COMMENTARY: Climate change discussion needs to get back to science

Click to play video: 'Thunberg blasts world leaders at climate summit: “How dare you!”'
Thunberg blasts world leaders at climate summit: “How dare you!”
WATCH: Sixteen children, including climate activist Greta Thunberg, have filed a complaint against world leaders during this year's United Nations Climate Change Summit in New York. Dawna Friesen explains. – Sep 23, 2019

What is it going to take to walk the environmental movement back from the edge of hysteria? I’ve been wondering that for the last year as the amped up messages about human extinction have become the main talking point of environmental groups.

For decades, we’ve been told we need to listen to the scientists. Yet now we are being told to listen to a teenager, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg.

You can read about her personal challenges before she began her campaign. Suffice to say, the environmental movement has sunk to a new low by weaponizing Thunberg’s obvious terror and anguish, rather than doing the responsible things adults are supposed to do, which is to provide her with context and perspective.

READ MORE: Greta Thunberg gives powerful, emotional speech to the UN

People are not dying, ecosystems are not collapsing, and human beings are in no danger of extinction from carbon dioxide.

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Don’t believe me? Well, let’s see what an actual scientist is saying.

The secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, Petteri Taalas, told a Finnish financial newspaper on Sept. 6 that climate extremists have taken over the debate and their comments in the media have provoked unjustified anxiety.

“It is not going to be the end of the world,” he said in the interview. “The world is just becoming more challenging. In parts of the globe, living conditions are becoming worse, but people have survived in harsh conditions.”

He also said: “Climate experts have been attacked by these people and they claim that we should be much more radical. They are doomsters and extremists; they make threats.”

And finally, “The IPCC reports have been read in a similar way to the Bible: you try to find certain pieces or sections from which you try to justify your extreme views. This resembles religious extremism.”

Indeed. I have seen memes of Thunberg dressed up to resemble the Virgin Mary, with “In Greta We Trust” emblazoned across them.

I do not know what this is, but it is not science.

Shame on the scientific community for allowing it to get this far. They never should have allowed the IPCC report to become a vehicle for exaggerating scientific claims. Now that they have, it is going to require the effort of all the grownups to try to deprogram these school children.

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READ MORE: Liberals pledge Canada will have net-zero emissions by 2050 — but details are scarce

Perhaps we are beginning to see a return to a mainstream discussion. This week, Catherine McKenna, who was the environment minister in the Liberal government, announced that Canada would commit to a target of net-zero emissions by 2050, joining 66 other countries that have committed to the same. That will finally, finally, allow us to talk about all the things Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer has been proposing in his climate change plan, including getting credit for carbon sequestration, carbon capture technology and exporting clean fuels to China and India.

Make no mistake: with Canada’s emissions at 720 MT, just 1.6 per cent of the world total, getting to net-zero by 2050 is a completely achievable target.

WATCH BELOW: Canada’s party leaders on climate change

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I sleep well at night because I have done dozens of interviews that have convinced me that human beings have the ingenuity to solve any problem associated with greenhouse gas emissions.

Hydrogen; geothermal; nuclear; capturing carbon dioxide and turning it into carbon nano-fibre, fertilizer, construction materials, fuel or using it for enhanced oil recovery; improving the carbon absorption of soils through better grazing and farming practices; planting more trees; and converting from coal to clean-burning natural gas, are just a few innovations that will dramatically reduce Canada’s emissions.

Just this week, our energy industry even had a breakthrough in bitumen that could make it the cleanest oil on the planet.

Bitcrude sent its first sea can of solid bitumen to China this week. It hopes to send a million more.

Because Bitcrude is a solid form of bitumen, it is not subject to the Liberals’ tanker ban and doesn’t require diluent to transport it by pipeline; instead, it can be transported by rail. Because it is solid, and can’t be spilled so there is no danger to fish. Because it floats, it can be collected even if a sea can did fall off a container ship.

Because it requires less refining on the customer’s end, it has 50 per cent lower greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, because it is not diluted it can sell for a higher price on the international market.

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These are the exciting developments we should be sharing with schoolchildren. This is the science we should be encouraging them to get involved in. We should be filling children with hope for the future, rather than allowing them to despair.

It took 20 years to get to this level of hysteria and it may take 20 years to return the public discussion to normal. We should get started.

Danielle Smith is host of The Danielle Smith Show on Global News Radio 770 Calgary. She can be reached at

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