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Mel Arnold, Conservative Candidate, Hit Hard After Questioning Man-Made Climate Change

10/10/2015 12:57 EDT | Updated 10/09/2016 05:12 EDT
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Mel Arnold, a federal Conservative candidate from the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding in B.C., told the CBC he remains "unconvinced" by climate science and that the role of human activity in the rise of global temperatures remains undetermined.

In an interview with the CBC's Daybreak South radio show this week, Arnold told host Chris Walker he believes only 1.5 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are human-caused.

Arnold also said cycles in climate could be responsible for recent changes in temperature.

"I don't know that it has been determined for sure that human activity is the main cause. It is part of the process," he told Walker. "But how much of it is actually naturally occurring, that's I think where the debate is."

"As you know, this area was once buried in kilometres of thick ice during the ice ages. And we have approximately 30-year cycles on weather conditions here. Those types of things are still in play."

Cindy Derkaz, federal Liberal candidate from the North Okanagan-Shuswap riding, said Arnold was simply toeing the Conservative Party line.

"I wasn't surprised," Derkaz said. "I feel that he is following a party line and bound to do that and I've noticed that there's been no rebuttal of [Arnold's statements] from the party."

Derkaz said the science of climate change, including the role of human activity, is "unequivocal" and that constituents in her region are already feeling the effects of warmer global temperatures.

"We are experiencing some of the hottest years on record, one after another. We are experiencing serious forest fire seasons, problems with our water supply drying up which leads to a diminished flow in rivers which negatively affects the return of fish."

"These are all problems we are dealing with."

NDP candidate Jacqui Gingras said Arnold is "actively denying climate change" and it is "outrageous and dangerous to hold the view" that humans are not contributing to increasing temperatures.

"We've been measuring climate change for 150 years and have been able to reconstruct climate going back 8000 years," Gingras said. "Thirteen of the 15 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000."

Gingras said that researchers from Climate Central calculate that the odds of climate change not being attributable to human activity is one in 27 million.

Gingras said Arnold is apparently willing to bet against those odds.

"To the south of us in Kelowna there were terrible fires this year that had enormous costs on peoples lives," she said. "Our local industry, the forestry industry, relies on those trees.

"We're on the brink of something traumatic, not only locally, but globally there's a crisis building."

Wildfires and trees were also present on the mind of federal Green Party candidate Chris George.

"These fires have been a big issue," George said. "All of the surrounding forests are vulnerable to beetle kill because winters don't get cold enough to kill the insects off which means that more dry standing forests and they are more vulnerable to wildfire."

George added that before this season's wildfires, heavy rainfall caused mudslides in the Shuswap region.

"We basically lost our tourism season. The mudslides wiped out roads, filed our lakes and streams with mud and shut down houseboat operators."

George said the increased intensity and frequency of both drought and heavy rainfall are "easily linked to climate change." Both tourism and agriculture, which the area depends upon, are being "disproportionally hit" by the effects of warmer temperatures, he said.

George added he's surprised to hear any candidates would question the impacts of human activity on the climate. "I was a bit astonished that that's still a position out there."

According to Environment Canada, greenhouse gasses are released into the atmosphere as a result of transportation, oil and gas development, the production of electricity, energy use in buildings, industrial and trade activities, agriculture and the production of waste.

Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist and MLA for the B.C. Green Party, said Arnold's comments are "outrageous" but he is "not surprised" to hear them coming from a representative of Conservative Party.

"This is common within the Harper Tories to find people whose views are based on... I don't know where they get their views from, but they're not scientific," Weaver said.

He added the statements point to the larger problem of scientific literacy in political decision-making.

"If you make decisions as a matter of faith -- 'I believe this to be true' -- it's the beginning of the downfall of society."

Campaign manager Linda Hawkes said Arnold was unavailable for comment.

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B.C. Wildfires 2015