John Ibbitson, Who May or May Not Have a Clue

Wed, 2006-10-11 12:37Richard Littlemore
Richard Littlemore's picture

John Ibbitson, Who May or May Not Have a Clue

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper's principal apologist in the national media, the Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson, had a little hissy today about the vacuous nature of the federal government's impending Clean Air Act. It seemed, for a moment, that he was actually going to criticize the Harper government - not quite a first, but a rarity.

It quickly became clear, however, that Ibbitson was just helping with the Conservative spin, which is that climate change is ignorable and that the real issue is smog. Ibbitson wrote that the failure o the Canadian government to meet the (climate change) commitments of the Kyoto Accord is entirely the fault of the previous Liberal government (which is mostly true).

Then he went on to criticize Harper, et all, for not doing more to capitalize on this Opposition failure.

“But the Tories had another calculation in mind: Most Canadians were confused about global warming, which may or may not be linked to increased carbon-dioxide emissions, and which may or may not be reversible.

“But urban Canadians are very aware that smog is getting worse. The brown soup of noxious gases hanging over cities can ruin the finest summer day, contributes to a widespread increase in asthma and hastens the death of the frail.”

Ibbitson then criticized Harper for not dealing effectively enough with smog, glossing over the greater failure to address climate change.

It is, once again, a mystery that a lead columnist in Canada's most prestigious daily paper can write that climate change “may or may not be linked to increased carbon-dioxide emissions.” Every science academy in the developed world has said this is the case. Shell Oil acknowledges the truth of it, as does President George W. Bush.

Imagine the notion that John Ibbitson is not as smart - or not as well-read - as George Bush?


I love the way you’ve attempted to turn science into a marketing exercise. Attempting to undermine the credibility of opinions in a debate serves no purpose, like your hilarious attempts to smear the reputations of those who oppose your opinions. Instead you should be debating the arguments themselves.

Additionally, you should look with equal skepticism on the outlandish claims you adopt from others to buttress your argument, like those on your bookshelf of impending catastrophe.

Soon I will expect to see the claim that the earth will explode in a ball of fire next week unless we all turn off our furnaces and cars.

Science is not a popularity contest, so your arguments about who and how many agree with you are meaningless. You might be interested to hear that the entire scientific community disagreed with almost all of Einstein’s theories for a period of 20 to 30 years. You are simply perpetuating another in a long line of hysterical theories and their herd of followers such as the population bomb theory from the 70s and the canals on mars and martian invasion theories of the 20s (I know, I know, this time it’s different). There’s nothing wrong with such a theory, but the accompanying hysterics are always laughable.

Ibbittson was right - most scientists agree on climate change, but there is not a shred of evidence that links it to greenhouse gas theory. In science, to validate a theory, you attempt to predict behaviour through experimentation and observation. Yes, you may start your journey by doing the reverse - construct a theory that fits the observations and experiments (greenhouse gases) but such a theory has little value until you apply the scientific method - devise a real-world experiment or predict a real-world observation that was DEDUCED FROM the theory and would not be obvious or explainable otherwise. That has never been done by greenhouse gas theory. Until that happens, the theory is no more valuable than the theory that climate change is caused by solar energy fluctuations. Try reading about the logical fallacy “Argumentum ad ignorantiam” if you are not following me here.

Good luck with your scare-mongering, but you should consider listening to the cooler heads like Ibbitson, so that in 20 years time you won’t be making silly excuses to justify your actions like “well, it was wrong, but it was accepted at the time and almost everybody else was saying it”.

I was somewhat dismayed reading Ibbitson's piece (although not too surprised).

However, in the same paper, Elizabeth May's column (  was like a breath of fresh air:


"The Harper government appears intent on designing a program to reduce contaminants that create smog, without curtailing fossil fuel use. Such a policy will be doomed to failure. Individual catalytic converters and scrubbers can reduce contaminants per unit of production, but if the number of smokestacks and number of cars continues to rise, air quality will not improve overall. Furthermore, a failure to confront the climate crisis, directly and soon, will result in more extreme heat conditions. The more 30-degree days that Canadians experience, the more smog days will occur.

Canadians will not be tricked into thinking cleaner air can be delivered while the use of fossil fuels continues unabated."


Oh, I can't wait until the next election, and we can kick out the Harperites!

"John Ibbitson: I can't speak for the Prime Minister. For myself, I don't think there can be any doubt that global warming is occurring. What I don't know, and what no reputable scientist knows, is the exact role that carbon dioxide emissions play in that warming, and what impact reducing emissions will have. To that extent, Mr. Harper is right to say that the science is still evolving.

I think this comment breaks down right at the beginning - where Ibbitson says, "I can't speak for the Prime Minister." Fans of his column will know that he's being too modest by half.

But I agree that Prime Minister Harper is correct in saying that the science is still evolving. He's just wrong to insist upon ignoring it, denying it or misrepresenting it while it evolves.