Environment and Climate Change Canada celebrated Carbon Tax Day by releasing a report that, scary headlines notwithstanding, boils down to it being a bit warmer (on average 1.7˚C) since 1950, a trend computer models say will likely continue. After last year’s IPCC report about 1.5˚ warming scenarios the media breathlessly declared such an increase catastrophic. Yet we not only survived 1.7 degrees warming here since 1950 (less since the 1930s, mind you), but our population tripled, real income per capita more than tripled and life expectancy rose about 15 years. Plus extreme rainfall went down in cities. Nevertheless to the CBC it’s the predictable horror show, and we must slash emissions now, though the new report helpfully says doing so won’t change the outcome. So given a choice between catastrophe and calamity, we should also choose pain.
As is usual in these cases, the report is full of interesting and non-alarming information which won’t get anywhere near the news headlines. The hottest weather on record in Canada was recorded back in 1937 and the coldest in 1947. Much of the warming since was in the far north, whereas in the south, where most of us live, trends were on the low end. Also more warming happened in winter than summer.
The headline number of 1.7 degrees over 70 years translates into about 0.24 degrees per decade… if you start in 1948 as Environment Canada did. Last fall economist Ross McKitrick posted a detailed listing of temperature trends by month at locations across Canada and he found a similar average Canada-wide trend for data starting in 1958. But temperature data go much farther back. Start the analysis in 1939 or 1919 and the average trend is only about 0.1 degrees per decade. And in most individual locations the trends are statistically insignificant in most months.
The report points out that greenhouse gases aren’t the only contributors to warming. Canada is buffeted by large natural systems that, by their reckoning, explains about a third of the observed warming. Assuming their models are correct.
How much does it all matter? A simple test is to find the nearest 80 year old and ask how life has changed since the 1950s. You’ll probably get a long and fascinating answer, but it’s almost a certainty that temperature change won’t come up. Winter still looks like winter and summer like summer. A very perceptive old-timer might note that snow gives way to rain a bit earlier in the Spring than it used to, but other than that, the changes are so small that if a report like this hadn’t come out hardly anyone would have noticed them.
Still, the report might embolden activists like Mike Layton, the Toronto City Councillor who proposed suing oil companies over the cost of climate change. What about the benefits of using energy? Evidently as with gentle warming there are none.
At least there’d better not be. For as Resources Works’ Stewart Muir wrote in the Toronto Sun, the sue-the-oil-companies craze overlooks that we need gas so making it more expensive and scaring companies away from your city doesn’t do anyone any good. He adds that cities in BC from Whistler to Victoria have discovered that making business feel hated is bad for prosperity, while making Alberta and Saskatchewan feel hated is bad for national unity. As Toronto Mayor John Tory rightly noted, after he and every city councillor got a Harry Potter style “howler” from Jason Kenney about Layton’s idea, “You can’t very well call out one industry that provides the fuel and then drive your car around and think that somehow there is no connection between the people who provide the fuel for the car and the people who drive the cars or make them.”
Terence Corcoran in the Financial Post makes an additional point we have also noted, that a hazard of going to court over the costs of climate change is that you will be required to demonstrate that they exist. Corcoran quotes part of Layton’s motion, that “Extreme weather is already causing massive damage to Toronto-area infrastructure, homes, services and businesses. According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, the Greater Toronto Area has had “six ‘100 Year Storms’ since 2005. These storms are a direct result of climate change.” Which as he notes has been decisively refuted to the point that the CBC had to retract it.
In fact Robert Muir, the guy who forced the CBC to backtrack on its credulous urban-flooding-climate-change hype, has a new post that shows what Environment and Climate Change Canada (elsewhere) says is really going on in Toronto. And it’s a long trend of declining rainfall extremes. Stand by for them to ring the alarm about climate change subjecting Canadian cities to withering drought. Exactly the way it didn’t from 1950 to the present.