Arctic ice loss is far from normal: study; Sun hack seems to think the bad news good for Canada

The Arctic Ocean is expected to become seasonally ice-free by 2040 or earlier. Is this unusual? A comprehensive new study says it’s definitely unusual and that the cause isn’t linked to natural variations in the Earth’s climate. “The current reduction in Arctic ice cover started in the late 19th century, consistent with the rapidly warming climate, and became very pronounced over the last three decades,” according to the five-country study and its 14 co-authors, including two from Canada. “This ice loss appears to be unmatched over at least the last few thousand years and unexplainable by any of the known natural variabilities.”

But it is explainable by unnatural variabilities: the burning of fossil fuels. For further analysis, check here at Climate Progress.

Most people might find this troubling — I hope — but those more ignorant of the impacts seem determined to celebrate it, particularly here in Canada. A prime example is a recent column by the Toronto Sun’s Lorrie Goldstein, who cites work from a UCLA professor that suggests Canada has much to gain from a warmer climate and an ice-free Arctic. This is the basic attitude: screw the rest of the world — we’re okay. Let’s look at Goldstein’s professor Laurence C. Smith’s list of benefits one by one:

(NOTE: Goldstein contacted me and took issue that I took Smith’s conclusions as his own. He is right and I should have been more clear. Still, Goldstein doesn’t offer any critical analysis of Smith’s list, so one is left to assume Goldstein takes this list as good news for Canada. I made some changes here to reflect that these are Smith’s conclusions, and those conclusions alone aren’t necessarily what I’m targeting here. What I’m targeting is that Goldstein puts them forward as a benefit to look forward to without discussing the much more troubling downside. My responses below attempt to represent that more troubling downside).

1) Global warming will free up previously inaccessible deposits of oil, gas, water and other natural resources at a time when they are becoming increasingly scarce everywhere else in the world.

Yes, that’s certainly true, but all that oil and gas got us into this pickle in the first place — though based on his past writings one could assume Goldstein doesn’t believe humanity is contributing to climate change. The faulty logic here just amazes me. Why are we so determined to squeeze every last drop of fossil fuel out of the Earth, at the same time risking BP-style disasters, but refuse to seize the same opportunities around renewables? The argument that we won’t be able to switch off fossil fuels overnight is a valid one, but you don’t help things by continuing to find more expensive and hard-to-get crack to feed the addict.

2) Canada’s oil resources will be second only to Saudi Arabia’s and economically invaluable, since wind, solar and hydrogen technologies still won’t be able to meet the world’s energy needs.

Okay, this has got to be one of the most ludicrous comments I’ve ever heard. For one, the ice in the Arctic isn’t gone yet. We may have to wait another decade or two before the Arctic bonanza can begin. It strikes me as a lot presumptious to say that Goldstein, apparently being the smartest man on the planet, can say wind, solar and hydrogen technologies won’t be able to meet the world’s energy needs. For one, how the hell does he  ddo we know what the state of energy technology will be like in 2030 or 2040? Second, solar, wind, and hydrogen aren’t the only alternatives. There are dozens of options out there and all play a role that, together, can have a tremendous impact on fossil fuel demand and eliminate the need to destroy the Arctic so we can continue fuelling our oversized, single-passengered SUVs. We’ll never absolutely eliminate demand for fossil fuels, but by making a decent dent in demand we can make it unnecessary (and too expensive) to take risks in the Arctic.

3) Canada’s population will increase by more than 30%, a growth rate rivalling India’s.

And this is a good thing? Holy crap, Lorrie, what are you talking about why is this a good thing? Population growth is one of the biggest problems we have in this world. I mean, what good is all that oil if people are dying because they don’t have water to drink and there’s not enough food in the world to feed them, or the pollution in the air is so thick that we’re too sick to enjoy this terrific standard of living that oil brings us. High population growth is not a good thing; it’s a major part of the problem.

4) Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver will significantly increase in size and global prominence.

Who cares? Is this some kind of high school peer-pressure thing? My city’s better than your city? Besides, you can rise in global prominence without increasinging significantly in size. Toronto can’t keep its current infrastructure in order. Congestion alone is crippling the city. The last thing we need is to get bigger. And I fail to see how an ice-free Arctic makes Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa or Vancouver more important globally…

5) Canada’s crop production will likely increase, one of the few places on Earth where this will occur.

First, assuming it could increase, many more places in the rest of the world will see a decrease. Is this a good thing? Is this a reason to cheerlead about climate change and its impact on the Arctic? Second, crop production in Canada could go in the opposite direction if forest fires and extreme flooding become more common (see Russia; see Pakistan). Then there’s new insects that will come to our warmer climate, as well as new disease that could devastate both our new and old crops. You’ve see the impact of the pine beetles on northern forests, right Lorrie? Do you think this kind of thing can’t happen to food crops? Wake up!

6) The “northern rim countries” (NORCS), including Canada, will constitute the world’s fourth-largest economy, with highly-coveted reserves of fresh water, which can be sold or transported to other regions.

So now I’m getting a clearer picture of what you’re talking about. You see Canada as the gatekeeper of all that keeps other nations alive. We’ll get rich from this, right? Unfortunately, there’s nothing stopping anyone from just taking it, particularly the United States. Are we going to become the bad guys like in the movie Road Warrior, where we, with the backing of our U.S. pimp, lock up all the resources and charge a fortune to a desperate world of have-nots? Is this the Canada you want? Is this the Canada you think Canadians want? If so, your values are in the toilet.

7) The opening of new shipping lanes in the Arctic during the summer will make the 500-year-old dream of a direct trade route between the Far East and the Atlantic a reality.

Great… I can see we’ve been suffering these past 500 years by not having this link. Woo-hoo… crack out the champagne. It certainly makes the decline of human civilization worth it.

8) Canada’s northern aboriginal communities will benefit economically.

Maybe, but at what cost to their health, environment and deep-rooted values? Hey white man, have you asked these communities what they think?

Goldstein cites the UCLA professor saying “(T)he stresses that will be very apparent in other parts of the world by 2050 — like coastal inundation, water scarcity, heat waves and violent cities — will be easing or unapparent in northern places.” Again, by writing this is Goldstein agreeing that it’s a good thing that Canada benefits while others suffer? And that we should continue dumping CO2 into the atmosphere so we can make matters worse for the rest of the world, to our own limited benefit? That’s what he seems to be saying.

Goldstein ends with this comment: “If the Arctic is going to become much more economically valuable due to climate change, and if that will lead to massive immigration, we had better be able to enforce our sovereignty over it and get our immigration and refugee systems under control.”

I think he underestimates the magnitude of the immigration problem. Canada under the scenario he paints will become one of the few floating lifeboats near a sinking Titantic. Many parts of the world will see extreme suffering. British scientist James Locklock forecasts as much as 80 per cent of the world’s population is doomed by the end of the century, and you can bet to avoid this fate that millions of them will be trying to climb onto the Canadian lifeboat. This will overwhelm the lifeboat and put the rest of the people in it at considerable risk. This isn’t just about getting our refugee and immigration systems under control. This is about a healthcare and social systems being overwhelmed by desperate people that, ultimately, we’ll have to turn away by force.

But what’s the point, eh? Why debate? Goldstein doesn’t get it, nor does he want to get it. He will continue to spew give a platform for this crap and no reason will convince him otherwise. His approach is one of self-interest where the values that matter most are economic and financial in nature. It’s us versus them in his mind, and it’s okay if our actions continue to screw “them” even if, over the long run, it ends up screwing “us” as well.

Unfrickin’ believable.

14 thoughts on “Arctic ice loss is far from normal: study; Sun hack seems to think the bad news good for Canada”

  1. Tell him what you really think, Tyler! I agree 100%. I know its not usual to speak to journalists for news, but it would certainly be interesting to confront Mr. Goldstein with your rebuttal and see his reaction. He would probably claim to be only playing Devil’s advocate, you know, to provoke discussion.

    I think lots of people still seem to think that climate change means warmer winters for Canada, and how could that be a bad thing, right?

  2. The climate change deniers are good examples of the old African saying,

    “You can’t wake up someone who is pertending to be asleep.”

    It is human nature, a tough tendency to influence. I think it can best be influenced by painting a postive alternative vision, not so much by name calling.

  3. We don’t have a technology problem, we have a human problem. Given what we know now and the technology available to us we could do so much more, it is the human aspect that is holding us back.

    When mainstream media and writers such as Lorrie Goldstein continue to peddle this nonsense to the masses it becomes ingrained in the psyche.

    On one hand are a set of people who are self involved with little regard for anyone else in the world who mislead and misinform those they speak with. On the other hand are those who genuinely care about the human race and its survival and who are trying their hardest to give correct information and hope for the future. In the middle are the majority of people who have no opinion of their own unless given one. The question really is who will influence them first.

    Tyler this website and your writings are extremely critical to informing people and calling out poor journalism when you see it. As more people become aware of the realities about climate change and renewable energy it will be much easier to convert those thoughts into meaningful action.

  4. “…systems being overwhelmed by desperate people that, ultimately, we’ll have to turn away by force.”

    Systems is the word to truly, truly get your attention. As Goldstein sifts dominance as one projected linear outcome, chaos is yours. Tipping points in closed systems, and Earth and what’s on it is essentially its own tiny loop, are opposed by reactions, complex reactions, such as the strong efforts worldwide to meet terrific upcoming challenges. We’ll need your optimism too.

    On the other hand, if you choose to use your bully pulpit to thump opportunists, already ill equipped to confront good science, I hope you take a few moments to preface your battle. Scare cynics all you like, but lead the rest of us toward a workable horizon. We’ll need pointers too.

    I shouldn’t be so strong. But I think we’re well past hoisting cranky views about excess gas, we should be, so slogging toward forward options, discovering our choices, is a premier mission.

  5. Goldstein didn’t say anything much different that what Lovelock said during a CBC interview last year.

    And Canada’s population isn’t forecast to grow due to orgies in oil – its via immigration.

    In Lovelock’s sceneario immigration driven by people’s need to exit parts of the world becoming unable to support their populations.

  6. But your argument isn’t really with Lorrie Goldstein, is it? It’s with the author of the book he’s citing. LG doesn’t add much original content to that column, other than a bit of window-dressing to say that the book highlights some aspects of global warming that aren’t as fatalistic as what we normally hear.

    The book he mentions is preceded by (Canadian writer) Cleo Paskal’s book “Global Warring: How Environmental, Economic and Political Crises Will Redraw the World Map”, which tackles many of the same topics.

    Her book isn’t about pro/con global warming, though, and I’m not sure Laurence C. Smith’s book will be found to take that approach either. Paskal’s book is basically saying that global warming is a fact and will have an impact on the world, and here is how the world will likely be redrawn under the new conditions.

    It’s very, very valid to speculate about how the world will change under climate change. I hope a lot of people are doing it.

  7. Also, the main reason we need population growth in the West is to pay for all of those social programs we’ve promised to people who are now of an age where they need to take advantage of them. Without them, the pressure to increase population would not be as large.

    And, again, Canada is in a better position than many Western countries because people want to come here. Europe is not so lucky — they are about to have some severe demographic shocks, and their social programs are even more generous than our own.

  8. mattbg, I think you are falling into the traditional economist’s trap of thinking that growth is essential for prosperity, especially population growth. I do see positives in that Canada will be able to pick and choose which immigrants we let in, but I don’t see much value in growth for its own sake.

    Paying for social programs by increased immigration may also be one of the dumbest concepts I have heard in a long while.

    Any where do you see this pressure to increase population manifesting itself? I am truly curious.

  9. Each Canadian is an energy glutton and for that reason alone we should be moving to zero immigration zero population growth.. The energy used by one of us is many times more than in the third world and it is simply a crime to create more of “US”

    Yes we are obligated to feed, educate and aid the third world, we are not doing enough. No, we cannot continue to consume as we are doing, change must start now. However, until we achieve a society that manages its resources in a frugal and ethical manner creating more westerners is not the answer.

  10. Tyler, while its not a Tech issue you might like to write on the emergence of a number of Transition Town organizations popping up recently in York Region, Barrie, Peterborough, Guelph …….

    New tech might be the answer for some Peak Oil problems but redesigning our lives and relocalizing are also factors not to be ingnored.

  11. Bud Bundy, I don’t think I’m falling into the economist’s trap — I am not advocating for this but just explaining the way it is currently being run.

    I don’t see growth as essential for prosperity, but I do see it as necessary to sustain the promises we have made via social programs. We are in a position where we cannot fulfill those promises with invested money because the investment was either not made or was insufficient. Healthcare and pensions are the two main problems. Employment insurance may be the next one (if the economy doesn’t recover soon). Municipalities will soon find their infrastructure needing the same attention that Toronto’s needs, and property taxes will come under pressure.

    Look at what happened to the North American auto companies when they had to fulfill pension promises to past employees with a reduced number of current employees. Our government is running things the same way.

    I completely agree that it’s dumb to pay for social programs with immigration, but nobody seems to have a plan to adjust these systems so that they are sustainable with limited growth. The only option on the table seems to be increased taxes, or to print money and let people pay for it via inflation or higher credit cost (in the form of higher interest rates to maintain target inflation). Or, we could start going after inheritances.

    It is just as stupid as municipalities that can’t keep their property tax increases under control without continued revenue from development charges.

    Every single thing we need to do to get this country on the right track requires capital investment that should have been made decades ago, and the required capital doesn’t exist in the present day. The only option is to manufacture it with one of the above options.

    Again, I am not advocating this approach but I don’t see a way around it. Not with the current sense of entitlement that exists, and the unwillingness of politicians to tell people to get serious about life and the challenges facing us.

  12. Mattbg,

    True, it’s about the book that Goldstein is referring to, and while I also agree he doesn’t have much original content, he’s purposely giving a forum for the message. Based on Goldstein’s past writings, it’s safe to assume he believes and backs every word. And yes, it’s certainly validate to speculate on how the world will be, but not cool to cheerlead a scary outcome by touting its potential economic benefit at the expense of others.

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