Friends of Science Calgary

The Sun is the main driver of climate change. Not you. Not carbon dioxide.

Suzuki Controversy: An Open Letter to Dr. David Turpin, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Alberta

Dear Dr. Turpin,

RE: Honorary Degree for Dr. David Suzuki –

Empirical Scientific Evidence versus Emotional Activist Rhetoric

These are our opinions. We would like to address your published statement[1] justifying your choice of Dr. David Suzuki as a recipient of an Honorary Degree for this year’s University of Alberta Convocation.

In your statement, you write that universities must not be afraid of controversy, “that we must allow our people and honour others who pursue ideas that sometimes trouble us…”

You may or may not be aware that many Friends of Science Society members are graduates of the University of Alberta in the sciences, engineering and management. Our Canadian scientific advisor is a former professor at the University of Alberta. We have been hearing from our members and they are very upset.

In the first place, most graduates abide by the University of Alberta Statement of Ethical Conduct concerning Integrity, Respect and Accountability. [2]

 

On Sept. 4, 2015, Dr. Suzuki authored a widely distributed op-ed wherein he mocked Friends of Science Society as ‘deniers’ – despite the fact that he is not a climate scientist nor trained in our relevant fields earth, atmospheric, solar science, economics or engineering.  This is not emblematic of academic integrity or collegial respect.

This is one of many times that Dr. Suzuki has attacked our organization’s reputation.  In consequence, though we have issued a number of reports rebutting the various claims that his organization and related activist colleagues have made against the oil and coal industries, due to his high media profile, our scientific and evidence-based rebuttals have been ignored by the media, who are enamoured by the ‘cult of the personality.’ [3] [4] [5]  Where open public debate, thoughtful economic analysis and careful planning might have prevailed, governments have been pressured to agree with activist views instead of evidence.

In your statement, you also defend freedom of speech as a justification for granting the honorary degree.

In 2014, we ran some billboards, hoping to stimulate fruitful public debate on the science of climate change. On December 3, 2015, a group called Ecojustice filed a public call for inquiry into Friends of Science Society, saying that our billboards constituted a threat of some kind, that we should be silenced and if found guilty, the Competition Bureau should fine us thousands of dollars and throw us in jail, for a few words on a billboard. Dr. Suzuki is an honorary board member of Ecojustice.  He did not speak up in defence of our freedom of speech.

Several other academics signed that call for inquiry. No university spoke up on our behalf, especially not the University of Alberta; none spoke up for us in the name of freedom of speech or honoring others – like us –  who ‘pursue ideas that sometimes trouble us.’

As Dr. Suzuki had done in his Sept. 2015 article, Ecojustice claimed that we were a proxy for ‘Big Oil.’  (The Competition Bureau closed its inquiry on June 29, 2017.)

In an interview in Australia on Sept. 22, 2013, Dr. Suzuki went on at length about the fossil fuel industry has funded ‘denier’ groups and how industry controls the media.[6]

And yet, the David Suzuki Foundation itself has been funded by Power Corporation since 2007, according to Power Corp’s CDP filing.[7]  Power Corporation is rated as the #358 largest corporation in the world by Forbes in 2017.  According to their CDP (2016) report Power owns an effective interest of 0.22% of the French based oil and gas company Total SA, LaFarge cement and aggregates (0.86%), Imerys minerals (4.91%), Engie (0.21%), Pernod Ricard (0.86%) and SGS SA testing and certification (1.37%) (via European affiliates). In Canada, they own media entities La Presse and Square Victoria Communications Group. In the world of finance and insurance they own Great West Lifeco Inc., IGM Financial Inc. and entities which operate globally. And Power Corporation has a wholly owned subsidiary dedicated to renewables.

Dr. Suzuki and the David Suzuki Foundation have been agitating against the oil sands and for coal phase-out and pushing for wind farms in Alberta (Submission #398 to the Alberta Climate Panel).  398. Submission_David Suzuki Foundation (1) Now Power Corporation subsidiaries are building a wind farm in Jenner, Alberta.

Many of the Suzuki Foundation claims against coal-fired power in Alberta rest on computer simulations found in studies by the Pembina Institute.

Allegations of health impacts and deaths were made against coal-fired electrical power generation plants in Alberta by Dr. David Suzuki and the David Suzuki Foundation and ENGO associates, but empirical evidence in at least four studies by University of Alberta scientists shows these claims are false.

Dr. Suzuki’s ongoing anti-oil sands claims regarding air and water quality have been refuted by University of Alberta scientists who are also Royal Society of Canada members – again with empirical evidence and careful review of the facts.

Power generation claims by Dr Suzuki on wind power potential could be easily refuted by all University of Alberta engineering grads.  All power generation engineers are aware that wind is weather-dependant and in the context of a modern-day grid, wind requires equivalent natural gas back-up power generation capacity and infrastructure, costing billions of dollars.

Most of the claims by Dr. Suzuki and the David Suzuki Foundation rely on climate change as the apparent rationale for reducing emissions.  However, since 2005, the scientific community has acknowledged that the radiative forcing theory of climate change may be an outdated metric for evaluating climate change,[8] it is “well understood, but its magnitude is highly uncertain.”[9] The IPCC acknowledged in 2013 that there had been a hiatus in warming for the 15 years prior. In 2017, the WMO stated that 2016 was the “hottest year ever.” But such warming only measured 0.02°C, and based on the margin of error of 0.1°C; that means 2016 may have been 0.12°C warmer or 0.08°C cooler.[10] Ordinary citizens who cannot discern what a margin of error means are deceived, and most activist ENGOs capitalise on the public’s scientific and energy illiteracy. It should be the role of responsible scientists and universities to clarify these details and calm down the crisis rhetoric.

More recently, scientists have expressed the view that natural factors are responsible for recent warming, not human emissions of greenhouse gases.[11]  Whether or not one entirely agrees, on the point of academic integrity, one must be open to the view that the earlier scientific theory of Anthropogenic Global Warming is not supported by current evidence.

The scientific community might have continued its internal debate on warming or cooling cycles and causes, but in 2006, Al Gore’s documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” launched the notion of climate change into the minds of the public in a frightening way.  About the same time, according to Nisbet (2014) a group of billionaire philanthropies got together to cause a ‘sea change that washes over the entire global economy”[12] – and as “Climateworks” they began a strategy of funding local environmental non-governmental groups (ENGOs) and charities around the world.

Leading the report was the recommendation that “tempering climate change” required a strong cap and trade policy in the U.S. and the European Union, and a binding international agreement on greenhouse gas emissions. The report predicted that passage of cap and trade legislation would “prompt a sea change that washes over the entire global economy.” The report included little to no discussion of the role of government in directly sponsoring the creation of new energy technologies. The report was additionally notable for the absence of any meaningful discussion of social, political or technological barriers. (bold emphasis added) Instead, the authors offered a decidedly optimistic outlook: “The good news is that we already have the technology and know-how to achieve these carbon reductions—often at a cost savings.”

As reported by Vivian Krause and others, millions of dollars flowed into Canadian ENGOs and environmental charities, which in turn magnified the theme of impending climate crisis in the public’s mind, when few practising scientists hold such a view.  The David Suzuki Foundation has been identified as a recipient of funding from some of these groups.

The result has been a breach in the sovereign rights of Canada and a skewing of climate and energy policies by activist rhetoric, not evidence.

At the peak of oil sands industrial activity in the period of about 2005, Alberta’s oil sands were driving about 1/3 of the Canadian economy.[13]  Since then, particularly since the production of the documentary, “The Tipping Point: Age of the Oil Sands” in 2011, which was hosted by Dr. Suzuki, Alberta’s and Canada’s economies have lost billions of dollars due to the incessant, unsupported, emotional rhetoric of Dr. Suzuki, the David Suzuki Foundation and the many other environmental groups with whom they collaborate.

The human and economic impacts are devastating.

Alberta coal phase-out:

  • 7,000 coal industry jobs lost
  • 30 coal communities devasted
  • Estimated cost to the public – $30-50 billion

Alberta Oil/Gas and Oil Sands/Pipeline Construction:

  • 175,000 in oil and gas and oil sands
  • $19 billion in projects delayed according to activists
  • Losses of $50 million a day (Canadian Chamber of Commerce)
  • $15.8 billion reduction in revenues to Canadian energy firms in 2018 (Fraser Institute[14])

To be clear, many of the grants handed out by these foundations to various Canadian and International ENGOs, appear to have had specific objectives to shut down industry in Canada and drive off investment.  Here are three relevant examples from the Oak Foundation.

Grant: From Oak Foundation to Tides Canada

“To conduct research to determine whether tar sands mining is adversely impacting the Athabasca River of Canada and its tributaties, and to report the findings. A second goal is to raise the visibility of the tar sands issue and slow exapnsion of tar sands by stopping new infrastructure development, supporting policy reform in the US and Canada and reducing future demand for oil sands oil.”

$700,000. Granted in 2009 over 24 months Sept 1, 2009-Aug 31, 2011.

Grant from Oak Foundation to Greenpeace Canada:

To create awareness of the financial, regulatory and political uncertainty that surrounds investments in the tar sands so that prominent financial analysts, media, opinion leaders and Members of Parliament will publically (sic) express concern about the lack of government regulation of the tar sands industry. Greenpeace Canada aims to publicise the controversy around the tar sands both within and outside Canada. This will encourage the withdrawal of major institutional investors from the tar sands by 2012; the end of France’s tar sands subsidies; and the passage of a feed-in-tariff in Alberta utilised by farmers, ranchers, landowners and investors to develop the province’s huge wind power potential.”

$424,373. Granted in 2012 for 37 months. Dec. 1, 2010-Nov. 30, 2013

Grant from Oak Foundation to Greenpeace Canada:

“To initiate three distinct but interrelated efforts concerning tar sands in Alberta, to enhance the ability of Greenpeace Canada to more effectively launch and deliver its “Phase Out Tar Sands Campaign”; secondly to leverage the growing interest of ranchers and landowners in limiting unbridled oil and gas exploration and production in Southern Alberta; and thirdly to conduct specialised opinion research and media work to identify messaging for these and other efforts that will generate maximum information value among Albertans. “

$436,675.  Granted in 2007 for 24 months. Nov. 1 2007 to Oct 31, 2009

Source: Oak Foundation grant database grants-env oak pdf 75 page downloaded from their site.

 

Indeed, these things have come to pass.

Canada’s reputation for Investors – Hostile to Investors.

Source: PPHB energy investment banker “Musings”[15]

Friends of Science Society University of Alberta grad members are not upset that Dr. Suzuki holds controversial views because they value freedom of speech.  More so, they value scientific integrity.  They are upset that he spouts false and misleading diatribes on scientific topics – contrary to all the careful and accurate scientific methods that they learned as students at the University of Alberta.

And they are very upset that you choose to honor that.

Our members have not only seen job loss for themselves or their employees, they have experienced the tragic consequences of lives lost through suicide as careers, finances, families and business enterprises fall apart.

For no good reason.

Under your leadership, Dr. Turpin, the University of Alberta embarked on a program entitled “For the Public Good.” Now you want to honor a high-profile public figure, someone whose uninformed and misleading activism,  has aided the destruction of the economy in Alberta, whose unsupported activist rhetoric has done untold damage to the Canadian economy and whose statements have damaged our international reputation as a reliable and fair place to do business. The outcomes include personal catastrophe for hundreds of thousands of people, many of them University of Alberta alumni.  How is that for the public good?

In our opinion, based on the foregoing evidence, Dr. Suzuki’s actions and words are not congruent with the skills learned in the physical sciences, environmental or business management at the University of Alberta. They are not in keeping with the expectations of its graduates or faculty members, nor with its own Code of Ethics, nor with the values you express in your statement meant to validate your decision to honor Dr. Suzuki.

We ask that you rescind the offer of the honorary degree to Dr. David Suzuki.

Sincerely,

Ken Gregory

President

 

COMMENTS and OPINIONS FROM FRIENDS OF SCIENCE MEMBERS:

The proposed bestowing of an honorary degree to David Suzuki is very troubling to me.  It is insulting a school, its alumni, its benefactors, and the province’s most important industry that has the world’s best record of environmental stewardship in energy extraction.  It is also a most blatant insult to the engineering profession, my family, and to me personally.

I recently attended and participated as a presenter in the Iron Ring Ceremony for my grandson and another 914 hopeful graduating engineers of the University of Alberta.  This is a ceremony that is most profound, solemn and moving – The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer.  Although the Obligation composed by Rudyard Kipling over 90 years ago does not explicitly mention the environment, the text by Kipling can be readily interpreted that it is also a duty today for those engineers taking the obligation to also respect and protect the environment.  The choice of Suzuki for an honorary degree, because of his hypocritical practices (The Two Suzuki’s), would leave this group of young engineers confused and bewildered. Suzuki certainly does not exemplify the ethics and values advocated in the Kipling Obligation.

For a good part of my career I was employed as an engineer with a federal agency followed by several years as “Environmental Engineer” with the province of Alberta.  I was made aware of many environmental issues and learned that the solutions may require policy and regulation. However, it is invariably an engineer and the scientific community together who solve them for the betterment of all concerned.  I think I can speak with some knowledge and experience that I too can only conclude that the choice of David Suzuki for an honorary degree is a most deplorable choice.  Surely there are others who could have been chosen – someone who also exemplifies the values of the engineering profession and who would better serve as a model for our graduating class.

David Suzuki is well known for his personal activities and their contradiction to what he preaches and implores us to practise.  He is also one who speaks half truths and ignores the facts.  His views will add little or nothing to the present debate and resolution of issues that are presently facing this province.   Why is the U of A honouring this man – one who actively participates in Kinder Morgan protests along with Elizabeth May who was arrested at the same event?  Why is the university giving this man – a TV personality – yet another venue?  What message of enlightenment are you hoping he might convey to his audience?     Because he is controversial is not a satisfactory explanation for his selection.  Should the U of A still move forward with their intended bestowment then we will from this day onward withhold our financial support.

Respectfully submitted,

XX, B.Sc., M.Sc.

XX, B.Ed.
————————

Sent from my iPad

David Suzuki’s starts his blog describing two oil spills, the associated fatalities and damage to the environment, there is no doubt these were both terrible accidents.  His strategy is clear, use people’s emotion to support his illogical eco extremism agenda.  David Suzuki fails to mention the millions of lives fossil fuels have saved in the past 75 years and that by all measures the standard of living for human beings has steadily increased for the entire period of time fossil fuels have been used and will continue to do so.  A large percentage of his blog goes on about how climate change will have devasting consequences and if “those in positions of power, truly understood the severity and urgency of the climate change crisis” but this shows his lack of knowledge in this area, almost all real world empirical evidence does not support this speculation.  Yes, you can find a lot of literature claiming predicated consequences of predicted climate change will be disastrous for human beings and the environment, but this is not supported by historical evidence or studies based on empirical evidence.  It is not the people in power that should decide public policy it is the majority of Canadians and David Suzuki and the other foreign funded groups do not represent the majority of Canadians.  Most Canadian’s have a deep respect and love for the environment and David Suzuki should stop implying that we do not just because we do not share his extreme opinions.

P.Eng, University of Alberta

 

[1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/david-turpin-responds-to-honorary-degree-for-david-suzuki-1.4633529

[2] “Acting with integrity, we are committed to truth, fair dealing, honesty and sincerity. Acting with respect, we show consideration for more than one point of view and we treat others with due regard, courtesy and civility. Acting with accountability, we are prepared to give account of, and answer for, the manner in which we conduct ourselves as representatives of the university.”

[3] http://blog.friendsofscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/a-business-review-of-green-budget-2016-final-mar-11-2016.pdf

[4] http://blog.friendsofscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/due-diligence-suzuki-foundation-final-ap-26-2017-r.pdf

[5] http://blog.friendsofscience.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/grounded-in-reality-may-03-2017-final.pdf

[6] 25:59 “…corporations so big and powerful they have the means to fund elections and fund political candidates guess who gets in the door first that the corporate agenda is the job of government. Corporations are not people, shouldn’t be funding campaigns at all, we elect gov’ts…and the media that shape a lot of people’s ideas are controlled by corporate giants.” https://youtu.be/1hKdmQMVJ70

[7] http://www.powercorporationcsr.com/static/pcc/pdf/Power_Corporation_CDP_2016.pdf

[8] https://www.nap.edu/catalog/11175/radiative-forcing-of-climate-change-expanding-the-concept-and-addressing

[9] https://curryja.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/curry-senatetestimony-2014-final.pdf

[10] Dr. Istvan Marko, personal comment on WMO 2016 statement by email, March 8, 2017.

[11] https://science.house.gov/sites/republicans.science.house.gov/files/documents/HHRG-115-SY-WState-JChristy-20170329.pdf

[12] http://climateshiftproject.org/nisbet-m-c-2014-engaging-in-science-policy-controversies-insights-from-the-u-s-debate-over-climate-change-handbook-of-the-public-communication-of-science-and-technology-2nd-edition-london-r/

[13] http://env.chass.utoronto.ca/env200y/ESSAY09/ExecSum_OilSandsReport.pdf

[14] https://www.fraserinstitute.org/studies/cost-of-pipeline-constraints-in-canada

[15] http://www.pphb.com/pdfs/musings/Musings041718.pdf

1 Comment

  1. I agree whole heartedly with condemnation of Suzuki. He his words and actions speak volumes about his hypocrisy. As a U of A Alumni I am astounded that the U of A would consider him as a worthy recipient.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

*