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Strangely unconcerned about heat

23 Feb 2022 | OP ED Watch

We have to laugh, because an Earnscliffe Strategy Group report for Environment and Climate Change Canada delivered September 10, 2021 has apparently already been archived rather than trumpeted. And why? Well, it was on “Public Opinion Research on Extreme Temperatures and Alerting Programs in Northern Canada,” and they discovered that many people who live up in the Arctic couldn’t wait for the heat they’d been promised. Blast.

It really is a lovely report, $69,371.43 (including HST) worth of nuggets like “A common attitude held by almost all participants was that they find extremely cold weather easier to handle than extreme heat.” Well yes. They live in Northern Canada. They haven’t seen extreme heat in their lives unless they went on vacation to, say, Mali.

You think we’re being sarcastic? Well, “Asked what they view as extreme cold requiring them to take precautions, participants mentioned a range of anywhere between -30 to -50 degrees Celsius.” Most of our readers will not have extensive experience with such things even if they’re in C world (and for Americans, it’s actually not much different in this case since -40 is the same on both scales; the range from -30 to -50C would be -22 to -58 for you all). But in case you’re planning a visit, and have no brain at all, we note that “Participants acknowledged that at temperatures in that range, they would need to dress more warmly”.

As for extreme heat, northern Canada style, “The hot temperatures at which participants feel uncomfortable ranged from the low 20s to 30s.” Which again to translate is perhaps 72 to 89 F. And if you’re melting in that range, well, to each their own but perhaps lose the parka. Multiculturalism is all fine and good but we’re having trouble panicking at the news that people in Yukon say they get headaches in the 30s and sometimes feel that a swim would be nice.

Once we’re told 25C is too hot to cope, it’s not clear how much weight to put on the rest of this report, which earns its fee partly by wide margins that stretch it to fully 37 pages, mostly appendices. But don’t go away, because we’re also assured that “Participants clearly distinguished between weather (current conditions) and climate change (the changes in weather observed overtime, attributed to human activity).” Uh, hang on. Cart before horse there. What about changes in weather observed overtime, or over time, and not attributed to human activity? Or is that not a thing?

On to the consensus. “While most are concerned about climate change, intensity varied. Some are very concerned, and cited dramatic changes they have observed including: * Warmer temperatures in the winter and summer; *Thawing permafrost causing their homes to sink; * Unreliability of ice roads and ice thickness, which pose supply chain and safety issues for hunting and fishing; * Changes to animal and insect species in their area; and, * Frequency of forest fires and impact of forest fire smoke on air quality and health.”

QED. And of course we would hesitate to confront such rigorous measurement of trends over time based on interviewing fully 52 people, a quarter of them government employees, with a bunch of random rubbish like actual records of forest fires or their relationship to temperature, or our “Sunburnt lands up north” survey of government of Canada thermometer readings. But we did crack up at “Those who were less concerned about climate change explained that they were enjoying the warmer weather and opportunity to do more outside. A few also felt concern about climate change was overblown and perhaps part of a historic warming period.”

P.S. In the interest of fairness, the report itself concedes that “It is important to note that qualitative research is a form of scientific, social, policy, and public opinion research. Qualitative research is not designed to help a group reach a consensus or to make decisions, but rather to elicit the full range of ideas, attitudes, experiences, and opinions of a selected sample of participants on a defined topic. Because of the small numbers involved, the participants cannot be expected to be thoroughly representative in a statistical sense of the larger population from which they are drawn, and findings cannot reliably be generalized beyond their number.” Still, your tax dollars at work. Unless they fainted from the heat.

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