Preston Manning claims oil and gas companies have better science than federal government on global warming

    1 of 1 2 of 1

      Reform Party of Canada Leader Preston Manning said he thinks the federal government should go back to “square one” and reexamine its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol on greenhouse-gas emissions.

      In an interview with the Georgia Straight, Manning said members of his party were never satisfied with the science that the federal government cited to justify its signature on an international agreement in Kyoto, Japan, in 1997 that called upon Canada to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions to six percent below 1990 levels by the years 2008 to 2012.

      “I’ve seen better science out of the oil and gas companies on this issue than I have out of the federal government,” Manning said. “That’s what worries me.”

      Eric Taylor, regional climatologist with Environment Canada, told the Straight that it’s hard to respond to Manning’s comment if the Reform leader didn’t specify which federal scientific work bothers him.

      “By and large, most of the science on this issue is nongovernmental,” Taylor said. “It’s from universities throughout the world: the United Kingdom, the U.S., and Canada are forerunners. Also Germany.”

      Manning also said he doesn’t believe there were adequate negotiations with provincial governments and large producers of greenhouse gases prior to Canada signing the Kyoto Protocol.

      He said that if a reexamination of the targets determined that Canada shouldn’t achieve such large reductions, the “honest thing” would be to make a case for trying to renegotiate the accord, which was signed by 160 countries.

      “So our view is you go back to square one and do all those things and see where you come out,” Manning said.

      Gerry Scott, climate-change campaigner with the David Suzuki Foundation, told the Straight that Manning’s recommendation to seek more input from the provinces and industry before taking action represents the “opposite of leadership”. Scott said the federal government should be taking steps immediately to set targets and timetables, and to introduce advanced practices and technology to address emissions.

      “If Dupont Chemical can set a goal for itself…of cutting its greenhouse-gas emissions by 65 percent in 10 years, if BP [British Petroleum] and Shell are willing to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into solar [power], then surely Mr. Manning and others in the political realm and in the industrial realm can say there’s something happening here,” Scott said.

      Taylor said that since 1975, there has been an acceleration in global warming that has coincided with a rapid increase in greenhouse gas in the atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and other activities. Greenhouse gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxides, and perfluorocarbons. The U.S.–based Worldwatch Institute has reported that Canada generates the fourth-highest carbon-dioxide emissions per capita in the world.

      Taylor acknowledged that there is a scientific debate over the impact of human activity on the atmosphere. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded that “the balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.”

      “The 10 warmest years in meteorological history have occurred since 1985,” Taylor said. “And the 20th century has been the warmest globally in the last 600 years.”

      He also said that the average temperature on Earth is about 16 degrees Celsius, and that all scientists agree it would be 33 degrees cooler if there were no greenhouse gases, including naturally occurring ones.

      “We are pumping a lot of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, which have long lives,” Taylor said. “It has a lifetime on the order of 100 years.”

      Environment Minister David Anderson has already announced that he will introduce compulsory measures.

      Manning, however, told the Straight that he prefers to use the “carrot, not the stick” by employing tax incentives to achieve the desired environmental outcomes.

      The National Post recently reported that a group of private-sector bodies has turned in a draft summary of a report to the federal government that stated that meeting the Kyoto emissions targets would result in the closure of three or four of Canada’s 21 oil refineries.

      Climate Solutions, a Seattle-based environmental organization, issued a report in June suggesting that climate change could cause significant changes in this region by 2050.

      The report, which cited the research of climate researchers, said “scientifically credible scenarios” include: more frequent flooding and mudslides; a disrupted annual water cycle because of shrinking snow packs; droughts occurring twice as frequently by 2020; shorter ski seasons as snow lines retreat to higher elevations; sharply reduced forest cover; more numerous forest fires and pest infestations; and impacts on human health from worsened air pollution, heat waves, and disease-carrying insect populations.