Springtime in Canada

Ah, another lovely spring morning in Toronto, another blanket of snow on the ground—another reminder, as if any were needed, that the coldest winter in memory goes on and on, in the immortal words of Céline Dion.

It's been more than a decade since anyone within reach of a computer keyboard has had the temerity—aye, the unvarnished gall—to suggest that global warming might benefit Canada. 'Twas the American journalist Michael Hill who penned the AP piece in June 2007 entitled "Global Warming Good for Canada, Yale Study Shows" (oddly enough, that article appears to be online no longer, but you can read it here). "Northern homes could save on heating fuel," Hill mused. "Cities might stop losing snowbirds to the South. Canadian farmers could harvest bumper crops. Greenland may become awash in cod and oil riches. Shippers could count on an Arctic shortcut between the Atlantic and Pacific. Forests may expand. Mongolia could see a go-go economy." Oh. My. God. What was he thinking?

Thankfully, Al Gore came out with An Inconvenient Truth that same year, winning the Nobel Peace Prize, scaring the daylights out of everyone, affirming the inerrancy of the IPCC, and vanquishing those he called climate deniers to the margins of polite society. The science was settled, Al told us all, and we believed him, too—even after Climategate, after "hide the decline," after the hockey stick graph and the disappearing Medieval Warm Period, after the ice-free Arctic, the melting Himalayan glaciers and the oceans' savage reclamation of the world's islands and deltas, after the warming hiatus, even after some of the world's most distinguished climate scientists (black sheep, outliers and troublemakers to a person, needless to say) told us that the IPCC models were overestimating warming. 'Twas Canada's own Dark Mistress of Climate Mayhem, Margaret Wente, who prophesied the Great Global Warming Collapse in 2010. "By exaggerating the certainties, papering over the gaps, demonizing the skeptics and peddling tales of imminent catastrophe, they've discredited the entire climate-change movement," Wente wrote. "The political damage will be severe."

Wente proved dead wrong, of course. The Gore-led global-warming doomsday machine doubled down, monopolizing virtually all mainstream media, hijacking science education at every level, and supplanting increasingly questionable CMIP5-driven climate projections with apocalyptic scorched-earth scenarios and ad hominem attacks on skeptics and defectors. The rest, from Kyoto to Paris, from Bill Nye to our own Catherine McKenna, is history, as they say. The "entire world" is today united in the cause of "tackling climate change"—save for the Cruel Pirate Trump, who, ironically, turns out to be virtually the only Western leader meeting his own nation's stated emissions targets. In the topsy-turvy world of climate virtuosity, as Trump and his EPA lieutenant Scott Pruitt discover daily, what matters is not what you do but what you say you are going to do, and whether you sound sincere when you say it.

So here we are again—Canada in the springtime—facing yet another cycle of doom-laden climate prophesies, the launch of a Suzuki-sanctioned climate atlas that purports to show Canadians "just how hot their hometowns could get this century," and Minister McKenna grousing "I have no time for folks who are, like, you know, 'we shouldn’t take action.'"

It turns out that many of those folks stand today on the science of global warming more or less where they stood a decade ago. Roughly a third of respondents to an online poll conducted for the Ecofiscal Commission and published yesterday expressed skepticism about whether humans are responsible for climate change. More intriguing is the poll's finding that when it comes to Canadians' views on government policy, Ms. McKenna's frustrations are entirely warranted: "the number of people who said they want government to focus less on policy to reduce emissions has doubled from eight per cent in 2015 to 16 per cent in 2018. That shift in attitudes is also apparent in the drop in the percentage of Canadians who want more of a government emphasis on reducing emissions—from 69 per cent in 2015 to 60 per cent today." Conclusion? The more Mr. Trudeau and Ms. McKenna implore Canadians to get with their Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, the less they are inclined to do so.

The CBC and Canadian Press covered the publication of yesterday's poll extensively. Both outlets agreed that the survey's most challenging finding for governments, in the words of CP's Mia Rabson, was that "even among this group—labelled by the Ecofiscal Commission as 'climate believers'—only two-thirds see a carbon price as the best way to curb greenhouse gas emissions." When Canadians were asked to rank their public-policy priorities, "climate change comes in near the bottom of the list, at 21 per cent; improving health care services came in at 46 per cent." Ecofiscal CEO Dale Beugin concluded from these responses that ordinary Canadians don't understand carbon taxes. "I think this is another interesting example of economists being different than normal people," he said, apparently not in jest.

Beugin could not be more mistaken. There is not a Canadian voter alive today who does not know what a sin tax is, which puts the lie on the poll's most important finding: "Nationally, only 58 per cent of those who participated in the online survey said they thought that the primary purpose of a carbon tax was to change behaviour, compared to 42 per cent who said the purpose was just to raise money."

Conclusion? One hundred percent of Canadians are exactly right.