A Few Things Ill Considered

A layman's take on the science of Global Warming featuring a guide on How to Talk to a Climate Sceptic.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

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Oh Canada

Today's Financial Post has run an open letter to the Prime Minister of Canada. You can read it online here. It is an embarrassment. (I heard about it here, FWIW, fairly deep into the comments)

Amongst all the hand waves that strike me as completely detached from reality, two things stuck out:

"Observational evidence does not support today's computer climate models, so there is little reason to trust model predictions of the future."

"It was only 30 years ago that many of today's global-warming alarmists were telling us that the world was in the midst of a global-cooling catastrophe. "
The first, about the models, is hard to argue as they do not specify what observations they think do not fit the models. I am frankly not aware of any serious contradictions. It is likely this is an oblique reference to James Hansen's 1988 testimony and Patrick Micheals' subsequent perjury about it to the US congress in 1998. I have debunked that persistent urban legend here. It could also be a reference to satellite readings of upper and mid tropospheric warming. However last year, Spencer and Christy re-did this anaysis yet again after uncovering further errors and now the warming trend they found is in fact in agreement with model predictions. That was a big blow to the "What warming?" crowd. You can read some detail and see some references here.
(I note that Roy Spencer is one of the signatories, he at least should know what his own results are.)

The second quote about predictions from the 70's is also an urban legend (I'm being kind, many if not most of the people signing to that should know it for the lie it is, especially as they have it stated).

I am not generally a believer in arguments from authority or attacks on other's credentials, scientific arguments must stand on their own. However, this letter, as I said above, is one big hand wave with nothing specific or substantive to address, so I feel justified to note that most of the signatories are not climate scientists and it includes the usual batch of sceptical political economists and the regular cast of denialists for hire: Micheals, Baliunas, Singer, Peiser, Jaworowski, Essex and McKitrick.

There some demonstrable liars in there.

Some other standards:

Sorry, that letter is garbage.

[Please see this important update!]



  • At April 07, 2006 2:46 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The article is indeed an embarrassment !

    The most ridiculous part of the whole article is:

    "Nevertheless, significant advances have been made since the protocol was created, many of which are taking us away from a concern about increasing greenhouse gases. If, back in the mid-1990s, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would almost certainly not exist, because we would have concluded it was not necessary."

    Right.....I am sure that when the next IPCC assessment comes out the
    authors of this statement will be shocked that it does not reach the
    same findings. Wait...they all likely believe that the IPCC is a
    component of some "international enviro commie" self-deluded conspiracy
    to ruin western economies so perhaps they will not be surprised at all.

  • At April 07, 2006 4:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ugh. The article makes me sick. Just when I thought that the tide was turning and people were finally taking climate change seriously.
    So what are Canadians to do? Should we be writing to Harper?


  • At April 07, 2006 4:30 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi Catherine,

    Sounds like a good idea or at least/as well writing to the National Post. As David mentioned, the next IPCC report is very shortly due, there may be a big push to make bad decisions before the new report removes all excuses.

    It sure would be a travesty for the Canadian gov't to make big decisions like pull out of (and likely pulling the plug on) the Kyoto treaty without waiting a few more months for a critical report 6 years on the making.

  • At April 07, 2006 7:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Coby, what goes around comes around.

    This link:


    will take you to the similar 2003 letter to the Honorable Paul Martin pleading the same. Interesting note: of the 61 2006 signators, 31 signed the 2003 letter.

    So many scientists eager to toss their Dr. credentials into the political ring and with wild abandon.

    Just a history piece I thought you might find interesting.

    And, thanks for the time and effort on your new page. Five stars.

    John McCormick

  • At April 07, 2006 7:41 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Thanks for that link. Yes, it is quite the busy bunch of nattering nabobs, isn't it? They don't seem to notice much of the new science, the claims in the second letter are even more exagerated.

  • At April 11, 2006 5:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…


    Great to see things from a Canadian perspective. I think that we should take issue with the letter (in the past I have had a pretty good track record at getting published in the NP).

    However with the current minority government I can't see it making any major changes or else it will fall. The NDP and (as far as I can tell) the PQ are committed to Kyoto and of course the Liberals introduced it.

    Kyoto does not seem to resonate with Canadians as it does in the States or Australia.

    I am somewhat disapointed with the poor progress that Canada has made. There are a lot of easy cuts that they could be making in terms of energy efficiency which is a win-win for everyone.

    John Cross

  • At April 11, 2006 10:09 AM, Blogger coby said…

    Hi John,

    I agree that that letter should be countered. If not with letters to the PM, then at least letters to the National Post.

    You're probably right that pulling out of Kyoto is too big a move for this minority gov't but as you say, public opinion is not that solid here so there is good that can be done.

  • At September 16, 2006 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I just happened on this article and I'm crestfallen. As a Canadian living in the US, and as part of a group that produced The Great Warming documentary - to be released in the US just before the Nov elections - I've been fairly smug about how much more forward-thinking my home country is. This article is idiocy. I have to admit I experienced 'green events' in Montreal only, and Quebec seems to have embraced Kyoto as well as individual change. Still, if the religious right is coming around in the US, surely Canadians can at least keep up! Lisa T

  • At September 16, 2006 4:07 PM, Blogger coby said…

    Yes, I'm afraid the Harper is taking us back on this issue, or trying at least. The climate change section of the Canadian Gov't's website just recently vanished! Now there is just a link to a couple of generic environmental sections...



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