Is He Lying Or Merely Incompetent?

Wednesday, 16 May 2012 09:02

Let's recap the Harper government's record on climate change, shall we?

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With Oil, It's Deja Vu All Over Again

Friday, 11 March 2011 12:46

It's March, 1980. You are 19 years old and sitting at the wheel of your lime-green AMC Gremlin. Normally, you'd feel pretty cool. But you just left the gas station and it cost a fortune to fill up. Apparently, there was a revolution in the Middle East or something. Stupid Middle Easterners.

Ah, but who are you kidding? You can't afford gas at any price because you lost your job bagging groceries. The price of food and lots of other things is also going up like crazy. People are cutting back. They have to. This recession is brutal. And everybody says it will only get worse. They're scared.

You're scared, too. How will you score with the ladies if you can't take the Gremlin out of your parents' driveway?

Anxious and distracted, you miss a stop sign and T-bone a cement mixer. The Gremlin is totalled. You're in a coma.

For 31 years.

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Comrade Kent And His Five Year Plan

Friday, 11 February 2011 15:23

For free-market zealots, the Harper Conservatives sure are behaving like Communists on climate change.

And yes, I know that's not the standard take. Stephen Harper has oil in his veins, we are told. He thinks climate change is a fraud and he'll happily strip mine northern Alberta and drown Bangladesh and starve Africans for a buck. Or something like that.

It may be true. I don't know. As I've noted before, I can't read minds. But I do know the government's official position is very different.

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Anyone Remember That Threat To All Humanity?

Wednesday, 10 November 2010 11:11

Does anyone remember the issue that Stephen Harper called "perhaps the biggest threat to confront the future of humanity today"? No, it wasn't terrorism. Or nuclear proliferation. Or the rickety global financial system. Or a coalition of the socialists and the separatists.

Come on! He said this only three years ago. Surely we are not such a nation of amnesiacs and flavour-of-the-month media that we have forgotten the prime minister of Canada warning citizens about the most terrible danger in the world?

Or maybe we are.

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It's a soggy Monday night but the pews in one of Ottawa's most spacious churches are overflowing with believers. "We have tried to assume the position of the gods," the angry man at the lectern thunders, "without the knowledge to manage our ecological footprint."

No, the speaker is not a preacher, at least not a preacher of the conventional sort. He is David Suzuki, scientist, environmentalist, icon.

The natural systems that sustain us are infinitely complex, he tells the worshipful audience. We are only beginning to understand them and we cannot possibly predict what effect the actions and technologies of almost seven billion people will have on them. We must be humble. We must be cautious and reverent. "We don't know enough to take the place of the gods," he proclaims.

It's a familiar theme, which is appropriate because Suzuki, at 74, is summing up his life's work -- his "legacy," as he puts it in the title of his new book.

Suzuki delivers another familiar theme this night. He illustrates it with a thought experiment.

Imagine a test tube filled with food. That's the Earth, he says. Now introduce a single bacterium to that test tube and let it grow exponentially. In the first minute, one bacterium becomes two bacteria. In the second minute, two become four. Four become eight. Eight become 16. If it takes one hour for the bacteria to multiply until they fill the entire test tube and there's no more food -- and the bacteria all die -- when will the test tube be exactly half full of food and half full of bacteria?

On Science, Dogma, and Zealots

Saturday, 26 June 2010 09:16

Over at the National Post, last week was "Junk Science Week," during which Post writers like Peter Foster and Lawrence Solomon identify and denounce widely publicized "science" that is, in reality, shoddy nonsense. The editors also give a sardonic award -- the "Rubber Ducky" -- "to recognize the scientists, NGOs, activists, politicians, journalists, media outlets, cranks and quacks who each year advance the principles of junk science."

It's a great idea. There is plenty of snake oil around and those who peddle it should be called to account. And mocked mercilessly. In that spirit, I'd like to award my own Rubber Ducky. Ahem.

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The Science of Uncertainty

Tuesday, 08 June 2010 09:22

Well, it seems I was wrong. All wrong. "Climategate" and the other recent scandals have torn the lid off the rotten science of climate change. The deniers were right. Crank up the air conditioning and open the windows, happy days are here again!

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