New report contributed by Robert Lyman © 2020. Lyman’s bio can be read here.
The “numbers game” is a form of illegal gambling played mostly in poor neighbourhoods in the United States, wherein a bettor tries to pick three digits to match those that will be drawn by lottery the next day. Millions of dollars are won and lost, and like most lotteries it is a game chosen by those who simply do not understand statistical probability.
The Canadian government has, since 1990, played its own version of a numbers game as an integral part of its public communications about what it doing to respond to the alleged threat of catastrophic global warming. The government’s game involves setting a series of arbitrary targets for percentage reductions in Canadians’ use of the energy services upon which all citizens depend, casting these targets as solemn obligations, missing them consistently, and then reframing the targets so that the public and the media do not notice.
It did this in 1990 when it set the target of a zero increase in emissions from energy use from 1990 levels in 2000, a target it missed by a country mile. It played the game again in 1998 (the Kyoto Accord) when it lowered the previous target by 6%, to be reached by 2010, with exactly the same result. Having failed with two relatively modest targets (at least in numerical terms), it boldly set a more stringent target of reducing emissions from energy use by 17% from 2005 levels (notice the change in baseline to confuse people) by 2020. Not waiting to find out by how far it had already exaggerated the effects of its measures, in 2015 the government launched a far more vigorous attack on Canadians’ energy use by declaring that emissions must reach 30 % below 2005 levels by 2030. Casting the targets in terms of percentage reductions in “greenhouse gases” by arbitrary amounts by arbitrary dates had the advantages of ensuring that the average person did not have a clue what these commitments meant in terms of their costs or standards of living.
What it was really all about was setting goals for reducing the use of oil, natural gas, and coal to be used for heating, air conditioning, mobility and the thousand uses of electricity in one of the largest, coldest, most economically-advanced countries in the world, and one whose population growth the government was priming through unprecedented levels of immigration. No one said, “You will have to go colder” or “You will have your electricity bills doubled”, because that would have been too explicit. “These actions will have no effect whatsoever on global emissions trends”, would have been far too honest.
In a new variation on the numbers game, the government has taken to publishing annual reports on its “progress” in depriving Canadians of their heritage of cheap, plentiful and secure energy supplies. In the reports, the government forecasts all the wonderful effects that its taxes, regulations and subsidies will have in reducing Canadians’ energy use by 2030, and compares this year’s forecast with last year’s forecast. As both are forecasts, there is no way for people to know for certain just how far wrong they are.
In the most recent report, published just before Christmas, 2019, the government acknowledged that (surprise!), it will far miss the 2020 target. It also noted that, based on present policies, it will miss the 2030 target (We are shocked, absolutely shocked!), but not by as much as last year’s forecast said we would miss it.
It is well past time that the government stopped the numbers game and told the truth. The targets are not made to serve as desirable or achievable changes in the Canadian economy or in Canadians’ lifestyles. They are unachievable political standards whose only function is to grant to the advocates of climate alarm the moral high ground. They help in responding to the critics of policies that harm Canadians for negligible environmental benefit. The ground, however, is shifting, and the days when the numbers game can be used to fool the public may be nearing an end.