Contributed by Robert Lyman © 2019
Robert Lyman is an Ottawa energy policy consultant who spent 27 years as a public servant in senior policy advisory roles related to Kyoto and GHG reductions; prior to that, he was a diplomat for 10 years.
The Narwhal piece discussed below was linked within a David Suzuki Foundation blog post of May 23, 2019 entitled “True leaders work for us, not the fossil fuel industry.”
In a March 29, 2018 opinion piece recycled in The Narwhal, Emma Gilchrist took great umbrage at the research findings of Vivian Krause. Vivian Krause and others have documented the extremely large funding provided by foreign private foundations to support the efforts of Canadian environmental groups to halt the further development of Canada’s oil and natural gas industries. In a somewhat rambling fashion, Ms. Gilchrist made the following arguments (I paraphrase):
- The funding provided by foreign foundations was not clandestine.
- “Science” justifies harming Canada’s oil and gas industry because (somehow, unexplained) doing so will save the planet (The implied proposition is that reducing the growth in Canada’s oil and gas supply will reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, although that is never clearly articulated, merely stated as a code that everyone believes).
- The British Columbia government does not adequately regulate foreign contributions to political parties’ election campaigns.
- As a result, 48 “fossil fuel companies” (undefined and unlisted) donated $5.2 million to B.C. political parties between 2008 and 2015.
- The company that proposed to build the Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion was foreign-owned, as are many of the companies that own and operate oil sands and LNG projects.
- The federal government formerly welcomed a $40 million contribution from U.S. foundations to the Great Bear Rainforest.
- How environmental organizations are funded is not a worthy topic of political debate in Canada.
- The oil industry is not an underdog in this discourse.
Before I address these contentions, let me, as someone who has written previously in support of Vivian Krause’s thesis, establish what is not at issue. No one disagrees (I believe) that U.S. private foundations have spent hundreds of millions of dollars funding Canadian environmental groups and their frequent collaborators in the indigenous communities. The numbers are well documented in the filings of annual reports by the private foundations to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and, to a lesser extent, in the filings by the receiving Canadian organizations to the Canada Revenue Agency. The total amount of foreign funding over the last 20 years may not be known, but two examples may serve to illustrate the magnitude. First, consider the Tides Canada Foundation Payments on one campaign, as listed in Table 1:
Tides Canada Foundation Payments under the “Tar Sands Campaign” 2012 to 2016
|Canadian Climate Action Network||168,000|
|Council of Canadians||71,300|
|Environmental Defence Canada, Inc.||1,342,000|
|Great Bear Rainforest Initiative||260,900|
|Living Oceans Society||172,400|
|Sierra Club of British Columbia||253,800|
|Sierra Club of Canada Foundation||101,100|
|Tseil-Waututh First Nation||191,000|
|West Coast Environmental Law Association||227,100|
|Friends of the Earth||61,300|
|Indigenous Environmental Network||291,000|
|New Venture Fund||380,000|
|Sierra Club Foundation||736,000|
Sourced from public records.
The Tides Foundation is not the only U.S. Foundation actively involved in trying to shape the global warming debate in Canada. Krause’s research has found that the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation is the largest funder of environmental activism in British Columbia, and has granted more than $190 million to First Nations, environmental and other organizations working in B.C. By far the largest recipient of funds from the Moore Foundation is Tides Canada, which has been granted at least $70 million, and then regrants it to other groups.
There is no doubt that, of all the foreign presences, Tides and the Tides Canada Foundation historically have had the most far reaching effects on the Canadian economy. Tides Canada Foundation is a registered Canadian charity and is equivalent in law to a 501 c 3 charity in the United States. A significant share of the revenue of Tides Canada is from the U.S. In 2015, for example, 70 % of the total revenue of Tides Canada Foundation was from outside Canada, most of it from the United States. Over the past decade, the total assets of Tides Canada have soared to $58 million and it has made expenditures of more than $250 million. With over 200 employees, Tides Canada is a hub of activism and has funded major campaigns against all of Canada’s main resource-based industries: forestry, mining, oil and gas, and salmon farming.
Other “givens”, I believe, are that:
- The funding itself is a matter of public record, at least to the extent that someone is willing to doing extensive research to find it.
- The practices of government in regulating financial contributions to political parties varies considerably across Canada, with British Columbia having perhaps the least restrictive regime. The Canadian federal government, in contrast, has very restrictive regimes governing both the amounts of donations that different parties might make and the registration and reporting of lobbying activity.
- No one regulates the much more pervasive political activities involved in advertising and propagandizing for contending views on public policy, the organization of demonstrations, blockades and legal opposition to lawfully authorized energy infrastructure, and other actions intended to influence public opinion and to pressure politicians in periods between elections. Such allegedly “non-partisan” political activities operate essentially without any government control and are the primary domaine of the environmental organizations and their legal counterparts.
- There is no doubt that foreign private investors (and some foreign public investors in the case of China) play a large role in the Canadian economy, as do Canadian investors who own shares in companies abroad.
- Much of the funding of Canadian environmental organizations, including at least some of the foreign funding, goes to support legitimate environmental protection.
What remains very much at issue is the question of whether the large foreign funding of Canadian groups, and especially those engaged in the “Tar Sands Campaign” is an unwarranted and harmful intrusion into Canadian domestic energy policy, unjustified by the alleged environmental threat.
The Issue of Principle
If a group of Nazis resident in Argentina spent millions of dollars to influence Canadian policy on race relations, would that be unobjectionable? If a group of influential Russians or Communist Chinese paid millions of dollars to influence a local or provincial election or to lobby the electorate between elections, would that pose no problem? In the United States, the allegation of Russian meddling in the 2015 Presidential election has absorbed the attention of millions of people and many politicians ever since. In most countries, the intrusion of foreign influences whose objectives are contrary to the domestic national interest is properly regarded as inappropriate, regardless of whether or not the intrusions are by governments.
This has been recognized here, too. The Trudeau government in January 2019 issued an announcement on the need for Canada’s political systems to combat a growing foreign threat to Canada’s political systems, because “new technologies and advances in how we consume information may potentially allow adversaries to use cyber-enable means to influence Canada’s democratic processes.”
Foreign governments are not the only threat. The globalization that Emma Gilchrist celebrates means that very large and well-funded organizations of all kinds can use their spending power to shape political conditions in Canada, especially views about particular issues. By funding one set of viewpoints over others, they can upset the political balance that otherwise exists, and fundamentally alter our democracy. We would be naïve and foolish to ignore this threat. The foreign private foundations deserve far more scrutiny and regulation in their activities, not least of all because most of them are registered charities. This enables them to benefit from tax-free status and to present themselves as providers of a public service, even they are heavily involved in political activities that have little or nothing to do with their allegedly charitable objectives.
Ms. Gilchrist seems to say that large-scale foreign funding of environmental causes in Canada is okay because the causes being funded by the foreign influences is a good one. Let’s deal with that.
The Non-Link between Alleged Catastrophic Global Warming and Canadian Hydrocarbons Production
There are many scientists and others who believe the thesis that humans are causing catastrophic global warming. There are also a large number of scientists and others who consider that this thesis is flawed, as is the modelling that projects the results of likely emissions growth a century hence. In fact, many excellent papers demonstrate the flaws of the science and the highly politicized nature of the work by international organizations like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
If readers with an objective mindset wish to read a single document that presents the problems with the science in a very balanced way, it might be Michael Hart’s 2015 book entitled, Hubris – The Troubling Science, Economics, and Politics of Climate Change. While excellent, it is a long read. Those preferring shorter, but still expert, overviews might read the presentation given by Dr. Judith Curry to the U.S. Congress on the differences in views among scientists. You can find it here:
For those more given to examining data and the metrics by which climate might be measured, but still want a readable text, I suggest John Christy’s The Tropic Skies: Falsifying Climate Alarm. It can be read here:
In this short article, I do not plan to revisit the scientific debate. That is not my area of expertise. Rather, I would like to offer some factual data that shows that the emissions reductions that the United Nations is calling for are simply not going to happen, not because of what we do in Canada, but what is occurring around the world.
Let’s start at the beginning. Carbon dioxide emissions are the natural by-product of the production, transportation and use of fossil fuels used to produce energy services. The energy services are heat, light, air-conditioning, mobility and all the various uses of electricity when generated from the burning of fossil fuels.
It is the human demand/need for energy services that has given rise to and continues to support the growth in use of fossil fuels. Those energy services are central to the modern way of life and the standard of living that we enjoy in modern society.
There are six broad categories of energy services that must be supplied, corresponding to the sectors of the economy: transportation, industrial production, electricity generation, commercial activity, residences and others. The proportions represented by each of these sectors varies by geographic region.
Twenty years ago, two-thirds of the greenhouse gas emissions in the world occurred in the developed countries, the more industrialized members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and one-third occurred in the developing, or non-OECD, countries. Today, the roles are almost reversed. See the following table:
Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy
As you can see from the table, global emissions of GHGs were about 33 billion tonnes in 2017, an increase of 57% since governments first began claiming that they would reduce emissions in 1990. The non-OECD region alone accounts for 21 billion tonnes annually, almost two-thirds of the total, and steadily rising. Canada’s entire emissions represent 1.6%.
Despite all the alarm and expensive emissions reductions activity, not a single one of the emissions reductions goals set by international organizations has ever been met. Why? Because the developing countries want the same energy services that we enjoy in the developed countries, and fossil fuels (oil, natural gas, and coal) are the most affordable way to have that. After 28 years of international target setting and trillions of dollars in expenditures by governments on renewable energy sources, other energy alternatives and energy efficiency, fossil fuels still provide 84% of the world’s energy supply.
Here’s the kicker. The IPCC, in its Special Report 15, issued in September 2018, claimed that its previous goals were not stringent enough, so the world had to accelerate its (non-existent) emissions reduction so that global emissions will be down to 17 billion tonnes in 2030 and zero in 2050. By 2030, based on current trends, the emissions of China and India combined will be much higher than 17 billion tonnes. So, all the 195 other countries in the world would have to completely eliminate their GHG emissions by 2030, a little over eleven years.
Is the impossibility of these goals becoming clear yet?
I will add one more set of facts to the consideration. About 80% of the GHG emissions from either oil or natural gas fuel cycles (i.e. from production to final use) occur at the final combustion stage. So, reducing emissions would logically focus there, on consumers. Actions to curtail Canada’s oil and gas production do nothing to reduce global consumption. The countries that would otherwise be served by Canadian oil will simply buy it from elsewhere.
Global oil demand has been rising at the rate of more than one million barrels per day every year since 2012. Today, it is at its highest level in history, at over 100 million barrels per day, and shows no sign of deceasing in the foreseeable future.
Attacking the Canadian oil industry and harming its access to markets and investment therefore will contribute nothing to reducing global emissions. If one wants to harm economic development in western Canada, reduce the revenues to oil companies and the governments that tax them, injure one’s fellow Canadians, politicize all discussions of energy, and harm national unity, it is a good tactic, but one should not pretend it is being done for a global cause.
The Oil Industry’s Interests are Not the Issue
Emma Gilchrist commented that the oil industry is not the underdog in the controversy over foreign funding of the Tar Sands Campaign and other attacks on the Canadian energy economy. On this, she is right, but it totally misses the point.
The Canadian oil and gas industry, for all its billions of dollars in annual revenues, focuses on investing and operating in a policy and regulatory environment that offers certainty, but it plays no funding role at all in challenging the climate catastrophe thesis.
Those who seek to inject balance into the discussions of energy policy goals, so that economic development and the widespread dissemination of economic benefits from energy production and use will take at least equal place with environmental considerations – those are the ones who are the underdogs. The few private organizations that seek to demonstrate to Canadians the importance of energy in the economy and the pointlessness of trying to solve a global problem by attacking our own industry – those are the ones being disadvantaged, as are the large number of Canadians affected.
Unlike the environmental groups with hundreds of millions of dollars at their disposal, the few organizations who contest the political claims of the climate lobby have funds measured in the few hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and none of it is from the oil and gas industry.
Canada’s interests are the issue. Fair play in our democracy is the issue.
The Results of Climate Change Policies
Finally, what have been the effects of emission reduction measures to date? Actually, we know that they have had seriously adverse consequences. As Matt Ridley puts it, ‘Building wind turbines, growing biofuels and substituting wood for coal in power stations — all policies designed explicitly to fight climate change — have had negligible effects on carbon dioxide emissions. But they have driven people into fuel poverty, made industries uncompetitive, driven up food prices, accelerated the destruction of forests, killed rare birds of prey, and divided communities… globally nearly 200,000 people are dying every year, because we are turning 5 per cent of the world’s grain crop into motor fuel instead of food: that pushes people into malnutrition and death’. In Canada, largely due to the influence of partly foreign-funded environmental groups, we have gone further and blocked or significantly delayed the construction of pipeline infrastructure badly needed to provide market access, depriving Canadians of the current economic benefits of infrastructure construction and western Canada of the long-term income, employment and revenue benefits of increased oil and gas production and sale. We have been implementing climate policies that have probably been net-harmful to humans and the environment on the questionable premise that emissions might become net-harmful many decades in the future.
No Pipeline is a Problem – A Challenge to Democracy
Climate Change Policy – A Threat to Canada
Can Canada Survive Climate Change Policy? (text of 2017 presentation at Friends of Science Society’s Annual Event: “Climate Dogma Exposed”).
Climate Policy, Oil Pipelines and Confederation: Retrospect and Prospect
Futile Folly: Canada’s Climate Policy Goals in the Global Context
Environmental Charities – A Compilation of Reports on their Finances, Power and Implications for Canada