Town halls on climate change are a setup

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The only way the Canadian government’s climate change town halls will generate feedback that is representative of real public opinion is if it stops loading up the events with propaganda.

The federal government initially appeared to want the town halls — to be held in Toronto on July 21 at Roncesvalles United Church and on July 26 at Sheridan College — to be more than mere pep rallies.

In her video asking for public input, federal Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna says: “We need your help. We need your ideas and solutions. And we need everyone to be engaged in this national effort.”

Yet, addressing the June 4 Ottawa West town hall, the minister warned, “I hope all of you are here because you believe that we need to take action!”

McKenna then told the audience exactly how we are expected to think:

“If we don’t set ourselves in a much better trajectory, we’re going to have irreparable changes … these are going to be changes that are going to be so dramatic that the impacts on humans, on animals, on biodiversity, is going to be such that we won’t be able to deal properly with the future.”

As I explained to the minister following her presentation, it is wrong to speak with such confidence.

Even the world’s leading experts do not know the future of climate change.

The reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), several of which I gave to McKenna, cite hundreds of references published in leading science journals that show today’s climate is not unusual, and evidence of future climate calamity is weak.

It is not just in town hall presentations that the government is influencing the public opinion it is supposedly seeking to ascertain.

On its web pages explaining how to run the events, the government includes a one-sided PowerPoint presentation it “suggests using … to guide the discussion.”

It includes a scientifically flawed FAQ, biased guidelines for recording public input, samples of approved “Emails, tweets and Facebook posts,” and even a news release that organizers are encouraged to use to report the results of town halls.

The suggested news release begins, “Climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our time and also one of the greatest opportunities.”

It does not seem to occur to them that some meetings may come to entirely different conclusions.

Ottawa town hall attendee, Rod Packwood, a PhD in physics and retired senior research scientist at Natural Resources Canada, said: “The government is clearly biasing the town halls in such a way as to generate supposed public support for the point of view they hold dear. They want to be able to say, ‘look, Canadians are behind us.’”

The climate activist group, 350.org, warned it planned to “fill up the room during government consultations” and then “mobilize en masse” to push the government to take “bold and ambitious climate action.”

Hearing about such aggressive activism, many Canadians will avoid the meetings.

The last thing the government should do is turn climate change town halls into echo chambers, biased by group think and official propaganda.

It needs to shut up and, for once, let the public come to their own conclusions.

— Harris is executive director of the Ottawa-based International Climate Science Coalition, which opposes the hypothesis carbon dioxide emissions from human activities are known to cause climate problems.

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