Canada’s New Climate Denialism: Subtle, Deceitful, Dishonest

Canada has become the home of a new climate denialism, a more subtle, deceitful and dishonest version — Version 2.0. Version 2.0 is more dangerous and more sinister than the shameless denial of the last decade. It’s a new dis-ease that injects itself into the public discourse about climate change. Its primary tools are doubt, fear, alternative facts, halftruths, mistruths and plain old-fashioned lies. Its primary purpose is to create a facade of climate action.

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Hard-Core Denialism

Climate deniers have delayed action on climate for decades. But for the most part, this old breed of deniers and skeptics has been discredited and exposed in the public sphere. In fact, in the groundswell of climate action leading up to the 2015 Paris talks, climate deniers were labelled as an endangered species by some.

Most of the hard-core denialism has been financed by the fossil-fuel industry which has spent millions on public relations firms to set up industry-funded lobby groups and misinformation campaigns. The goal is always to discredit climate science and to cloud the public’s understanding of climate facts in its promotion a pro-fossil-fuel agenda.

Skeptical Science lists 193 arguments and myths used by deniers to discredit the climate science and scientists. Merchants of Doubt (both the book and the video) shows “how a handful of scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming.”

New Climate Denialism in Canada

Although the straight-up American style of climate denial is less obvious in Canada, the interests of the fossil fuel industry remain prevalent in the climate action mix advanced by the Trudeau government and the provinces. The Canadian brand of denialism has infected leading politicians across the country.

This new denier is more sophisticated and calculating, operating under a facade of progressive climate action. Prime Minister Trudeau is the embodiment of the new form of climate denialism. He accepts the science of climate change, accepts the need to price carbon, accepts the need to transition to a clean energy platform and accepts the imperative to reduce carbon emissions. Under his leadership, Canada has signed the Paris Agreement and set its 2030 emissions-reduction targets which he claims we will meet or exceed.

Symptoms of Dis-Ease

Canada’s new climate denialism manifests itself in many ways. The evidence is all around if one listens carefully enough.

It begins with the newly elected Prime Minister’s message to the world at the Paris talks of December 2015. “Canada is back, my good friends. And we’re here to help,” said Trudeau to a cheering audience.

But this inspirational and proud moment for Canadians has been followed by the government’s failure domestically to adopt the rigorous policies that could limit global warming to below 2°C, the target embedded in the Paris Agreement.

Claiming that we can take effective action on climate change and ramp-up fossil fuel production at the same time is delusional. But for the most part Trudeau has been able to convince Canadians that this is a wise and a prudent course for Canada to pursue. He has lulled his followers into a deep sleep while climate change makes its ugly consequences felt around the globe.

Naomi Oreskes is a science historian and the author of Merchants of Doubt. While attending an event on climate change and climate denial organized by the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia, Oreskes pointed out that “a new form of climate denialism is at work… one meant to persuade the public that fossil fuels are necessary and renewables unreliable… Alternatives to fossil fuels are disparaged by a new generation of myths.” And one of those myths ,she claims, is that Canada’s economic future is dependent on fossil fuel infrastructure expansion.

We are also seeing a line of argument that goes like this: yes renewables are nice, but they are too intermittent and unreliable to be our primary source of power.

Of course we know this to be untrue. The Solutions Project (Infographic) from Stanford University shows how Canada can move to a clean renewable energy platform by 2050.

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Trudeau is an artful practitioner of public messaging intended for mass consumption by a receptive but naive Canadian public. We Canadians want to believe that we are acting quickly on the climate problem. But we are not.

So if you think that climate deniers are finally irrelevant, then think again. Deniers have found more creative and sneaky ways to support the strong interests of the fossil fuel industry.

It would be dangerous to imagine that the era of climate denialism is over. Because, it’s simply not so!

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climate ironyRolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. And he’s a climate advocate, a climate communicator and a blogger. He’s a member of 350.Org (Ottawa), Climate Reality Canada and Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Canada). Rolly has been published widely in both print and online publications. You can follow him on Facebook , Twitter,  Linkedin and Pinterest.

9 Responses to Canada’s New Climate Denialism: Subtle, Deceitful, Dishonest

  1. Sadly, the same can be said about many countries, including Britain and the US!

    It doesn’t say a lot for the politicians running the world economy! Will it ever change? Doubtful. Regardless of Social Leanings, no party has ever come through with a better way for us to live. Socialists want the rich to pay for the poor (and there aren’t any incentives for the top one percent to remain rich in that scenario). Nationalists and Right Wing Conservatives want exponential economic growth (that ultimately lines the pockets of the rich). The various political shades in between are just variations on either or both themes. Nothing, but nothing has worked to protect the environment that we need to live healthy lives.

    We need a major rethink on survival programs… For that is what we really need. It is not about wars, policing, housing, jobs or protectionism. It is about education, health & population controls, good and sustainable farming and clean living resources that benefit nature, us and the planet itself. Without these in place, everything else becomes a failure for the future. It is a concept idea that our leaders are failing to grasp.

    • So Colette, how do we do this? The chronic growth paradigm is so deeply embedded in the global economy. There simply is not a parallel counter-force at the socio-politico-cultural level to change our downward spiral.

      My own Prime Minister is a neo-Liberal who lives with the illusion that the economy and the environment go together but we all know what that means. It means the economy comes first. Period.

      • Rolly,

        I had a long reply to you question
        ‘So Colette, how do we do this?’

        Unfortunately it bombed and I lost the whole thing. I have no easy answer, but I recently watched the thoughts of Michael Tellinger, South African Archeologist and researcher on civilisations that have gone before us, especially in terms of enterprise and exploitation of earth’s resources. Michael is now a political activist intent creating a political system that takes us away from corrupt governments and power hungry banks and corporations. His especial plan is to provide free clean energy, and he believes we have artifacts in the ancient record that point to amazing potential in obtaining free energy.

        Michael has many YouTube videos, but I have picked three from a visit to Britain to list here …they outline his initial archeological work, his experience with sound energy and finally his political case for forming new communities. While they may not show a complete answer to your question Rolly, they do give us an insight into how governments and corporations are not working in the best interests of people.
        You may find that some of Michael’s claims sound like conspiracy theories, but keep an open mind….we are living in a world where our political elites are gagging the press, spouting hate and dissension and spouting absolute nonsence about climate change. People like Michael Tellinger are becoming more believable every day!

      • And this is just one of the significantly favourable reviews of Michael Tellinger’s Book

        “Ubuntu Contributionism is the Way Out of the Darkness
        ByDirk Davidekon March 17, 2014
        Verified Purchase
        I have been studying the global banking system and money for about 20 years. Michael Tellinger made more sense to me in this book than anything else I’ve ever read about money. Ubuntu Contributionism is the way out of the trap humanity has been in for thousands of years.

        The solution to the question about what types of reform to our monetary systems should take place is to eliminate it altogether. Without it, you eliminate the need and source of most government structure except at the very local level. With no money there is no incentive to steal, pollute, skimp on quality, engineer in obsolescence, etc. Bribery and corruption would be impossible and wars would fade into history.

        At first glance Contributionism seems communistic. However communism can only exist in a system that uses money. Tellinger has brilliantly mapped out a modern adaptation of an ancient African tribal way of living. He has a sound plan for getting from Point A to Point B that doesn’t require confronting the system head on. It starts small at the community level. In fact, it has already started.

        I did some math and I’m positive the plan can work. If you take the total number of work hours currently worked and eliminated all work that had anything to do with money or government bureaucracy you will see that we can provide all goods and services that people want and need with just a fraction of the effort.

        This is a must read for any person who wants to finally be completely free and never have to worry about access to any needs or wants. Being mostly Libertarian for the majority of my life there were several concepts in the plan that were difficult for me to wrap my mind around. After 20 years of studying money however, I am now positive that Ubuntu Contributionism and the elimination of money altogether is the cure for what ails the majority of human existence on Planet Earth.

      • Sadly, I must retract everything I’ve commented here about Michael Tellinger… Apparently he had been accused of fraud (I don’t know whether true). I am sorry, because I did like the idea of a society that does not need money (or the love of it which causes so much inequality in the world).

        Since posting the above links, I have looked at other videos produced by Michael Tellinger and while he may have good intentions (I give him benefit of doubt), I cannot go along with his ideas that the earth is flat, that a race of beings live in the centre of the earth or other such nonsense. Apologies to everyone who may read this.

  2. Mark Bigland-Pritchard Reply

    There are two strands to the new denialism, which don’t necessarily coexist in any one politician’s stance but frequently do. One is the failure to recognise just how small the global carbon budget is, and therefore how ambitious every jurisdiction needs to be. The other is the long-debunked talking points around the supposed non-viability of renewables and the supposed impossibility of any rapid transition (even in the face of substantial progress towards such a transition in Scotland, Denmark, Sweden, etc).

    To address these two strands, I think we need to separate them. They need different responses largely because they resonate with different power-centres. Myth complex 1 (effective denial of the size of the carbon budget) is where the fossil industry will focus – together with the corporatist thinktanks which provide their “intellectual” underpinning (e.g. this: http://cwf.ca/news/commentaries/environmentalists-should-end-the-charade-over-the-oil-sands/). Myth complex 2 (denial of the viability of a renewables-based society) is where utility corporations naturally sit until they are given a big push. The “authority figures” for myth 1 are economists; for myth 2 they are engineers. Myth complex 1 tells people “your prosperity is being threatened by these nasty environmentalists and scientists”. Myth complex 2 tells people “there is no alternative to our way of doing things, so get in line”. They work together on the public, and either is going to be weaker without the other, but both need to be demolished.

    • Mark,

      Thank you for your comments. And welcome to BoomerWarrior. This site will migrate to Below2°C.org in a few weeks.

      Your point is well taken. There are indeed several strands to the Canadian style of denialism – the lack of understanding of the seriousness of the carbon challenge and of course the attitude that renewals can never replace fossil fuels are two of them. Thank you for your insights and I shall use your comments (with your permission) in a future article.

  3. I think you attach too much importance to denial-ism and not nearly enough to simple greed and apathy. Those who believe in climate change throw Timmy’s cups and McDonald burger boxes out the windows of their pickup trucks the same way climate change deniers do.

    How many people who are convinced that fossil fuels will be the death of us think that the new Carbon Tax should be high enough to actually discourage people from using so much? It worked with cigarettes, but who is in favour of paying three or four dollars a litre for fuel? Why do Canadians buy three times more new pickup trucks than economy cars? It is easy to blame the evil ‘them’ for our problems, but I see very few ‘good’ people living a lifestyle that is not contributing to the problem.

    When considering the future of humanity on this planet, there is no worthwhile sacrifice that is small enough to be acted upon.

    • Welcome to BoomerWarrior and thank you for your comments.

      You and I are on the same page my friend. And yes too many good people still throw their garbage out the window of their gas-guzzling pickups. But my guess is that those people are most certainly not environment-sensitive. Climate believers simply don’t do that.

      Actually your comments support the very point that I’m making. Denialism in Canada is widespread and widely demonstrated by the actions we do and the lack of action on climate as well. We like to pretend that we’re doing something about climate change but it’s just a facade.

      Resisting lifestyle changes is denialism. Period.

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