By Michelle Stirling © 2020
Despite being a Calgarian and deeply engaged in the issue of climate change, somehow, I missed the October 2019 release of the Mathew Embry film “Global Warning”. Its existence only came to my attention a few weeks ago when someone posted on Watts Up With That blog that the film was up for six Alberta film awards.
“Global Warning” has an odd name, perhaps confusing to many people. The film is about global warming and climate change, but also has an inherent warning from various speakers in the film regarding the impacts of climate change policies on people’s lives. Some of the messages are not what you would expect and that is why you should watch the film.
First of all, “Global Warning” is beautifully shot by Philip L. Harrison, Director of Photography, and artfully directed by Embry. With every new scene, Embry explores the unexpected next step. Just when you think the ‘logical conclusion’ in the climate and energy discussion should be ‘X’, Embry brings you ‘Y’, and makes you think.
One of the featured speakers is Catherine Abreu, named as one of the top 100 influencers in the world on climate change, she is the executive director of the Climate Action Network of Canada. We meet Catherine early in the film at the United Nations COP 25 conference in Bonn, Germany. In conversational exchanges with other climate activists, she states that “Canada has never met a climate target it couldn’t miss” and that “facts don’t change people’s minds; most people accept ‘the science’” on climate change.
“Global Warning” circles around the climate policies that are destroying the foundations of Alberta’s economy, namely that of the development of the oil sands – aka “Tar Sands”. Embry takes us on a tour of vacant downtown office spaces in Calgary, now nearly 30%; five or six years ago the vacancy rate was only 2%. What so gutted Alberta’s economy?
For Catherine Abreu, Germany’s fields of wind turbines and solar panels, the kilometers of high voltage transmission lines, are all beautiful and a sign of the future. She hopes that Canada will look that way one day. As for oil sands workers whose jobs are dying as the world convulses with climate fear of carbon dioxide, she naively states that “building powerlines requires exactly the same skills as digging pipelines”, so Canada should just build an east-west power grid to transmit all that ‘good, clean energy’. (Note: It is not so simple. Do I have a paper for you! Second note: All renewables are made from oil, natural gas, and coal.)
Her naivety is terrifying.
Embry has done his homework and made every effort to include commentary from a spectrum of the people affected by these climate and energy policies. He visits with Raymond Owl, founder of the Traditional Ecological Knowledge network of aboriginal elders. Raymond’s view is that the white man does not have enough money to pay for what has already been taken from Mother Earth and the damage, let alone the kind of resource development they want. Money as compensation does not equal ‘consultation’ for him. While not opposed to progress, he wants it to be to scale and to respect Mother Earth. His constitutional rights to this perspective and related legal process are supported by commentary by lawyer Hon. Stephen O’Neill.
Embry goes to the oil sands and has the standard ‘media tour’ of the green, restored lands. Then he gets to go ‘behind the scenes’ to the much-hated tailings ponds, where we learn that oil sands operators pump carbon dioxide into the effluent which makes it a pH of 7, about the same as river water. Though the water in the ponds is not potable, it is just a big ‘dirty mud puddle’ as Professional Engineer Joy Romero explains. She explains how the processes involved remove the sticky black tarry bitumen and leave behind white sandy beaches. Romero says that her great grand children will be able to enjoy the reclaimed areas as any national park.
But is that something a climate activist could ever believe?
Of course, for climate activists, the “Tar Sands” will only ever be ‘dirty oil’ – the massive, scarred footprint of the open pit mines – and the related carbon dioxide emissions from production. The film’s chopper pilot confirms that no matter what activist he takes for a ride, they all come with preconceived notions that are resistant to oil sands facts.
Embry introduces us to oil executive Gwyn Morgan, a farm boy who created an international oil company known as Encana. We also meet Greenpeace campaigner Christy Ferguson who explains that the founders of Greenpeace were journalists whose dynamic photo images changed public opinion.
I found it appalling to realize that powerful imagery by some Greenpeace journo activists was all it took to destroy the reputation of the Alberta oil sands industry, built up by decades scientific work, created by thousands of highly educated Professional Engineers, Professional Geoscientists, biological scientists, management experts and skilled trades people. Point in fact, Encana has left Calgary for Denver and changed its name to Ovintiv.
Isn’t that a warning, a wake-up call?
Later in the film, Greenpeace co-founder and former president, Patrick Moore, explains that he left the group when its values turned against common sense, as it evolved from the volunteer-based group of hippies wanting ‘to do something real’ that he started with, to a big business with a massive payroll to make.
While in Germany, Embry and producer Peter Beyak, tracked down Professor Fritz Vahrenholt. Vahrenholt was one of the first proponents of the use of wind and solar for Germany more than 20 years ago. He is an environmentalist, a professor of chemistry, and author of several books and peer-reviewed papers on climate. His book “The Neglected Sun” explains how the sun drives climate change. His more recent book “Unwanted Truths” explains the things he says in the film – the things no climate activist wants to hear. Global warming is cyclical, and the past Medieval Warm Period was just as warm as today.
Vahrenholt is a past Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expert reviewer. He has real life experience as manager of an energy firm that went deeply into renewables. Based on his experience, he explains that renewables are not the answer to the energy transition and that climate hysteria is putting society at risk. He explains that renewables can only be complementary – too much of them and power prices skyrocket, the grid collapses, industry and jobs leave the country, and society suffers. While Vahrenholt agrees that carbon dioxide has some warming effect, he asserts that we have three generations to address the issues related to fossil fuel emissions, not ten or twelve years as activists claim. But activists have the upper hand in communications and children are being scared into believing what is not true.
That is the global warning.
However, this is not a warning people want to hear.
Through some magic, Embry manages to get climate skeptic Dr. Ian Clark and climate activist Catherine Abreu in a room together, after Clark has had her visit the University of Ottawa’s accelerator mass spectrometry lab where the residency of carbon dioxide can be studied. Clark explains to her that based on his scientific review, carbon dioxide is not the control knob on climate, and it has a short residency of perhaps 4 years. Her eye roll says it all.
I was shocked to see that activists like Abreu can get face-to-face meetings with Canada’s climate change negotiators, just prior to Canada’s team going into international negotiations.
While we also see a scene with Cody Battershill and followers in an “I love Canadian Oil” rally for a pipeline, I am sure we will never see those working people face to face with Canada’s climate negotiators.
When I met Mathew Embry to interview him for some short clips about the making of the film (posted below), I was struck by his statement that“ “Global Warning” is a ‘pro-human’ film“. Indeed, the film shows how so many lives are being affected by policies that are being promoted and enacted by people with no scientific or economic training; people who are acting on naïve ideological beliefs. These people are regularly interviewed in the media, while experts like Dr. Clark and Professor Vahrenholt? Well…no one has ever heard of them.
Just like this film. No one ever heard of it because, as Mathew explained to me, despite getting lots of media attention over his other award-winning films, “Global Warning” received a media blackout. Energy geopolitics are changing and Canada is missing out on markets due to home grown climate activists.
“Global Warning” has many more interesting perspectives than those I picked out here. As noted, it is beautifully shot, especially the pastoral scenes in Bonn, Germany at the UN COP25 climate conference, with the coal barges idly making their way up the Rhine River, into the heart of German industry.
Michelle Stirling is the Communications Manager for Friends of Science Society, a member of the Canadian Association of Journalists, and AAAS.
Media Blackout – Climate Conversation with Mathew Embry
Climate Activist Meets Climate Skeptic
It’s a Pro-Human, Pro-Environment Film
Voice of Experience – Dr. Fritz Vahrenholt