted March 23, 2015 at 08:17:54 in reply to Comment 110403

There are some lefty radical environmentalists who don't agree too. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/a...

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 23, 2015 at 08:41:11 in reply to Comment 110404

You mean ex-lefty radical environmentalist corporate shills. Patrick Moore hasn't been involved with Greenpeace since the 1980s, when he left to run his family's salmon fishery. These days his PR company, Greenspirit Enterprises, works with the nuclear, plastics, biotech, logging and pharmaceutical industries.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 23, 2015 at 09:01:24 in reply to Comment 110408

(Why did I get a mental picture of Mister Burns sitting down at a Greenpeace meeting "I too am a fellow environmentalist and here to help! E....xcellent.")

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Eric (registered) | Posted March 23, 2015 at 11:28:43

Great article, Don. It is definitely discouraging when there is such a disparity between our planet's needs (which are really no different from our own!) and human policies/actions/behaviour. Climate change is scary and it means those in power are likely to lose a lot of money. Hence the denial. Moving forward will be difficult, but we must not give up.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Believer (anonymous) | Posted March 23, 2015 at 11:39:15

"Corruption has appeared throughout the land and sea because of what the hands of men have earned, that He may make them taste a part of that which they have done, in order that they may return." (Qur'an 30:41)

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Dylan (registered) | Posted March 24, 2015 at 07:40:27

I love the anti-global warming conspiracy theories.

"Global warming is a natural phenomenon! We didn't do it! I love my Hummer! Stop trying to force long-term savings and sustainability on me!"

  1. It is, but it's being greatly accelerated and exaggerated by man. And even if it were natural, who cares? Comets are a natural phenomenon, should we let them send us the way of the dinosaurs too?

  2. Hummers are for douche bags and PR firms pushing energy drinks.

  3. ...... well, I don't know quite what to say about that. Money and economic stability is good?

Comment edited by Dylan on 2015-03-24 07:41:41

Permalink | Context

By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted March 24, 2015 at 12:34:37 in reply to Comment 110452

If you are only skeptical of those things which attack your already established beliefs, you are not making much of your skepticism. Question everything. Anon.

Permalink | Context

By Dylan (registered) | Posted March 24, 2015 at 18:01:21 in reply to Comment 110463

There's nothing inherently wrong with skepticism, but how exactly does one "question everything"?

We're not experts, so the questions to be asked in this case are:

Q. What do the experts say? A. Overwhelming agreement on man made or at least facilitated climate change.

Q. Is the data and methodology they use sound?
A. Difficult for a layman to answer, but ice and geological sampling would seem to be a pretty established science with quantifiable results. Objective comparisons, extrapolations, and conclusions should easily achievable.

Q. Is there reasonable suspicion that the experts would try to deceive the public? A. Unless the overwhelming majority of climatologists have investments in solar cell technology, I highly doubt it. People with money like to keep their money and maintain the status quo. Is declaring a climactic doomsday maintaining the status quo? No. Is denying it? Yes.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 24, 2015 at 19:45:22 in reply to Comment 110483

People with money like to keep their money and maintain the status quo

This is exactly why we are at risk of getting one of the most evil trade agreements ever devised on Earth to date. The TPP.

People have absolutely no idea the sh*tstorm that is coming for Canada's (our democratic) attempts to protect its people and environment. Already multiple countries are getting sued for putting warnings on cigarette packs. Sane people who are not psychopaths, all over the world, are astonished and wondering if this is a joke. It's not. Psychopaths intend to codify profit trumping all life on earth.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2015-03-24 19:53:56

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 24, 2015 at 12:44:12 in reply to Comment 110463

Agreed, and this is actually very important.

However, science is not a belief system. Math is not a belief system. It is a rigorous, constantly self-correcting description of reality. By definition, not open for debate, by definition, doesn't care what anyone "thinks".

Unfortunately, interpretation of data can be a belief system, and there is where people's filters are creating quite the argument - among those who aren't immersed in the science.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2015-03-24 12:46:40

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 24, 2015 at 12:41:46 in reply to Comment 110463

Skepticism means you should not believe something if there is not clear evidence to support it. Skepticism doesn't mean you should doubt everything regardless of what the evidence says.

The theory of anthropocentric climate change has been questioned exhaustively and continues to be questioned and tested in a huge variety of different ways through various scientific domains and approaches. That is entirely appropriate and is how good science is conducted.

What is not approprate is to continue to doubt something that is strongly supported by a broad, deep and mutually reinforcing body of empirical research. When "question everything" is taken to mean "deny the evidence", we have left the realm of science and entered the realm of ideology and corporate interest peddling.

Comment edited by administrator Ryan on 2015-03-24 12:43:25

Permalink | Context

By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted March 24, 2015 at 14:41:14 in reply to Comment 110467

Phlogiston.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 24, 2015 at 16:12:59 in reply to Comment 110470

Fascinating that you bring that up! If you read the hypothesis, it's actually a decent early guess. You could replace the word phlogiston with "carbon dioxide" and it is an incomplete but approximate description. Trying to figure out what phlogiston was, led to uncovering of more and more of the periodic table; speaking of alchemy in general.

We've progressed from phlogiston theory, to understanding oxidation, to understanding carbon dioxide, to understanding greenhouse effect, to experimentally verifying it in labs and on earth and on other planets, to quantifying historical norms in our current agriculturally friendly epoch, to using quantum mechanics to create computers that can process gargantuan amounts of computations and make some (admittedly non-linear) extrapolations, with multiple models checking for conflicts wherever possible.

Current climate science is as far removed from phlogiston, as our trip to the moon is from early naive attempts to cross the Atlantic - far from complete, but starting to establish some rigor and predictability against real world experiments and observation that tell us what we need to know.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2015-03-24 16:16:50

Permalink | Context

By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted March 25, 2015 at 13:03:35 in reply to Comment 110478

The point of raising Phlogiston in Kuhn's theory of paradigms was that people held and lost academic careers over their wedding to the theory when in fact we now know that there never has been any such element.

The current climate models are based on numerous assumptions and do not answer all questions. Like in all areas of science, the debates get heated as careers ride on the theories. I raised the point for Dylan because this has all happened before historically (think of Giordano Bruno who died, in part, because he opposed the Ptolemaic theory of cosmology.) Time will tell as to the degree to which human existence influences the climate.

For my part, arguments against waste are far more convincing than global climate change being caused by CO2. Cutting down forests and destroying the oceans may prove to be far more influential on climate than CO2 emissions, but who will care when Hamilton is under a kilometer of ice.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2015-03-25 13:06:54

Permalink | Context

By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted March 25, 2015 at 13:47:53 in reply to Comment 110515

Give me a break. The Phlogiston theory was fully discredited by the late 1700s - by people doing, you know, science.

A much better analogy would be people continuing to deny oxidation in the face of steadily accumulating empirical data in support of it - like the steadily accumulating empirical data in support of global warming and anthropogenic climate change.

Permalink | Context

By CharlesBall (registered) | Posted March 25, 2015 at 15:20:38 in reply to Comment 110519

That is the danger, I suppose, of using one words answers. I was not clear and you indeed make my point.

Phlogiston was not initially discredited when Lavoisier proposed that a gas was required for combustion in 1780. In fact, for over 50 years people denied oxidization in the face of the steadily accumulating data. That is exactly my point.

Unlike Chemistry, which is indeed a mature science, climatology, remains an immature science in spite of giant leaps over the past 30 years. It was a mere 40 years ago that some of the same scientists were proposing the impending emergence of an ice age.

But I give in. Instead of questioning everything, Anon should have said what? Question everything except current climate science?

Like I said, for me it does not matter, wasting energy and polluting are wrong regardless of climate science.

Comment edited by CharlesBall on 2015-03-25 15:24:12

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 25, 2015 at 16:22:19 in reply to Comment 110521

In fact, for over 50 years people denied oxidization in the face of the steadily accumulating data. That is exactly my point.

Ironically, it is also exactly my point.

Data is showing a warming trend that accelerated dramatically in the 20th century. Arctic ice loss is accelerating. Antarctic ice loss is accelerating. CO2 has been WAY below 400ppm for at least a million years. Oceans are acidifying.

From my point of view, it is the deniers that refuse to accept oxidation in the face of mounting evidence. And when you look and who and why, one could even extend the analogy further, it's like the Church attacking astronomy because it undermines the established orthodoxy.

This is actually a fun conversation. I am delighted that we can agree on responsible use of resources, good stewardship, and waste reduction.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2015-03-25 16:25:55

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 25, 2015 at 16:13:52 in reply to Comment 110521

Like I said, for me it does not matter, wasting energy and polluting are wrong regardless of climate science.

That really is the heart of the matter. And like you said, comments lead to wording issues - I know very well that forest loss removes carbon sinks, and the oceans absorb carbon which is acidifying them enough that creatures's shells are already weakening and we risk a jellyfish dominated ocean.

I agree with the root of your point completely. Good stewardship.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By Capitalist (anonymous) | Posted March 24, 2015 at 12:35:58

"Where does denial stop? One can sort of sympathize with Hamilton Spectator editor Paul Berton's reluctance to stop publishing climate change denialists."

Now you know why people don't buy newspapers anymore.

Permalink | Context

By mayornot (registered) | Posted March 24, 2015 at 13:22:23 in reply to Comment 110464

I know Don was being sardonic, but I'm not sure whether in your comment, you, Cptlst, think people stopped buying papers because of sad, even silly ideas like Berton Jr.'s, or for some other reason. Some online responses to Berton's column were good, others part of that odd & worse cess-pool that much of the Spec's "permitted" comments are. If you are a right wing crackpot [e.g. Steve from Burlington: commies Islamicists, on & on], good. If you respond harshly to that, we won't see your "name" in the Comments again. [Re his hurray Netanyahu right or wrong, somebody wrote recently that the 'Steve' isn't Jewish. Hurray for small mercies.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By denialist (anonymous) | Posted March 27, 2015 at 06:25:56

Comments with a score below -5 are hidden by default.

You can change or disable this comment score threshold by registering an RTH user account.

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 27, 2015 at 07:48:43 in reply to Comment 110615

Acid rain was mitigated because we did something about it when observation indicated a problem. Emissions causing it began to be much more strictly regulated.

The ozone loss was mitigated because we did something about it when observation began to indicate a problem. HFCs began to be more strictly regulated and replaced with non ozone destroying variants.

See how that works? Identify problem, act on it, warning does not play out.

As for your comments on climate, your word play is not only illogical, it is unworthy of response.

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By denialist (anonymous) | Posted March 28, 2015 at 07:40:45

mikeonthemountain must be king or don or something.

Acid Rain has NOT been resolved, it has been memory holed. Test the rain yourself with your tongue or your pool test kit. It's like vinegar most times.

There is a book called "Global Warming and Global Feudalism", a discourse by G. Edward Griffin. Without notes or preparation, G. Edward Griffin fields tough questions about the United Nations, global warming, and how these topics are tied together. Here are some of the issues covered:

Is the UN mankind's last best hope for peace or the foundation for global feudalism?

Is the UN controlled by leaders of member nations or by hidden structures and power brokers? If the latter, who are they?

Are American elitists motivated by love of country, devotion to international harmony, or something less admirable?

Do we have an obligation to the UN? If so, what is it and why?

Is it possible to get out of the UN, or have we passed the point of no return?

With regard to global warming, what is Agenda 21?

Is forced population-control justified to save the planet?

Is the UN's report on global warming based on valid science? If not, then what?

If the mission of the World Health Organization is not world health, then what?

What are the IMF and World Bank, and why should anyone care about them?

What is the Freedom Force strategy for reversing the trend toward global feudalism?

I haven't read it myself but at $19.50US, I think you should.
realityzone(dot)com/glwaglfe.html

Permalink | Context

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 28, 2015 at 08:22:00 in reply to Comment 110673

As for acid rain, despite significant improvements, we stop trying because things don't self-repair immediately?

Some lakes (particularly in the East) have more trouble neutralizing acid on their own because of the granite bed. So when we pump SO2 and NO into the air, those lakes can't handle it. Canada, in particular, has reduced SO2 emission by two-thirds since 1980. What does this have to do with Elites stuffing us into woodchippers?

And the ozone hole? NASA doesn't expect it to heal until 2070. But by removing the offending emissions, we reduced the damage we were causing, and it has started healing, so we get to still HAVE an ozone layer.

I haven't read it myself but at $19.50US, I think you should.

There ya go. I didn't think your comment was informed.

Comment edited by mikeonthemountain on 2015-03-28 08:38:32

Permalink | Context

[ - ]

By mikeonthemountain (registered) | Posted March 28, 2015 at 07:58:31

"What do you think of the Obama administration"

I read a bit about the author. I'd like to hear from scientists, thanks. I stopped listening to Alex Jones a long time ago. The problem with conspiracy theorists, is that legitimate concerns get lost in the crazy. And if I'm Don, then you're smart.

Permalink | Context

View Comments: Nested | Flat

Post a Comment

You must be logged in to comment.

Events Calendar

Recent Articles

Article Archives

Blog Archives

Site Tools

Feeds