ENSU Committee Meeting
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STANDING COMMITTEE ON ENVIRONMENT AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
COMITÉ PERMANENT DE L'ENVIRONNEMENT ET DU DÉVELOPPEMENT DURABLE
[Recorded by Electronic Apparatus]
Monday, November 3,1997
The Chairman (Mr. Charles Caccia (Davenport, Lib.)): Order, please. Good day, Ladies and Gentlemen.
Ladies and gentlemen, before we start our meeting, a brief reminder. Tomorrow at noon for lunch and Wednesday at dinner time we will receive a visit from a Chinese delegation. These are five colleagues from China, two of whom are elected representatives interested in natural resources and their management. They are touring North America and have included Ottawa in their visit. As you may recall, two weeks ago we decided as a committee that we should find time for them, as they requested through their ambassador. We therefore have made arrangements for concurrent simultaneous translation in Chinese in addition to English and French, so the meetings can proceed at a normal speed.
Could I ask by way of indication by hand how many of you intend to participate in the meeting with the delegation from China tomorrow at noon? Seven. Thank you. That's very good.
May I ask you now how many of you intend to participate at the meeting Wednesday evening?
Mr. Chuck Cadman (Surrey North, Ref.): At what time is it, Mr. Chair?
The Chairman: It's at 7 p.m.
Mr. Bill Gilmour (Nanaimo—Alberni, Ref.): Unfortunately we have special caucus at that time.
The Chairman: That will be the continuation of tomorrow, so it's good that we start with a good representation.
Ms. Aileen Carroll (Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, Lib.): Mr. Chair, I'm not putting my hand up for tomorrow lunch only because I don't know. I know I have House duty. Are we meeting on site? Is that meeting on the Hill?
The Chairman: Oh, yes, definitely.
Ms. Aileen Carroll: I just haven't even looked at my schedule. Where is this?
The Chairman: It will be in 701.
The Clerk of the Committee: Lunch will be served at 151 Sparks.
The Chairman: It is arranged through the foreign relations bureau of the parliamentary office.
I imagine those of you who travel and sometimes go to China, or may in future go to China, will want to take advantage of this opportunity to make some contacts and also to learn from our visitors the issues that are uppermost in their minds. I thank you very much for your intent.
In addition to that, the chair needs a motion that would authorize the clerk to purchase a small present as a welcome gift. Could someone perhaps move a motion to that effect?
Mr. Casson moves it. It's seconded by Mr. Pratt.
(Motion agreed to—See Minutes of Proceedings)
The Chairman: Today we are operating again in conformity to Standing Order 108(2), and we've asked here Dr. McBean of the Atmospheric Environment Service in Metro Toronto. Dr. McBean is very well known for his involvement in climate-related issues. He's an assistant deputy minister.
Dr. Gordon McBean (Assistant Deputy Minister, Atmospheric Environment Service, Department of the Environment): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I'm very pleased to be here and to have the opportunity to speak to the committee. I have a deck on climate change science, which I believe has been made available to you. We also have provided some background material in terms of some earlier notes.
I was specifically asked if I could go through what we might call the “new science”, but I'd like to do that in the context of a set of overheads that basically puts in context that material. I will go through this to give you the systematic view of the climate change science.
As the chairman has noted, I would very much welcome an opportunity to discuss and answer any of your questions afterwards. I'll go through this quite quickly. If we have a chance to discuss the other presentations, I would be quite happy to do so.
I would remind you that we are talking about human activities that are changing climate, something called the greenhouse effect, a naturally occurring phenomenom that has raised the average temperature of our globe from approximately -18 degrees Celsius to 15 degrees Celsius. This is due to the trapping of outgoing energy from the earth's surface, which is due to greenhouse gases. Human activities are very much changing those concentrations of greenhouse gases.
Carbon dioxide is the dominant of the greenhouse gases influenced by human activities in the time-scales of concern. The atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide was historically approximately 280 parts per million, and had been a value of that magnitude for probably at least six to ten thousand years. We have seen in the last 200 years a dramatic increase in the carbon dioxide concentration so that we now have values in excess of 360 parts per million.
The measurements over the last couple of years since the publication of the IPCC report in 1995, and my earlier presentations to you, show a continuing increase along that trajectory of atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations.
To put into context that number of approximately 360, we can look at historical records of the atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases obtained by extracting minute bubbles of air that were dissolved in Antarctic ice as it formed over the last 200,000 years. As you can see by looking at the bottom curve, the amount of carbon dioxide, according to our best estimates, in the past 2,000 years has not exceeded 300 parts per million.
During the ice ages, the low points on the curve, the values did drop to about 180, but during the climatic regimes that are similar to now, the value was less than 300 parts per million. As noted on the left-hand side of the curve, the 1990 value is about 350 parts per million in carbon dioxide, and we're now over 360.
Methane concentrations, shown in the centre of the diagram, also have varied significantly through the historic record, but the values were always less than or about 0.7 parts per million by volume. They are now approximately more than twice that, up to about 1.8, I believe. On top of that is the estimated temperature change relative to present climate. These are temperature changes around the regions of Antarctica. The temperatures dropped about ten degrees Celsius during the maximum ice age conditions.
Our estimate is that if you were to construct a global pattern of temperature at that time, it would be approximately five degrees Celsius, maybe seven degrees Celsisu, below present conditions. That's an important number to keep in mind, that the difference between the present climate and an ice age that had several kilometres of ice over Ottawa is only about five to seven degrees Celsius. So when we talk of temperature changes of two, three, four degrees Celsius, we are talking about magnitudes similar to that of going in and out of an ice age. I would stress that it's in a different direction and things are not equal in either direction.
As we look ahead to the future, the decisions of what governments will do will in fact control, in lots of ways, the expected carbon dioxide concentrations out to the year 2100. The estimates here are just scenarios of what would happen based on estimates of population growth, energy use, fossil fuel consumption per energy unit, etc., and they are estimates done by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I would ask you to note that if you take the high estimate, we would result in a value of approximately three times the pre-industrial value by the end of the next century. If we take the low estimate, which is based on very conservative population estimates and increased use of renewable or at least other non-fossil fuel energy sources, we still get a value that approaches 500 ppm, which is getting into the neighbourhood of doubled carbon dioxide by the end of the next century.
Scientifically, it's important for you to understand that carbon dioxide is a gas that remains in the atmosphere for a long time, so when we make emissions in the present time, they will still be there for many years to come. We estimate approximately 100 years, or in the 60 to 200 year range, something in the order of a century, as the residence or adjustment time for atmospheric carbon dioxide. So if countries all agree in Kyoto to stabilize their emissions, the atmospheric concentration will still go up in the same sense as if we were able to stabilize our deficit at some value, the total debt still rises.
We have been doing further work to understand the relationship between atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and atmospheric aerosols, which are better referred to as particles. They are usually small sulphate or dusty particles that are in the air and they result primarily also from human activities. The effect of those particles is actually to cool climate. So we have a counterbalancing or counteracting activity of one set of human emissions causing a cooling and the greenhouse gas emissions causing a warming.
We have factored those in to the latest computations as a Canadian Climate Centre model, which is shown here in the diagram. The blue curve that wiggles along the bottom of the diagram is our model running for approximately 200 years where we have not changed the atmospheric concentration of either greenhouse gases or aerosols. This model, when run in this mode, shows a stability in the sense that its climate does not change significantly. It reproduces the general characteristics of the earth's climate. As we then increase the amount of carbon dioxide in it, starting from a year 1900 reference, we find that the red dash line, which is shown up through the middle there, in a general sense follows the observed climate change, which is shown in the black line.
If we then continue to increase the amount of carbon dioxide—and here we can follow any one of many scenarios, and we have arbitrarily picked one, so this is not an attempt to predict in fact the future but to say this is a scenario of climatic change—you can see that this particular model for the scenario of greenhouse gas emissions used actually increases the global climate by up to about four degrees or so by the end of the next century.
GCM is the global climate model. This the Canadian Climate Centre global climate model. This is a sophisticated mathematical model involving the atmosphere, the ocean and the ice component in a relatively simple representation of particularly the surface processes of the earth.
The Chairman: Greenhouse gases—
Dr. Gordon McBean: Aerosols. So we have factored in as well as we can the particulate effect, the cooling effect of dust and things on the climatic system.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln (Lac-Saint-Louis, Lib.): Is the projection of the scenario based on the actual observed until—
Dr. Gordon McBean: No, I believe in this case the scenario of greenhouse gases is just a simple 1% per year increase. It is like the business as usual one. It shouldn't be taken as being our prediction—and we could re-run this given computer time—in any other way. These models are run on our super-computer, which is in Dorval. They take several months of computational time to do a simulation like this and many more months to analyse them. The patterns of variability in the climate system will not be the same from one to another.
The next diagram shows the projected temperature changes corresponding to the previous curve, again from the Canadian Climate Centre model. This shows the changes we might expect at the year 2040 following along this trajectory corresponding to that greenhouse gas emission. This is again a scenario. It's not saying this is what will happen, but if the greenhouse gases changed in a way such as we had modelled, then this is the type of climatic regime we would predict.
What you can see is a dramatic warming in the north polar regions, and a considerable warming over the interior of the continental regions of North America and Asia. You also see areas such as off the Labrador coast, where the models actually predict cooling. We generally expect to see more warming at higher latitudes in the northern hemisphere, less warming along the equatorial regions.
This is because of the way the climate system responds to a change of greenhouse gases, which is assumed to be uniform, but the aerosol concentrations are spatially varying because they are primarily where the aerosols or the dust is emitted. You can see that the temperature changes get up into the five degrees Celsius in the Canadian Arctic region, and that is similar, as I noted earlier, to the magnitude of changes seen in and out of ice ages.
The next diagram really shows us what up until 1996 was our best estimate of the global temperature change. This is based on very careful scientific analysis by scientists in several different countries of the world. Working together they have constructed the debate using all the available data, corrected them as appropriate for effects of urbanization, etc. What you can see there is a warming trend. The individual wiggles up and down are part of natural variability. Our climate still varies naturally, but we feel that superimposed upon that is a trend about which, in the latest 1995 assessment of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the conclusion reached was that the evidence suggested discernible human influence on the global record.
This again also varies considerably spatially. If we focus on Canada, these are the variations in temperatures, comparing the trend seen from 1961 to 1990, an era when we had good data. There is an area over the North Pole that is shown in grey, which doesn't have data, so we have not included that. But what you see is the warming trend over western Canada, across the prairies and up into the Mackenzie Basin. You see the cooling trend in the Labrador Sea and up into the Baffin Bay, and that's the kind of variability we will see as we continue moving. But overall, Canada has been warming, based on our observations.
There has been a lot of debate about whether we have seen global warming, about whether we have seen climatic change due to greenhouse gases. The 1995 scientific assessment was one debated at great length, but in the end the conclusion of not only the scientists but of a massive review process done by countries and by groups.... In the end, at a meeting of governments in late 1995—for which I had the privilege of being the Canadian delegate—all governments in the end agreed with the line-by-line assessment and conclusion in the consensus document of the intergovernmental panel.
Since that time, I think the evidence of the scientific work that's been carried on in the last couple of years has confirmed, generally, the conclusions of that assessment, that there was a discernible human influence. I personally asked the lead author, Mr. Santer, what he felt about it if he had to write it now, and he said that he would write it probably stronger than he did in 1995.
As you see summarized on the screen, our estimate, the kinds of comments we can make on this, is that the 20th century is warm. We can note that 1995, according to our data, is the warmest year on record globally, and that 1996 appears to have been the eighth warmest year on record. The patterns of change are similar to what is predicted. So I think the conclusion of the intergovernmental panel has been strenghtened, as opposed to in any sense weakened.
Mr. Rick Casson (Lethbridge, Ref.): When you say any year on record, how far back do those records go?
Dr. Gordon Bean: We're really talking in the sense of the last 100 to 150 years. We can reconstruct paleo through other means, but in terms of instrumental record the statement of warmer, at least as any in the centuries since 1400, is clearly based on other forms than direct measurement. But when we talk about it being the eighth warmest year we're talking about the instrumental record.
Just to give you some comment on the impacts of this.... And here I should stress that as we get to global impacts we have to be more subjective rather than giving a high level of detail because global climate models do not give you the kind of very detailed resolution of climate change on for example one part of a province as opposed to another. But we can make, we think, some general statements, and these are largely drawn from international discussions and consensus in one form or another.
For example, in an agricultural sense we think the global production could be maintained, but there will certainly be regional effects that will vary widely. Certainly in some locations there will be increased risk of hunger and famine.
Water supplies we think will be one of the more difficult areas to deal with in terms of climatic change. You've heard about sea level rise. The estimates of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were that sea level rise could be as low as fifteen centimetres but as high as one metre, with the most likely value being something of the order of a fifty centimetres rise by the end of the next century.
I should stress that sea level rises more slowly. It's like trying to boil a pot full of water. It simply heats up slower than an empty pot. So the ocean will respond much more slowly, but it also means that sea level would continue to rise even after climate has stabilized.
To give you some numbers, a one-metre sea level rise corresponds to about 17% to 18% of the country of Bangladesh or about 80% of the Marshall Islands.
To look more nationally, we here show you some results, which are to be illustrative rather than definitive at this point, but just to say if you look at large vegetation regimes across Canada the climate is one of the major factors of determining what kind of vegetation regime you have. So you can map our present country in terms of boreal forest, the prairie grasslands, the temperate forest zones. If you relate those to the climate of those locations, and if you project ahead based on our model simulations the type of climatic regime you might have in places when you reach double carbon dioxide, which is looking into the next century, then you would see the map on the right-hand side, which basically shows where you would have certain kinds of ecosystems, temperate forests, boreal zones, etc.
I want to emphasize that this is not where they would necessarily be, but this is where the climate for which they are in equilibrium would be. What that means is that a boreal forest tree in central Saskatchewan, which presently enjoys a climate to which it is accustomed, would in some years' time find itself in a climatic regime for which it is not accustomed. That makes it more vulnerable to things like pests, to wildfires, as well as a general lowering of its production rate, its productivity rate. You can see there are very large changes.
I just note—in case anybody from British Columbia's here, besides myself—that the mapping in British Columbia is left as unclassified because basically climates in British Columbia go up and down mountainsides and it's very hard to show on a flat diagram how those change with the level of detail that's here. That is also true in other parts of Canada, but not quite to the extent as in British Columbia.
We have some data on recent economic losses and these are primarily due to events related to climate. I think one has to say that we cannot show that this is information directly attributable to a change in climate, because extreme events are very hard to relate to a given type of climatic regime. But the insurance company who has provided us with this and the next slide are themselves convinced that this is due to something other than increased human exposure or other aspects. You see in Canada the types of insured losses—these are insured losses, rather than total losses—but there's something we can very well quantify based on Insurance Bureau of Canada data and you see a gradual increase in the types of extreme weather events that have caused more economic loss.
To try to bring this more quickly to a conclusion, I want to emphasize with the next slide that we are really recognizing there are uncertainties in climate change. If we look in the upper left-hand corner of this diagram, we are, as a scientific community, very confident that the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations do exist and we are verify confident they are as a result of human activities. We are slightly less confident but still have relatively high confidence on the magnitudes and rates of global temperature change, less confidence in the rates of precipitation change.
As we move down to the lower right-hand corner, we have to admit to having only very low confidence in terms of the details, in any given zone of Canada or any other country, as to how they will change.
Another piece of science that I think is important from a point of policy response is to recognize that the relationships between atmospheric emissions and atmospheric concentrations take place on the order of centuries, because of the very long residence time of carbon dioxide. As I mentioned already, the relationship between temperature and sea level will take centuries to readjust. Those are important considerations.
Just to remind you on the next-to-last slide, under the framework convention, which is what will be discussed in Kyoto—
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Those adjustments up and down, when you say it takes a long time for it to happen, it's the same thing in reverse, I guess.
Dr. Gordon McBean: Pretty well. We have to use ocean atmosphere biosphere models to construct the rate of change of the atmospheric concentration due to emission changes. These models are what we would say are non-linear. In fact, the atmosphere will adjust relatively quickly in the short term, in the order of years, but what basically then happens is a change in the upper ocean resulting in characteristics that then take longer to adjust. So if you sort of look at the whole system as a total, you have to accept that there is a fairly long adjustment time, which works in either sense.
When we talk about adjustment times, I think it's important to recognize that the framework convention on climate change is talking about stabilization of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations at levels that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference. I would emphasize that the word “dangerous” is always in the eye of the beholder. Danger is.... The scientists are saying that's a political judgment, danger. It is in your bailiwick, ladies and gentlemen.
We can try to quantify the impacts, but the decision of what is dangerous is a political judgment. However, we think we also want to emphasize that this level has to be achieved within a timeframe that allows ecosystems to adjust naturally, to ensure food production is not threatened and at the same time enable economic development to proceed.
In our view, the basis for concern is scientifically sound. We believe there is a human influence on climate that appears discernible. It is a risk question, and in a sense the risk of danger we think is real and significant. We recognize there are uncertainties in the magnitude and distribution of that regional danger. And one of the things I would like to mention is that the greatest risks are likely due to the changed frequency or intensity of extreme events. Extreme events are very hard to analyse and they are also very hard to model, but we think there are significant risks there.
To conclude, we feel scientifically that the rationale for action is clear.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Who would like to go first? Mr. Gilmour.
Mr. Bill Gilmour: Thank you for your presentation.
We're still faced with a theory, not a fact. If you go back to the models, the earlier models have not proven to be correct. They've been out by a factor of one, two, three or four degrees. The basis for your models, is this the basis that Canada is taking to Kyoto? Is it the same model we're talking about?
Dr. Gordon McBean: Let me say, first of all, that the Canadian model and most other models of the world give similar results. So the Canadian position from a policy point of view is not in any way based more on a Canadian model or anyone else's. Let me then say that these models have been shown to be able to simulate a variable climate that has existed in the past, and that gives us confidence that they will simulate a type of climate that will exist in the future. Because all we're doing, as I showed, is changing the amount of greenhouse gases.
Mr. Bill Gilmour: That's fine. What is your experimental error in these models?
Dr. Gordon McBean: The error depends on how you define this, but we, as a scientific committee.... Let me first of all correct the general misunderstanding that the models previously gave values that were warmer. The models that predicted—and we published prior to 1995 assessment—were based on greenhouse gases only. During the period 1990-95 it was understood by the scientific community that the cooling effect of aerosols, and I agree that.... So the change is by incorporating a new physical process that we did not previously understand; it's not because the models are actually just getting different. They still respond in the same way to greenhouse gases. That may not give you a comfort level, but that's the reality.
In the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with all of the top climate-modelling scientists in the world, the assessment was that when you double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, the uncertainty range was that the global climate would warm by between 1.5 degrees Celsius and 4.5 degrees Celsius, and the most likely value was 2.5 degrees Celsius. That gives you an estimate of our confidence range.
Mr. Bill Gilmour: Well, 1.5 degrees Celsius gets you nice and warm; 4.5 degrees Celsius gets you into an ice age. So there's a heck of a spread there.
I'll go back. What are the experimental errors? What are your confidence levels? Again, that's the first question. The second one: Is this the model that Canada is taking to Kyoto? Is this what we're basing our facts on?
Dr. Gordon McBean: First of all, the confidence estimates, as I've said, on global temperature change are between 1.5 degrees Celsius and 4.5 degrees Celsius. That does not include zero.
Secondly, the Canadian position, as far as negotiations at Kyoto are concerned, are based on all of the global models, whether it is the Canadian model, the German model, the United States model, the Japanese model, the Russian model, or the Australian model. All of them give you projections. In fact, I believe in the 1992 assessment there were 22 models from almost all the major countries of the world and they ranged in values between 1.9 degrees and 5.1 degrees Celsius warming for doubled carbon dioxide.
Mr. Bill Gilmour: Again, this is the concern. Where are we going with the models? That's all we have to grasp at. I mean, the climate has warmed. We've gone through the mini-ice-age in the mid-1600s up to where we are now. In fact, there's a fairly confident opinion that we've been cooling over the last ten years, if you don't take surface temperatures and if you go higher up.
Now, we are going into Kyoto with the idea that we are going to sign onto some lines that could do some major economic hits to Canada. In my view, the science in some ways does not support this. That's why I'm stressing the models. That's why I'm asking about the confidence. Between 1.5 degrees and 4.5 degrees is a huge discrepancy. That is the difference between an ice age.... I believe it was four degrees for the last ice age 10,000 or 12,000 years ago, so yes, that's major. But 1.5 degrees may not be so major. That difference is absolutely the telling tale. So where are we?
Dr. Gordon McBean: As I noted earlier, the consensus of the scientific community and the consensus of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, including all the countries of the globe, was that there was a scientifically justifiable reason for action by governments. That is what has been put forward by all governments, with a few exceptions now. But the rationale for action based on that science is confirmed. I guess I would only ask you, when you ask me to clarify the errors in global climate models, to put the same questions to the economists who predict global catastrophe economically.
The Chairman: One more question.
Mr. Bill Gilmour: Yes, the economists do agree that there will be economic downfalls if this comes true. The point is, if it's coming true. I think that's the whole debate. Does climate change? We believe the climate is warming. That's basically been demonstrated over the last number of hundred years. Carbon dioxide emissions have been increasing, as well as nitrous oxide and others. But the point is to tie them together. And this is the debate we're grappling with. Does A cause B? And there is enough scientific opinion out there to call a question to this. That's the point.
For every scientist you can get on one side, you can find one on the other. This is the debate we're into. Yes, the group on climate change came out with some rather flat comments. They were not strong. They were not definitive. They were fairly weak, in fact.
Please carry on.
The Chairman: A brief answer, please.
Dr. Gordon McBean: I disagree that you can find one to balance off the other in the scientific community. The consensus among active front-line climate scientists has been well demonstrated by the intergovernmental panel's statements. The relationship between human emissions and atmospheric concentrations I believe is beyond reasonable scientific doubt. The relationship between increased atmospheric concentrations and global climate change has uncertainties. But the relationship is there. We would expect to see a climatic regime that is significantly warmer in the future, based on the projections of emissions.
The Chairman: Thank you.
A brief question to the members of the committee. I've just been told that Dr. Pocklington, who is our next witness and who is an historian in matters related to climatic change, is taking quite a different approach. Is it the wish of the committee to have one round of questions of the first witness, Dr. McBean, or is it the wish of the committee that we hear both before we continue with questions?
Some hon. members: Both.
The Chairman: All right, then. We'll proceed with Dr. Pocklington. You have ten minutes, then we continue with questions.
Dr. Roger Pocklington (Individual Presentation): Thank you, Mr. Chair. I guess I'm my own projectionist.
Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I must pick up on that last remark of Gordon McBean's with regard to what he referred to as an active scientist. Although I did reach the age to take early retirement from my position with the federal government, I do believe I still place myself in the active category.
As far as front line, I think the front line of climate work is when you're doing the job in Cape Farewell in February when the weather is, in oceanographic terms, “blowing a bastard”. So perhaps we'll hear a little less about large-scale models and a little more about some ground truths.
To cover the whole topic of oceanography and global warming, it's an impossible task for me, probably for anyone, certainly in the time available. I'm reminded of the story of a senior professor of engineering out of a British university who, having agreed to talk about fusion energy on the BBC radio, was told by the show's producer just as they were going on the air, “One minute, and no long words, Professor”.
Why must we consider the ocean in our models of global climate? Just the top few metres of the ocean have a heat capacity equivalent to that of the whole atmosphere. Due to this huge heat capacity, the ocean provides a buffer for the atmospheric system, smoothing out its continental excesses, something to which anyone living by the sea can attest. Just now, as I left Bermuda, the actual sea surface temperature for this month of October was higher than the mean air temperature.
The ocean transports as much heat from equatorial to temperate and polar regions as does the atmosphere. When it releases this heat from, for example, the ocean west of the British Isles, where there's a continuous outward flux of heat equivalent to 50 watts per square metre, it warms the adjacent land. And to put that number I just gave you in perspective—the 50 watts per square metre—this whole GW argument is about temperature differences of the order of two watts per square metre.
The ocean contains fifty times as much carbon dioxide as the atmosphere, and the flux, the exchange of carbon dioxide across the air and sea interface, is twenty times greater than the amount released by the burning of fossil fuels. For these reasons, the ocean is—and it's invaluable to climate modelers—a great place in which they can hide things. Any imbalance in heat budgets—for instance, an increase in mean temperature only half of what they calculated, or in carbon budgets, say two gigatonnes of carbon just simply missing from the atmosphere—can be attributed to the ocean and nobody will notice any difference.
In the words of the celebrated American physical oceanographer, Walter Munk, the ocean plays three roles in this game: it serves as a reservoir for carbon; it serves as a reservoir for heat; and, most important of all, it serves as a reservoir for ignorance.
I shall attempt to dispel some of this ignorance by looking at evidence from the region I know best, the extratropical North Atlantic and adjacent land, and to examine in some detail the validity of some propositions about systematic warming of the globe found in the latest reports of the IPCC. You had explained to you what IPCC is.
Now, you don't want to look at it the Australian way. If you've ever seen an Australian atlas, it really does have Australia at the top. The region of interest for us is the North Atlantic outside of the tropics. Where I'm currently working is down here. It is Bermuda—nearly due south of the place I was working before, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia—just off Cape Hatteras.
This ocean, the North Atlantic ocean, is a region of particular importance to the global climate system. It contains one of the small number of sites of formation of deep ocean water that's round here northeast of Iceland. Surface water here is cooled and passes as deep Atlantic water down the coast. There is a further sinking of water here. It is one of the few places in the world oceans where such deep ocean water is formed and it's also the site of one of the major surface ocean currents, the Gulf Stream, bringing that warming effect that I mentioned earlier over to Europe.
Now, working group one of the IPCC, in the summary for policy-makers of their second assessment report, stated that “analyses of meteorological and other data over large areas and over periods of decades or more have provided evidence for some important systematic changes”. For more than two decades, my colleagues and I have looked for important systematic changes in the North Atlantic region. We have found them, but they may not be what the IPCC was anticipating.
I emphasize that the data for land stations that I present here are the same as those used to produce the global and hemispheric time series featured in the IPCC climate change reports. I am not coming along here with a whole lot of different fundamental numbers. My slant on them may be different. We updated our stations to the end of 1996 by using Monthly Climatic Data for the World, the official publication of the World Meteorological Organization.
The ocean data are our own or as noted in the references to the document you have from me. We calculate annual means. When I give you information on annual means, they're the regular 12 monthly means and we calculate annual anomalies. The anomaly is a departure from a long-term mean at each station. It's either warmer or cooler than the long-term mean at each station. We call that an anomaly. I've used five-year periods in comparison, so-called pentades, rather than decades because this allows us to include the first five-year, 1991-95, record of the current, as yet unfinished, decade.
We'll start down in Bermuda. The Bermuda Biological Station for Research—that's BBSR if I refer to it again—where I worked from 1969 to 1971, is responsible for physical and chemical measurements at the famous hydrographic Station S, which lies southeast of Bermuda in 3,200 metres of water. It's close to the centre of the subtropical North Atlantic ocean.
Now, serial measurements of temperature observations on land dating back a century or more are not uncommon—they've already been referred to—but no such record exists for any location in the ocean. Station S, which has been occupied regularly by the staff of BBSR since the observations were initiated by Henry Stommel of Woods Hole and MIT in 1954, is the longest continuous series we have in the deep ocean. The sampling frequency—on average twice a month—is dense enough to show real periodic phenomena, such as variability of temperature at sub-surface depths, and the trends in the data are indicative of change over much of the subtropical North Atlantic.
In 1972, after eliminating the annual cycle from the record, I detected a cooling trend in the sub-surface waters. This is 1972. So we had a cooling trend down to about 1,000 metres, and that trend had persisted for over a decade and a half. Now, at that time—if any of you are old enough to remember that far back—the whole northern hemisphere was known to have been cooling since about the 1940s, and serious and informed opinion was that a return of the ice age was imminent. All of this implied that further declines in water temperature in Bermuda could be expected.
So what happened? By 1975 the cooling trend in the sub-surface waters had been reversed. For the past two decades, the waters off Bermuda have become steadily warmer, though at many depths they remain cooler than they were at the start of the time series.
If the observations at this Station S had been begun in the mid-1970s, this warming trend would have been seized upon as a sign of greenhouse warming. But since the series began in 1954, we can see the true picture is of cooling in the first part of the record, with warming thereafter to values not yet equivalent to the initial ones.
From that I learned—and I think you should learn—the salutary lesson that the inferences that can be drawn from any time series are highly dependent upon the length of the series you're presented to study. What you're shown is what you have to judge upon. If you've carried nothing more than that away from my talk today, I'll be well satisfied. You'll be better equipped to ask to be shown not only truth and nothing but the truth, but the whole truth about global warming.
Let's move a little closer to home. We'll go to Sable Island. It's not quite Bermuda, but a lovely spot in its own right.
I'm going to show a couple of these. They're both the same type, where the starting date is here; years are on this axis up to the current. On this matter of the anomaly, we start with the mean level in the middle. These are years of warmer than average, cooler than average. This spidery kind of line is the annual and the rather bolder line is a five-year average.
The record from Sable Island is really very, very important, because it's an excellent example of an isolated location. It's uninhabited except for weather station personnel, so it's unaffected by any possible heating from urban growth. It's one of the global sites used to monitor the partial pressure of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere in support of the long-term measurements at Mauna Loa in Hawaii.
The record of surface air temperature since the 1890s—this is rather warm, isn't it—is quite clear. It started with a cooling as we entered the century, down to its coldest around the 1920s. It warmed up quite dramatically through to the 1950s, since which it has essentially declined to a level that is in fact lower than it was at the beginning.
That rise and decline was really quite substantial. It was in the order of two degrees Celsius. But when you look at the whole record from beginning to end, I think you could remark—as we would say in the other official language—
the more things change, the more they stay the same.
So at a station unaffected by urban warming, we really have no case for a continued warming.
I obviously can't give you every one of these in a short talk this afternoon, but other long-term stations in Atlantic Canada—Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island; Sydney, Nova Scotia; St. John's, Newfoundland—show this same pattern of warming to mid-century and then decline to the present time.
Even though the database for the coast of Labrador and Baffin Island is patchy prior to 1940, the same pattern of warming to a peak in the 1950s followed by cooling to date is shown there also.
The temperature of the surface of the ocean south and east of Newfoundland also shows a similar pattern, but the decline comes later, around the mid-1960s. So air temperatures declined, and then about a decade later the surface ocean temperature declined.
These climatic fluctuations have economic consequences for the fishery. During the last ten years of extremely cold temperatures in the region, recruitment from Labrador to the Grand Banks has been poor; these sea temperature declines since the mid-1980s are responsible for half of the recent decrease in size-at-age of cod.
These temperature-dependent effects aren't hypothetical or model; they are real, and they are having real consequences for us.
The decreasing minimum temperatures in winter don't just affect natural stocks. The decreasing winter temperatures have been a factor. This was shown near St. Andrews, New Brunswick, in the winter of 1992-93, when cold in the winter caused mass mortalities in captive stocks of salmon in facilities in southern New Brunswick. Currently cold temperatures restrict the expansion of aquaculture in Newfoundland waters. Bear that in mind if you are a believer in future warming. There are one or two places that could do with a little extra warmth, particularly in winter.
To move now to Greenland, the station record here, of the same pattern as from Sable Island, is from Godthaab on the west coast, and similarly from the east coast, Angmagssalik. For the first decades of this century you see there was warmth, which culminated in about the 1930s and the warmest five-year period of the record.
Since then both those coasts have cooled, in the west to the lowest values on record. This has had a significant effect on the fishery. This temperature record from Godthaab essentially charts the rise and fall of a great fishery, the west Greenland cod fishery. I will admit it was aided and abetted by overfishing. There is now no fishing for cod off west Greenland. Essentially the good years we had were the years above the mean temperature.
So once again there is no evidence of a warming in this record.
Until 1989 my colleagues and I had been investigating the marine climate. We had just been studying these regional variations in temperature and effects on the fisheries and we hadn't thought to look at our results in the light of global warming. Like most scientists we just accepted it: well, the people doing the models must have something going for them. But we really did begin to wonder, if the world in general and the Northern Hemisphere in particular were supposed to be warming, why did our series of temperatures show nothing but cooling?
The IPCC explanation is more or less that the Arctic is warming as a consequence of the greenhouse effect. This causes greater volumes of cold water to leave the Arctic, pass down the eastern seaboard, and give lower sea and air temperatures locally. This is what we've been told: well, you're just looking at the local effect, Rog, it's no big general deal. However, such an idea has testable consequences, because if more cold water really is moving out of the Labrador Sea, there should be some type of compensatory flow.
This is just a diagram of mainly the surface circulation of the North Atlantic. Here's the North Atlantic Current. Essentially red through blue colours are warm through cold, with the intermediate of yellow and green. Remember my mentioning about this water releasing heat energy to the atmosphere, which warms western Europe? That's happening around here. This warmer water, originally from the subtropics, is working its way up here, being cooled northeast of Iceland, and other cold water is coming out here and forming currents, which at the surface and deeper take cold water in here. Other cold water is coming down the coast of Baffin Island, along the coast of Labrador—somewhat fresher water—as shown by this green here.
If the idea is that there's more of the cold stuff coming out here, it has to be compensated by some compensatory flow of warm here, so we thought we would go look over on the other side of this ocean. If it's coercing the cooling here, we would expect to see warming on the other side.
I ask you to look in your text. I haven't an overhead of this. I gave you a table, table 1, in which I summarized our findings for island stations and coastal stations off the coast of western Europe. It's called table 1, “Stations off Northwest Europe: The Long-Term Records”.
I've listed the stations from the west, Iceland, to the east—Murmansk in Russia is our most easterly station—from the north, Ireland, all the way south to the Azores. I've given you the length of record, then the warmest and the coldest five-year periods, with some comments. What you'll see is that all these stations in the northern North Atlantic follow that pattern which I've you showed you for our own stations off the east coast of Canada, a pattern of warming from cold decades at the start of the century, to a later maximum, with subsequent cooling.
It's also noteworthy that in this list the coldest five-year period for all stations with a record longer than 100 years falls in the 19th century, except for the Azores. That's true, in fact, of all long-term stations in the record. I can show you here that if we're allowed to move inland a little bit in Europe to the places where there are long term records, some of which have been in operation since the mid 1700s, only slightly after Daniel Fahrenheit invented the thermometer....
Don't look at the warmest decade, but at the coldest decade. All these stations have their coldest decades in a period from the mid nineteenth to the late nineteenth century. I've never encountered one of these things with such a heat output. Perhaps whoever has responsibility for energy conservation here needs to look at this one. However, trying to hold it flat, what you are shown by the IPCC always begins in the middle or late nineteenth century, so it simply cannot fail to show warming to date, because it begins in the period that has the coldest decades without exception.
Where the warmest decades come is interesting. Some of these stations have their warmest decades early in the record, in the late eighteenth century. Not one of them has its warmest decade in the nineteenth century. The nineteenth century was a cold century.
This I ran up to the 1980s; the 1990s is not yet a complete decade. Some of them, like Vienna, Copenhagen, and Geneva, had their warmest decade most recently, but others, quite significantly, had their warmest decades in the 1930s, Stockholm, and Trondheim in Norway.
So we have this very interesting picture, that the era in which the IPCC starts its global and hemispherical graphs to impress you with the fact that the world is warmed is the coldest recent era. Think about that one.
Also note that the three stations in table 1, with their warmest five-year period in the last three decades, all have their locations moved to airports. Airports are heat islands: paved runways and burning of aviation fuel keep the adjacent air warmer than ambient. It's suspicious, at the very least, that as meteorological observation stations have been moved to airfields, their local temperature trend is upward and it often diverges from nearby rural stations.
Surface temperatures in the ectotropical north Atlantic, we may see, are currently close to or below their long term means, and they're below the temperatures reached in the warmest decades of this century or, in the case of some of the long-term stations, earlier.
In all cases, the warmest period came before the 1990s and the current decade is so far most uninteresting. There's no evidence that the region has warmed or cooled dramatically during the 1990s—basically boring. The pattern of general warming that is supposed to be manifest in the hemisphere is simply not shown here.
You can't explain this general cooling at all these island stations by that rather simplistic interpretation that cold melt-water is coming out of a warming Arctic. Whatever the IPCC says is happening globally, it certainly doesn't include our region.
That's strange, because the north Atlantic is without doubt the most extensively and intensively sampled of all the oceans.
This is showing you the frequency of meteorological observations per month for different parts of the world. Red means at least 15 observations per month in a two degree by two degree lat-long square. You'll see that when we go back to the start of the record in 1880, 1890, essentially there was a record for the western north Atlantic, across the Atlantic here, to North America, down to South America.... This is interesting; that must have been the ships going for the Chile saltpetre. There's essentially nothing in the Pacific, and through the Suez Canal is the route to the Indies. There was no Panama Canal in that era.
When we look at the years up to 1940, the coverage in the North Atlantic, again the North Atlantic is the ocean with a good coverage. Some coverage is starting up in the North Pacific and there's coverage in east Asia. Even when we come to 1960, 1980 we see, yes, the coverage in the North Atlantic is good and, yes, the coverage in the North Pacific is good, but much of the southern ocean is essentially unsampled even today.
A major part of the globe is not even sampled for the purpose of giving you these so-called global averages.
As we know, in those temperate latitudes of eastern North America and northwestern Europe where we have the longest measures of temperature, some of them extending back in time to when the first instrumental records were made in the eighteenth century, we have cooling there.
If we can't find the evidence of global warming here in the best sample parts of the world, are we supposed to believe that it's occurring based on evidence from central Siberia or remote regions of the southern hemisphere? Apparently the answer is yes, because this is the IPCC's own production chart from their 1996 report.
First, anyone who has the least connection with the sea recognizes this as a Mercator chart. A Mercator chart is excellent for navigation but is in no way an equal area projection in terms of north and south of 60 degrees, so it immediately exaggerates these areas shown here, which are supposed to impress us as being the areas of warming, the area in the northwest of our own country and over into Alaska and this region in Siberia.
As a matter of fact, if we had another day and a half to go into it, this region in Siberia is one of the most poorly and inadequately sampled regions in the globe. We have considerable problems with the database there. And where it's supposed to be warming in the southern ocean we have huge gaps in the data. It's a few isolated spots. I think this shows Tristan de Cunha or something. There really is no coverage in the southern ocean to base warming there.
When I present this to my colleagues, of course I am told, “But Dr. Pocklington, you don't have to worry.” By the way, here is our cooling, around here, in Europe. “You don't have to worry about the cooling you're finding in the North Atlantic, in northwest Europe. Our models now predict cooling over northeast North America and Greenland.” I was told this for the first time in 1994.
“Oh,” I said, “where were you in 1965? How can you predict in 1994 cooling that began at the middle of the century? That's not a prediction, that's a post-diction.”
They said it was a “retrospective prediction”. And I said, “Oh yes, like the one your broker gives you the day after the market goes down.”
This is highly unsatisfactory. We come up with these real data and these very expensive computer models are now—they don't use the word “tweaked”, I think they say tuned—tuned to give the effect that is in the data. That is not prediction. That is after-the-fact adjustment, let us say—I won't say manipulation—so I simply don't believe it.
They never did predict this cooling. It was only after we showed them the cooling year after year and after we literally rubbed their noses in the data that they admitted the fact and changed their models to give the cooling in the North Atlantic.
But if the models now have cooling in the North Atlantic, I and the others in the fishing community would really like to know, if it's in their model, when is it going to stop? But when you ask a specific question like that you get told that on the regional scale they can't really tell you anything.
The other point you have to bear in mind is this. Had we gone out and found warming in the North Atlantic, can you believe that it would have been interpreted as evidence against greenhouse warming? You can't simply have a scientific hypothesis when the evidence that is 180 degrees opposed is always in favour of your hypothesis.
Watch this one, folks. This is not a prediction at all about cooling in the North Atlantic; this is an after-the-fact justification of what the real data show.
I'm sorry I became a little impassioned, Mr. Chair. I'm probably running out of time. If I may be allowed a couple of minutes more, let's cool down a bit—or maybe warm up—and go back to the latitude of Bermuda.
In my opening remarks I spoke about the length of a temperature time series being dependent on the length of the series you're given to see. Some very exciting things in addition to Station S have been done off Bermuda. In the 1970s a collection of a nearly continuous suite of deep sediment trap samples—these intercept particles that are sinking through the water column—were started at a site called an ocean flux program site. They were begun by Werner Deuser of Woods Hole. Additionally, deep-sea cores of sediment have been taken on the Bermuda rise east of Station S.
These three elements combine to give one the first reconstructions of sea surface temperature in recent centuries in the open ocean. I should add that these are quite additional to evidence from tree rings, from ground boreholes. This is additional what is termed “proxy” evidence. I agree that they aren't from somebody going out and noting down a temperature and putting it in a log book, but this is totally independent proxy data.
We can study the stable isotope composition of the shells of some little planktonic animals called formaminifera, which record past changes in temperature and salinity of the Sargasso Sea sea water where they lived and where they then fell down to the bottom and became preserved in the sediments.
I should explain, by the way, that geologists, unlike climatologists, begin here on the left of the X axis and they go back in time to the right. This is a longstanding distinction. How it began I don't know. It's rather like the schism between the eastern and the western churches. It goes back a long way. You just have to remember that when you're looking at the geologist's core, here is now, and to the right is a long time ago, whereas in a climatologist's scale it's the inverse.
However, let us look at what this record shows us. Here's our little Station S and the little record we've had since 1954, which fits right in here. Prior to that, and we're going back about 300 years, is very clear evidence of what has been termed the “little ice age”. This is known from a large amount of other evidence from certainly all over the northern hemisphere, if not all over the world, because there wasn't any evidence from other parts of the world. Certainly where there was evidence, there was cold in those centuries.
Further back is the “medieval warm period”. During this period, people from Scandinavia first made it over to Greenland, where in southern Greenland, with the poor varieties of wheat of the day, they grew a crop of wheat. I challenge you to do that nowadays, even with modern varieties. These events were real—the little ice age and the medieval warm period. Further back in time we have another cold event here, around 1500 years before present, and an even warmer event back here.
The main thing to look at has to do with this question of variability in the record, which was raised in the initial questioning. The range here is fully a degree or more cold for the little ice age. We're going a degree or more warmer here—even two degrees here.
We have not yet seen here the full range of natural variability. Anything that might have happened here is well within the range of natural variability. Natural variability is considerably greater than we feel. There was a remark made by the previous speaker about an assumption of stability in the long-term climate, which is simply not true.
All these events, I may say, occurred without human invention. Although they were trying hard to keep themselves warm during the little ice age, I don't think our ancestors burned enough fuel to significantly affect the carbon dioxide partial pressure in their atmosphere.
I think I've said enough, and I've taken too much of your valuable time. Basically, claims that the half-degree warming since the late 19th century to the present day is exceptional and requires some kind of special explanation to account for it are poorly supported by this data. Remember, what you see in any time series depends upon how much you're shown.
Thank you so much.
The Chairman: Thank you, Dr. Pocklington.
We will now continue our round of questions. I would urge you to perhaps use five minutes rather than ten. We'll hear from Mr. Lincoln, followed by Mr. Knutson. After that, my list is still white. Mr. Pratt—okay. Please go ahead, Mr. Lincoln.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I'll just give Dr. Pocklington a minute.
Dr. Pocklington, if I understand you correctly, you disagree completely with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change—their 2,500 scientists or so. Is your own work peer-reviewed?
Dr. Roger Pocklington: No, sir, I do not disagree completely with the IPCC. You heard my presentation. On those specific instances I covered, I presented you factual evidence, where the factual evidence, which is not mine but theirs, is in variance with their stated position.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: No, no. I was just asking you a specific question. Is your work peer-reviewed?
Dr. Roger Pocklington: I'm not here to answer ad hominem questions, sir. I'm here of my own time and expense. I'm a currently retired former public servant of Canada. The list of my publications is with you, in peer-reviewed publications. I'm currently retired and am not currently employed, if that's the basis for your question. But I really find it a little offensive that these personal factors are introduced at this table.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Excuse me, Dr. Pocklington, but I think this type of questioning is fair.
I'm just reading a book now, The Heat is On, which shows that so many people who refute the IPCC are not peer-reviewed—it's amazing how many. What I understand myself, and I'm not a scientist, is that the IPCC has something like 2,500 scientists from all over the world, has grouped together the most eminent scientists in the field, who tell us that there is global warming. You come out and object to my question, but it's your word that says what Dr. McBean said wasn't true.
You object to my question as to whether your work is peer-reviewed, but I think it's a fair question. If you come along tell us that Dr. McBean's statements are not true, I think I'd like to know if your work is peer-reviewed. The IPCC work is peer-reviewed at every stage by the most eminent scientists in the world. I want to know whether I should believe you more than Dr. McBean—that's all.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Okay, sir. Perhaps I'm a little sensitive on this issue, because whenever I express any disbelief on the basis of my own practical experience in my working life.... And I made this talk a little personal to show you how I came from doing just regional studies that no one can refute. All this stuff is in the literature, our own papers and the other papers from the fisheries scientists at the Bedford Institute. You have reference to some of my colleagues in there. All this stuff is presented to the ICES meetings every year—the fisheries meetings.
Unfortunately, my colleagues tended to look at these facts as just a regional thing. They set me to thinking how this fits within this larger story we're being told.
I have publications. They are listed, I believe, in the.... Stephen, were they attached?
The Clerk: Yes, they are.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: I have publications that are listed there, and I have publications in press, and you may read the publications of my colleagues.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I know, but I think this is a key question. We are not disputing facts that were known by all scientists on the same basis. What we are trying to find out here is which group of scientists has the interpretation of the facts to give us a projection that will tell us that we should act now, or, as the Reform Party is suggesting, we should do nothing for now because it will cost too much. Just like the tobacco industry told us 20 years ago—you know, there is no definite proof, so don't do anything. Then it's too late.
What we want to know is should we act now on the precautionary possibility that the 2,500 IPCC scientists might be right? If you give a counterpoint and you come to a different interpretation, we want to know that you have as much backing for your opinions as they have for their opinions.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Well, it's obvious that one is not equal to 2,500. But I've shown you that I'm a practising, working scientist, and that I am not in fact alone in these opinions. I am more free to express them now that I'm retired, though I must say that my own department was always very supportive of my work. You will see that my work was supported by the Panel on Energy Research and Development. You may read the whole list of projects that panel supports. They range from supporting me, as you might say, if you want to take that as one extreme, all the way through to people studying whether beaver ponds are a significant effect in the methane. The source of my funding is a source from which a great variety of people of different viewpoints have drawn.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Knutson, followed by Mr. Pratt.
Mr. Gar Knutson (Elgin—Middlesex—London, Lib.): I just wondered, Dr. McBean, if you would like to make any comments, given the presentation we just saw.
Dr. Gordon McBean: Thank you. Yes I would, actually. I would also personally, like Dr. Pocklington, avoid trying to be personal, but I did find some of his comments rather offensive to myself and to my colleagues in the broad scientific community. However, I will stick to the points he has made.
He has basically given you a selection of temperature data from the North Atlantic and a few stations adjoining it on land areas, which, as I showed you in this figure, is an area that we agree does cool.
I think one also must take exception to his comments that all these land stations are at airports, and airports are natural heat islands. Let me first of all comment that they're not all at airports. We have many stations in the Canadian climate network that are at other than airports.
Secondly, there has been a very careful analysis by scientists in the United States and the U.K., as well as those in Canada, who have looked at this land-based data and have made comparisons of airport versus other, and where appropriate they have corrected the heat-island-affected stations. We believe the data that we presented, which show a global temperature change including the warming in the 1990s—the fact that 1995 is the warmest year on the record—are on a solid base.
I object to the argument that we use Mercator maps. We clearly don't use Mercator maps, other than to show them in diagrams. When one computes global averages, one uses a sensible scientific approach of areas.
If the committee would like to have a solid, authoritative presentation on the role of the ocean and climate, I think there are many very eminent Canadian oceanographers who have played a leading role. In fact, the chairman of the World Oceans Circulation Experiment, who happens to work for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, is one of the most eminent physical oceanographers on the planet today. He is chairing committees internationally, and if you wish to hear an authoritative comment on the role of the ocean in the climate system, it would be appropriate to invite Dr. Clark from the Bedford Institute.
I could also note that previous to my present appointment, I was the head of the department of oceanography at the University of British Columbia, and I don't think the kind of ocean work that has been presented here is credible in terms of putting it in a global context of global change.
The Chairman: Mr. Knutson.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: I have a point of order, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman: No, there's no point of order. I'm sorry.
Mr. Gar Knutson: What did you want to say?
The Chairman: If you are asked a similar question, of course you will have an opportunity to put it forward.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Understood.
Mr. Gar Knutson: Let me just interject here that I'm assuming everyone's acting in good faith. We're sort of into arguing about who's the smartest and who's the best.
I'm not a scientist either, but when somebody tells me there's a consensus in the scientific community—or a rough consensus—that there's a serious problem here, I tend to accept that. I'm not qualified to look at computer models. I'm not qualified to try to sort this out on my own. I don't think that's what I got elected to do. But other than the personal stuff on both sides, I find this debate interesting.
Mr. Pocklington, the chair cut you off. What did you want to say?
Dr. Roger Pocklington: No, the chair explained the circumstances under which I may answer the points.
The Chairman: Go ahead, Mr. Pocklington.
Mr. Gar Knutson: Let's hear your rebuttal to the rebuttal.
The Chairman: By all means, proceed.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: I agree with Mr. Knutson. Perhaps we should just lower the emotional tone a bit.
The matter of consensus is of course very important to you people in the political sphere. It's always very important to you that you reach the maximum consensus in a democratic system, that all views are represented, so on and so forth.
But as I tell students, science is unfortunately both democratic and undemocratic. It's democratic in the sense that anyone can play. I didn't say it was equally easy for everyone to enter, but even a fisherman's son can enter and can be a participant. It's undemocratic in the fact that at any meeting convened in Geneva for scientists who are deemed or deem themselves to be eminent—and I must tell you that the majority of these people are the actual movers and shakers—the actually really active scientists of that group I would put at one-tenth. The others are knowledgeable and well-intentioned people who are the representatives of various governments. They may not in fact have specific expertise, but maybe they are delegated the responsibility.
So the presumption that this is the absolute number of active scientists in the field, and that anyone who was not invited to this.... And I might tell you that it's in my curriculum vitae that Dr. Bruce did very kindly invite me to be on the Canadian review committee of the most recent report, the group three report. That was very civil of him, and just exactly what he should have done to involve people who had something to say but who were not necessarily at the table. So you must not just believe that the only people who have anything to say were at that meeting in Geneva.
If I could take up a specific thing, I really did not say “at all airports”—and my text is in front of you. I merely made the very mild remark that three of those stations that showed warming most recently happened to have been moved to airports, and wasn't that curious.
I know what Gordon says, that we try very hard to remove this urban effect. But it's also interesting that when you go to Sable Island, where there is no urban effect, you don't see this warming. If you take a selection across the United States, as Thomas Karl has done, of those stations that couldn't possibly have any urban warming because they're even maybe smaller now than they were when this record started, you get no overall warming for the continental United States. In fact, there is a slight but I think non-significant cooling.
So we like to think we've removed the urban warming effect, but that was all I said. I didn't say that all warming stations were at airports.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. David Pratt (Nepean—Carleton, Lib.): Mr. Chair, I think some of my questions have been answered, but I'm not sure Dr. Pocklington has fully answered Mr. Knutson's question.
Understanding that different scientists can come to different conclusions, would you not concede that there seems to be a consensus within the scientific community that the issue of global warming is in fact a reality, whether it's a rough or solid consensus?
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Yes, but I tried to tell you, when I made the remark about science being both democratic and not democratic, that it doesn't work that way. It's democratic in that anyone can play, but it's not democratic in that the majority.... With reference to what is now known as plate tectonics, when the majority of us were in college, J. Tuzo Wilson himself was of the camp that said the continents and oceans are fixed in place and cannot move. If you had had a meeting in Geneva at that time, you would have had the majority voting on that. But then the key evidence came out and people switched, and now the convention is that we have the continents moving around the ocean basins.
Mr. David Pratt: Is it your belief, then, that governments around the world are relying on, or are basing policy decisions on, second-rate science right now?
Dr. Roger Pocklington: You've made much too strong a statement. I do believe I said I find it curious that in those parts of the world that are best sampled—and I'm sure I convinced you of that, and the figures I'm showing you are the IPCC's own figures—the North Atlantic in terms of oceans and northwestern Europe and eastern North America are our best samples. I can show you from the IPCC's own list where the stations are. The stations that have had continuous measurements since 1840 are few and far between, and they're in those locations.
I've asked my colleagues at Bedford Institute if they would not feel happier if they had their strongest evidence from the best-sampled parts of the world rather than the worst-sampled parts of the world. That's all. It's just a sort of practical thing. Wouldn't it be a little easier if the best sample parts showed warming, rather than having us having to go to the middle of nowhere to find it? I have to tell you that the East Asian and Siberian land data is very poor.
Mention was made here by a gentleman questioning about the satellite records that we haven't even brought up. If we go up from the surface and into the next layer, where I think there have been records now since the late 1970s—is it now eighteen years of data, Gordon?—they were not showing any warming at all. It's showing some cooling.
Perhaps I get a bit too excited when I'm throwing the overheads on there, but basically I felt my message was one of caution. Let us be cautious.
Mr. David Pratt: So rather than making a sweeping comment about perhaps second-rate science here, to sum up—
Dr. Roger Pocklington: I didn't make that statement.
Mr. David Pratt: No, I did, but I'm just trying to understand the sort of general direction you're going in. Would you say, then, that some of the conclusions that governments have drawn from the scientific evidence that appears to be out there are problematic in terms of the extent to which they're conclusive?
Dr. Roger Pocklington: I myself have not seen change outside the range of variation. I haven't seen a signal outside the range. I am not a modeller. I am not predicting the future for you. I'm showing you the past, showing what really happened in the past, as well as we can know it, and saying it's no big deal. This half-degree Celsius warming we have had—and remember, we always start those graphs at the coldest time—is no big deal and does not require a special explanation involving wicked humans puffing whatever it might be into the atmosphere.
If I might say so, Dr. McBean said very truly that carbon dioxide is the dominant greenhouse gas among those people have much to do with, but the overall dominant greenhouse gas on this planet is water vapour. This planet is warm because there is water vapour in its atmosphere.
I personally have great difficulty in believing the whole of earth's climate history is essentially dominated by minor concentration changes in a minor atmospheric constituent. If you want it, the overall thing that bothers me is a model which has basically one factor in it. Oh, sure, methane and other things are in it, but these models started with let's take something and double it and see what happens. Well, of course something happens. If you try doubling other factors things will happen. The focus on that then I think ran away with the political.
If I may say so, Mr. Chair, I didn't make any type of political statement. I didn't feel it was up to me. But if things are put into action...and again, it was mentioned that we are being asked to suffer real economic costs for, as far as I'm concerned, hypothetical benefits. The lowest costs will fall on the power bills and the heating bills of poor little pensioners like me, poor people generally. I joke, but it will fall on the backs of poor people. So you have to think very hard. Real costs for hypothetical, some-time-in-the-future benefits: that's your business.
The Chairman: Mr. Charbonneau.
Mr. Yvon Charbonneau (Anjou—Rivière-des-Prairies, Lib.): This exchange, Mr. Chairman, almost makes us regret the practice of early retirements.
A few hundred years ago, there was a consensus in the scientific community that the Earth was flat, but from time to time, somebody dared say it was round. He was considered an oddball. I wonder if we are not in just such a situation now: there is someone who dares express other points of view and say that perhaps the Earth is not flat.
I would like to ask Mr. McBean to comment on the fact that Mr. Pocklington's argument is based on a longer observation period. I think that, fact for fact, in five-year blocks, you are saying almost the same thing for the period you have in common. But the period observed by Mr. Pocklington is longer, which leads him to make his conclusion relative, while the period observed by the scientists and Mr. McBean is shorter.
Mr. McBean, why couldn't you at least concede this point to Mr. Pocklington—that everything has to be observed over a longer period? If the scientists that you represent or whose point of view you express haven't done so, is it because they had no interest in studying everything over a longer period?
I have a question for Mr. Pocklington. We are going through this whole exercise because in December there is going to be an international conference where an agreement is to be signed. We have noted that the different countries—Europe, Japan and the United States—are talking to us about stabilization at 1990 levels. That might take more years for some and fewer for others. The means might be different, but they are talking to us about this ideal of stabilization.
Dr. Gordon McBean: Let me first comment that although the diagram I showed started in approximately 1860, the intergovernmental panel in fact has gone back. You will note that in one of my overheads it says the 20th century is at least as warm as any other since at least 1400. We based that on over 600 years of reconstructions of climate. The third or so diagram in here actually goes back 200,000 years. So we have very much used longer periods of record, which I think are adequate to go beyond or earlier than the time period that Mr. Pocklington has talked about.
The data record gets less robust. There were fewer observations in the earlier times and we must reconstruct them from things like the small beasties in the ocean that Dr. Pocklington talked about earlier that he analysed.
If you ask me the question of stabilizing at 1990, my only comment would be that stabilizing at 1990, according to our carbon models, indicates that the atmospheric concentrations will still go up. If every country in the globe stabilizes, the atmospheric concentration will still continue to increase and will be very nearly double the global carbon dioxide concentration by the year 2100, with the resulting changes in climate corresponding to that.
The IPCC in its 1990 or 1992 report stated that if you wished to stabilize the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, you would have to reduce the present day emissions by all countries by approximately 60%.
The Chairman: Dr. Pocklington, please.
Mr. Roger Pocklington: I have nothing to say on the question of stabilization. As far as I'm concerned, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is not a problem. Why stabilize something when it's not a problem?
Mr. Yvon Charbonneau: I understood better in French than in English. I didn't understand that up until now, it wasn't a problem. I understood that it wasn't as serious a problem as the others said. But now you're telling us it's not a problem at all. Is that what you are saying?
Mr. Roger Pocklington: It isn't a problem because, for me, the series of temperatures doesn't require a separate explanation; that is to say, what happened between the end of the 19th Century and now is negligible.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Charbonneau.
Ms. Kraft Sloan.
Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan (York North, Lib.): Dr. McBean, I just wanted to ask you a little bit about some of the recent regional studies that have been undertaken across this country. We have the Canada country study, which will be released later this month. There are six regional scientific reports: British Columbia, Yukon, Arctic, Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and Atlantic. There was one released this summer on the Mackenzie Basin impact study.
I'm just wondering if you can tell us a little bit about the Mackenzie Basin impact study, if you have that information handy, because it's my recollection that through that study we've been able to see evidence of climate change already at work in the Mackenzie Basin area, and that it has been accepted by a wide-level consensus with 2,500 to 3,000 scientists, as well as 300 economists, who have been looking at some of the impacts of climate change to suggest that human intervention does play a role.
If you'd like to comment on the Mackenzie Basin impact study, or any of the other ones, I'd appreciate that.
Dr. Gordon McBean: Yes, thank you. We can provide to the committee members the Mackenzie Basin impact study executive summary, if it hasn't already been done. I think it may have been in the past, but we can get out copies.
The Mackenzie Basin impact study was an analysis based on looking at scientific studies of the local changes in permafrost and ecosystems in water, as well as a large number of interviews with people who live in that area, including many native people who have carried out a certain lifestyle for long periods of time.
Our own scientific data show that the Mackenzie Basin has warmed by approximately 1.5 degrees Celsius. As demonstrated on this little chart I showed you earlier, that is one of the places where the warming has been most pronounced in Canada. That is consistent with the predictions of the global climate change models. We have also seen impacts, noted by studies by ecologists, that there are changes in ecosystems. The permafrost effects have been noted, and also the native peoples themselves have reported many—this is anecdotal information but based on their own lifestyles—changes they had observed in terms of the way in which the climate of that area has changed.
We released the report in Quebec the other day for the region. These are assessments based on scientific literature of the types of impacts that would occur if the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere were to double in the future, what kind of climate change would be appropriate with that. They are not predictions; they are just a scientific assessment indicative of the types of social, economic, as well as environmental change it would correspond to, region by region in Canada. They have to be qualified because of the difficulties in modelling fine-scale changes, but within that context they demonstrate the changes and their impacts—some of which are positive and some of which are negative—on Canadian activities.
As you said, the formal, full-Canada country study will be released later this month.
Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: Thank you.
Dr. Pocklington, do you have any comments about the Mackenzie Basin impact study, with some of the changes that Canadian scientists have recognized as actual climate change occurring now in Canada's north, with some of the effects on the ecosystem? Are you familiar with the study at all?
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Yes, Mrs. Kraft Sloan. In fact, probably Mr. Lincoln would be pleased to know that I'm one of the contributors to the Atlantic region report. Some of the things I brought out, the factual information I've presented, and that of my colleagues will be in there, with the recognition that in the Atlantic region we must be prepared for climate change of either sign, minus as well as plus, because our reality is minus. As I've tried to show you, that too has economic and social consequences.
Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: But I believe that's why it's called “climate change”.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Yes, it's climate change.
Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: It's called climate change because it isn't going to go hot or cold, necessarily. It depends on what part of the world you're dealing with—
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Yes.
Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: —and certainly in Canada's north there is well-documented evidence, both at the western sort of science level as well as the on-the-ground, community-based indigenous people's observations.
I have been up there. I know I'm a politician; I'm not a scientist. I don't live there; I don't spend a lot of time there. But I've also talked to local people who have indicated to me the changes they've seen, the changes in the ability to support certain kinds of fish, the changes in transportation because of winter roads thawing, ice bridges thawing, the sides of the Mackenzie River caving in because of mud slides, and the increase in forest fires. So a lot of local people are seeing this as part of the climate change scenario.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: I'm sure you have all this local data.
I would like to make two points. One, not that many people live in that region now. How many fewer lived there in say 1895? My understanding is that the long-term temperature trace we have from there really begins with one station, I believe Norman Wells. So let us consider also my point that we have a sparse record over time. I agree we have people's experiences and so on to guide us, but we also have people's experiences in Newfoundland, Labrador, and Baffin Island and what has happened to them there.
If you see the stuff that I present to you about the Atlantic, and western Europe is to be discounted—oh, well, yes, that's cooling, but that's not terribly important—if you look at the geographic area of which you're speaking, I could say the same thing. I could say, “Oh, well, it's atypical”. Frankly, you have a system of some regions warming and some cooling, and that, Madam, you have to accept.
Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: But it's not atypical, because the greatest impact of climate change in terms of increasing temperature is going to be in the north and centre of the continent, which is the area we're referring to.
We're talking about people who pass stories from generation to generation, which is also a type of science. They have indicated the changes out there as well, the changes they've seen in ecosystems—wider landscape ecosystems as well as individual species and fish populations and things like that. They have seen it. And the results of the increase in temperature in that area, which Dr. McBean has pointed out, from a western science point of view, fit in with the climate change model.
So the results of the work that has been carried out with the Mackenzie Basin impact study, which crosses sectoral lines—it includes the scientific community and local indigenous people—all suggest that climate change is occurring now in Canada's north.
The Chairman: I apologize, but make it a brief comment, please.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: As it is in the Atlantic and the regions I talked about.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Asselin, please.
Mr. Gérard Asselin (Charlevoix, BQ): My question is directed to Mr. McBean. At the moment, we're studying the problem of emissions of greenhouse effect gases in anticipation of the Kyoto meeting. The Environment, Natural Resources and Industry Ministries have looked into this question. A little while ago, someone said the more things change the more they stay the same. I knew that saying was correct in politics: we change governments and ministers, and the more things change the more they stay the same. We do studies and analyses, but we don't do anything concrete to bring about a reduction.
When I look at the graphs from 1900 to 2001, I notice that the more things change, the more they stay the same. And in 2001 there... [Editor's Note: Inaudible]. The same is true from 1910 to 2040, and from 1860 to 2000.
Is the Environment Ministry, besides doing analyses and hatching pretty documents that look good and will surely look good at the Kyoto meeting, really trying to prevent the curve on the graphs from changing for the year 2000? Can Environment Canada, through its employees, today or even tomorrow, present any concrete solutions for achieving this goal of stabilization?
If we are able to reduce these emissions, let's not wait until we're like South Korea or Mexico, where you have to walk around all day long with a handkerchief or a mask over your mouth or nose, before we start to act.
We have already done analyses and studies; what is missing is quite simply the will to apply environmental policies that give concrete results.
Dr. Gordon McBean: Thank you.
Certainly there is within several departments of the federal government now a very large level of activity, and we have the involvement of many ministers. I cannot today tell you what the position will be, and it's inappropriate for me to try to comment on what it might be, but there is, as I said, a high level of activity. The Prime Minister has already spoken on a couple of occasions in the last week or so on this issue. It is identified as an issue of concern within governments, and we are developing a position for Kyoto, which will be part of a process that is presently under way.
I am glad you made the comment about the mask on the face question, because we're also looking at the effects on human health of these kinds of emissions as the whole question of urban air quality. These and climate change questions are very closely linked.
The Chairman: Thank you, Mr. Asselin.
We can have a quick second round after a brief question from the chair. The question that intrigues me is the following.
There is an indication of a temperature change on this map of the northwest Atlantic that you showed us, Dr. McBean, which indicates that there is there a cooling trend. This is the conclusion also of the Sable Island observations that Dr. Pocklington referred to. So there is, in this part of the oceans, a convergence of conclusion.
Are there any other convergences of conclusions in other oceans in other parts of the world?
Dr. Gordon McBean: I believe so, yes. I'm glad you pointed that out. These kinds of model projections include the ocean and they include the impacts of an oceanographic change corresponding to greenhouse gases.
In the early parts of this record, it does indicate, as noted in this diagram, a cooling due to a change in the north Atlantic thermohaline circulation in that region. As we progress further, as we go further into 2100 or an increasing amount of greenhouse gases, that area of cooling eventually, in a much longer period of time, does become a warming period. But there are other areas where of course the observations and the models are in agreement now, including parts of the north Atlantic and other areas.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Mr. Chair, could I quickly present this?
The Chairman: Yes.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: I wish we just had more time. After all, this has been fascinating. Although some people have left, I saw no one go to sleep.
Earlier Dr. McBean showed you this very same thing with the same data source coming from the University of East Anglia, which is like the Vatican in this debate. This is where the authoritative data and statements issue from. We have here a much better equal area projection, because it of course is the projection from the top down. We're looking at our globe from the top down.
On Dr. McBean's point about the Mercator, whatever he says, the Mercator is the one that was given to the public to see in that other figure. But as scientists, we are agreed that we're better looking at equal area projections.
This one is very interesting, because this is broken down for autumn. He showed you the annual. Red tints are warming and blue are cooling. You may ignore the intermediate tints, because the projections of the IPCC are not only in absolute terms, but in rate of change. Therefore very slow rates of warming aren't even supportive of their argument. They not only have to warm the world up; they have to warm it up at a rate unprecedented, which means you need only bother about the deep red and the very blue.
The levels in degrees Celsius per decade are of the same order for the cooling. We have minus six degrees Celsius to minus five degrees Celsius, down in the red colours, where they're claiming the very reddish colours are going up to one degree Celsius. But essentially, if you look at it in autumn and you say this is equal area, you can see as much or more areas of blue cooling: the whole of the North American continent, the region I was telling you about, eastern Europe, and I never even got to mention the north Pacific. A huge area of water has been cooling in the north Pacific.
Yes, we still have what claims to be warming in Alaska and in the east Siberian region, which I wish I had more time to tell you about. But this is from the people who, as I say, are the pope and the cardinals of this warming debate, and they have to admit that when they look from 1961 to 1990 and break it down into the autumn season, they are hard-pressed to find any warming at all—only this region here and a touch here.
By and large, you can look in the IPCC report, and this is left totally unexplained. It really is most peculiar. It is telling us something about our world, but I have not seen a satisfactory explanation. There is as much or more cooling than warming going on in our world this 30 years.
The Chairman: Thank you.
Mr. Rick Laliberte (Churchill River, NDP): Thank you.
You can get a headache looking at the whole aspect here. Just from an oceanographer's perspective, Dr. Pocklington, this whole climate change issue looks at the poles and the scenario that the poles will warm. Is it a fact that if the poles warm, the ice will melt and the oceans will rise? Is that an oceanographic fact as well?
Dr. Roger Pocklington: That is correct. But actually, if you want to talk about sea level a little bit....
Mr. Rick Laliberte: Well, yes. You didn't mention sea level at all.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Well, I was initially told ten minutes. You gave me far more than that.
The sea level thing is really pre-empted. There is an element of it, but you must realize that because of things such as buoyancy of ice and so on, the sea level rise actually comes from warming the surface water of the ocean, which then expands. This is where the projected or proposed sea level rise comes from.
There are two points I would like to make there. If you think the database for temperature is bad, precipitation is worse, and the database for sea level—that is, the factual basis that we have at different places in the world where they have actually measured sea level—is atrocious.
Bermuda is supposed to be one of the better places, because it's a coral cap on top of a volcano that supposedly hasn't been going up and down itself, as many parts of Canada have. But I have to tell you, that physical record, for which I was responsible in the past, is lousy for the reason that the gauge itself has been moved around. There is a very poor factual base for knowing what is happening now with sea level. In different places it's going up and down and staying the same, so I find it very touchy that people can project.
The calculation that if we warm the surface water of the ocean so much, it will expand, and other things being equal, this will raise sea level, that's okay. That's a simple physical calculation. But its expression in different places....
If I may take Bermuda again, you keep hearing this story about how the water is going to rise and the poor little people.... Actually, they're not poor little people in Bermuda. Bermuda is one of the few places where you can visit as a Canadian and you don't have to feel sorry for the natives, because they're richer than you are. But there are some poor islands, too, that have this same basis of coral, and the fact of the matter is those islands are there because the coral reef is able to grow up faster than the water level can rise. Water levels have been going up and down throughout geological time.
Again, I don't feel threatened by that, and I'm the guy living on a coral island.
Mr. Rick Laliberte: It seems as if your statements are bordering on a conspiracy theory here.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Oh, certainly not. I can't believe I said anything....
Mr. Rick Laliberte: I can say that. I'm a politician.
Now, if you tell us that we're not going in any way, and in a decade or two decades, which this whole conference is based on.... If we do not change our ways and pollution throughout the world, our lifestyles throughout the world, our indications are that ecological factors are falling into place and ecological facts are telling us that we're making a grave mistake here. You have boldly said not to worry about carbon dioxide, that the climate change is nothing, it's just a little hiccup in time. If that's a mistake, are you willing to take that burden?
Dr. Roger Pocklington: You see, the assumption is always made that—and I'm entering the political now, so I'm speaking just as a citizen—if we “do nothing” there will be terrible consequences. But do you know what would be the worst consequence in all this? It would be if we took action prejudicial to the economy of the world. And remember, it will hit the poorest people most, the poorest people in our country and the poorest people in other countries, even though there is an initial exemption of the developing countries from these rules. I guess you're all aware of that: they get an exemption. The worst case is in fact that we do these things and the world continues to warm anyway because it is warming for reasons unrelated to carbon dioxide.
Another thing: how will you know that your action has consequences? Imagine what some people will say. You take this action, at great expense to the global economy. If the world keeps on warming, it'll be that we didn't try hard enough; if it goes along about on the average—
The Chairman: Dr. Pocklington, I'm sorry to interrupt you. You are now going into a theme that is not within your competence—economy.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Yes, I agree, sir.
The Chairman: You're here as a witness on scientific grounds.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Understood.
The Chairman: So I will appreciate it if you stay out of considerations that are outside the realm of your specialty and address the question asked by Mr. Laliberte to the best of your knowledge within your discipline.
Mr. Laliberte, do you have any further questions?
Mr. Rick Laliberte: It's just that some statements were made at some point. Along the east coast, you said, 50% of the loss of cod was presented as a percentage loss and you didn't say that a lot of it, or any of it, was done by either draggers or a human aspect. You referred to it as temporal change.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Mr. Chair, I'm being dragged into some of these subjects.
Mr. Rick Laliberte: No, no.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: If you read what I've said, the references are there to Drinkwater. What my colleagues who are the fishery scientists are saying is that when you go and look at the year class, when you look at the little fish that are coming along that are going to be the catchable ones the next year, there's a direct effect of cold temperature upon them.
I did say in my statement about the decline of the great Greenland cod fishery that, sure, it was not only the temperature, it was aided and abetted by overfishing. But that fishery can never come back until those waters warm, irrespective of what action you take to restrict the fishing.
The Chairman: Mr. Knutson, followed by Mr. Lincoln.
Mr. Gar Knutson: Mr. McBean, to me it would seem an easy matter to throw out all the temperature measurements from airports, or cities around airports, and just take temperatures from the middle of Montana, or wherever. If we threw out all the data from airport weather stations, what would we see?
Dr. Gordon McBean: I can't give you a map at this time, but I can tell you that the scientists who have analysed this have looked at this question of airports and the heat island effect that has been referred to and have come to the conclusion that the temperature mapping that you would see on a global basis would not be significantly different. We would have many fewer stations. They would not be for as long a period in some cases; but of course most airports really are a relatively recent innovation.
If I could comment more generally, I think it is inappropriate to focus all one's concern on whether or not we show or do not show climatic warming. As a scientist I am convinced we understand the way the climate system works well enough and I'm quite at variance with Dr. Pocklington's comment that changing carbon dioxide concentrations is a trivial matter. In my view changing carbon dioxide concentrations, as we project in the future, will have a significant effect on our global climate and, scaling down, climates.
So the concern has to be what we look to the future for. In my view the analysis of the records of the past give us confidence that we are right in our projections; that these models are in fact representing the real climate system as best we understand it. To go in and out of whether one station shows this or that I think is rather time-consuming and probably not the appropriate way of getting at this issue.
Mr. Gar Knutson: The issue, then, of stabilizing at 1990 levels: you're saying with the rate of increase in the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere and the amount taken out—not that I understand how it comes out once it's in—we're still going to have a very quick rate of increase. Is it going to make any difference if we stabilize at 1990 levels?
Dr. Gordon McBean: Yes, it will make a difference. What I'm saying is that if you look at the fourth or fifth diagram, if we do nothing, the IPCC's estimate was the top curve. That's if all countries just go ahead with what we would say is business as usual. If we stabilize, this bottom curve is similar to that. It's not actually calculated in the same way, but basically it's the lower curve. There is a major difference in the year 2100.
But I certainly don't want to give you the impression that stabilization means there will be no climatic change, because there will be. It does make a difference. It makes a big difference in total amounts of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Mr. Gar Knutson: If we stabilize at the 1990 levels by the year 2010 or something thereabouts.
Dr. Gordon McBean: Yes, but I would also emphasize that we should be looking at going beyond stabilization on a global basis. This low curve corresponds to stabilization initially, but eventually lowering so the global amount is about 60% of what we are doing now. This actually does correspond to a reduction of emissions in the next century.
Mr. Gar Knutson: Dr. Pocklington, I'm going to ask you an economic question. I'm a little more grounded in economics than I am in science.
It seems to me a whole bunch of benefits go along with the globe becoming more energy-efficient, burning less fossil fuels, stretching out.... I can't give you a reference, but I've read we're going to run out of fossil fuels in 50 years. The less we burn now.... Ignoring the whole issue of climate change, if we can stretch that out.... There was a time before climate change when being less reliant on oil, relying on alternate energy sources...there are a whole bunch of other positives like that, prolonging the world's use of oil, so we don't get hit with some major shutdown in our economy 50 years hence, or some massive increase in oil prices as reserves disappear.
This statement that, oh, we're going to have great costs if we take too much action or we take action too soon: I don't see the basis for that, because I see a whole bunch of other positive side effects, even if you ignore the climate change issue.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Mr. Chair, I was asked my personal opinion, but I will try to be brief.
I'm a Yorkshireman. Do you know what a Yorkshireman is? A Yorkshireman is described as a Scot with all the generosity squeezed out of him. I'm a Yorkshireman, married to a Nova Scotian. In my personal life frugality is right up there with cleanliness and godliness. And I'm not telling you which comes first.
Nothing I said has anything to do with my personal belief that flagrant misuse of the world's resources is an obvious stupidity, as is uncontrolled population growth, if you really want to know, because the best thing you can fit to that carbon dioxide curve is the growth of global population. However, I was giving you a specific comment upon it. I can't as yet see evidence that what is supposed to be happening is happening.
Mr. Gar Knutson: Granted, but you did say we are going to pay the cost today—
Dr. Roger Pocklington: I'm led to believe that the economic costs of these actions cannot but be serious.
Mr. Gar Knutson: In Toronto, we might build more subways and—
Dr. Roger Pocklington: If I may, I will give you the Bermuda example. Bermuda imports heavy oil to burn to generate electric power. Why they haven't done more, let's say, with solar and so on is their problem. I shall be urging them to do things like that when I'm there.
But if they're stuck with a carbon tax, my bills will go up. There are going to be effects on real people of what is proposed, I believe, so real people have a chance to say.... I believe in the U.K. there was something done with the pricing of kerosene, which affected seniors and there was upset about that.
Mr. Gar Knutson: But as I say, in Toronto they might build more subways.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: I really can't say.
Mr. Gar Knutson: It might be really positive if we build more subways. We're probably 15 to 20 years behind on where we should be in terms of—
Dr. Roger Pocklington: But I really didn't advocate the flagrant waste of world resources in what I've just—
The Chairman: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Knutson. Mr. Lincoln, followed by Madam Kraft Sloan.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: I must say, Mr. Chairman, I'm a little shocked by what I heard here today. I thought we were coming here to find out whether we have a serious worry about climate change. I do have a serious worry about climate change. I'm not a scientist and I know that we can't prove 100% that all the climate warming is due to man-made activities. But when I hear Dr. Pocklington say that in Bermuda the sea is not rising, how come, I would ask him, the 40-odd small island states are all unanimous in being the greatest fighters against climate change?
I happen to have been at the United Nations in 1987 when the president of the Maldives, Mr. Gayoom, who is still president today, described how for the first time in their history they were visited by tidal waves in the 1980s. There were three sets of tidal waves, and the third one caused all kinds of damage and death. He says the seas are rising at such a rate that maybe in the next century his island state will disappear.
I was born on a small island, Mauritius. When I go back there I see that beaches have disappeared completely. I don't know if I can prove 100% that man-made carbons have caused the seas to rise, but for people to say that the seas are not rising today when we are losing whole sections of coastal areas and when small island states are frightened to death.... And I can tell you I've spoken to a lot of environment ministers and presidents of small islands who see the seas rise. Ask them in Barbados. Ask them anywhere. They are frightened to death about this thing, in the Marshall Islands and in all kinds of other places.
I read in this book today—I'm just trying to inform myself—that in Antarctica they have found a fissure 40 miles wide where the snows have melted, in two months, they say; they had predicted it would take several years.
And somehow we say, okay, maybe this is not man-made. But what do we do? Do we wait till we're 100% sure and certain that the problem is there before we start to move? Do we wait like we did with tobacco? It was said that there was no definite link between lung cancer and tobacco and then when it was too late we started to move and now all the people are in hospital.
Dr. Pocklington, I don't know why you are so adamant, but I say that if 2,500 leading scientists of the world, peer-reviewed, tell me there's a potential problem, then I feel it's our job here to tell the other people that there is a problem and to do something about it.
And I find it very sad that you come along to tell me there's no problem, that carbon dioxide is not a problem, that the seas are not rising, that it's not man-made and that everyone will be happy ever after. I don't believe you, I'm sorry to say.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: Monsieur, I also visited l'Île Maurice and I visited the Maldives—only twice, but that's two times more than the average Canadian.
I would like to read into the record from New Scientist of October 4, 1997, an article by Clive Wilkinson, who co-ordinates the global coral reef monitoring network: “Human impacts on reefs are far more threatening than any vague threat of future global climate change”.
The reason the reefs disappear, sir, is people blow them up with explosives, people discharge sewage onto them, people put sediment on them. When the reef is gone, the protection for the island is gone.
The statement I made is that reefs, left to their own and not troubled by these things, can grow and have grown faster than the projected rate of the sea level rise. But please let Mr. Wilkinson say it, and not myself.
I may add that to the documentation in my presentation, Mr. Chair.
Mr. Clifford Lincoln: Maybe Dr. Wilkinson should convince the 40 island states presidents that are fighting the hardest at the climate change convention for meaningful targets. They are very skeptical. They think that man-made problems are there.
The Chairman: Madam Kraft Sloan.
Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I was going to follow along with the same questioning as Mr. Lincoln had put forward. I met with the president of Micronesia at the UN in June, and he implored me for assistance because they are now shipping rice to neighbouring island states because their terrace fields are flooding with salt water. He was very concerned about the effects of climate change on his area.
I also wanted to put forward the idea of the cost. I am wondering if you are perhaps writing questions for the Reform Party during question period, because we are not talking about a carbon tax. This government has never talked about a carbon tax, and I do not know where you are getting the idea of a carbon tax from. There is something called no regrets alternatives that we can enter into, which talk about energy efficiency, better waste management, better resource.
One of my colleagues said “Just putting the climate change aside, I think we'd better take a look at other ways of using natural resources in this world”. Certainly economics is very important to us, but we can never forget the fact that our material and cultural wealth is totally dependent upon our natural wealth.
Anyway, I wanted to raise this issue of the conversation with the president of Micronesia, because I was very touched by what he had to say to me. He, along with his other colleagues, believe that they will lose their islands because of climate change and because we in the north have ignored them.
Dr. Gordon McBean: Just a quick comment on the economic side, which I am not personally qualified to comment on, but I would note that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, working group three, which was co-chaired by Dr. Jim Bruce of Canada, actually did look into these questions of no regrets strategy and has provided a good summary, which we could make available to the committee.
I would also note that a large number—and I do not remember offhand what it was, but several hundred U.S. leading economists, including many Nobel laureates, wrote to President Clinton stating that they were in support of the economic conclusions within the working group three of IPCC summary.
Mrs. Karen Kraft Sloan: I would add that the Union of Concerned Scientists, which is a very large group of scientists globally who do not have a particular agenda or axe to grind, have put forward documentation on past energy efficiency.
I would also like to support what Dr. McBean has said about the 300-plus economists who have suggested that the propositions here will lead to economic opportunities.
Dr. Roger Pocklington: A point was made, Mr. Chairman, once again another ad hominem argument in some way linking something I had to say to one of the parties in our Parliament, in fact the official opposition.
I am not here representing any political party of Canada. I am here on my own recognizance as a citizen, because the work I am telling you about the Canadian citizens paid for. I was a public servant, drawing a good salary and supported in my work by the people of Canada, and they have a right to know that there are two sides to this issue.
The data I was quoting to you has been gathered over the years by very hard-working employees of what is now Atmospheric Environment Service, and I am sorry for them because their department made a decision in 1989 that greenhouse warming was real and was to be the basis of their department's policy. I said at the time: I can't believe this; you mean as a department of the Canadian government, you now rule on issues of natural science? They cut off debate on it because they felt they had seen enough and they made a decision. This has coloured their interpretation since.
The Chairman: Thank you.
There is time for one more question before we conclude.
Mr. Gérard Asselin: I know the truth hurts. Not every bit of truth is fit to be told. Unfortunately, it has been told, and by both parties. As you say, there are two sides to the story.
Today, we don't have a choice. We have to face facts and take action because there is a problem. We are talking about acid rain. It's affecting sugar bushes in Quebec. Fish, agriculture and some animals on the endangered list are at risk because of environmental problems.
That's why we're hearing witnesses. If we want to hear witnesses and have them say what they have to say, that's easy. But it would be in the Committee's interest to hear both sides of the story. Then, the Committee will be able to produce a proactive document.
The Chairman: All right. Are there any further comments?
On behalf of the committee, I thank Dr. McBean and Dr. Pocklington for their appearance today.
We will resume our meeting tomorrow at 9 a.m., in Room 269, West Block.
The meeting is adjourned.