If you live in a city, almost regardless of where, then somewhere in the bureaucratic equivalent of the underground sewer and wiring system you will find the equivalent of Ottawa’s “Climate Change Master Plan”. It may not be easy to get at; Ottawa’s is posted as six separate documents. And in one sense doing so is unrewarding. But we recommend it anyway because it almost certainly entails very large expenditures (in Calgary, $87 billion) on the basis of very dubious assumptions including, yes, our old friend RCP8.5, the exploded emissions scenario.
If you’re wondering what Ottawa plans to do to stop climate change given that it’s just one medium-sized city, whose authorities cannot even tow trucks without massive heavy-handed assistance from a federal government that can’t run a passport office, and its emissions don’t amount to one bean in this crazy world, the answer for once isn’t as crazy as you might expect. They plan to adapt to the massive changes, not prevent them by shouting at clouds.
After that brief moment of sanity, things go bad again fast. And again in ways you could so easily predict that you wonder whether regurgitating these cliches doesn’t give the authors at least some uneasy moments. Including claiming a 38:1 cost benefit ratio for “proactive adaptation” which, if true, would bring entrepreneurs swarming from the four corners of the Earth and possibly from outer space as well to cash in.
It also tiresomely asserts that virtually every important consequence of climate change will be bad. In “Appendix D: Climate Vulnerabilities and Risks by Focus Area” we find that warmer weather and less or more rain will be terrible for everyone including farmers. Which is odd if you compare farming conditions in Ottawa with those in, say, the Niagara Peninsula or Ohio.
OK, they admit that “Hotter summers and a prolonged growing season may create conditions that increase agriculture and food production opportunities”, “Changes in weather patterns may result in more lands suitable for farming operations” and “Warmer and shorter winters may result in less energy needed to heat buildings that house livestock and poultry”. They also concede that more rain could cause “natural wetland creation”. Which is good, right?
Certainly not. Read on down to p. D6 where it explains that “Hotter summers and a prolonged growing season may create conditions that increase agriculture and food production opportunities” is “Rated as Low since this is not an opportunity that farmers will be able to successfully capitalize on”, and proceeds to explain how everything will go wrong.
By contrast, predictably, “Drought like conditions may result in reduced agricultural yields” goes from “High vulnerability” overall to “Very High Risk” in fire-truck red by the 2080s and “Immediate action required”. Such as what? Filling the pyramids with seven years’ worth of grain? Or 70? (Again to be fair, they admit this impact is more threatening to the community than the city core given the lack of farms in urban Ottawa.) Actually some highly-paid public servant or consultant did come up with “Continue to explore agricultural technologies that can encourage yields in less ideal growing conditions like drought.” Brilliant, Holmes. And certainly not something farmers would ever have come up with on their own.
If the Ottawa plan reads like a typical such document, it’s probably because it was more or less copied from the standard template. Not from laziness or dishonesty but because they are engaged in groupthink. Openly. As the “Report to Standing Committee on Environmental Protection, Water and Waste Management on 21 June 2022 and Council 6 July 2022” put it “The project used well established climate vulnerability and risk assessment methodologies”.
Those methodologies, of course, include RCP8.5. The overall document “Climate Change Vulnerability and Risk Assessment” takes it for granted on p. 73 and then down in “Appendix A: Methodology” explains that “Future climate conditions represented in this document are based on RCP 8.5 which the IPCC refers to as the ‘business as usual’ climate scenario (Figure A. 2).” Actually the IPCC didn’t call it that and even the increasingly sensible alarmist Zeke Hausfather wrote indignantly in 2020 that people should stop using that term.
Good luck with that mate. Meanwhile the Ottawa plan proceeds to misrepresent the scenario further by saying “Under RCP 8.5 it is assumed global carbon emissions will continue to rise until 2100.” Whereas the real difference between it and other scenarios is by how much they predict that greenhouse gases will increase, with RCP8.5 off the scale on the ludicrous end.
Then it says “Although some progress has been made in reducing global GHG emissions, current estimates of GHG emissions are still close to following the RCP 8.5 pathway” which is also wrong. Even if it has the usual colourful graph with RCP2.6 in soothing blue and RCP8.5 in scary red with a 3.2-5.4°C temperature increase by 2100.
Nobody actually believes such a thing is even possible let alone probable. And yet everyone does, because all the climate campfire stories and bureaucratic plans are based on it. Including, we’ll bet, those in your home town unless you live somewhere deplorable. Go ahead and check. If we’re wrong, we’d be delighted to hear it. But we won’t be holding our breath.