SRD Board is collectively responsible

The SRD’s Climate Debate Continues

Regional Director Gerald Whalley recently informed the Strathcona Regional District (SRD) Board what he perceives to be the truth about global warming. He presented the video of that name, which alleges there are other explanations for extreme weather events and the climate does not actually appear to be changing. Whalley summed up his personal beliefs by quoting Genesis 8:22. When Noah stepped off the ark, God promised him that “While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” (KJV) This verse, Whalley maintains, proves that the climate change is not a real concern. The SRD’s Climate debate continued at the Feb 12, 2020, Board meeting. 

Two Perspectives on Climate Change

The topic came up because one of the items in correspondence was a letter in which John Drew, a “Forester and PhD biologist and scientist living on Cortes Island,” described Director Anderson’s climate presentation as “inflated” facts and “ideologically based” interpretations. Mr Drew was not present when she gave this talk, but wrote that he recognized the genre from the slides stored on the SRD website. In regard to global concerns about climate change, he states:

” … As a scientist who has reviewed the subject, I can say unequivocally
that the Earth is not in trouble; likely to survive another 13 million years if the late Stephen Jay Gould is correct. Yes, there are issues and that World climate is changing is nothing new; just a reflection of a reality that it has always changed: sometimes fast with the quakes from tectonic plates, volcanic eruptions; hurricane winds, huge waves and solar collisions; and, always slowly changing in response to solar eruptions and Earth’s eccentricity, obliquity, inclination & axis tilt and most of all water vapour …”

Whalley told the SRD board, “I appreciated this correspondence from Mr John Drew, a man with some scientific credentials and common sense behind him.”

In a previous interview, Director Anderson said her report’s facts come from an Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change (IPCC) report (utilizing comments from “489 expert reviewers”*); a recent talk Cortes author Rex Weyler gave on Overshoot; and materials obtained from Climate Hope.

Prioritizing Solutions Not Problems

Scanning through the remainder of Mr Drew’s letter, I found some of the ideas in this paragraph interesting:

“The Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg has spent the last decade speaking effectively on the topic of public policy priorities (PPPs). Dr. Lomborg suggests it is more helpful to prioritize solutions and not problems and to do that effectively we need to know costs and effectiveness. When Bjorn and his colleagues included climate change (really the act of working hard to keep the climate that we have), it ranked last as a PPP; because in reality little is achieved at a very high cost. In a similar vein, the top four PPPs were about public health — malaria, malnutrition and HIV Aids — each having an enormous impact from the money spent; the third priority had to do with Free Trade.” 

No Tax Dollars For Carbon Reductions

The following conversation took place when Mr Drew’s letter was discussed at the Feb 12 board meeting:

Whalley said, “At the last board meeting’s agenda, when it was publicized that I would do a little presentation on climate change, I received quite a few phone calls and emails from Cortes Islanders who had anticipated that I was going to give a differing opinion from Director Anderson’s. They were offering me support and advice. What I found most interesting was, to a person, they asked me to ensure that none of their tax dollars ever go to carbon reductions.”

Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson immediately shot back, “Of course, in every constituency there will be people who think that. I trust that we will allow the elected representatives from our respective constituencies to bring the majority will and best interests of their communities forward.”

None of the surrounding board members expressed any support for her position.

Needs To Rationally Be Thought Out 

“I just wanted to thank Director Whalley for bringing the video that we saw at the last board meeting. It was informative, answered some questions and I also appreciate some comments in the letter on receipt. I like to see things based on science. Yes [the climate] is changing. Do we know why? No, there is not consensus on why it is changing,” said Director Charlie Cornfield.  

“I liken what’s happening on climate change to a mob mentality, people jumping on the [theme?] of the day. I think it needs to be rationally thought out and discussed. If it is affected by man, it needs to be managed by man.” 

Work On Real Things

Regional Director Brenda Leigh added, “I really appreciated Mr Drew’s input on this. He says, basically, we have far more to worry about with the possibility of an earthquake and the possibility of wildfires than running around like chicken littles worrying about carbon. We have to worry about what’s in front of us. In this district [it is] emergency plans [for] sea level rise, tsunami advance warnings and what to do in a major disaster. It’s always better to do something constructive towards planning how you are going to handle something, [rather] than simply getting out the bullhorn and yelling about it. The climate change [marches?] and what not – they’re not doing anything constructive to fix anything, they’re just making noise. Those of us that are worried about real things, are working on the real things.” 

SRD's climate debate continues
Cortes Island (electoral Area B) – courtesy the SRD website

My Opinion

Speaking as a non-scientist: I found the paragraph in Mr Drew’s letter about prioritizing solutions over problems interesting. I’m also curious about the extent to which problems that we interpret as evidences of climate change are actually the result of other human activities. That said, I have come to believe our climate is changing at a rate that is already causing environmental problems and would like to see the larger scientific community’s response to any arguments to the contrary.

According to NASA, “The vast majority of actively publishing climate scientists – 97 percent – agree that humans are causing global warming and climate change.”

Aside from scientists working on the IPCC report cited by Director Anderson, none of the sources cited above identified themselves as climate scientists. This does not mean that their opinions are not valid, but it is a fact we should note.

Setting Mr Drew’s letter aside, none of the SRD Directors appear to have caught the significance of the fact that “to a person,” the Cortesians who contacted Whalley asked him “to ensure that none of their tax dollars ever go to carbon reductions.” You will not find such universal opposition to climate action on Cortes. We appear to be witnessing another example of how easily a determined group can exploit the divisions within the SRD Board to impose their will on the rest of Cortes island.

The anti-tax lobby did this so effectively prior to the recent hall funding referendum that the board actually thought public opinion was equally divided. When we were finally permitted to vote, 75% of the electorate approved the idea of devoting a portion of our property tax dollars to the maintenance of Gorge and Mansons Halls.

As for the Cortes residents that phoned and emailed Director Whalley, it seems unlikely that so many would “to a person” seize upon this opportunity to instruct him how their tax dollars should be spent – unless most of them are acting in concert.

The problem being that Whalley appears to be interpreting their correspondence as an expression of Cortes Island’s collective will.

As Whalley and Leigh are two of the four directors on the Electoral Areas Services Committee, which oversees matters in the Regional Districts, they are in a position to block any proposal that Cortes Island Regional Director Noba Anderson brings to the SRD.

*correction: I originally wrote “2,000 scientists” worked on the IPCC Report, this is the number that registered, according to the subsequent IPCC news release the report incorporates comments from 489 of them.

3 thoughts on “The SRD’s Climate Debate Continues”

  1. Well, kind of jaw dropping all around — where does one begin?
    But to pick on just one detail, I was amazed to see anyone still citing the thoroughly-discredited rent-a-hack Bjorn Lomborg. This is the guy who was paid more than half a million dollars by the Australian government for a paper advocating no action to reduce world temperature rise (the same Australian government which was, not coincidentally, trying to defend its coal extraction industry from international criticism at the time). His scientific credentials are nil, as carefully explained here:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2015/08/bjorn-lomborg-just-a-scientist-with-a-different-opinion/
    and the primary reason for his flamboyant contrarian stance is that he’s being paid — handsomely — by fossil fuel and other major moneyed interests. Even Forbes, hardly a radical left journal, finds Lomborg an unreliable source:
    https://www.forbes.com/sites/edfenergyexchange/2016/07/19/bjorn-lomborgs-climate-analysis-is-a-hot-mess/#7075df228267
    and his close ties to billionaires and Big Fossil reduce his credibility to negative numbers.
    https://www.desmogblog.com/2015/02/05/exclusive-bjorn-lomborg-think-tank-funder-revealed-billionaire-republican-vulture-capitalist-paul-singer
    Lomborg’s feel-good opus, _The Skeptical Environmentalist_, was pretty much shredded by reputable scientists:
    https://grist.org/series/a-skeptical-look-at-the-skeptical-environmentalist/
    http://www.lomborg-errors.dk/
    I could go on (I’ve been seriously annoyed by Lomborg’s mischievous posturing for over 20 years) but surely that’s enough for now.

    The point is that Lomborg is not even remotely a reputable source, that he’s been exposed multiple times as a front-man for billionaires and coal barons. As a media figure I put him in the same box with Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopolous (though of course he’s far cleverer than either): attention-seeking, flamboyant, a professional provocateur who makes serious money sowing doubt and disinformation on behalf of the carbon sector, just like Hill and Knowlton did for Big Tobacco in the 1950’s.

    I only wish I thought that, when the full cost of climate change really makes itself felt — in human suffering as well as in dollars — the professional doubt merchants who so successfully delayed and derailed any meaningful response will be held accountable.

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