Opinion | Financial Post | Peter Foster | September 08, 2010
The Globe and Mail unstabled its highest horse yesterday from which to pontificate on the Alberta government’s response to a study by environmental scientist, alarmist and activist David Schindler. The report, released last week, suggested that development of the Alberta oilsands was poisoning the Athabasca river, and thus wildlife and people.
The Globe poured scorn on “predictable responses from some in [Premier Ed] Stelmach’s government.” Singled out was Energy Minister Ron Liepert, whose instant reaction was that: “If you look back at the work that [Prof. Schindler] has done in the past, I’m not surprised that this was the result.”
The Globe thundered that: “Albertans and Canadians deserve more than innuendo directed at a distinguished scholar who has 10 honorary degrees to his name, is an officer of the Order of Canada and a recipient of the Alberta Order of Excellence, that province’s highest honour…. Rather than imply some sort of sinister agenda, Alberta needs to know the facts.”
Indeed it does, which is exactly what Mr. Stelmach has promised. Meanwhile the Globe’s brave stand for objectivity and rigour was somewhat undermined by the editorial’s headline: “Don’t drink the water.”
That’s eco balance, Globe style.
While lambasting Mr. Liepert, the Globe neglected to record that Alberta’s Energy Minister had added that despite Prof. Schindler’s devotion to warmism, “that doesn’t mean [the study is] wrong. That’s what is going to have to be assessed by the [Environment] Department.”
When it comes to innuendo, meanwhile, the Globe also failed to mention that Prof. Schindler is something of a past master. He has castigated catastrophic climate-change skeptics as “big-oil shills,” and asserted that anybody who sought to discredit “mainstream” science could only be doing so for “ideological” or “commercial” reasons. When it comes to hyperbole, too, Prof. Schindler can hold his own. “There is nothing on this planet that compares with the destruction going on there,” he has said of the oilsands, adding: “If there were a global prize for unsustainable development, the oilsands would be the clear winner.”
Ahead of the October 2008 federal election, he was among a group of scientists who wrote an open letter advising strategic voting to defeat the Conservatives. Six years before that, he suggested that the glaciers of the Rockies might be gone in 20 or 30 years. (Didn’t something similar about Himalayan glaciers find its way into the IPCC’s 2007 assessment report?)
As for bowing before Prof. Schindler’s awards, we might remember that uber-alarmist Maurice Strong, mastermind of the attempted global climate-change coup, has at least four times as many honorary degrees as Prof. Schindler. And what about Al Gore’s Nobel Peace Prize? Plus spare us the brandishing of Prof. Schindler’s study being “peer reviewed,” another term debased by the flagrant politicization of climate science and the revelations of Climategate.
The report, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, flatly accuses the oilsands industry and the government of Alberta of being liars. “Contrary to claims made by industry and government in the popular press,” it concludes, “the oil sands industry substantially increases loadings of toxic [priority pollutants] to the Athabasca River and its tributaries via air and water pathways. This increase confirms the serious defects of RAMP [Regional Aquatic Monitoring Program], which has not detected such patterns in the Athabasca River watershed.”
This is something of a misrepresentation, since RAMP admits that certain levels of pollutants are above guidelines, but claims that this is due to the natural leeching of the oilsands into the river, which would happen with or without development.
RAMP, the industry and the Alberta government responded at the usual speed of a spavined tortoise. Mr. Stelmach announced that he would get the experts together to address the discrepancies. RAMP announced a technical review of the Schindler study.
Unfortunately, newspapers tend not to operate at the speed of technical reviews. One can imagine all the committees of worthy oil company executives and Alberta bureaucrats mulling over communications strategies while the Schindler study finds its way onto a million eco-activist websites.
The industry should have had a preliminary rejoinder to the Schindler report out within a day or so. The absence of such a rejoinder only confirms suspicions that the Schindler study had it straight and that the oilsands are poisoning Alberta.
It is difficult to quibble with Mr. Stelmach’s suggestion that the “experts” compare notes, but the Globe managed to do it, claiming that it was “unlikely that such informal meetings will succeed in resolving the serious issues raised by Dr. Schindler’s research.” But the seriousness of these issues is exactly what needs to be addressed.
The oilsands have been subject to a concerted international campaign by radical environmental groups that want to close them down. Those campaigns have used wildly inaccurate data, which have nevertheless been eagerly regurgitated by a climate-change-committed media.
If the Schindler study is accurate, then it provides a service, but skepticism is indeed warranted since Prof. Schindler has clearly demonstrated himself to be a man with an agenda. Whether one regards it as “sinister” depends where one is coming from.