Ross McKitrick: “Environmental alarmism and the raft of false beliefs”
Dr. Ross McKitrick is a Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph, and Research Chair in Energy, Ecology and Prosperity at the Frontier Centre for Public Policy. He specializes in environmental economics.
Dr. McKitrick spoke (starting at :19) on the topic of Green Conservatism at the Manning Centre Conference in February.
In his brief talk, Dr. McKitrick gives a brilliant, succinct overview of the current absence of rational, logical, empirical evidence-based thinking and planning on the part of the Canadian political class when it comes to the environment and economic policies.
Dr. McKitrick argues that our “very high-level” decision-makers are churning out “extremely distorting” policies based on their false, alarmist environmental beliefs. The results of their scientific illiteracy and ideological alarmism are environmental over-regulation and “green” taxation overkill.
Reading between the lines, we’re in a big, fat, fake-green mess and heading for continued fiscal and economic misery.
The following is a partial transcription (bolding added for emphasis).
On illogical “green” taxes:
The trouble in the Canadian context is, the economic logic only works if they used “instead of,” and not on “on top of” a command-and-control regime….repeal the onerous regulations that we’ve already got in place, like for instance, the Green Energy Act in Ontario, and the federal ethanol mandate, and the proposed coal fadeout in Alberta.
Unless you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and work against those things in a very vocal way, you’re not really in a position to make a credible argument for green taxes in Canada.
Otherwise, it’s just going to be one thing piled on top of another.
On real and imaginary climate graphs:
The mayor of Montreal is so worried about the state of the environment that he’s leading a campaign to block the Energy East pipeline from reaching Montreal, presumably because he thinks that the contents of that pipeline will be damaging to the local environment. He has in mind, I guess, a graph like this, except that it would slope up instead of sloping down, and lots of other graphs, presumably in his imagination, that slope up rather than sloping down.
If you want to see what all the other graphs look like, I’ve put them online at a website called yourenvironment.ca. It’s very easy to navigate. You can look up the complete air quality records for every city in Canada, and lots of other information besides—climate information, CO2 emissions, all sorts of stuff.
On regulatory overkill and pipeline blockades:
Once you get a handle on what’s actually happened to the environment in Canada, you’re going to think the problem is a little different. It’s regulatory overkill.
We’re at a point where we have controlled conventional air pollutants to an extremely low level in Canada, and yet we’re seeing an acceleration of new and extremely distorting policies, including the various attempts to blockade all pipeline development and keep the western fossil fuel reserves in the ground.
On false environmental thinking embedded in high-level decision-makers:
I can only conclude that a lot the decision-makers—and this kind of thinking is embedded at very high levels—have in mind a completely false picture of the Canadian environment. They’ve been convinced that it’s much worse than it is and that the trends are going in different directions.
On irrational, ideological environmental alarmism:
The real target today is environmental alarmism. It’s this irrational but popular ideology that the environment is bad and getting worse, that we face an emergency and that we have to take radical measures.
It’s easy to defeat once you start showing people the data, and it’s easy to defeat if you can get a hearing for the idea that if you get specific about what you’re really talking about, we can measure these things. In fact, we do measure them, and in Canada we have decades and decades worth of measurements. So you can get the discussion on a very rational footing.
On the phony “97% consensus”:
We should encourage people to discuss the science, and we do it in a deep way—and not with the slogans like the “97% consensus,” which is another one of these phony statistics that emerges.
On huge regulatory overkill and unnecessary coal phase-outs:
What we need to do is to get people to think clearly about what it is they are talking about. Are you concerned about air pollution? Well, we have the data on all the major air contaminants. We can measure it, this is what it looks like…It’s not one big thing. It’s a lot of little things and most of them are actually being handled very effectively by our current regulatory systems in Canada.
There isn’t a huge opening to come in with some silver bullet like emission taxes that are going to have a big effect on the state of the environment…
We have a problem of overkill in some areas, including, for instance, the coal phase-out in Ontario. That was a huge overkill in response to the air emissions issue…They didn’t need to phase out those coal-fired power plants. But it’s the alarmism that made it impossible to have that debate at the time.
On “extreme weather” fibs:
When governments start to hauling out the issue of extreme weather, there is nothing mainstream about that kind of science. The mainstream science, including the IPCC, does not draw a connection between greenhouse gas emissions and extreme weather events. So, politicians need to be called on that sort of thing.
On climate propaganda and browbeating:
And also, finally, don’t overstate the challenge. I was struck this week by research that came out of Yale University, that even after all these years of propaganda and browbeating, Canadians are roughly evenly-split on whether global warming is mostly anthropogenic, but so is the scientific community…Once you try to move to something more specific than that—like, is it the most? or if it is responsible, is it even a problem?— that’s where that kind of consensus breaks down. So don’t overstate the problem!
On false beliefs:
You need to understand that the problem is actually alarmism, and the raft of false beliefs, and not the need for little tweaks to the tax code.
Watch Dr. McKitrick’s whole presentation here, starting at :19.