Standing On Guard For The Tar Sands: Canada Wins Two Fossil Awards on Day 1 of Climate Talks

Today’s guest blogger is Ani, a member of the Canadian Youth Delegation representing Manitoba at the Durban climate conference. Ani works as a Public Education and Outreach Coordinator for Climate Change Connection, a project of the Manitoba Eco-Network. To read more about Ani, visit her info page at

While I’m experiencing my first day at COP 17 and struggle to figure out why the rooms are named after plants, materials and geographical locations and wonder why no one has provided me with a giant map of the Conference Centre, my email inbox filled up with rumors about Canada preparing to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol next month.

I felt inspired by Christiana Figueres (Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) opening remarks during the plenary reminding countries to reassure that they are committed to work towards a real deal quoting Nelson Mandela – “It seems impossible, until it is done.” Only a few minutes later it was confirmed that Canada plans to pull out of the Kyoto Protocol, the only legally binding emissions agreement, early next month. Peter Kent declared to the Canadian Press that he is coming into the negotiations ready “to play hardball with developing countries.” For some reason I thought it was those developing countries who should be playing hardball with developed countries.

Following these developments the day ended with the fossil of the day award. Both, First and Second Place were earned by Canada for failing to support a second commitment period and undermining the value of the Kyoto Protocol. Rounding out the awards, the United Kingdom received Third Place for helping to move tar sands oil into Europe.


Earlier last week Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent said he hoped to win less fossils than his predecessors, he is not off to a very good start!

More links:

Youth Delegate

Fossil of the Day: Climate Action Network International

Bracing For Disappointment As Durban Climate Talks Begin

The annual circus round of global climate talks starts on Monday in South Africa. I wish I was feeling more optimistic about the possibility of elected politicians to come to an agreement that would preserve an admittedly changed, but still relatively stable climate, for future generations. As the IEA reminded us recently, we have five years left. If nothing changes by 2017, if we don’t revolutionize energy systems, if  countries can’t agree on a global climate deal, global warming will breach the 2 degrees Celsius barrier and we will be locked into runaway climate change.

As I type this, I’m bracing myself to listen to our federal “Environment” Minister Peter Kent on CBC radio’s The House. Sure enough, he starts by bashing the Kyoto Accord, and then goes on to cover Canada’s inaction on climate change with the fig leaf of wanting “all the world’s emitters” to be part of an agreement. The Kyoto Accord, as Evan Solomon points out, was a binding agreement, unlike Copenhagen. In response, Mr. Kent feels that Canada is “well on its way” to meeting its (unacceptably low) 2020 targets. Then he pulls out that old chestnut, that Canada represents only 2% of the world’s emissions (yes, Minister Kent, but we emit much more per capita than any other country except Australia). He doesn’t have a plan to reveal on how Canada will meet the rest of the (unacceptably low) 2020 targets, but says they will be revealed “over time”.  The federal environment watchdog has pointed out that the federal government’s approach is disjointed, but Mr. Kent defends the Harper government’s piecemeal, half-hearted approach. In conclusion, Mr. Kent’s ideal outcome for the Durban conference is for a “modest” but non-binding agreement that includes “all emitters”.  Not surprising that this environment minister, who doesn’t understand what ozone is yet has slashed funding for this crucial environmental monitoring, also doesn’t have a clue about the urgency of the climate crisis (although you’d think he’d at least read the International Energy Agency’s reports, coming as it does from a petroleum industry watchdog, as opposed to anything that scientists or environmentalists produce which Kent’s ideological bent would disallow).

I fear what we will see in Durban is many politicians but few leaders, even as we teeter closer to the precipice of global climate catastrophe.

Durban COP17 Resources:

Allianz Knowledge, an insurance and financial giant, has excellent resources for understanding climate change in general, and the U.N. climate talks in general:

Are Durban Climate Talks Worth the Bother?

Politicians Need To Listen To the People, Not the Polluters

The House: November 26, 2011

Hamilton: Fiscal Challenges? Maybe It’s Time To Reconsider a Carbon Tax

Anti-Science Hackers Recycle Stolen Emails Prior to Durban Climate Talks

It turns out the fossil fuel industry is into recycling (who knew?).  The hacked emails from the University of East Anglia’s climate centre have been re-released just prior to COP17, the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa next week. While ultimately all the climate scientists who were widely vilified on the internet at the time of the original email release  were vindicated in no less than nine different investigations, the “climategate” scandal managed to derail the Copenhagen climate talks quite nicely. The “climategate” emails worked so well in 2009 that the forces behind the initial hacking are trying again, because while one can no longer attack the science of climate change, apparently one can still try to attack climate scientists.  In this repost from “The Conversation“,  Professor Stephan Lewandowsky, Australian Professorial Fellow, Cognitive Science Laboratories, University Of Western Australia, discusses the real climategate:

An ambulance pulls up behind you. You know it’s an ambulance because you can read AMBULANCE in your rear view mirror. But you can also read it when you look at the vehicle directly; because the human visual system has the ability to quickly correct complete inversions or left-right reversals of letters. In fact, a complete inversion is easier to read than letters that are rotated only partially.

This human ability to process complete inversions more quickly than just partial distortions, alas, lends itself to exploitation by ruthless propagandists who seek to create a chimerical world in which up is down, left is right, and good is smeared as evil.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the netherworld of attacks on climate scientists.

Remember “climategate”? The illegal hack of personal emails released just before the Copenhagen climate conference in 2009 that some columnists pronounced to be the (approximately 132nd) “final nail in the coffin” of global warming?

Remember the “errors” in the IPCC’s 2007 report? “Amazongate”, “Himalayagate”, and so on?

What has happened to “climategate”?

What’s happened is this.

First, the UK Parliament’s Science and Technology Committee exonerated the scientist at the centre of the tempest, Professor Phil Jones, finding he has “no case to answer” and that his reputation “remains intact.”

Then Lord Oxburgh (former chairman of Shell-UK) and his panel likewise exonerated the researchers, finding their “work has been carried out with integrity, and that allegations of deliberate misrepresentation” are “not valid.”

Another enquiry, chaired by Sir Muir Russell, found the scientists’ “rigour and honesty” to be beyond doubt.

Two enquiries by his university also cleared Professor Michael Mann – who presented the first of now innumerable “hockey stick” graphs – of all allegations.

Ultimately the (conservative) UK Government concluded “the information contained in the illegally-disclosed emails does not provide any evidence to discredit … anthropogenic climate change.”

Not one, not two, but by now nine vindications.

This comes as no surprise to anyone with even a passing familiarity with the distinction between private chat and public actions.

And what has happened to the IPCC “Whatevergates”?

What’s happened is this.

First, the Sunday Times apologised and retracted its “Amazongate” story. There is no “Amazongate”; there is only the Amazon rainforest threatened by climate change.

Then the Dutch government accepted responsibility for erroneously informing the IPCC that 55% of the Netherlands are below sea level. In fact only 26% are at risk of flooding because they are below sea level, whereas the other 29% are, err, at risk of flooding from rivers.

And about a year after “climategate” broke, the BBC finally apologised to the University of East Anglia for its misleading coverage of the “climategate” pseudo-scandal.

All that’s left of the “Whatevergates”, therefore, is red-faced apologies and one indubitable IPCC error: the incorrect projection of the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers to 2035, as opposed to the more likely 2350. This error was drawn to the public’s attention by, wait for it, an IPCC author.

Can we now forget about “gate” in connection with “climate”?


Because there are too many real climategates that must not escape attention.

First, there was another batch of private emails posted by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a “think” tank notorious even by American standards. Those emails — yes, a second hack — revealed the real climategate by being truthful, with one scientist stating: “Those who deny the biophysical facts of the world would deny … gravity” and “we’re not in a gentlepersons’ debate, we’re in a street fight against … merciless enemies. Colleagues … are getting threatened with prosecution by … [US Senator James M.] Inhofe.”

That is the second real climategate: the McCarthyite attempts by Senator Inhofe to criminalise climate scientists — attempts to criminalize those who, 35 years ago, predicted the temperature rise by century’s end to within 1/10th of a degree.

This is no isolated incident: Virginia’s Attorney General, Ken Cuccinelli, has launched several frivolous lawsuits — despite losing an earlier one — against the University of Virginia in what the Washington Post called a “war on the freedom of academic inquiry”“. And Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman evoked Pastor Niemoeller’s cry against the erosion of humanity under the Nazis: “First, they came for the climate scientists…”.

The real climategate involves active censorship within NASA by Bush appointees, which the agency’s Inspector General later found to have “reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science”.

The real climategate involves Bush White House staff replacing assessments of the National Academy of Sciences with a discredited paper by two individuals with no expertise in climatology. This paper, funded by the American Petroleum Institute, was so flawed its appearance in a peer-reviewed journal led to the resignation in protest by three editors and the publisher’s unprecedented acknowledgement of mishandling.

Those are not merely historical episodes because the real climategate encompasses the ongoing complicity of some media organs.

In Canada, the real media climategate involves the ongoing list of defamatory articles by the “National Post.” The tabloid is finally being sued by Professor Andrew Weaver of the University of Victoria.

In Australia, the real media climategate involves the national daily newspaper, whose misrepresentations of science are legendary and, sadly ongoing.

Those real climategates are the tip of an iceberg of venality enveloping anti-science interests and their enablers.

And just a few hours ago, another illegal release of personal emails among scientists was dumped on to the world in the lead-up to the next climate conference in Durban. First Copenhagen, now Durban. When the science is so rock solid that it can no longer be reasonably doubted, all that is left is to steal private correspondence in a desperate attempt to disparage those who are trying to protect the world from the risks it is facing.

Joseph Welch famously brought down Joe McCarthy with a simple question: “Have you no sense of decency?”

This year has already witnessed multiple events that break climate records: the drought in East Africa, the worst drought in Texas’ recorded history, and record breaking storms and floods in the US south. Those events, anticipated by climatologists decades ago, should remind us that those who persecute and harass scientists, or mendaciously misrepresent their actions and findings, have no sense of decency.

That is the real climategate.

More Links:

There Is A Real Climategate Out There

Snippets of Stolen Emails Cannot Make Earth Flat