Dear Globe and Mail editor: Cancel my subscription!

© CHRISTOPHE SIMON/AFP/Getty Images/ March 15 in Paris

Margaret Wente trots out every 20 year old trope spouted by tired old discredited climate change deniers.

The Globe and Mail is "Canada's National Newspaper" and should not be giving space to climate arsonists. I got mad and used TreeHugger as a soapbox to complain.

David Walmsley
The Globe and Mail
Via E-mail
Cc: Public Editor Sylvia Stead

Re: Cancelling my subscription

Dear Mr. Walmsley:

I have been reading the Globe and Mail since I could read. It was a fixture in our household. As a kid I would lie on the living room floor reading Richard Needham. I have subscribed since I moved out of the house, almost 40 years ago.

At one point I even enjoyed the writing of Margaret Wente, and your paper published a letter I wrote admiring a particular article. However, her opinion piece, Don't panic over mass extinction, is so terrible and so wrong that I feel I have no choice but to cancel my subscription in protest.

One always knows there is a problem with climate-related stories that start with "If history is any guide," usually pointing to some Time magazine article from the '80s that predicts global cooling. Sure enough, Wente points to a report from 1980, that said:

“If present trends continue,” the authors warned, “the world in 2000 will be more crowded … and more vulnerable to disruption than the world we live in now. Serious stresses involving population, resources, and environment are clearly visible ahead. Despite greater material output, the world’s people will be poorer in many ways than they are today."

And every word of that has turned out to be true, with perhaps the exception of the last sentence about people being poorer. Yes, billions have been lifted out of poverty thanks to the vast increase in consumption of fossil fuels that brought light and power. Vaclav Smil acknowledges this in his book Energy and Civilization:

This transformation brought enormous advances in agricultural productivity and crop yields; it has resulted first in rapid industrialization and urbanization, in the expansion and acceleration of transportation, and in an even more impressive growth of our information and communication capabilities; and all of these developments have combined to produce long periods of high rates of economic growth that have created a great deal of real affluence, raised the average quality of life for most of the world’s population, and eventually produced new, high-energy service economies.

Indeed, as Bjorn Lomborg and other apologists and climate change deniers note, it has been a wonderful ride. But Smil, who is a more respectable source than Lomborg, says it has to end, that we have to make a transition to a less energy intensive economy.

Such a course would have profound consequences for assessing the prospects of a high-energy civilization—but any suggestions of deliberately reducing certain resource uses are rejected by those who believe that endless technical advances can satisfy steadily growing demand. In any case, the probability of adopting rationality, moderation, and restraint in resource consumption in general and energy use in particular, and even more so the likelihood of persevering on such a course, is impossible to quantify.

Lomborg is one of those people whose job is to delay and obfuscate, to talk about the wonders of fossil fuel energy, of how it has made the world we live in. He is a political scientist, not a climate scientist, and his think tank is funded in part by conservative American groups. The article he wrote about species loss was published in 2001 and one might suspect that things have changed in almost two decades, but even then critics dismissed him as a crank. As one noted, "Lomborg seems disinclined to undertake even a fraction of the homework that could give him a preliminary understanding of the science in question."

Wente then discounts the work of the IPCC:

Unfortunately, the people who issue these reports believe that catastrophizing is the only way to get our attention. That’s why there’s so much of it. We have only 12 years to bring the planet back from the brink! More than two degrees of warming would devastate the Earth!

Except that it the consensus is that it this is indeed the case. As the Smithsonian Institution summarizes in an article titled The World Was Just Issued 12-Year Ultimatum On Climate Change:

...The new report, in which a team of 91 scientists from 40 countries analyzed over 6,000 scientific studies, shows that the future is bleaker than once thought. A 2-degree-Celsius rise in temperatures would spell widespread disaster. Even if the world manages to shave off that extra 0.5 degrees, we’ll still be well on our way to flooded coastlines, intensified droughts and debilitated industries. A seemingly small 1.5-degree-Celsius bump in temperature would also alter weather worldwide, wreaking havoc on agriculture and natural ecosystems, and cost about $54 trillion in damages, according to the report. Because agriculture is the leading source of income in already poor countries, it’s likely that a crippling wave of poverty would ensue.

But hey, Peggy knows better. She pulls the old "climate change is the modern version of original sin," which has been a trope of climate deniers for thirty years, (see also the Globe in 2007) including this 10-year-old article in Spiked.

Greta on strike in Katowice, Poland© Greta on strike in Katowice, Poland/ ABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images

Oh, did I mention Spiked? It's edited by a certain Brendan O'Neill, whom Wente quotes in her criticism of Greta Thunberg. Wente must be a big fan of Spiked. "What is wrong with Thunberg?" she asks.

Quite a lot, argues the British writer Brendan O’Neill. Green alarmism, of the type peddled by Ms. Thunberg and many others, is instilling a message of hopelessness in an entire generation of kids. These people believe the world is divided between the righteous (them) and the damned (everybody else). But the worst part is that their worldview is deeply anti-human.

In his Spiked article, O'Neill claims that Thunberg is "a patsy for scared and elitist adults." Oh, and that the world is wonderful and everything is fine. He concludes:

Don’t do as she says. Instead, refuse to panic, mock the blather about hellfire, and appreciate that mankind’s transformation of the planet has been a glorious thing that has expanded life expectancy, allowed billions to live in cities, and made it possible for even the less well-off to travel the globe. Sin against St Greta.

There is the Lomborg line again: Everything is fine. Go get on an airplane. But hey, like Lomborg, Spiked and O'Neill are funded by rich American fossil-fuel funded right wing organizations.

Other Canadian newspapers like the National Post have climate denialism in their DNA, and publish stuff like Wente's piece all the time. I would not, could not subscribe to them. But the Globe and Mail was always better than that. Once upon a time, even Margaret Wente was better than that.

I really admire so many writers at the Globe, and want to support Canadian journalism. But I feel that I have no choice but to cancel my subscription in protest of the fact that the Globe and Mail would publish this tired rehash of every 20-year-old trope spouted by tired old discredited climate change deniers. I am not paying for this.

Dear Globe and Mail editor: Cancel my subscription!
Margaret Wente trots out every 20-year-old trope spouted by tired old discredited climate change deniers.

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