Edmonton Journal: Oil Industry Flyer Promotes Global Warming

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“Canada won’t really have a lot of problems. The main problems will be in developing or underdeveloped countries that even today have problems with high cold or high temperatures.”

– Anthropologist and Science Fiction Writer Benny Peiser

The Edmonton Journal was once quite a serious institution – the newspaper of record in the capital city of Alberta, the largest oil producing region in North America and the second largest in the world. Given the 37 years of one-party (Conservative) rule in the province, Journal writers have often considered themselves the Official Opposition, charged with a mission of keeping industry honest and holding the government to account.

Apparently, they have given it up, preferring instead to cozy up to their advertisers by claiming that global warming is a good thing.

Well, good for Alberta, anyway – and who really cares about Bangladesh?

The article would be an embarrassment to any conscientious journal on a couple of fronts. First, it relies on “experts” who have no climate expertise – and, in at least one case, little conscience about saying things that are simply not true.

Consider, for example, the UK anthropologist Benny Peiser, the industry apologist who earned so much attention a couple of years ago by attacking the resarch of Naomi Oreskes. After Oreskes wrote a Science  article, documenting the undeniable agreement in the scientific literature on the underlying theory of climate change, Peiser ripped off a rejoinder claiming that he had checked Oreskes’s work and found that she had cherry-picked her data – that there were, in fact, “many” scientific papers that contradicted the global warming theory.

Peiser’s paper was, in scientific terminology, bullshit, rejected by Science out of hand. But that didn’t prevent it from being trotted through the blogosphere for almost two years before the great Australian fact-checker Tim Lambert (at Deltoid blog) finally documented Peiser’s deception, even extracting something of a confession.

A second reason to dismiss the Edmonton Journal piece – or to look away in embarrassment – is that it quite glibly celebrates the notion of warming in Canada – and especially the prospect of a longer, warmer growing season – without mentioning most of the attendant complications. For instance, it ignores the potential devastation of catastrophic droughts. Alberta, aside from being steeped in oil, is also a highly drought-prone agricultural area, even without the season and climatic shifts that will accompany a warmer world.

Even the inevitability of a massive collapse in the boreal forest (an early example of which can already be seen – from space – in the pine beetle kill that has ravaged British Columbia’s forest), is welcomed as a boon to industry. Yale economist Robert Mendelsohn suggests that, “Rather than let it (i.e., the entire ecosystem, ed) be destroyed naturally, you harvest it into the marketplace and then just let the natural systems replace what should be there next.”

And if it takes a century to regrow a forest and a millennia or 10 to begin rebuilding ecological diversity, well, at least Albertans will have made a bit of money.

I suppose you have to expect Virginians to be the last people who turn on the tobacco industry. You have to assume that the residents of Asbestos, Quebec will be the last to admit that asbestos causes cancer. And the board of directors of Halliburton and Blackwater will certainly be the last people to admit that the Iraq war was, well, an error in judgment.

But you would have hoped – at least, I would have hoped – that a newspaper, backed by the largest chain in the country, would have stood on principle, even in the oil capital of Canada. And clearly, you would have been disappointed.

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