Climate Deniers in Parliament: A Rogues’ Gallery

This might explain why progress on reducing greenhouse gas emissions has been so difficult to achieve.

My article on Muzzled Scientists stated “several MPs and senators have questioned the scientific legitimacy of climate change.” Here is evidence in support of that statement. I will update this rogues’ gallery as other cases are uncovered.

Stephen Harper gives the thumbs up in front of melting Yukon sea ice. Source: CP.
Stephen Harper gives the thumbs up in front of melting Yukon sea ice. Source: CP.

Ministers, MPs and Senators who have publicly cast doubt or spread misinformation on the science of climate change

  • In a letter to Conservative Alliance supporters in 2002, (now) Prime Minister Stephen Harper wrote

    “(The Kyoto Protocol is) based on tentative and contradictory scientific evidence about climate trends. It focuses on carbon dioxide, which is essential to life, rather than upon pollutants.”

    Stephen Harper gives the thumbs up in front of melting Yukon sea ice. Source: CP.
    Stephen Harper gives the thumbs up in front of melting Yukon sea ice. Source: CP.

    In 2006 Harper told Le Devoir

    “We have difficulties in predicting the weather in one week or even tomorrow. Imagine in a few decades.”

*Past climate change [projections and reality][3a] have
           agreed quite well.  2014 was the [hottest year][3b] in the
           modern climate record.*
          
          Harper's government would go on to [pull][4] Canada out of the
          Kyoto Protocol in 2011.
          
          **Status:** Re-elected 19 October 2015.
  • In 2013, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver said “I think that people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees. Scientists have recently told us that our fears (on climate change) are exaggerated”.

    A scientist, maybe. Scientists collectively? No.

    Status: Defeated 19 October 2015.

  • Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq (MP for Nunavut) added in 2013 that it was “debatable” whether or not the Arctic is getting warmer.

    It is, a lot.

    Status: Defeated 19 October 2015.

  • Yukon MP Ryan Leef sent ‘bogus’ information on polar bears from a climate denier group to a school teacher in 2013.

    You can visit the IUCN/SSC Polar Bear Specialist Group to read about the science.

    Status: Defeated 19 October 2015.

  • Former Minister Maxime Bernier wrote in a 2010 letter (translation) to La Press that

    “The debate over climate change, stifled for years by political correctness, has finally broken out in the media… There is, in fact, no scientific consensus.”

    The scientific concensus is overwhelming.

    Status: Re-elected 19 October 2015.

  • MP Pat Perkins suggested in 2014 that scientists are divided on climate change:

    “We need some consistency of ideas from our scientists. They are at both ends of the spectrum. They haven’t come together with solutions. You can’t expect a politician to decide which one of these scientists is correct.”

    Status: Defeated 19 October 2015.

  • Minister of State Gordon O’Connor told a parliamentary committee in 2014 that “climate change” is “a couple of fuzzy words that don’t really mean anything”. He went on to say

    “First of all, there have been no sea level increases. You’ll have to tell me where they are because it hasn’t happened. Hurricanes are not occurring at the same rate they used to be. Hurricanes have been quiet for years. You have to go looking around the planet. You have to pick and choose what you want.

    I’m not going to argue that things don’t change. We go from hot to cold, etc., but we have to develop national plans to deal with these things and expect to pay bills every year. We should always have a fund ready to pay bills because it’s going to happen. We have a large country, a continental country, that will have all the various weather forecasts, but to say there’s an inalienable link to what you call climate change, I don’t agree."

    Status: Replaced 19 October 2015 (did not run).

  • BC MP James Lunney cast doubt on the scientific consensus about climate change, tweeting in 2014

    Science settled? Think again! The Global Warming Hiatus..NP http://t.co/ZrTmltQ66n

    Status: Replaced 19 October 2015 (did not run).

  • Ontario MP Cheryl Gallant ranted in her local newspaper in 2015 about climate change “alarmists”, and tweeted

    NO to $.46/kWh wind-generated electricity. The global warming gig is up! http://ow.ly/hlLl #roft

    Status: Re-elected 19 October 2015.

  • Senator Bert Brown, after testimony from climate “skeptics” at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources in 2011, “giggled” and said

    “I felt like it is kind of an insult to be a denier for a long time”.

    Brown was referred to by the Chair of the committee as “our resident denier”.

    Status: Retired 22 March 2013.

  • Senator Nancy Green-Raine, at a meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources in 2011, said

    “I have to admit that what I read tells me that there is not a consensus among scientists. There are many different points of view and different kinds of research happening out there. One of the things that I am starting to see now is quite a few studies showing that we may be heading into a period of global cooling, which would maybe be a lot more problematic for Canada than global warming. Our country is on the cool side.”

    Status: Still in Senate.

Other evidence for climate change doubts amongst parliamentarians

  • Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz cracked a bizarre joke about climate change in Question Period during a spell of cold weather in 2014.

    Status: Re-elected 19 October 2015.

  • In 2011, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird cheered the notion that the Kyoto Protocol is a “socialist conspiracy”. This mirrored Stephen Harper’s claim in a 2002 letter to Conservative Alliance supporters that the Kyoto Protocol is a “socialist scheme”.

    Status: Replaced 19 October 2015 (did not run).

  • The Harper government appointed climate change deniers to the boards of science funding agencies NSERC and CFI in 2009.

  • The Senate invited four “skeptics” to cast doubt on climate science at a meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Energy, the Environment and Natural Resources in 2011.

(Updated 6 January 2015)