Tropes not truth

There will be a wide range of repercussions stemming from the Liberal victory in the Oct. 21 federal election, but key among them will be the continuation of the Liberal government plan to fight climate change, including its cornerstone carbon pricing policy.

Andrew Scheer’s federal Conservatives, like Doug Ford’s Ontario crew, have tried to frame the pricing plan as a “carbon tax” which the average ratepayer digs into their pocket to pay, despite the reality the program, in most cases, returns as much in rebates to most citizens as it costs them as consumers. Such obfuscation is par for the course among the head-in-the-sand crowd who prefer to ignore the scientifically accepted reality that global warming is happening at a breakneck pace, fueled by human activity, and its consequences, from extreme weather, to mass migration and disease pandemics, will be increasingly costly and disastrous. It leads to foot-dragging on an issue that requires immediate action.

The attitude of much of the climate change denial crowd was summed up aptly by People’s Party of Canada candidate Roger Fuhr during debate among Perth-Wellington federal hopefuls in Minto on Oct. 9.

“I lived through the ‘70s when they said the Ice Age was going to come back again and that didn’t happen. And I lived through the ‘80s when they had acid rain and we were all going to die from that, and that didn’t happen. And I lived through the ‘90s when we had the ozone layer and that didn’t happen. Need I go on?” Fuhr stated during one exchange.

Although, as an unsuccessful candidate for a party that was shut out in the recent election, Fuhr can be expected to fade back into the background of the local political scene, his rant warrants scrutiny as one of the few moments that elicited even a modest burst of applause from the debate audience.

The disco-era ice age conjecture stemmed largely from a small sample of articles in some major publications like Time and Newsweek. There’s even a doctored Time cover, purportedly from 1977, floating around the internet showing a penguin on an iceberg and the heading “How to Survive the Coming Ice Age.” The image is actually a Time cover from 2007 and the real headline is “The Global Warming Survival Guide.” The truth is the vast majority of climate research in the 1970s predicted the Earth would warm as a consequence of CO2. In 2014, Peter Gwynne, the author of a Newsweek article, “The Cooling World,” which sparked much of the ‘70s’ discussion, conceded, “In retrospect, I was over-enthusiastic in parts of my Newsweek article. Thus, I suggested a connection between the purported global cooling and increases in tornado activity that was unjustified by climate science.”

As for Fuhr’s dismissal of acid rain, we didn’t “die from that” because mounting public pressure forced industrial polluters to install scrubbers on their smoke stacks and take other proactive measures. Anyone of at least the same vintage as this correspondent, will remember when no one could swim in Lake Ontario and it was impossible to drive through the village of Rothsay without your stomach turning. Neither is the case any longer because people pulled their heads out of the sand and took action.

Likewise, the collapse of the ozone layer “didn’t happen” because of an unparalleled cooperative global effort to ban chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons – gases formerly found in aerosol spray cans and refrigerants – and prevent them from being released into the atmosphere. It was in all the papers.

The one trope Fuhr missed at the debate was covered by Christian Heritage Party candidate Irma DeVries, who reached down the denialist’s greatest hits list for: “The climate is always changing.”

True perhaps in the broadest possible sense, but significant pre-industrial change occurred over hundreds of millennium, not a few decades as we are currently experiencing. As an excuse for inaction, this doesn’t cut it.

The legitimate media is continually publishing the truth of these matters both in print and online, but there’s plenty of malarkey out there as well.

It’s both boon and bane of our democracy that every four years, for a few weeks at least, purveyors of both are afforded equivalent attention.