Al Gore Needs to Educate our MLA


Letter to the Editor: Al Gore Needs to Educate our MLAs

by John W. Warnock
April 7, 2022

Premier Lorne Calvert has announced that his government has invited Al Gore to speak in Regina on April 23 on climate change. Calvert states that Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, released in 2006, has become "a significant moment" in his understanding of the issue of global warming and climate change. We can only hope that Gore will be able to spend most of April 23 trying to educate our Members of the Legislative Assembly.
In the 1970s scientists began to report the impact of greenhouse gases on climate. In 1979 the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) held a World Climate Conference and called on all nations to seriously address this question. The WMO held a joint conference with the UN Environment Programme in1985 which again called attention to climate changes being introduced by human behaviour. In 1987 the WMO and the UNEP urged the creation of a body to assess the scientific data on climate change, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was created in 1988. The following year the UN General Assembly called for special reports on climate change for the UN Conference on Environment and Development to be held in Rio in June1992.
In 1990 the IPCC issued its first report in which the scientists concluded that they were "certain" that human activities and greenhouse gas emission were a cause of many climate changes. At the UN meeting in Rio member states, including Canada, signed an international convention where they agreed to stabilize greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels by 2000. This convention was ratified (including Canada) and came into effect in 1994.
Thousands of scientists have participated in the survey of scientific studies conducted by the IPCC. They have concluded that to stabilize the climate we need a 70% reduction in the burning of fossil fuels below 1990 levels. This is necessary to avoid "dangerous anthropogenic interference" (DAI), the tipping point where the global warming process would begin to feed off itself and become irreversible. This is often estimated at between 450 or 500 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, up from the 380 ppmv at the present. In recent years annual increases have been around 2.5 ppmv. It seems that all governments and major emitters are working hard to avoid facing this major challenge and instead are opting to pretend that they are doing something.
For some years now scientists have been reporting on the major effects that climate change will have on Saskatchewan. We can expect a significant decline in stream flow, increased winter runoff and lower summer flows in rivers, declining aquifers, higher pollution concentrations in water, and a decline in hydroelectric power. There will be an increased likelihood of severe drought. Higher temperatures will increase evapotranspiration and adversely affect crops. Disease and grasshopper problems will increase. Pastures will be adversely affected. Livestock will experience heat stress during summer months. Boreal forests will experience an increase in forest fires and insect and disease problems.
So what has our government been doing since 1992? Grant Devine's Tory government created the Saskatchewan Energy Conservation and Development Authority (SEDCA) which produced a series of excellent reports detailing the abundant alternative energy potential we have: conservation, demand management, solar, wind, biomass, small hydro and geothermal. In 1995 the NDP government abolished SEDCA and ignored their reports.
In 1997 the UN Conference on Environment and Development met in Kyoto to reassess the commitment that members had made in 1992. The new Protocol actually reduced the goals set at Rio. In Saskatchewan the NDP government introduced a resolution in the legislature, which passed unanimously, denouncing the Kyoto meeting. Our political parties agreed that we would not send delegates or observers and that this province would not accept anything but voluntary guidelines for the reduction of greenhouse gases. The NDP government and the opposition denounced the pledge made by the Canadian government to reduce our greenhouse gas emission to an average of six percent below 1990 levels by 2012, a very minimum first step. When Jean Chretien's government ratified this pledge in 2002, the NDP government proclaimed that this was "unacceptable" to Saskatchewan.
The NDP government recently spent $86 million to refurbish the coal fired generators at Coronach and Boundary Dam. They endorsed George W. Bush's call for a new continental energy pact, and Lorne Calvert and Eric Cline have twice gone to Washington to urge the USA, which burns 25% of the world's fossil fuels, to buy even more from Saskatchewan. At the meeting of the Western premiers at Gimli in 2006 they agreed to reject the Kyoto Protocol and adopt Stephen Harper's "made in Canada" plan to do virtually nothing about climate change.
Saskatchewan has been tops in this area. The Pembina Institute gave the NDP government a failing grade for having taken the least action on global warming. We have the fastest growing greenhouse gas emissions rate, the highest per capita rate, and are about 62% above the 1990 levels, the highest in Canada.
With the public opinion polls and the recent by elections indicating that the NDP is facing a major defeat in the next election, Premier Calvert and his party have had a death bed conversion. But all we hear about is the commitment to expand subsidized ethanol production, a disastrous policy, and a "clean coal" megaproject designed to pump more oil out of the ground.
No doubt as the election approaches we are going to hear again that we must all vote for the NDP in the upcoming election because no matter how bad they are the Saskatchewan Party will be worse. It is becoming harder and harder to make that case.

John W. Warnock is a Regina political economist and author and has been active in the environmental movement for over thirty years.