05/07/2013 12:29 EDT | Updated 07/07/2013 05:12 EDT

Dear Minister Oliver, Your Climate Advice Is Wrong

The following is an email DeSmog Canada sent to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver:

Dear Minister Oliver:

Thanks for taking the time to read this email. We know you are very busy, flying back and forth to the United States and now Europe, making the case for Alberta's oil sands to its many skeptics, while at the same time arguing with those "radical" environmental groups opposed to the Northern Gateway project at home in Canada. Now it seems Al Gore has also got you fired up over comments published over the weekend that your government's oil sands strategy "hurts Canada."

It's a tough job being the Natural Resources Minister these days, between the growing opposition to proposed pipeline projects you're pushing for, plus taking all of those orders from Stephen Harper as he plots the next cabinet shuffle. All of that pressure must explain why you and your ministry appear to have lost focus lately. How else to account for the confusing statements you've been making about climate change, which bare little resemblance to the concerns Canadians have about the impact of global warming on our planet?

Truth be told, you're kind of embarrassing us Canadians, especially in front of our friends south of the border. It happened again recently when you were in Chicago heavily promoting the oil sands as the "greener alternative."

Then, last month, you claimed former NASA scientist James Hansen was "crying wolf" with his "exaggerated" comments about the environmental threats of oil sands development. That had us burying our heads behind our Tim Hortons cups back at home. We're bracing for what you might tell the Europeans this week.

Unfortunately, you're making some equally baffling comments in Canada, too. Remember last month, when you told reporters in Montreal that society isn't as concerned about climate change? You cited information from "scientists" who you claim argue that climate change fears are "exaggerated." [We noticed you really like that word -- exaggerated.] Unfortunately, when asked to identify those scientists, you couldn't name one. Your staff was quick to follow up with media, but that response was disappointing. It turns out one of your key information sources is controversial author Lawrence Solomon, a climate-change denier who, by the way, isn't a scientist.

At DeSmog Canada, we're convinced you're getting bad advice. We're concerned about the quality of the ministers briefing file you've been given. In fact, that's the real reason we're writing. We think it's time to return that well-thumbed copy of Solomon's 2008 book, The Deniers, to the Ottawa Public Library (those late charges must really be adding up!) and expand your reading list.

In fact, we want to help get you better educated about the climate change debate. There's a ton of research out there, from actual scientists, which shows climate change is in fact a real threat. We know you have a lot of meetings to attend and speeches to give and that you can't read everything (and your staff isn't that helpful in this area), so we're recommending a few sources to round out your knowledge.

Since the economy is something you talk about a lot, we recommend you start by reading the latest carbon stocks/assets evaluation report from Carbon Tracker and the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics. These are some smart people that know a thing or two about economics and the environment.

The report calls on regulators, governments and investors to rethink energy business models against carbon budgets to prevent what they call a "$6 trillion carbon bubble." The report raises serious questions about how the financial system's ability to act on the long-term risk of climate change impacts. "Smart investors can see that investing in companies that rely solely or heavily on constantly replenishing reserves of fossil fuels is becoming a very risky decision," said Lord Stern, Chair of the Institute.

What's more, HSBC oil and gas analyst Paul Spedding told The Guardian recently that the carbon tracker report "makes it clear that 'business as usual' is not a viable option for the fossil fuel industry in the long term." Even rating agencies such as Moody's, and Standard and Poor's, are talking about the downgrading of the credit ratings of oil companies within a few years as a result of this carbon bubble risk, according to The Guardian article. For a bit more information, check out this map that shows which global stock exchanges are most exposed.

Unfortunately, this is the just the tip of the melting iceberg. There's so much more research about climate change that we think you should get your hands on. At DeSmog Canada, we're here to help.

We're convinced that if you review those polling results on your desk a little more closely, you'll see that Canadians care deeply about the environment. They also want to see that their government does too. Rather than deny climate change is a problem, while demonizing environmentalists and stopping scientists from speaking out, wouldn't it be better for both the environment and the economy if you listened to what the experts and concerned citizens have to say?

We're confident that, as the next federal election draws near, you and your government will start to expand your circle of influence beyond oil sands lobbyists. To help make this transition easier, we'll keep sending you some reading material to help with your education on climate change and the long-term economic impacts of ignoring this global crisis. We think you'll see, as most Canadians do, that climate change is very real.


Jim Hoggan

DeSmog Canada

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