Dr. Clark's prepared statement, including slides shown, before the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, The Environment, and Natural Resources. Uploaded by International Climate Science Coalition, http://www.climatescienceinternational.org/ .
Professor Ian Clark just does not see any evidence of oil sands contributing to global warming. That’s quite a stand to take in the face of a global environmental community that considers the development of the Canadian heavy oil industry tantamount to hastening the end of the world.
But Prof. Clark can claim to know a bit more about the science behind climate change than the average person. As a professor in the Department of Earth Sciences at the University of Ottawa, he focuses on paleoclimatology — the study of changes in climate taken on the scale of the entire history of earth — and isotope hydrology, which determines the age of ice or snow, which can help indicate climate conditions in the past.
Last December, the professor testified before the Senate Standing Committee on Energy, The Environment, and Natural Resources, where he explained that our planet is experiencing global warming after 400 years of a cold period which he termed “the little ice age.” [Watch the video]
“Our efforts to limit the use of fossil carbon-based energy has solved no environmental problems, yet has created many more, including the accelerated production of ethanol and the conversion of tropical rainforest to tropical palm oil production,” Prof. Clark told the committee. “It is time to address real, tangible environmental issues.”
In an emailed interview with Financial Post, Prof. Clark explains why the environmentalists “have lost their way” and why NASA scientist James Hansen and former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore are plain wrong.
Q: Could you elaborate on the theory that Co2 emissions lag the climate by 800 years.
A: During the ice ages, there is a very clear correlation between the concentration of CO2 and temperature. This is well demonstrated by ice core research, where ice cores have been collected that provide a continuous record of the past several hundred years.
During that time, temperature fluctuates by several degrees, and CO2 fluctuates between about 280 ppm during the interglacial periods (like today, except we have higher levels due to human emissions) and 180 ppm during glacial periods.
Former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore showed this strong correlation and misrepresented it as showing CO2 warms the climate. The reverse is true. As the temperature rises for external reasons (solar and Earth orbital parameters) the deep ocean basins (Southern Ocean mainly) begin to warm and degas CO2 to the atmosphere (CO2 is less soluble in warmer water).
However, the rise in CO2 lags the rise in temperature by about 800 years. This shows that CO2 does not play a role in the warming, and even a reinforcing role must be minor considering the lag. When the climate starts to cool, CO2 remains high, again for hundreds of years, and so plays no role in sustaining the warm climate, as the climate cools despite the high CO2.
Q: Do you believe there is a lobby misrepresenting facts on global warming and exaggerating the role of Canadian oil sands in accelerating it.
A: Absolutely. The oil sands contribute very, very little to global CO2. If one believes in global warming, then one must accept that the oil sands contribute very, very little to warming. Shutting down those operations would do nothing to reducing CO2 emissions. These are driven by demand, and supply from other countries will simply increase to meet it.
Greenpeace has commended their success in killing the Keystone XL pipeline and stated that they will now kill the Northern Gateway using the mechanisms of protest that they have become so adept with and have the corporate and financial means to support. Perhaps they will. The pollution and emissions from the oil sands have been greatly exaggerated. Killing the oil sands would be to the great detriment of all Canadians, from aboriginal groups to engineers and other workers alike. It is greener energy than many other sources.
Q: So CO2 has nothing to do with global warming …
A: First we must be clear that there is, currently, no global warming. The global temperature has fluctuated over the past 15 years around a stable value, with no upward trend. The IPCC — Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change — models all predicted a steady increase of 0.2°C per decade, and this has not occurred. We have had global warming and cooling over geological time, and of course over the past century.
This is a good thing, as it warmed the planet from the cooler temperatures of the Little Ice Age. Agriculture, and civilisation flourishes with warmer temperatures. CO2, however, has had no apparent impact on the warming periods.
In fact, we experienced cooling during the years from 1950 to 1975 when global emissions were rising very quickly. Therefore, in the past we’ve seen no evidence for CO2 as a climate driver. Further, we can attribute the recent warming of the past century to a more active sun. The correlations are much stronger than between warming and CO2, and the science supporting a solar connection to climate warming and cooling becomes stronger each year.
Q: NASA scientist James Hansen says developing oil sands is “game over” for the climate. Do you agree with his assessment?
A: This is advocacy and has no basis in science, yet is stated by a leading scientist in the ranks of the global warming community. With or without the oil sands, humans will continue to burn fossil fuels. The oil sands are one of many sources of oil and gas.
Q: You also mentioned Al Gore in your testimony. How do you rate his work and do you think An Inconvenient Truth painted an accurate picture of the environmental issues facing the earth.
A: Mr. Al Gore is a politician, and an opportunist who gains much from the business of global warming alarmism. An Inconvenient Truth is a pack of lies and misrepresentations. It has done much to damage science. It states that CO2 is implicated in the increases in temperature in the ice ages when we know that it lags temperature by almost a millennium. His team has written and distributed a children’s book on global warming that has the audacity to switch the CO2 and temperature curves for the ice ages to show CO2 increasing first, followed by temperature. A scientist to deliberately misrepresent facts would lose his job.
Q: Are environmentalists wrong to blame oil sands for global pollution? Do you think Canada can develop its oil sands without adding to global pollution and global warming?
A: The environmental movement has lost its way. Saving whales and fighting for endangered species were worthy causes, but taking on the oil sands at any cost and any misrepresentation of the facts will accomplish nothing good for Canadians.
Yes, the oil sands have disrupted great tracts of the boreal forest, but in time these are recovered. Let’s compare that with urban sprawl and the mega-stores dominating suburban landscapes. The ecosystems that were paved over will never be recovered. Never.
The oil sands is a mega project that improves the lives of many Canadians, and will do so for many decades to come. The operations continue to improve, with less pollution and less impact. It is a focal point for innovation and technological development.
We have many serious environmental problems from overfishing of the oceans, coastal eutrophication, and habitat loss. Let’s focus on those. Perhaps we use too much energy and need more conservation. This will come through education and technologies to improve efficiencies. Let’s focus on that. Cutting off the oil sands energy supply will not reduce our addiction to fossil fuels. It will only require North Americans to import more.
Q: Scientists seem to present their findings as facts and absolutely truths. How can average people distinguish between fact and fiction and form their own opinions regarding scientific research.
A: This is not easy to answer. People must read a lot, and they must question what they read. They need to look at what the scientist has invested in the position that he is taking. Is he receiving lots of research funding? Is he advocating or presenting the results of his scientific work? Scientists are human, and consequently have personal sentiments and biases. It is easier to agree with the so-called consensus on global warming, as it aligns with the common sentiment that we live in a time of excess and over use of fossil fuels.