OPINION – Ottawa’s Suicidal Climate Plans a Cautionary Tale for Governments Everywhere


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By Tom Harris and Dr. Jay Lehr

Politicians leading the City of Ottawa have fallen hook, line and sinker for climate alarmism and, as a consequence, Canada’s national capital is on the verge of a deadly self-induced crisis. This is being brought on by their obsession with “stopping climate change,” prioritizing it over real world environmental, health, economic and energy supply concerns. The forecast cost of achieving the City’s net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 target is astonishing: $57.4 billion to be spent over the three decades between 2020 and 2050, with a present value of $31.8 billion. And this is just the estimated direct cost. The actual cost, including spinoffs, to the Ottawa economy and residents will be significantly higher. And one cannot ever begin to place a dollar value on eliminating people’s choices about how they wish to live.

To appreciate how crazy this is, consider the following analogy.

Imagine you are traveling in the safest, most powerful ocean liner in the world. One day, in the midst of a severe storm, the captain announces, “To ensure your safety, we’re scuttling the ship. Man the lifeboats!”

A deckhand explains to the incredulous passengers, “The captain believes that big vessels like ours are making storms worse. So, we must sink the ship!”

Hours later, the crew assures frightened passengers huddled in storm-tossed lifeboats, “We had to scuttle the ship or this storm, and future storms, would have been even worse!”

Ridiculous and dangerous that this may sound, it is essentially what politicians leading the City of Ottawa and indeed the leaders of many jurisdictions around the world, are saying as we work to recover from today’s economic storm. Recovery must focus not on cheap and dependable conventional power sources, they tell us, but on unreliable and costly wind and solar power “to stop climate change.” After all, man-made climate change is supposedly a deeper problem than the COVID-19 virus, according to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres. They are clearly unaware of the Climate Change Reconsidered series of reports of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). These documents summarize thousands of studies from peer-reviewed scientific journals that either refute or cast serious doubt on the climate scare. They conclude that we are not causing a climate crisis.

Planet of the Humans,” a documentary released on April 22, 2020, by left-wing film producer Michael Moore, demonstrates many of the problems with Ottawa’s approach. In particular, in this 2-minute clip, Moore reveals the extensive damage done to Earth’s bio-systems when vast regions are converted into wind and solar power plants. US National Renewable Energy Laboratory scientist Walter Musial explained,

“To have a wind farm large enough to power Long Island in New York state would take an area half the size of Long Island. Putting it offshore makes a lot of sense.”

Yes, if you care nothing for the cost, environmental damage, and the threat to whale populations that recent research warns about.

And that is just the start of wind and solar’s impact on the natural world. Moore shows open-pit mines gouged deep into the Earth to extract iron, aluminum, copper, and other minerals needed for these plants. Hundreds of tons of cement are required to anchor the base of the 300-500-foot-high industrial wind turbines, which slaughter millions of birds and bats every year. And then there are untold tons of earth and rocks blasted with thousands of pounds of dynamite to extract relatively small amounts of rare-earth metals, produced mostly under terrible environmental conditions in China. Moore’s film shows that “green energy” is anything but green.

And, what is that in the background, ready to take up the slack when the wind does not blow, or the Sun does not shine? Fossil-fuel power plants, of course. Moore’s documentary shows that solar stations are really just a front for more, not less, fossil fuel plants. The City of Ottawa has been conned into believing a fairy tale. Worse still, they are actually acting on their fantastical beliefs, bringing in plans that threaten all Ottawans.

For example, the City, Pollution Probe, and the School Energy Coalition jointly filed Ottawa’s highly impractical climate change-focused Energy Evolution document in an Ontario Energy Board case dealing with the replacement by Enbridge of the gas pipeline on St. Laurent boulevard in the east end of the city. They claim that the pipeline should not be replaced because Ottawa will not need natural gas! This makes no sense whatsoever. Energy Probe consultant Tom Ladanyi, who holds both Bachelor of Engineering and Master of Applied Science degrees and has worked in the energy utility industry for 47 years, sums up the situation well,

“Energy Probe believes that the Energy Evolution Plan is unrealistic and the residents of Ottawa will be using natural gas for home and water heating for many years to come and that Enbridge will need the pipeline to supply them.”

Equally astonishing is the magnitude of the “renewable” energy projects that the City of Ottawa says it will engage in to meet its “net-zero by 2050” target:

  • 36 square kilometers of rooftop solar will be required, they say, a 161,485% increase over today’s levels;
  • 710 industrial wind turbines, each taller than the UK Parliament’s Elizabeth Tower that houses Big Ben, and
  • 122 large shipping containers of lithium batteries for power storage.

No one seems to have considered how such monumental constructions will ever be disposed of.

According to numerous studies, cold weather kills 10 to 20 times as many people across the world each year as does hot weather. One international study of 74 million deaths at 384 locations in 13 countries found a ratio of 20 to one as to cold-related or heat-related deaths. The findings were published in the peer-reviewed general medical journal The Lancet. Yet the City of Ottawa’s leaders focus only on possible detrimental effects of warming, completely ignoring the far more dangerous, and indeed more probable, dangers of cooling. It doesn’t seem to cross their minds that, as the seventh coldest national capital city in the world, their citizens might enjoy a couple of extra degrees of warming every winter.

The price tag for Ottawa’s coming self-induced crisis is incredible. They are committed to spending $57.4 billion through 2050 to fight global warming. That’s about $60 thousand for every man, woman, and child in a city of only a million souls. The revenues to finance these expenditures would come largely from additional taxes and fees imposed on Ottawa residents, including road tolls ($1.6 billion), congestion charges ($338 million), road user fees ($188 million), and land transfer tax increases ($130 million). In addition to major increases in electricity costs, property taxes are expected to rise by almost 40%. Ottawa residents would also pay much higher parking fees for much reduced public parking spaces.

In contrast to the city’s overarching vision to transition “Ottawa to a clean, renewable, and resilient city by 2050,” its current plans would transform Ottawa into a polluted, fragile and bankrupt city suffering from regular dangerous blackouts and business failures. Few people would voluntarily choose to live here.

In one way, the City of Ottawa has done the world a great favor, not with respect to stopping climate change, of course, a totally impossible objective, but because the city’s actions are a cautionary tale of what can and will inevitably happen when fiscal policy and hard-nosed science and engineering are subordinated to ideology and special interest, pressure politics. No one should follow Ottawa’s example.

Tom Harris is Executive Director of the Ottawa, Canada-based International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC). Dr. Jay Lehr is Senior Policy Advisor with ICSC.

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