In today’s Edmonton Journal/Calgary Herald on-line leaders debate (a great format, BTW), the leaders were asked the following question:
Do you believe in climate change? What should be the provincial government’s response to climate change, or should the provincial government wait for a plan from the federal government?
Unfortunately, the first part of this question, which boils tens of thousands of papers worth of academic research into 2 words, is useful only in that it allows those reading the answer to see exactly what they want to see. Answer yes, you believe in climate change and you are either keenly aware of the state of scientific evidence or a sheep faithfully following along with the herd. Answer anything other than yes, and you are a climate denier, someone with a true scientist’s level of scepticism or a brave critic of mainstream science. In other words, whatever people thought you believed before you answered the question, they will find in your answer to the question if they try hard enough.
There are few questions which are more loaded in today’s energy and environment debates than, “do you believe in climate change?” If I were asking a question along the same lines, here’s what I would have asked:
First, a 2011 US National Academy of Science report states that, “climate change is occurring, is very likely caused primarily by the emission of greenhouse gases from human activities, and poses significant risks for a range of human and natural systems.” Do you agree with this statement? If not, with which parts of it do you disagree?
Second, given your views on the risks posed by climate change, as well as global and national geopolitics surrounding climate change, energy use, and GHG emissions, why is your GHG and energy policy package the best choice for Alberta?
This gets at the two key elements – do you accept that the preponderance of scientific evidence suggests there are significant risks associated with anthropogenic climate change, and, since Alberta is an energy-producing, GHG-intensive economy, how do you plan to position Alberta to prosper in a world adjusting to deal with it?
If you think that you can hear a satisfactory answer to all of that in a one-word answer to a gotcha question, you’re far more insightful than I.