Twisting the Facts on the Environment

Infographic courtesy of sumofus.org

Case #1: BC Premier Christy Clark has a job creation plan. One component of said plan involves three liquefied natural gas plants in the northern part of the province. Unfortunately, this runs afoul of the provincial Clean Energy Act. So what does Premier Clark do? In June, she redefines “clean energy” to include natural gas — a resource that emits greenhouse gases just like any other fossil fuel — provided that it is used to power those plants in northern BC. Just like that, everybody wins!

Case #2: Scientists advising North Carolina’s Coastal Resources Commission recommend that the state plan for a sea level rise of 39 inches along its coast by 2100 due to climate change. Business groups complain that the resulting restrictions on coastal development will damage the economy. State lawmakers respond by introducing a bill that would bar officials from taking such pessimistic predictions into account. Instead, they would be required to consider only historical trends. In July, after North Carolina is widely mocked for trying to declare rising sea levels illegal, state legislators agree to a compromise and instruct the Coastal Resources Commission to come back with another report in four years. In the meantime, officials are still to ignore the scientists’ original advice.

Case #3: As a signatory to the Copenhagen Accord, Canada is required to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. Earlier this month, Environment Minister Peter Kent announces that Canada is halfway there. This must mean that the country has already lowered its emissions to 8 or 9 percent below 2005 levels, right? Wrong. By “halfway,” the minister means only that if we continue along the same path, we will be halfway to our target by 2020. Furthermore, this 2020 “halfway” projection does not use 2005 emissions as a baseline, but rather hypothetical 2020 emissions assuming inaction on the government’s part. The upshot is that by 2020, Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions are currently projected to drop to only 2.7 percent below its 2005 emissions, rather than 17 percent below. Halfway indeed!

Case #4: Enbridge would like to build a pipeline pumping Alberta oil to the BC coast for export. Sadly for Enbridge, people are increasingly concerned about accidents and the possibility of oil spills. To reassure the public, the company puts out several promotional videos. Earlier this month, it is discovered that in two of these videos, a string of islands in Douglas Channel, with a combined area of over 1000 square kilometres, is completely erased from the map. One must admit, the tanker route certainly looks a lot safer this way.

The PR lessons from this summer have been fascinating. If the facts are not convenient, simply invent new facts. Staying on message is the important thing. Who are we to let reality get in the way?

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