Louisiana hurricane Barry
© Scott Olson/Getty Images
A couple walk down a flooded street in Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Barry.


Even if climate change were the source of extreme weather, Trudeau's signature carbon solution would be certain to fail


The harm caused by extreme weather merits a national action plan, whatever its cause and whether or not it is increasing in severity or frequency. Policies that only address climate change won't do the job.

Canadians are bombarded with images of forest fires, tornadoes and torrential rain, all attributed to manmade climate change. We are warned that these calamities will get much worse and that catastrophes will soon be irreversible unless we urgently reduce our carbon dioxide emissions.

But the causes of extreme weather and whether it's bound to become more common are still being debated by scientists. In a paper just published by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Professor Judith Curry, President of the Climate Forecast Applications Network, concludes that "recent international and national climate assessment reports have reported low confidence in any link between manmade climate change and observations of wildfires, hurricanes, floods and droughts." As a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society and a distinguished academician who has authored over 190 scientific papers, she should know. Dr. Curry notes further that, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), "there is not yet evidence of changes in the global frequency or intensity of hurricanes, droughts, floods or wildfires."

To put it in layman's terms, climate change is probably not responsible for extreme weather, which in any case has not increased over time, in spite of its evident variability. Yet we keep hearing the very opposite from numerous doomsayers, most with no scientific background — including the prime minister, his hyperbolic minister of environment and climate change, the mainstream media and the climate-industrial complex.

Let's do a thought-experiment. Assume for a moment, contrary to conventional wisdom, that Dr. Curry is correct and what you hear from so many politicians and social media outlets doesn't stand up to the evidence. Would that mean we don't face a serious threat? Not at all. As Dr. Curry also makes clear, our vulnerability to extreme weather has increased with population growth, the movement of people, goods and infrastructure to areas susceptible to extreme weather, questionable land-use practices and continuing ecosystem degradation. As we have all seen, the risks to life and property can be severe and may well be growing. Thankfully, there are policies, strategies and adaptations that can lessen the harm. Whether you are a climate change alarmist, an agnostic, a skeptic or an outright denier you should still support adaptation and mitigation strategies.

Unfortunately, as Dr. Curry writes, attributing extreme weather to manmade climate change can keep us from understanding the variability of extreme weather events and reducing our vulnerability to them. Tying these events to climate change can lead us to adopt inappropriate policies and ignore practical approaches that would lessen personal injury and the destruction of physical assets.

We have an opportunity to be proactive in preparing for weather disasters, reducing our vulnerability and increasing our survivability. Doing so means strengthening our infrastructure, as well as changing our policies and practices.

What is Justin Trudeau's response to all this? To impose a controversial carbon dioxide tax that, because of the relative inelasticity of demand, is too low to change consumer behaviour. Even if it did eventually work at much higher levels, which the government now claims it will not impose, its impact on global climate would be so small as to be unmeasurable. Even if climate change were the source of extreme weather, Trudeau's signature carbon solution would be certain to fail.

Under the circumstances, it makes more sense to focus on adaptations and policies that will reduce or protect against the frequency and intensity of fires, floods and tornadoes. Yet Justin Trudeau persists in feel-good virtue signalling and promoting hugely expensive and divisive policy innovations that accomplish nothing.

Canada badly needs leadership that will unite the country in common cause. A good start would be a co-ordinated federal-provincial-municipal action plan that realistically confronts the risks that extreme weather poses.

Joe Oliver was federal minister of finance and minister of natural resources.