THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY, THE ENVIRONMENT AND NATURAL RESOURCES
OTTAWA, Thursday, December 15, 2011
The Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources met this day at 8 a.m. to study the current state and future of Canada’s energy sector (including alternative energy).
Senator W. David Angus(Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: Good morning, everyone. Maybe I should say good afternoon. Welcome. This is a regular meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources. We continue our study into the energy sector, with a view to developing a strategic framework for a more sustainable, more efficient, cleaner and greener future energy system in this country.
We have been at this for almost three years now. The committee has just finished two weeks of travelling in the western part of the country, continuing its dialogue with Canadians on these matters of energy, the environment and the economy, all three of which are inextricably intertwined. We are back here with our heads spinning with all kinds of wonderful new data, information and things that we learned in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the last two weeks.
This morning, colleagues, we will have a slightly different perspective on the climate change issue. As you know, we have all heard many things about climate change as it relates to and affects the production and use of energy. We have heard many people say that we need a price on carbon. We have had some lonely voices in the West saying that maybe we should not have a price on carbon. This morning we have invited four distinguished professors who have expertise in climate, in geology and in paleontology. I hope you all have their biographies. I read them all last night.
You are all distinguished gentleman. Rather than read all your bios, I will trust that my colleagues have had a look at them. Perhaps when you are in the middle of your discussions, or before you begin, you might want to elaborate on your backgrounds.
We senators, of course, never know whether we will get home for Christmas or stay here to bring the coal over to Mr. Justin Trudeau or any of his colleagues. However, we will try to keep the four witnesses to 10 minutes each and then have questions. I am hoping we will have 15 minutes at the end for an in camera session about our trip and about the way forward.
Without further ado, I am Senator David Angus, from the province of Quebec. I chair the committee. Here also are Senator Grant Mitchell, the deputy chair, from Alberta; Marc LeBlanc and Sam Banks from the parliamentary library, Senator Richard Neufeld, from British Columbia; a guest with us today, a man who has been hovering on the edges of our committee, a great guru from the northern part of Canada, Senator Dennis Patterson; Senator Bert Brown, from Alberta, Canada's only elected senator at present; our clerk, Lynne Gordon; my predecessor, Senator Tommy Banks, from Alberta; Senator Rob Peterson, from Saskatchewan; the pit bull from Whitehorse, Yukon, Senator Daniel Lang, who is well known to the committee and who is also a welcome guest this morning; and Canada's female athlete of the 20th century, Senator Greene Raine from B.C. She had a bit of a hand in the program this morning, colleagues. She has been following our deliberations and our issues with great interest, debating with me into the wee hours of the morning on issues. I think she made the point that it is good to hear both sides of the story, so that is what we will do. Last but not least, we have, from New Brunswick, Senator John Wallace.
I believe you gentlemen will proceed one after the other.
Ross McKitrick, Professor, Department of Economics, University of Guelph, as an individual: My name is Ross McKitrick. I am a full professor of economics at the University of Guelph, where I specialize in environmental economics. I have published on both the economics of climate change and statistical analysis in climatology. I was an expert reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report, and, in 2006, I was one of 12 experts from around the world asked to brief a panel of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences examining paleo-climate reconstruction methodology.
The global warming issue is often described with emphatic claims that the science is settled, the situation is urgent and the necessary actions are obvious. The reality is that there are deep disagreements about underlying scientific issues. There is reason to believe the problem has been exaggerated, and most policy proposals simply do not pass objective cost-benefit tests. Amidst the disputes and controversies of the past few years, I believe two points have emerged with clarity.
First, the economics of climate change do not favour Kyoto-type commitments. Under current and foreseeable technologies, the greenhouse gas policies that we can afford to undertake would have such small climatic impacts as to be pointless. The same kinds of models that are used to forecast global warming predict that, if all the signatories to the Kyoto Protocol complied with their commitments, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that we would have observed by 2100 would instead have been reached by about 2105, a trivial difference. Kyoto was too costly for countries to reach. When a policy is proposed that is too costly to implement and yields benefits that are too small to measure, you would expect reasonable people to see it as a bad idea. Instead, we observed a dogmatic elite consensus in support of Kyoto. In my mind, this never validated Kyoto; it merely discredited the elite consensus and suggested to me that the international political milieu in charge of the climate issue was unduly susceptible to groupthink.
Unlike such air pollutants as sulphur dioxide and particulates, which Canada has been very successful in reducing, CO2 is not easy to capture. Once captured, there is no obvious way to dispose of it. There appears to be no way to cut CO2 emissions on a large scale without cutting energy consumption and impeding economic activity.
Despite their enthusiasm for embracing targets, policy-makers around the world have not been able to cut CO2 emissions while pursuing economic growth. Simply put, with regard to most climate policy, the cure is worse than the disease.
Second, the official process for assessing technical and scientific information on climate change for the purpose of advising policy-makers has become untrustworthy due to bias and partisanship. As a member of the expert review team for the last IPCC report, I saw things take place that violated long-standing principles of peer review.
I documented some of them in various publications since 2007, but the issues never received much attention until the fall of 2009, when thousands of emails from top IPCC scientists were leaked onto the Internet. The so-called Climategate emails confirmed the reality of bias and cronyism in the IPCC process. You may not know, but another 5,000 emails were leaked back in November. The news leaks last month provided even more confirmation that climate scientists privately express greater doubts and disagreement about climate science among themselves than is reflected in IPCC reports.
Earlier this year I was asked by the London-based Global Warming Policy Foundation to review IPCC procedures and to make recommendations for reform. My report was published last month and includes a foreword written by John Howard, the former Prime Minister of Australia. I have included a copy with my submission. I mainly focus on how the IPCC handled issues with which I have first-hand knowledge, as a contributor to the peer-reviewed literature on the subject, and on the IPCC text on which I worked closely in my capacity as an expert reviewer.
The IPCC is not a neutral observer of the scientific process. Instead, it has a party line. It is controlled by a relatively small bureau in Geneva, consisting of a small core surrounded by a network of supportive academics and government officials. The oversight body, called the IPCC Plenary Panel, is passive, inattentive and overly deferential to the bureau. In effect, there is no oversight.
The bureau picks lead authors who share their views. They are routinely placed in the position of reviewing their own work and that of their critics and are free to rule in their own favour. Lead authors are also free to reject reviewer comments, override review editors and even rewrite text after the close of the peer-review process. The combination of bureau control over the selection of lead authors and a toothless peer-review process means that IPCC assessments are guaranteed merely to repeat and reinforce a set of foregone conclusions that make up the party line.
In my report I document some disturbing cases where the IPCC violated proper peer-review practices. These include manipulating prominent graphs so as to conceal known flaws in the statistical basis of paleo-climate reconstructions and to exaggerate evidence that modern climate change is historically exceptional — this is the so-called "hide the decline" scandal; fabricating a statistical test result to provide a rationale for dismissing published evidence of urbanization-related contamination of the surface temperature record on which key IPCC conclusions were based; waiting until the close of peer review, then removing text that had initially and correctly cautioned readers that the IPCC method of calculating warming trends likely exaggerated their significance and replacing it with unsupported text saying the opposite.
My report documents these and other incidents that, in my view, suffice to discredit its claims to rigour and objectivity and point to the need for procedural reform. In 2010, the InterAcademy Council reviewed IPCC procedures and drew attention to many of the same problems as my report does. Unfortunately, the IPCC's internal reform process has gone nowhere. I discuss this problem in section 4 of my report.
At this point, we could simply muddle along for another 20 years enacting more and more costly and wasteful schemes based on the increasingly biased and unreliable guidance of the international climate policy milieu. That would be the easiest course of action, but it would not serve the public interest. The more difficult option would be to begin the hard work of improving the decision-making process itself, starting with reform of the IPCC.
My published research has led me to believe that the IPCC has overstated the global warming issue. I have shown that the spatial pattern of warming trends in the surface temperature record is strongly correlated with the spatial pattern of industrialization, even though this pattern is not predicted by climate models as a response to greenhouse gases. This indicates that the standard climate data sets likely have a warm bias due to their failure to correct for disturbances of the land surface from urbanization, agriculture and so forth.
I have also shown that climate models predict significantly more warming over the past 30 years in the tropical troposphere than is observed in satellite or weather balloon records. This is a key region for measuring the water vapour feedbacks that control the magnitude of greenhouse warming. Despite this being the region that models say should be warming fastest in response to greenhouse gases, the 50-year balloon record actually shows no positive trend once the effect of ocean circulation changes in the late 1970s are removed from the record. One of the most telling emails in the so-called Climategate 2.0 archive that was released last month involves one IPCC expert warning another that their efforts to finesse this issue by deceptive trend analysis is "a fool's paradise."
Today you have a chance to hear from a number of serious Canadian scientists about work that they and their colleagues have done that also calls into question aspects of the IPCC party line. The fact that you have learned little of what they are about to tell you does not indicate any deficiencies in the research they or their colleagues have done. Instead, it points to the deficiencies in the process that was supposed to have brought this information to your attention long before now.
The Chair: Professor, thank you for your candour. It was a well-presented outline of the issues without pulling any punches. I want to ask you a question before I go to the next presenter. You keep talking about these leaks and we keep reading about these leaks. I chair a big hospital board, and every morning in Montreal I am reading in the paper about stuff that happened in my board meetings. They say, "Oh, well, it's a leak." Who are these leakers? Do you have any idea?
Mr. McKitrick: In the fall of 2009, I was interviewed by the U.K. police because I was living in the U.K. at the time. My conjecture at the time was that it was an accidental disclosure of an archive by the university that had been prepared in response to a freedom of information request. However, there has emerged an individual in the U.K. who is anonymous, who has engineered the second leak and has also released an archive of what looks like at least another 20,000 emails, but it is encrypted. The individual has indicated he is not prepared to release the decryption code. It appears to be a single individual with access to a server at the University of East Anglia. The emails cover a span from the late 1990s up to the fall of 2009. The person clearly understands the issues because he or she has selected according to specific themes that are relevant to climate research.
Just yesterday the U.K. police raided a few bloggers and also issued retention orders to some American Internet providers. They are trying to find out the identity of the person.
The Chair: We are trained to be cynical here. When people like to remain anonymous the credibility is in question. However, I just wanted to make that point because over in the U.K. is a well-known international leak waiting to be extradited to Sweden. I think his name is Assange.
Mr. McKitrick: Julian Assange. In this case the emails are not anonymous and they have been validated by the people involved that these were actually the emails.
The Chair: Are they all from that same source at East Anglia University?
Mr. McKitrick: Yes.
The Chair: Our next presenter is Professor Ian D. Clark, Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa.
Ian D. Clark, Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa, as an individual: Good morning, senators. I want to thank you very much for giving us this opportunity to talk about the science behind global warming. This is the first time that I have tried to teach my paleo-climate course in 10 minutes, but I will give it my best shot.
What I want to present today is global temperature and CO2, the geological record. We will go back through time, and we will start with the last 150 years. This period of time is characterized by a cold spell that we refer to as the Little Ice Age. It ended about 1900. This was a period when glaciers advanced globally. Agriculture failures were common. The Greenland colonies failed. However, it ended about 1900, and that started what we call the 20th century warming trend.
We have had about 100 years of warming. This warming trend is rather bimodal. We had warming up to the 1940s, cooling again through the 1950s and 1960s to the mid-1970s, and then a second warming trend through the 1980s and 1990s.
If we look at CO2 during that time, CO2 was a steady baseline at about 280 ppm in the atmosphere. During this warming trend, CO2 rose up to about 380 ppm today. The warming trend that we are concerned with is really just this last bit, because CO2 in the earlier part of the 20th century was too minor, and the IPCC and most scientists agree that this was all a natural warming trend here and that this is potentially the anthropogenic trend.
Here is the global CO2 anomaly. To put it into perspective, we are looking at about a 35 per cent increase in CO2, derived from ice cores and then dovetailed with air measurements started in the 1950s in Hawaii.
If we look at the past 55 years, we see that through the 1970s temperatures were quite low during that cold spell, and then they started to rise through the 1980s and 1990s, up towards the last decade. Examining the last decade shows that temperatures really have flattened, so we have not really seen any global warming for the past 10 years, some say since the 1998 El Niño. This is in stark contrast with the IPCC forecast of an increase of some 0.2 degrees per decade that should have occurred during this period. What was going on at that time is quite controversial.
Is this 20th century warming unusual? We go back to a thousand years before the present and we see a warm period, which we call the Medieval Warm Period, which centred on a thousand years ago and lasted about 200 years. It is well documented by agricultural records; the Vikings settled in Greenland and came to Canada. There are lots of documentation and proxy records for the Medieval Warm Period, followed by the Little Ice Age and then 20th century warming.
During that period we did not see any effect of CO2. CO2 was flat during this time, and so there is no correlation with this greenhouse gas.
We go back further in time. Over the last 10,000 years, this is the Holocene interglacial period, following the past glacial period when glaciers covered Canada. Here, the 20th century warming is one of a series of climate optima. There is the Medieval Warming Period, the Roman climate optimum during the time of Christ, and then we go back further in the Holocene and we see various optima, warm periods of varying intensity and duration. The current 20th century climate warming is one of a series; there is nothing unusual.
Furthermore, throughout this period, CO2 was a relatively steady 280 ppm. CO2 had nothing to do with these warming periods.
We will go back further in time, here looking at the record from ice cores in Antarctica. These are very robust records of climate. I am reading from present-day back 450,000 years — the records now go back closer to a million years — documenting interglacial periods. Here is the Holocene interglacial. There is the last glacial period when glaciers covered Canada and many parts of Europe. We have these series. Clearly, climate has been changing dramatically over this time period.
When we look at CO2, we see a very strong correlation. CO2 increases during the interglacials, decreases during the glacial maximum period, down to 180 ppm, back up into this last interglacial, again up to 280 to 300 ppm. CO2 strongly correlated with climate, apparently.
We have to look more closely at this correlation. This is where the science becomes obfuscated, particularly by Al Gore and other people promoting CO2 as a forcing agent. Here we are looking at a detailed interface between a glacial period at 245,000 to 240,000, and an interglacial period. We have warming shown in red, and that warming occurs about 800 years prior to the CO2 increase. CO2 is lagging temperature increase by about 800 years.
This has been demonstrated for all these glacial and interglacial interfaces through time. We are always seeing a lag. CO2 is not driving climate. CO2 is not acting as a greenhouse gas over this very important period of strong climate change.
Now we will go back over the last 500 million years of earth history. I am presenting research by Jan Veizer, my colleague here. This record shows a decoupling of CO2 and climate over what we call the Phanerozoic. During the Phanerozoic, what Professor Veizer has shown is that we have had a series of ice houses and greenhouses. We have had ice ages and hothouses, or warm periods, on a rather cyclical time scale over this 500-million-year period. However, when we look at the correlation with CO2, we see high CO2, and these are various models of CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere. This is a log scale. At number 1, we are looking at a tenfold increase of CO2 over today.
Back during our Ordovician glaciation, we had very high CO2. Then it comes down. This is when we created all these coal beds in North America, and CO2 went by sequestration. Here is another Jurassic ice age, and CO2 is five to ten times higher than today. Even over this time frame we do not see a correlation with CO2. We do not see CO2 as a climate driver.
However, we do see this if we look at the model projections going into the future. Here I am showing the IPCC model projections from the year 2000 over the next hundred years. They all climb by about two to three to four degrees Celsius. These are significant increases in temperatures.
How do they model the greenhouse to achieve these temperatures? CO2 is a very minor greenhouse gas. It is a very minor constituent of the atmosphere. It is far from being a strong greenhouse gas. The strongest by far is water vapour. Water vapour is used in these models to drive climate warming. The concept or the model is based on a little bit of CO2 warming, which would be insignificant, amplified by water vapour, a two-to-four-time water vapour feedback, and this feedback effect has never been documented or seen in the geological record, so it remains an hypothesis that we have based all of our predictions on, and this is the only reason we are predicting global warming.
Do the models work?
The Chair: Can I interject? I apologize, sir. As you know, we are being broadcast on the CPAC network and also on the World Wide Web. These overheads you are referring to in your testimony almost continually are not being shown, unfortunately, on the networks because they are not bilingual. That is one of our inviolable rules here in the Senate.
Mr. Clark: I understand.
The Chair: I think your narrative still makes them understandable.
Mr. Clark: I have written testimony that should be published as well.
The Chair: Again, we are not all scientists here. Only one of us is, and not me. You keep talking about greenhouse gases, and you say CO2 is a greenhouse gas, and then the H2O factor. There is a colloquialism in the world that has become part of our regular vocabulary — greenhouse gases. I do not think anyone really knows what they mean when they say it. Could you give a definition?
Mr. Clark: These are the slides I cut from my talk. The planet, without what we call greenhouse gases, with just a transparent atmosphere of nitrogen and oxygen, would be about 32 degrees colder than today. We would have a planet which would be unlivable. It would be frozen.
Thanks to one greenhouse gas, which is water vapour, our planet is about 32 degrees warmer. What water vapour does in the atmosphere is absorb the outgoing radiation. When we warm the planet with solar radiation during the day, it emits that radiation throughout the day and during the night, so the planet cools. If we trap that outgoing radiation, what we call "long wave radiation," or "infrared radiation," like what you see on the hot plates in fast-food restaurants, the heat is retained in the atmosphere and warms the earth's surface. We retain a planet that is now 14 degrees above 0, and habitable.
CO2 represents a couple of per cent of that greenhouse gas effect. It is a very minor greenhouse gas. Water does all the work.
When we talk about the accumulating greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and we focus on CO2, we are being deceptive because CO2 cannot give us the warming that has been projected. To project warming, if we feel we have to account for the past century's warming and project that into the future with CO2, we are obliged to amplify that with water vapour. My graph with the little arrow of CO2 is making the water vapour cycle work. It is preposterous. CO2 is a very minor greenhouse gas, and we are attributing to it all the power in the world to move water vapour around as it will. Preposterous.
The models predict, as Mr. McKitrick pointed out, a hot spot. This is the classic response of our planet — it should be — to an enhanced greenhouse effect where we have between the latitudes of 30 north and 30 south at about 12 kilometres in the troposphere a thumbprint of warming. This is our thumbprint of greenhouse warming, according to the numerical models we are told to believe. If we look at the radiosonde measures, balloon-based temperature readings, there is no hot spot. In fact, we have cooling. We might suggest that the models are incorrect. We can ask what the people who run the models say.
Here is what they say, and these are the famous leaked emails where we get an insight into the thinking of the people who are warning us about catastrophic global warming. Thorne from the Met Office with the Climate Research Unit says, "Observations do not show rising temperatures throughout the tropical troposphere . . . This is just downright dangerous. We need to communicate the uncertainty and be honest. Phil, hopefully we can find time to discuss these further . . ." Phil Jones keeps the temperature records.
Phil Jones responds: "Basic problem is that all models are wrong — not got enough middle and low level clouds." That is, they cannot model water vapour and cloud formation.
Then Wilson pipes in: "What if climate change appears to be just mainly a multi-decadal natural fluctuation? They’ll kill us probably."
These people have great uncertainty in their work, but we do not see that when they present it in the IPCC documents.
What is driving global warming? Well, we have to look at the sun, and we have, unlike CO2, very good correlations between various measures of solar activity and temperature. Here, again, in the Arctic, Arctic temperatures — and there is all our melting in the Arctic — are correlating with solar activity, but not with CO2.
I will show one last bit of research done by Solanki, published in Nature, where he points out that during the recent decades the sun's activity has been greater compared to the last 11,000 years. Here is his graph showing a proxy of solar activity over 11,000 years, and it has peaked in the past 20th century, when we see this 20th century warming. Let us zero in on that little bit, and here is the last thousand years, and here is a bona fide record from the Greenland ice core, a very robust temperature record in blue, and it correlates very well with our solar activity. We have a reason that our climate is warming. It is not CO2.
If I can just summarize, we find that there is no geological evidence that CO2 has behaved in the past as a significant forcing mechanism. CO2 remains at the lowest range today than observed over geological time. I would like to add that it is more than a benign gas. It is an essential nutrient for life and with only beneficial effects. Our efforts to limit the use of fossil carbon-based energy have solved no environmental problems. It has created many more, including the accelerated production of ethanol and the conversion of tropical rain forest to tropical palm oil production. It is time to turn our attention to real, tangible environmental problems.
The Chair: That is another very candid explanation for us. The next presenter is Professor Jan Veizer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa.
Jan Veizer, Professor Emeritus, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Ottawa, as an individual: Prior to my retirement for the last 15 or 20 years, I was a professor both in Germany and at the University of Ottawa. I was also for 20 years the director of the Earth System Evolution Program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. I am supposedly retired since 1974. That is my attitude — retirement is like dying. As Woody Allen said, he is not afraid of dying, but he does not want to be there when it happens.
Mr. Chair and committee members, many people think the science of climate change is settled. It is not. The issue is not whether there has been an over warming during the past century. There has. Also, it was not uniform, and none was observed during the past decade. The geological record provides us with abundant evidence for such perpetual natural climate variability, from ice caps reaching the equator, to none at all, even at the poles.
The climate debate is in reality not about carbon dioxide, but about 1.6 watts per square meter — a discrepancy of this kind of uncertainty — in the poorly known planetary energy balance. This is an absolute fundamental statement to start with.
Let me explain. Without our atmosphere, the planet would be a frozen ice ball. Natural greenhouse warming is warming it up by 33 degrees Celsius. Two thirds of this warming or more, up to perhaps even 95 per cent of this warming, is due to water vapour, not to CO2. Water vapour, not carbon dioxide, is by far the most important greenhouse gas, yet the models treat the water cycle as just being there, relegating it to a passive agent in the climate system. The energy that is required to drive the water cycle must, therefore, come from somewhere else: the sun, which drives the water cycle; the water cycle then generates climate, and climate decides how much jungle, how much tundra and so on we will have, and therefore drives around the carbon cycle.
That would be the top-down model, that means driving in through the sun, or it can be the way the IPCC does it. It says, no, it is being driven bottom-up; the carbon cycle is putting energy into the water cycle. There it generates more activity, and then it generates even more activity. It is like saying that Puerto Rico is driving the world economy by positive feedback from the United States because when Puerto Rico increases its GDP by 10 per cent, then some of it will come into the United States; there will be more economic activity, therefore, more finances, more economic activity, more finances, more economic activity until you get a boom and then you get a world economy in boom.
The point is that Puerto Rico is piggy-backing on the United States. They are subsidized by the United States, not driving it. Therefore, you get a top-down not a bottom-up situation.
The energy required to drive the water cycle must therefore come either from here or from any possible combination of the above. Note that because of the overwhelming importance of water vapour to the greenhouse effect, existing climate models are not diagnostic. To water cycle energy is just that, energy, regardless of where it comes from. The water cycle does not know; it is all energy for it.
It has been documented by previous speakers that the past climate record does indeed resemble the trend in solar output. However, because three decades of satellite data show only limited solar viability, solar output would have to be somewhat amplified to explain the magnitude of centennial warming. The IPCC argues that because no amplifier is known, which is an invalid assertion, man-made greenhouse gases must be responsible for most of the energy imbalance. In other words, they say that the sun is seen more as a constant; therefore, it must go bottom-up. That is what it says.
However, this is an assumption, an attribution by default. There is no actual empirical or experimental proof that carbon dioxide is a driver, yet such attribution is then taken in all subsequent complex model calibrations of climate as a fact. That is what is called calibration.
If an amplifier to solar output does exist, and empirical observations detailed in the submitted article I put up here argue for its existence, the need to attribute the energy to greenhouse gases would diminish accordingly. How realistic is the basic model assumption that the tiny biologically controlled carbon cycle drives the climate via the passively responding huge water cycle? How realistic is it that Puerto Rico is driving the world economy by pushing around the U.S.?
Nature tells us that, in fact, it is the other way around. Surely, the blossoming of plants in the spring is the outcome, not the cause of the warming sun and abundant rain. Our atmosphere contains about 730 billion tonnes of carbon. Each year, about 120 billion tonnes are cycled via plants on land and about 90 billion tonnes through the oceans. It is absolutely dominant. Human emissions account for less than 5 per cent of the annual carbon cycle.
The Chair: Less than how much?
Mr. Veizer: Five per cent. From the point of view of interaction of water and carbon cycles, however, it is important to realize that we are supposed to plant trees to lower CO2, but for every single molecule of CO2 that a plant captures it must transpire into the atmosphere water from the soil, from the roots, a thousand molecules of water, for every single CO2 molecule.
There is a huge amount of energy required to lift the water from the canopy back into the atmosphere. The actual reaction is one CO2 molecule to one water molecule to generate transpiration, or photosynthesis. All of this energy is not needed for photosynthesis; it is needed to drive the water up to the atmosphere and to drive the water conveyor belt. Why is that? Because this is what delivers your food. This is the conveyor belt that delivers your nutrients. No food, no life, no carbon cycle.
In other words, the required huge energy source is the sun. Solar energy drives the water cycle, generating warm air and a wetter climate and invigorating the biological carbon cycle. The sun also warms the oceans that emit CO2 into the atmosphere. Atmospheric CO2 is thus the product and not the cause of the climate, as demonstrated by past records where temperature changes always precede changes in atmospheric CO2. With ice cores, as Mr. Clark showed you, the same thing happened after Mt. Pinatubo that then started CO2 flux changes. It happens also every spring. The sun shines first and then flowers bloom.
What might be the complementary source of energy that could account for the disputed 1.6 watts? Clouds. Clouds are the mirror that reflects solar radiation back into space. The amount of solar energy reflected by the earth is about 77 watts, and the difference between cloudy and cloudless skies is almost 30 watts. The change of few per cent in cloudiness can easily account for 1.6 watts, which is being disputed.
Clouds are an integral part of the water cycle, but formation of water droplets requires seeding. That is why in Beijing they had to shoot into the clouds. Empirical and experimental results suggest that cosmic rays hitting the atmosphere may generate such initial seeds. While the actual mechanism is still being debated, the correlations between cloudiness and cosmic rays have been published. These are measurements.
The amplifying connection to the sun probably comes via its electromagnetic envelope, called heliosphere, and a similar envelope around the earth called the magnetosphere. These act as shields to cosmic rays reaching our planet. A less active sun is not only colder, but its heliospheric shield shrinks, more cosmic rays come through, they seed more clouds and they also produce cosmogenic nuclides, beryllium-10 and carbon-14, which we can then measure in trees, rocks and so on. This is a measure of the activity of the sun. When there is weaker sun, we have more of those cosmogenic nuclides.
If you look for such a record in the past 10,000 years, what you see here, the blue is a record of climate over the last 10,000 years, and this is the record of carbon-14. These are the cosmogenic nuclides I was talking about that are due to cosmic rays that reflect the activity of the sun.
On the next slide, if you look at the CO2, it was flat all the time — and this is the climate — at about 280 parts per million, exactly at the so-called pre-industrial level.
The science of climate change continues to evolve, and regardless of the outcome of the climate debate, observational data suggests that we may be served well by basing our climate agenda scientifically and economically on a broader perspective than that of the IPCC-outlined scenarios. This is one scenario, but there is more to it than just IPCC. Our pollution statement and energy diversification goals could then be formulated and likely implemented with less pain.
The Chair: I congratulate you; you were exactly 10 minutes. That was scientific and well presented. Thank you very much.
Our fourth presenter this morning is Professor Timothy Patterson, Professor of Geology, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University. You have the floor.
Timothy Patterson, Professor of Geology, Department of Earth Sciences, Carleton University, as an individual: Mr. Chair, committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify this morning.
My interest in the climate change debate was triggered in 1998, when I was funded by an NSERC strategic project grant and subsequently by major funding from the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences to determine if there were regular cycles in fish productivity on the Canadian West Coast. Although climate was expected to play a significant role in productivity, accurate fishing and temperature records have only been kept in that region for about 70 years, and we needed indicators of fish productivity over thousands of years to see what recurring cycles, populations and phenomenon might be driving these changes.
My research team collected and analyzed core samples from the bottom of deep coastal British Columbia fiords, and we collected 5,000 years’ worth of annually deposited mud layers from these basins, which gave us one of the highest-quality climate records available anywhere today. In it, we see confirmation that natural climate causes can be quite dramatic.
As an example, in the middle of a 62-year slice of the record about 4,400 years ago, there was a shift in climate in only a couple of seasons from very warm, dry and sunny conditions to mostly cold and rainy conditions, and that persisted for several decades. You might imagine the impact that would have had on Amerindian populations that were dependent on fish. It would have changed their life completely.
In that record we discovered repeated cycles of marine productivity that correlate very well with cycles in the brightness of the sun, and this was not unique. Hundreds of other studies have shown exactly the same thing, that the sun, and not variations in carbon dioxide, the gas that is most targeted by Canada's national climate change campaigns, appears to be the most important driver of climate change.
Solar scientists predict that by later in this decade the sun will be starting into its weakest solar cycle of the past two centuries, and this will likely lead to unusually cool conditions on earth, which may persist for decades. Planning for adaptation to such a cool period should be the primary position for governments. It is global cooling, not warming, that is the major climate threat to the world. This is particularly true for Canada, such a high latitude nation that is right at the edge of where agriculture can be carried out.
Through another NSERC strategic project grant that I currently head up, my research team is studying climate variability in Northern Canada in order to advise government and industry about the long-term viability of the strategically important Tibbitt to Contwoyto winter ice road. This seasonal road is critical to the economy of the region as it is the only overland route that services the diamond mines and exploration camps in the central Northwest Territories and Southern Nunavut.
Beginning 70 kilometres north of Yellowknife, this world-renowned ice superhighway, which you may have seen on the Ice Road Truckers television series, traverses 600 kilometres, and 88 per cent of it is built over frozen lakes with little portages in between.
The Chair: Senator Patterson, this would be familiar territory for you?
Senator Patterson: I have driven the road many times.
The Chair: It does exist?
Senator Patterson: I have hunted caribou on that road.
Mr. Patterson: During the 70-day season, more than $500 million in equipment and supplies are carried to the camps, and the economic activity associated with the operation of the ice road contributes over $1 billion to the economy of the Northwest Territories every year. For remote Northern Canadian communities, similar ice roads are critical supply links.
In our research conducted every year in the latter part of March when activity on the ice road is starting to diminish and we have access to the camps along the way, we collect core samples from lakes along the route. By comparing lake sediment from the past 3,500 years, we are able to recognize cycles and trends impacting climate change, and from that we can predict possible future trends in climate ice cover and things like fire hazard. We can recognize past intervals that were warmer, drier and so on.
It is a particularly challenging task in this region as the short thermometer record extends only back to about 1950 and in the central Northwest Territories includes records from only four very widely spaced meteorological stations.
Preliminary results from our research indicate that considerable climate variability has existed through the last few thousand years, with winter and summer temperatures often becoming decoupled. A multi-decadal weather phenomenon, known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, which is a huge driver of climate very similar to the shorter but better known El Niño phenomenon but only discovered in 1996, which shows how climate research has changed over the last 20 years or so, seems to have contributed to the step-wise temperature changes as these phenomena vary between positive and negative phases.
There is also a correspondence between solar cycles and seasonal climate variability during negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation phases with solar cycle troughs corresponding to colder winters.
As we are about to head into a series of very weak solar cycles that will persist for several decades, and since the Pacific Decadal Oscillation has just shifted to negative, we project a period spanning several decades where conditions will remain suitable for continued extensive use of the ice road.
As I am sure you have concluded from our testimonies today, the field of climate science is vast and rapidly evolving. Many things that we thought we knew about climate systems just a few years ago are now proving to be highly uncertain or quite mistaken. It is no exaggeration to say that in the period since the Kyoto Protocol was introduced there has been a revolution in climate science. If back in the mid-1990s we had known what we know about climate change today, there would have been no Kyoto Protocol because it would have been considered unnecessary.
In some fields the science is indeed settled, but the science of global climate change is still in its infancy with many thousands of papers published every year.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee members. I look forward to answering any questions you may have.
The Chair: Thank you, that was fascinating.
Colleagues, we have presentations from each of these witnesses which had to be sent to translation. When they are ready, they will be posted on our committee's website, as will the transcripts.
Senator Lang: Thank you for coming. Your views are very interesting. They are not ones we have heard much of, in view of the political spin that has been put on climate change over the last number of decades.
I have a question for Mr. McKitrick because of his vast experience and involvement with the IPCC.
I believe that the concern the world should have, including Canadians, is that there has been an intention to bring forward just one scientific political message to the world. It is my understanding that there is much question about how much merit it has, if any. I know that in many of what are considered to be bona fide science publications, information that has been provided through the United Nations is in some cases accepted as gospel and as peer reviewed, although it has not necessarily been peer reviewed. What must be done to change that so that there is a legitimate public debate based on valid information, so that citizens of the world can understand what is taking place?
Mr. McKitrick: I will refer to the report that I submitted, which includes a list of recommendations for changes to the IPCC process. Something like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is necessary because we do need some way of bridging this enormous scientific field and presenting information in a usable format to policy-makers. The danger is that when you create an organization like that, and then it takes upon itself the role of speaking on behalf of a very large scientific community and you do not have a chance to examine the process that they are using, that gives them a lot of power without proper accountability. The reforms that I have proposed would work to get the IPCC operating more in the way that people assume it does, which is quite a long way from how it in fact operates.
The difficulty is that the IPCC is controlled by a plenary of 195 country delegates. A review of the records from some of the recent meetings shows that most of those delegates do not appear even to read the briefing papers, put in any comments or participate in any active way. Most countries did not submit any review comments on the last assessment report. Of the comments that were received, half of them came from only two countries, the United States and Australia, which are also the countries that refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.
That is a body that requires some oversight, and Canada has a voice in that plenary panel. Canada sends delegates to it. During the last reform process, Canada was one of the only countries that tried to toughen up the procedures of the IPCC. I do not think they got anywhere because there just was not the interest on the part of other countries.
Where I would begin would be to find out who is Canada's focal point for the IPCC and to get a group of countries interested in beginning the process of reform. If you had a group of countries in the plenary who sat down and talked it through and realized, if we are going to have an IPCC, let us at least make it work properly, and then, as a group, take it to the plenary, I do think you could get some reforms in place. If that failed, then I would say that Canada and some other countries should just set up their own advisory process and leave the IPCC aside.
Senator Raine: You said there were 100 delegates from 100 different countries. I presume these are scientists appointed because of their expertise in climate science.
Mr. McKitrick: No, these are government bureaucrats. Some of them might have a scientific background. These are bureaucratic delegates to a plenary panel. It is 195 member countries. The scientists who write the reports are a separate group. Those are the working groups. Those are the lead authors that I mentioned. They are selected by the bureau in Geneva. One of the most prominent criticisms in my report but also from the InterAcademy Council was that there are no procedures stated for selecting lead authors. Every few years, the IPCC just publishes a list. No one is quite sure how they come up with it. They just announce that these are the lead authors for the next report. They have complete control over who they select. As far as I know, although Canada can make suggestions, like any other country, we do not have any direct say over that decision. The lead authors are in what are called the working groups. The plenary panel, which is supposed to be the group that has the oversight, are not scientists.
Senator Lang: Dr. Patterson, you spoke about the situation in the Northwest Territories. Contrary to what we have been led to believe, that we are looking forever and a day at global warming in view of the man-made emissions of CO2 and greenhouse gases, you stated that we will be going into a long period of cooling. That has to be a major concern to Canada, if that is the case, and we have to plan accordingly. Could you expand on that and perhaps give us some indication of what we should be doing as a country, planning for that, if we accept that premise?
Mr. Patterson: Certainly. Basically, my research in the Northwest Territories is funded by NSERC, basically in partnership with the Tibbitt to Contwoyto Winter Road, the North Slave Metis Alliance and various other groups with an interest in long-term viability, so we do not really have a particular axe to grind. We are doing it from an applied perspective, trying to understand the nature of climate, particularly with the diamond mines that need to transport their materials out and equipment north. There is now talk of more mines trying to bring massive sulfides down the ice road and so on, so we really need to know. Building a fixed link across this region is very expensive. This is why we are doing the research we have been able to do.
We were able to collect cores and analyze the record at the highest resolution that has ever been done. A new technology was developed whereby we can actually look at annual resolution changes in climate change in the Northwest Territories, which has not been done before. Very little research has been done. We basically have been breaking new ground.
We can recognize that there has been enormous climate variability in this region over the last few thousand years. There is a big reason why our project only looks at the last 3,500 years. If we went further back in time, it was considerably warmer than it is today, so it is not very useful if you are trying to figure out the current climate situation to go deeper in time.
Our projections are based on trying to understand these cycles. What we now know from some of the groundbreaking research that has been done by Mr. Veizer and so on in the last few years has really changed our understanding of the dynamics between solar force and carbon dioxide and water vapour and so on and trying to understand what will go on.
From the perspective of where we might be going, this is something of great concern to Canada. Everyone is always talking about warming and so on, but because we are at the north end of agriculture in Canada, there is not a lot of wheat production going on in the Northwest Territories at the present time; if things start to cool off, it starts to threaten your production in Western Canada and so on. If it is happening to us, it is happening to places in Eastern Europe, which would be worse and so on if the world is starting to cool down.
We have to really think about various sorts of adaptation strategies, not just warming, but you have to think about what might be happening if things start to cool down from the social unrest perspective and everything else that goes along with it. We are a big country, and we could probably adapt to lots of changes. Our farmers are efficient and can adapt to changes on a dime. If things warm up, they can adapt their agriculture probably very quickly, but if things cool down, you just cannot make things grow if the seasons are too short.
All we ask is that people start to look at what the possibility might be. My reports going forward now for the ice road are that we project that, through the next few decades, it will probably be pretty good conditions for the continued use of this road.
The Chair: At this time last week, some of the members of the committee were in Regina, Saskatchewan, holding hearings. It was 28 below zero with the wind chill. That is warming to me.
Mr. Patterson: It was minus 36 when I was in Yellowknife a few weeks ago.
The Chair: Senator Brown has been giggling away. He has the floor, our resident denier.
Senator Brown: I felt like it is kind of an insult to be a denier for a long time. It feels pretty good this morning.
I have read a lot about different things in climate change ever since I came to the Senate. One was from a book by a geologist who says that we have been having climate change for 18,000 years, and that is only because the cores they could find were 18,000 years old. It must have been changing ever since the dinosaurs, I guess.
I have always thought the sun was the biggest driver of whatever happens in the world. I did read some place that there is an elliptical ride around the planets that revolve around the sun. Every so often, they kind of line up a little bit closer to a line next to the sun, and that is supposedly causing different changes in the temperature that the earth gets, because it pulls it into an ellipse instead of a perfect circle around the sun. Is there any scientific research behind that, or would you just say that it is not possible?
Mr. Clark: Absolutely, there is terrific scientific background for that. These are called the Milankovitch Cycles. Milutin Milankovitch worked these out mathematically by studying the geometries of our entire solar system, the planetary orbits around the sun and their impacts on the gravitational pull with respect to the earth and the earth-sun system. There are three effects. You quite correctly point out that our orbit around the sun goes from an ellipse to a more circular orbit. In addition to that, we are like a top that is starting to process, and so our pole, which currently points towards the North Pole, the North Star today, did not 11,000 years ago. It was off axis with that North Pole because we are tilting.
Why would that affect anything? Whether we are pointed towards the sun, when we are in an elliptical orbit, so we are now far away from the sun or close to the sun, and where our pole faces, that will define how much energy we receive on a seasonal basis. These are very important processes. It comes back to the sun. It comes back to how much solar insolation we receive. We see variability in its distribution with latitude. At some times, we are close to the sun, what we call the perihelion, when we are pointed towards the sun, so we have our hot summers in the northern hemisphere and cold winters, and that will switch after another 11,000 years so we have mild summers and mild winters. These have a terrific impact, and we find very good correlations. These are the effects that really define the ice ages. It is solar radiation, but it is the variability or the evolution of solar radiation with respect to latitude.
These are well documented, and we see these cycles appearing in many terrestrial records. It comes back to how much solar radiation we receive at different latitudes and at different times of the year. You are absolutely correct; there is very strong science behind that.
Senator Brown: I forgot to ask about the tipping of the polar axis that could make it warmer in the North Pole, at one time, and colder in the South Pole. It can reverse when it straightens out again.
Mr. Clark: There are actually three cycles. You brought up the one that I overlooked, which is the inclination, or obliquity. Our earth's axis, its rotational axis, in addition to wobbling like a top, goes over more and comes back up more, so that we are more oblique and the pole is closer and more directly pointed towards the sun. This is actually a 41,000-year cycle. We have three processes working in concert, which makes it very complicated. The graph that I showed of the ice core temperature record is pretty erratic, with all these cycles coming into play.
Senator Brown: Thank you very much to all four of you. I appreciate it.
The Chair: We will call you the senator from Milankovitch next.
Senator Massicotte: Thank you for being with us today. Obviously, our self-interest as parliamentarians in Canada means that we would love to believe that what you are saying is accurate. However, I am sure you can appreciate that this is highly technical and that we are not very good judges of whether you are right or wrong. What is very good and healthy is this debate. Scientists should be debating and contesting each other constantly. That is what allows the cream to rise to the top. Science is an issue of probabilities. Let us hope you cause this to be heard and continue your good debate. As you can appreciate, we, as non-experts, must rely on the preponderance of evidence and of scientists’ opinions. All we can do is encourage debate and see what the result is when your ideas are contested with other scientists in the world.
Having said that, I am sure you acknowledge that the great majority of scientists do not agree with your conclusions. They probably appreciate some of your data, but they do not agree. That is the only observation we can make, because we are not able to decipher all of this.
What audience have you received? You have made public your ideas. What audience are you getting? Are you making progress? Why is it that you have not convinced the great majority of other scientists of your views? What is the process, and are you pleased with that process? I am not sure who wants to make a comment.
Mr. McKitrick: One of the issues you heard about was the water vapour feedback effect. The water vapour feedback effect, in the models, gets concentrated in the troposphere over the Tropics. There are not a lot of papers on that topic in the literature, but there are two identifiable groups that have been disputing it.
A study that I was a co-author on that was published last year used proper statistical methods to look at the data sets and the climate models. This was published in a good atmospheric science journal. We were able to show that the discrepancy between models and observations is real and that the models significantly over-predict the warming going on there.
It was interesting, in the new batch of climate science emails, to read some from some of the people on the other team who, although they will not say it in public, are acknowledging in private that this is a problem for them and that there is no warming. One of them even pointed out that, if anything, it is a cooling in that record. As I mentioned, one of them described it as living in a fool's paradise. They use the phrase, "It is dangerous" that we are trying to carry on with this impression.
I can completely understand your position as a decision maker. What do you make of the fact that you have this institution like the IPCC and its various satellite organizations telling you one thing, and then you keep hearing rumours of other relevant points of view?
That is why I would like to shift the discussion a little bit onto getting people to understand more what the IPCC actually is. I do not think it is as representative of scientific opinion as it has been made out to be. Also, in terms of what you should listen to, at the end of the day, what matters is not the authority of a scientist or of anyone here; it is really the data. What are you supposed to be measuring? If we were talking about inflation or interest rates, we could say whatever you like, but you know you can look up the numbers and see for yourself. I think that is a question you can put to the scientists that you see: What are you predicting? How do we measure it, and what do those measurements show? That is what should be speaking the loudest.
Senator Massicotte: I appreciate that. Even for inflation, there is a constant debate on the basket of goods included. Nothing is certain, as you know. You get the long argument.
We would love to agree with you. Human nature is such that some of us will quickly agree with you because that is what we would love to hear. Most countries, including our own, are spending a lot of money because of the preponderance of the evidence that they heard. Our own Minister of the Environment recently said the scientists within our own government agree with climate change being man-made and a critical issue. However, you seem to be saying that there is, as you mentioned, an elitist bias and momentum towards this common agreement. However, I think many people have the opposite bias. They would love to agree with you and find that what you are doing is right to say that we could save these billions of dollars. Why is it that even the bureaucrat, who does not have a bias, will not come out and say, "We agree with you that this is all wrong?
Mr. McKitrick: I cannot speak for individual bureaucrats, but between the academic community and the government science community, there is a lot less freedom for government scientists to speak. I do not put a lot of stock in someone saying that all of these experts agree with a certain point of view when, basically, the person who is signing their paycheque is the one telling you that. How much freedom do they have to really speak out?
I am more familiar with the academic world, where people have quite a bit more freedom to speak out. I can say that, among my colleagues, there is lively discussion and a wide range of perspectives. Within people's own area of expertise, they still have lots of questions about what is going on.
Senator Massicotte: It is a tough one. I appreciate that. Many people will dispute it. In fact, I think the most reasoned minds will say, "You are right; we are not a hundred per cent sure that this is occurring." No one is a hundred per cent sure. However, in many decisions in life we deal with high probabilities. I cross the street, look both ways and think I will not get hit. Maybe I should look three or four times. Nothing is certain.
Many people's attitude, one that best summarizes my own opinion, is that economists say we are not a hundred per cent sure there is climate change, but it will cost us 1.7 per cent of GDP if we take the measures. If we do not do it, it will probably cost 5 to 10 per cent. Maybe we are wasting 1.7 or 1.9 per cent, but it is like an insurance policy. They seem to acknowledge the uncertainty of the event, but feel that it is money well spent. What if we are wrong? It is a huge impact. Do you want to make a comment on that reasoning?
Mr. Veizer: What if we are wrong the other way? How much will it cost us?
Senator Massicotte: It will cost 1.7 per cent.
Mr. McKitrick: That 1.7 per cent does not mean 1.7 per cent of GDP to eliminate the threat of climate change. That is 1.7 per cent of GDP to reach the Kyoto target. What would that buy you? If the models are right, it only slows the process down by 5 per cent. If you want to do it on a cost-benefit test, you need to be careful to make the comparison of what it is that you are actually buying with the policy.
Senator Lang: Talking about certainty, it would seem to me that one thing is certain. We wake up in the morning with a thermometer and know how cold or warm it is. We have 365 days a year that that thermometer is registered. Surely at the end of the year we can say whether the world is cooling or not cooling.
Mr. Clark: That is a very difficult problem. I think Mr. McKitrick is the best person to talk about that. It is a very difficult measurement. What is the global temperature measurement?
Mr. McKitrick: There are several different key databases. One is the land surface temperature record, which has the biggest quality problems but is the one that is most prominently displayed. Better quality data sets come from weather satellites. Weather balloons are another source. Canada was also a big supporter of something called the Argo network, which is a network of 3,000 robotic floats that now travel the world's oceans, taking constant temperature readings down to a depth of about 900 metres all the way up to the surface. That is a better-quality ocean temperature data set than was available, but that only goes back to 2003.
I have worked mostly with the satellite data sets because I think they are the best-quality temperature data sets we have. They measure the region of the atmosphere where the greenhouse gases mix and the effects should be most evident.
The big controversy has been the fact that there seems to be more warming at the surface than in the weather satellite data sets, and the models do not predict that that discrepancy should be there.
In terms of what we monitor, more attention is being paid to the weather satellite data, and it is updated monthly. That is where you begin to get the idea that, to the extent there is warming, it does not seem to be on the scale of what the models have predicted.
Senator Banks: As the exchange between Senator Massicotte and Professor McKitrick showed, we are not experts. We have the privilege of listening to experts, and we have been doing that for two and a half years, and longer than that in some cases.
It will fall to us to make a decision of some kind. We have to base our decisions on the evidence that we have heard from experts, from people who either know or who purport to know, that we find the most compelling.
One of the things that I think we would all agree upon, and you have demonstrated it, is that there is climate change. The question with respect to Mr. Gore and others like him boils down to the extent to which, and how much, if any, we are contributing to it. Some of the evidence we have heard is that there is an exponential difference between what we are doing and what we are emitting that has occurred in about the last 100 or 150 years that has to some degree skewed the question of how much we are having an effect on it.
We have learned that all predictions are wrong. All models are wrong. The slightest deviation from them at the beginning becomes a very wide deviation when you go out sometimes weeks, sometimes decades, sometimes centuries.
I personally believe in the precautionary principle to which Senator Massicotte referred. If I see that train coming down the road 90 miles an hour at me, and no one can absolutely prove that it will hit me, I will nonetheless probably take some evasive action, despite the fact that there is no proof that it will hit me.
There are four basic scenarios, based on the extremes, that might help us decide what we will do. One is that we do nothing — I am talking about extremes — by way of mitigation. At the same extreme, nothing happens; everything is okay; there is no bad effect from climate change, or at least nothing that we can affect. If we place that bet, that is a big winner. We win all around.
The second scenario is that we do nothing and the worst happens and we have, as a result, an unlivable world. We leave our great-grandchildren in a situation in which they will be, at the very least, a lot less comfortable and perhaps in some difficulty. That is a big loser bet.
The third possibility is that we do everything. We spend ourselves into the poorhouse by trying to mitigate — remember we are talking about extremes — and nothing happens. We spend all that money and it is a complete waste of money because we did not have anything to do with it in the first place and whatever will happen. That is a big loser.
The fourth scenario is that we spend ourselves into the poorhouse trying to mitigate, and as a result we save the world from what would otherwise have been a terrible disaster. That is a big win.
We have economic chaos at the extreme, because we will have spent ourselves into the poorhouse, but we will have saved the world. The two bets that are good ones are that we do nothing, and nothing happens that is bad. That is a good bet. The other one is that we do everything, spend ourselves crazy and ruin our economies, but as a result we save the world for our grandchildren and great-grandchildren from ecological disaster.
Where would we place our bet?
Mr. McKitrick: You have outlined what makes this a really impossible decision. I completely understand that you would throw up your hands and say you do not like any of the above. What I have proposed, from an economic point of view, is maybe just a thought experiment, but you could actually do it. Suppose that you put a small carbon tax in place and then you tied the value of that carbon tax to the atmospheric temperature measurements we get from weather satellites. People will have to start forecasting what will happen to that tax. If they believe what you have heard today, people will say that tax will not go up, it might even go down, so we will not worry about it. If they believe what the other group of scientists says, they will think it will start trending up steeply in the next few years so we had better start changing our investment plans.
You would in effect force people to decide what is the most credible story and build that into their decision-making starting today, but you would not have had to commit one way or the other as to who is right. Basically, you would be making a choice that at the end of the day you were right, however it comes out. If after 20 years the tax has not gone up, you can say we did not waste a lot of money on a non-problem. If the tax did go up and people had to scale back their energy consumption, you can say, "We got that one right, did we not?"
Senator Banks: Being right, whatever the outcome is, is very attractive to politicians.
Mr. Patterson: What if it gets colder? That is another scenario that we need to think about.
Senator Banks: We have been careful to talk about climate change, not global warming.
Mr. Patterson: From my research, climate change can occur very rapidly; it can warm and cool very rapidly. We should consider developing robust adaptation strategies to deal with whatever Mother Nature might throw at us to be able to deal with droughts, for example.
For example, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation was only discovered in 1996. It is closely linked to something called the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which impacts agriculture in the West. You have drier and wetter intervals. You have to adapt our policies to deal with these situations when they come about. We need to think about dealing with whatever changes might be occurring, whether warming or cooling, because climate does change. It can change rapidly and we have to appreciate that, based on what we know from the geologic record.
The Chair: Those are four interesting bets, Senator Banks.
Senator Neufeld: I am on the same page as Senator Massicotte. When we were in Alberta we heard from some scientists with all the correct documentation behind their names. It is so simple; it is happening. We go from one extreme to the other, for us, from one side to the other side.
I am definitely not a scientist. I depend on people like you who have gone to university and have done the things that you have done in your lives to do whatever you are doing. I want to tell you that, for me, I am not sold either way. I am still wondering. I have been involved with it quite a bit over the last decade or so. If you think about Fred and Martha, the people, in their busy lives, they are likely not, in most cases, thinking about it too much because it is so controversial.
I would like to ask how many scientists such as yourselves would be on the same kind of wavelength you are in your thought processes. I am not disputing your though processes. I am just asking, are there a lot of them? Are they just quiet? Do they never say anything? If they are quiet, why the heck are they? The other side of the fence is very loud.
I am not talking about Al Gore, because to me Al Gore is just another politician who is travelling around the world in all kinds of vehicles that consume huge amounts of fossil fuels and telling everybody else they should not use them. I am not talking about Al Gore. I am talking about scientists. I am talking about the people who have the training to speak as you have.
The Chair: I hope you will forgive me, Senator Neufeld. Both Senator Massicotte and Senator Neufeld are basically saying that we are hearing much more from the other side, the other point of view than the one you guys are expressing. Why is it?
Mr. Veizer: I can only answer from my experience. First of all, I once read somewhere that when the bandwagon is rolling, one has only two options: to be part of the engine or to be part of the road. A bandwagon is rolling. I grew up in Czechoslovakia, in a communist system, and I know things were like that, and you just had to go with the bandwagon.
In this situation, I have been a very senior and well-supported scientist both in Europe and here. I have no complaints. I believed in it, and I started working on the whole issue because I wanted to find the so-called missing sink for carbon dioxide because Canada would get the credits for it. Eventually, I turned around, after several years, and the point is that all those things that I am telling you about the cosmogenic nuclides, the role of the sun, there were many publications. You are going to IPCC, and the whole issue is essentially dismissed in two sentences, and it does not exist.
What we are showing you is data — not models, but data. Are we having the science where good correlations mean nothing and no correlation is proof of CO2? We showed you the correlations. Those are known. These papers, including mine, were published in Nature. Not a word. In fact, there were even personal threats and attacks and defamation actions being organized against people who talked about the sun. It is changing now. Slowly, it is changing.
Science is not a democracy. If the data does not fit what the models are saying, then it is not the data that has to be changed but the models.
Mr. Clark: I could add to that from the perspective that we see climate warming has become a very big industry, not only in the political realm but in the scientific realm as well. A week ago, I was in Calgary and had a public debate with a person who is a research chair in climate change. His research money comes from the fact that we are warming up the planet catastrophically. Privately, we had a lot of discussion about this, and he said what people would say scientifically in private and in public are two different things. He says he agreed with the science, and then in the debate he agreed with many of my points. In fact, he agreed with all my points, but he would still come back and say, "But we are putting CO2 in the air; it is a greenhouse gas; it must be having some effect."
What people say publicly and what scientists perhaps think can be two different things. We have to be very careful in buying into the conclusions of scientists who are fully funded to a great extent far more than the skeptical community, if I can say it, are funded. To a certain extent, they will stick with their party line.
Senator Neufeld: As far as warming up goes, I live in Northern British Columbia, so I have worked in the North a good part of my life in the oil and gas industry. I have spent a lot of time outside. That is why I do not like the cold anymore. I am not very old when you are talking about the world and all that, but where I live, it is warming up. To me, there is no absolutely no doubt about it. I know it is much warmer, and I do not get nearly as much snow as what we used to, and people cannot go to work in the bush on the soft ground until way later than they used to. It is general that it is warming up. That is one thing that I relate to. I can relate to that in my own lifetime.
I have heard a lot of talk about the North from scientists, both those who are maybe thinking it is not warming up and those who think it is, usually talking about the North and the glaciers and the very North. I have never heard people talk about the South Pole. In fact, I do not think I heard anything, unless I missed it, this morning from you folks about the South Pole. What is happening in the South Pole as compared to the North? Why do we just talk about the North Pole? Help me a little bit with that, please.
Mr. Veizer: First, no one is arguing that there is not a warming trend. We all agree. That is not an issue. The question is really what is the cause. It would be warming wherever the energy is coming from.
Second, concerning the South Pole, what you hear in the media and everywhere is about the so-called peninsula, which is a very small portion of Antarctica, about 3 per cent or so. That is where it is warming, yes, but the other 97 per cent of Antarctica, if anything, the ice cover is either stable or growing.
Mr. Clark: I would also comment about the Arctic because I work in the Arctic. In fact, one of the major research areas I am involved in is the impact of warming up there. We have seen 100 years of warming over the past century, and so permafrost temperatures are higher, and we have triggering events and we study these mud slumps and thaw slumps, which are very impressive features. We see this evidence of warming up there. We have to put that in perspective with 100 years of warming, most of which, even the IPCC agrees, seems to have been natural warming, and this has warmed up in the Arctic.
Recent research shows that the current warming trends observed in the Arctic are not due to greenhouse gases and the greenhouse effect but is due to a change in air and ocean circulations and the patterns that Mr. Patterson was talking such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and the North Atlantic. These are mechanisms of warming in the Arctic that are not predicted by global warming models. They are quite different from that. Yes, we have this warming, but it is unrelated to greenhouse gases.
Senator Neufeld: I have more of a statement than a question. I read recently that it takes numbers of billions of light years for light to traverse from one side of the Milky Way to the other. I think to myself, here we are just a speck on the earth and we think we can do something to change what is happening in the whole unbelievable universe that we have out there. That is just a statement.
Senator Wallace: Thank you, gentlemen. The discussion ultimately comes down to solutions, and that is where the disagreements have been occurring, what solutions should be implemented. I guess the solutions will depend on what the problem is. In fact, is there a climate change problem?
When I listen to what each of you has said, evidence is presented on temperature changes over thousands of years, and we see patterns of warming and cooling. The earth is always evolving, it is never static, and that continues today.
The question I would have, before we talk about solutions, is do each of you believe there is a climate change problem that we should even be attempting to address, or is it one that is beyond the ability of humans to affect in any event?
Mr. Patterson: For many years I have taught a climate change course at Carleton University, which, much to my chagrin, grew up to about 800 students before I escaped from it for a little while. One of the things I would try to get across to the students is the only constant about climate is change. This is something we have talked about already today. Climate change is perpetual and, as all of our research has shown, sometimes changes can be quite dramatic.
It is not that there is not a climate change issue. There is always a drought or warming going on somewhere in the world. The big things we have to think about are how we can adapt to this and get resources from one part of the country or world to the place that is having a problem.
The thing we should be really thinking about is how we will adapt to the climate changes that we know will occur and that can occur at very rapid time scales at times. That is my perspective.
Senator Wallace: Your conclusion would be that as humans we cannot alter that change in climate, all we can do is adapt to it, and that is where we should focus our resources? That would be your opinion?
Mr. Patterson: My opinion, and for the other issues, people are always talking about pollution and so on, well, deal with it. Develop cleaner technologies to deal with the real issues, the NOx and SOx that are creating air pollution. That is where we should be putting our money.
We live in a great city here in Ottawa, for example. It is a wonderful, clean place. I visited China and Jakarta, and I would never want to live there, no way, because the air quality is so terrible. We want to deal with these real air pollution issues. Climate change is not something that we will change.
I read about this magical two degrees Celsius all the time. What is so magical about two degrees Celsius? There is much more variability, even in the last 10,000 years, than two degrees Celsius.
We have to adapt ourselves to whatever will happen.
Mr. Veizer: I personally believe there are both. There is sun and there is some contribution from CO2. It is there, but it is not that 90 per cent is human, CO2, and the sun is practically non-existent. If anything, it is the other way around.
If there is any impact, there is pollution. You can also argue that when we burn we pollute. It can be used as a measure of activity somehow to calibrate our pollution, but not by claiming two degrees or four degrees or six degrees, because the models are simply not there.
Senator Wallace: Your conclusion was that the major influencing factors in climate change are water vapour and what you referred to as electromagnetic envelopes around the sun and the earth?
Mr. Veizer: No, this is one of the ways. The major problem is the clouds. No one knows how to make clouds. You have to seed them. You have probably heard about the big experiment that just happened in Geneva, the so-called CLOUD experiment. That confirmed what the others were saying, like Svensmark and myself, for years now, that, yes, you generate small particles that can serve as nuclides for those clouds. There was data showing there are correlations, but the problem is how to make those very tiny particles into big aerosols that can be useful in the formation of droplets. They say because of that it has no meaning. Yet, this all fits into the situation, into the model of the sun.
That problem, how to make clouds, is exactly the same problem that is in CO2. They do not know how to make clouds. Why, in one case, does it dismiss the entire theory and in another case it is no problem? They are exactly the same problem. I told you that the change between cloudy and cloudless skies is 30 watts. We are arguing about 1.6 watts.
You just know it yourself. When the sun shines, it is warm. When it is cloudy, it is cold. That is how it is. If you can make the clouds, and neither theory knows how to do it, and the clouds are being put into the model as plus 0.6 watts or something like that, yet the variation is 30 watts. How can you do that? That 1.6 watts is the number taken from huge numbers, positive and negative ones, which by themselves have a bigger error than 1.6, or at least the same. This is the whole issue. There are many experiments now going on, so why is one theory dismissed and the other okay?
The Chair: We are running out of time and I want to save time for Senator Mitchell. I have still Senator Patterson and Senator Peterson.
Senator Patterson: I would like to ask Professor McKitrick a question from the economic point of view. We have heard that carbon is a very small factor in climate change, that the real influence is the sun and water vapour. You talked about the danger of us muddling for another 20 years.
I would like to ask you specifically, the Government of Canada has committed to reducing Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions by 17 per cent from 2005 levels by 2020 through a sector-by-sector approach. I think what that is directed at is carbon dioxide. Would you say, in light of what we have heard today, which I found very compelling, that this approach is misplaced and that it would be another way of muddling for another 20 years?
Mr. McKitrick: Actually, even if you took the IPCC view on the effect of greenhouse gases, what the Government of Canada has proposed would have such a small effect, even if our major trading partners agreed to the same target.
This is the point I made about the Kyoto Protocol earlier: We had enormous difficulties trying to reach that target, yet the same models that said you have a problem say you need something 30 times larger than Kyoto to even start showing up in the numbers in terms of actually arresting the process.
There is a scale problem here. If they are going to go, whether it is sector by sector or carbon tax or anything like that, you are still entitled to ask what exactly that buys us in terms of the underlying issue. I think, if you ask that question, they would come back and say it actually would not change the global warming story at all, almost regardless of whose view on the science you take.
That being the case, I would say the current technology makes it very difficult to know what to do with CO2. It is not like sulphur where you can capture it, it becomes a solid and you can dispose of it. If you capture CO2 it is still a gas and you have to put it somewhere. It is not efficient, compared to particulates in sulphur.
Under our current technology, I have considerable doubts they can even achieve a 17 per cent reduction, without having to end up imposing significant costs on major sectors. If you ask what that buys us, on anyone's view of the underlying science, it does not buy us anything. I would like to see that target debated much more robustly than it has been.
Senator Patterson: The efforts you mentioned on particulates and sulphur dioxide, which you said seem to have been effective on Canada's part, from your point of view as an economist, do they produce economic benefits?
Mr. McKitrick: Yes. Back in the early 1970s, Toronto’s particulate levels were over 100 micrograms per cubic metre. Today they are about 30 micrograms on a bad day. Sulphur dioxide would have been about 140 parts per billion. In almost every city in Ontario now it is between one and five parts per billion. It is not even measured most places any longer because it is gone. In those cases, you had fairly inexpensive technologies that pulled the stuff out of the smokestacks, and catalytic converters on automobiles got rid of about 97 per cent of what used to be emitted in the 1960s from automobiles. There you have low-cost technologies that actually give you a huge benefit.
We are dealing with the opposite with CO2. You have high-cost options that give you little benefit. Again, on anyone's view of the science, on the economic side, the numbers keep coming out unfavourably toward these Kyoto-type or more recent efforts to impose targets. The numbers just do not add up for them.
Senator Peterson: We keep reading that we are moving quickly towards a break point at which time the situation will be irreversible. I would like your comment on that, because if we are still studying issues at that time, it would be too late for any adaptations.
Mr. Clark: These break points are based on speculated feedbacks that the Earth will behave in a predictable and measurable way. What we have shown today, I hope, is that the Earth is very unpredictable and it has a lot of mechanisms in the climate system. The climate system is incredibly complicated. It is almost chaotic, although we find there are cycles and events over geological time and over recent decades. These can then be taken and projected into the future with some relative certainty. What Mr. Patterson has been talking about with things like the ice roads work and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation shows there is some prediction that can be made.
We hear words like "catastrophic." Alarmist calls that the only habitable place on Earth in a hundred years will Antarctica came from the scientific adviser to the British government. These are nothing more than alarmist comments. The idea of tipping points, that we will go into irreversible climate feedback and a warming planet that will be uninhabitable, is wild speculation on what scientists might be saying, and certainly the politicians and advocates who pick up on these comments. It is absolutely ludicrous. We do not see this in the geological record. We see a balanced system that restores its equilibrium after a period of 100 years or 20 years.
Much of this science has been documented in a very good publication, Climate Change Reconsidered, by two groups, CO2 Science and the Science & Environmental Policy Project, which I believe is available to you all. I have a hard copy here. The science behind this that we are trying to present today is well documented here in the literature.
Senator Mitchell: I want to begin by saying that I do not doubt the sincerity of our witnesses. I think that that sincerity is all that much more underlined by virtue of the fact that they sustain their position and their work in the face of literally thousands upon thousands of scientists and economists who are independent and are spread out throughout academic institutions and other institutions across the world, and who answer and overwhelm the points that have been made here with devastating consensus and with devastating frequency. I want to say that I do not doubt your sincerity.
It is not just the IPCC. That is a straw man that has been raised here. Scientists who take the position against which these gentlemen are opposed are not just IPCC scientists. These are independent scientists, literally, all over the world. In a way, to believe these arguments is to believe some kind of strange conspiracy theory, that with these independent scientists we have to question their integrity and their motivation; we have to assume an ability to conspire across the world, in a magnitude that is almost incomprehensible. Their scientific acumen has to be questioned over and over again.
When I think of a conspiracy theory, one statement that was made today that really underlines that thinking in these presentations is the one that said that somehow the Harper government is clamping down on scientists to enforce elite climate change consensus.
The Harper government, of all people, would enforce their scientists to support the idea that climate change is occurring and that people are creating it? Of course, they would be the last government that would force their scientists to do that. In fact, if you read the documents that come out of the environment department, and somehow they squeak out, they all underline the urgency of climate change and that it is occurring.
I am left with the impression of the woman who once said while watching her young son march in the military parade, "Everyone is out of step but my Johnny." Everyone is out of step; the thousands upon thousands upon thousands, the 99 per cent of scientists are out of step.
The difficulty, of course, in this, and I appreciate your presentations, is that point by point by point, there has been devastating science that confronts and overwhelms what you are saying. Maybe we have to bring in other testimony, but I think we probably do not, because I think in the end this will settle this.
David Keith, just to get this on the record, is a renowned leader in this area, a physicist who is hugely well respected. One last thing that made me smile in response to testimony that we have heard here is this idea that we do not know how much impact humans are having on CO2. David Keith said:
Come on . . . We have multiple, completely independent, overlapping ways to measure that. We have it nailed. Claiming that that is not true, to me is like it speaks to a problem we have in our society of a kind of fundamental lack of trust in institutions of science and in rationality. It is the same kind of attitude that we have saying that vaccines are dangerous so we will not vaccinate our kids or that cell phones cause cancer or that evolution is not true . . .
I will close by saying that Professor Veizer said clearly later in the questioning: No one disagrees with the warming trend. He went on to say — and this is the essence of his testimony — even if there is one, it is not being caused by humans.
We are running out of time, so I will not ask a question. I will close by saying that if humans are not causing this, then you have to be and we all have to be very afraid, because if we are not causing it, we cannot fix it. There is no evidence and no ultimate suggestion in any kind of science I have received that if it is happening spontaneously it will stop at some manageable level that is not way too hot or way too cold.
I am glad we had the witnesses here and that we heard the other side. We will deal with that as we progress with our study and writing our report.
Senator Lang: I would like to make a point. I appreciate the fact that Senator Mitchell and I have a difference of viewpoint on a number of these issues, but I do want to say to you gentlemen that I do not see what is being presented as a "conspiracy theory" because it seems to be out of step with what the general public is being told across the world. I really appreciate the fact that you bring what I see as a scientific background, actual facts to the table to say this is what has happened in the past.
One of the areas that bothers me, as a Canadian, is the political spin put on that climate change has only occurred because of CO2 emissions. I think the reality of it today, unlike any other time, is that climate change is taking place every day, and not necessarily because of man.
I just wanted to say that I would like to leave with you gentlemen a challenge, and to others who have another point of view, that you do everything you can to get out and to have that public debate, because I feel it has been muffled. I feel that governments have intentionally and indirectly put you in a situation where, yes, some people have seen it as a conspiracy theory. I think there is a place for that debate, and I think it should take place, especially since, as Mr. Patterson's research has indicated, we may well be looking at a cooling period for some time. If that is the case, we had better have a look at what we are doing.
The Chair: That reminds me of my days pleading cases in court. The closing arguments have been made by opposing counsel and duly taken into consideration by the lordship.
Senator Raine: I will defer a question. I would like to hear the witnesses' wrap-up.
Mr. Patterson: I would like to make one comment. Within the earth sciences community that we represent, our viewpoint is not terribly out of step with what we find there. If Senator Mitchell were to come out to one of these large-scale meetings that we attend, and that thousands of people attend, our point of view is represented by large numbers of researchers out there.
There are sometimes issues with the publications you are able to get into. For example, Nature Geoscience presented a paper a few weeks ago projecting a 17 per cent reduction in the ice road capacity by 2050. If you looked at the underlying data, that research was based on five years of data, but somehow it was able to be published in one of the premier journals in the world. Here we are coming forward now with data we will be presenting that is based on 5,000 years of annual data rather than five years of data. There are sometimes issues with availability of the data we are able to get out there.
For example, Professor McKitrick pointed out the issues that are rampant within the IPCC, which actually does suppress certain research. If you actually looked at the overarching literature out there, which is very large, you would find that our perspective is not terribly out of sync. It gets reported differently. I think that is the main point of view here.
Mr. McKitrick: I have just two points. First, Senator Mitchell, I did not say the Harper government, as the Harper government, suppresses their scientists. What I said is that government scientists do not have as much freedom to speak their own mind as people in academia do, and I think that is true regardless of which government is in power.
Senator Mitchell: If they did, they would not support your position.
Mr. McKitrick: The second point is that last summer I was involved in a debate at the American Statistical Association, where they put a panel together to look at applications of statistical analysis on these climate issues. The same basic questions keep coming up. The difference between what the models project and what the data show is there, it is in the data, and it is understood to be in the data.
If you hear from someone like David Keith — whom I know and who is well respected in his field — rather than just taking at face value the idea that he speaks for a very large group or consensus, ask him: How do you explain these discrepancies? Maybe he has an answer that has not occurred to other people. However, the discrepancies are out there, and I think they need to be dealt with.
Senator Brown: I want to say that the real deniers in this whole thing are the people who started out with Al Gore's movie and said that global warming was the problem of the world, and in less than two years it became climate change. It was not climate change in the beginning; it was about global warming. I also read something from the NASA people, who said that so far it has warmed four-tenths of a Fahrenheit degree.
Mr. Veizer: Senator Mitchell, is it possible to say something here that will not be recorded?
The Chair: You are free to have a talk with Senator Mitchell. We are on the record now. Is there something that you do not feel comfortable having public?
Mr. Veizer: The issue that lots of people simply say: Yes, it is like that; it is CO2. I will ask you something. It is a bit of a push, but how many of you realize that there is no CO2 in the climate models of all those predictions? There is prescribed CO2. It is called "prescribed CO2." That is energy. Just because it is called "prescribed CO2," it is not CO2.
The Chair: I would like, on behalf of the Senate and on behalf of this Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources, to thank you all very much. This hearing was put together in a fairly short time frame. You have given very thoughtful presentations and you had, I thought, a balanced reaction to our diverse views. All four of you have helped greatly. You have made some of us more aware than others about what you think, and it is helpful.
We may well need to call upon you again, Senator Mitchell and I, and Senator Neufeld, or the steering committee. We will see. The study we are doing is really about the energy system, so the sun is a big player. Thank you very much, gentlemen.
(The committee adjourned.)