The dinosaurs are no more, but their descendants, the “deni-osaurs” — climate deniers – are the dinosaurs of the modern age — and they are still with us today, especially within the political ranks of the Conservative Party of Canada (and the Republican Party in the United States). The deni-osaurs deny the generally accepted science of climate change (modern-day climate change is real and is caused by humans, mainly from the burning of fossil fuels).
Canada made a commitment to do something about climate change 30 years ago! At the Rio Conference, the countries of the world agreed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC): “The ultimate objective of the convention is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations ‘at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic (human-induced) interference with the climate system.’” Canada had been a positive force in the lead-up to Rio, and the UNFCCC was ratified by Canada on Dec. 4, 1992, signed by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada.
So, what has happened to the climate change commitment of conservatives since then? After their merger with the Canadian Alliance and formation of the CPC in 2003, anti-science sentiments, which have been driven by a massive propaganda campaign from the fossil fuel industry over the past three decades and continues today, took hold of their climate change agenda.
More recently, climate denialism has infiltrated throughout the conservative ranks, as exhibited by the actions of Andrew Scheer, Doug Ford and Jason Kenney, among others; one of the more radical climate deniers had been leadership hopeful Maxime Bernier, now leader of the People's Party of Canada.
The current leader of the CPC, Erin O’Toole, called for a vote at the party’s recent convention on whether “climate change is real.” O’Toole told delegates the debate is over, and the party “cannot ignore the reality of climate change.” Alas, the delegates ignored him (in a 54 to 46 per cent margin) instead.
A reporter commented about the turn of events: “The clear rejection came hours after Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole urged party members to embrace change or risk losing again to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Liberals in the next election.” And the Liberals wasted no time in calling out the Conservatives as climate change deniers.
Climate change has undergone the greatest scientific scrutiny in history, including by the international evaluations of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Its studies of the peer-reviewed literature began over 30 years ago and continues; an analysis specifically on the warnings of the leading climate experts in the world was presented in its special report, “Global Warming of 1.5°C.” Despite the dangers of climate change, despite the consensus among the scientific community, the CPC became the first major political party, possibly anywhere, to officially vote against accepting that “climate change is real.”
What has been lost in the discussion, however, is the absurdity of the vote in the first place. The CPC was “voting” on whether they agreed with accepted science. Are they going to vote on the theory of evolution next? And maybe other scientific theories will be put to a vote, since they have made it part of their platform to judge science. Science, of course, does not care how they vote. Voting against science does not make the threat of climate change go away, but at least Canadians now know, for sure, that the CPC will do nothing to fight the climate crisis.
Undaunted, O’Toole tweeted a few days after the vote: “We will have a plan to address climate change. It will be comprehensive. And it will be serious.” And attached was a meme: “We cannot ignore the reality of climate change. THE DEBATE IS OVER.” Upon seeing that tweet, I wondered whether O’Toole had attended the same CPC conference.
Despite the dangers and the consensus among scientists, writes @GeraldKutney, the CPC became the first major political party possibly anywhere to officially vote against accepting “climate change is real.” #ClimateCrisis
What might his climate plan look like? To be clear, this comprehensive and serious plan is for something that his party does not think is real. If one goes by typical right-wing climate plans, one can expect no carbon tax, plenty of funding for research and innovation and the promotion of nuclear (especially SMRs), liquefied natural gas, blue hydrogen and carbon capture; in short, measures that will not restrict the burning of fossil fuels very much.
The latest banner of the CPC is “secure the future.” But whose future are they talking about? Denying climate change is real is how you don’t “secure the future,” at least not for us, but it would secure the future for the fossil fuel industry.
Where does the Conservative Party of Canada go from here? How can Canadians put their trust in a political party that denies science? In my humble opinion, climate deniers are not fit for public office and the CPC are headed towards political extinction. Perhaps, the CPC should stand for the “Cretaceous” Party of Canada, for the period when dinosaurs flourished.
Gerald Kutney has a PhD in chemistry and owns a consulting firm, Sixth Element, which specializes in helping entrepreneurs make their bioeconomy projects a success. For the past decade, he has studied the politics of climate change.