National Post continues war on climate science

Peter Jackson pjackson@thetelegram.com
Published on February 19, 2014

Well, Mr. Obama sure has egg on his face.

The U.S. president announced funds for drought-stricken California last week. Eager not to lose an opportunity to blame man-made climate change, he threw a little I-told-you-so in for good measure.

The severe dry spell, he suggested, is a sign of what to expect across the country as global warming takes hold.

Not so fast, say climate experts.

It turns out the phenomenon in California is not unprecedented. There have been similar severe droughts in the past, with little to suggest global warming has played any major role.

In fact, a New York Times article notes that scientists predict many regions, including California, are expected to get wetter rather than  drier.

What’s more interesting about this story is not so much what it reports, but where it was published. It was reprinted this week in Canada’s National Post.

The Post, for dubious reasons, has taken a clear editorial stance on climate change. It has decided to ignore coverage of the phenomenon other than to take periodic potshots against the science and scientists. Those are left to the terminally biased pens of career denialists such as Lorne Gunter and, as of late, Rex Murphy.

Actually, there’s no real mystery. The Post is unabashedly in bed with Big Oil. Murphy has been pumping up oil-friendly audiences at speeches in Alberta. He’s on a mission to polish the image of the oil sands — in print, in person, any way he can.

Add to this the curious relationship that’s bloomed between Postmedia News and the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers and you have a good sense of what’s going on.

Earlier this month, the Vancouver Observer and others reported on a Prezi presentation called “Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers Postmedia 2013 Energy Channel Sponsorship.” The collaboration, says the Observer, surfaced on Twitter the same day that Postmedia downsized its parliamentary bureau in Ottawa and laid off prominent environmental journalist Mike De Souza, among others.

According to the Postmedia presentation, newspapers would work in partnership with CAPP to put the spotlight on Canada’s oil industry. Where objective reporting fits into that scenario is hard to say.

Back to Obama, The Post no doubt picked the New York Times piece because it appeared to downplay global warming and embarrass the president at the same time.

Perhaps they missed this little gem further down in the story:

“What may be different about this drought is that, whatever the cause, the effects appear to have been made worse by climatic warming. And in making that case last week, scientists said, the (Obama) administration was on solid ground.”

What most denialists seem to miss is that there is no cabal among climate scientists to stay on message no matter what the evidence. The science evolves and shifts according to the evidence that arises.

Britain is being walloped

by unprecedented floods at the moment. It’s tempting to attribute it to climate change, but the actual cause is likely quite different.

The Guardian’s science reporter, George Monbiot, points the finger of blame at unchecked farming practices. Travelling along the Thames river, he witnessed mile after mile of fields razed flat for farming, some stretching all the way to the water’s edge.

“Muddy water sluiced down the roads. A few score miles downstream it will reappear in people’s living rooms. You can see the same thing happening across the Thames watershed: 184 miles of idiocy, perfectly calibrated to cause disaster.”

The message? It’s OK to be skeptical. Scientific inquiry depends on it. Events that don’t fit the big picture have to be counted and incorporated. But denial is not skepticism. It is blind adherence to a pre-determined idea. The big picture is ignored; only the wrinkles get attention.

Peter Jackson is The Telegram’s

commentary editor. Email: pjackson@thetelegram.com.