Alberta’s C$3.5-million inquiry into supposed foreign-funded interference with the province’s fossil industry is advancing “junk climate denial science, bizarre conspiracy theories, and oil industry propaganda,” according to critics who’ve reviewed a series of commissioned studies now available on the inquiry’s website, CBC and the Globe and Mail report.
“If you read any of this stuff, it really strays into Marxism and conspiracy theory and George Soros and Bill Gates,” University of Alberta energy and environmental economist Andrew Leach told the national broadcaster. “It is astounding to me.”
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A packet of documents the commission assembled and sent to reviewers for comment contained “textbook examples of climate change denialism” that “minimize or outright dismiss the reality and seriousness of climate change” and are “replete with generalizations, speculation, conjecture, and even conspiracy,” added Martin Olszynski.
Provincial opposition leader Rachel Notley said commissioner Steve Allan was using taxpayer dollars to “support and solicit anti-science, climate-denying ridiculousness,” and urged Jason Kenney’s United Conservative Party government to cancel the inquiry. “I think that it sends a horrible message to international investors. It undermines our energy industry,” she said. “Quite frankly, there should be an inquiry into the inquiry, except for the fact that that itself would be another waste of money.”
The latest controversy swirling around Allan’s work began when the Public Inquiry Into Funding of Anti-Alberta Campaigns “posted on its website that it had invited 47 people or organizations to apply for standing as a ‘participant for commentary’ in the inquiry,” CBC explains. The 11 who were granted standing received a package of review materials, including several reports Allan had commissioned.
CBC and the Globe both have detail on some of the materials. A report by University of Calgary political scientist Barry Cooper falsely questions the scientific consensus on climate change. And a missive by historian Tammy Nemeth, a home-school teacher in England, “claims that a ‘transnational progressive movement’ is attempting to overthrow the ‘modern western industrial capitalist society’ by infiltrating institutions such as the United Nations and the World Bank, as well as university departments and corporations,” CBC writes.
Nemeth received $28,000 for her efforts, while Energy In Depth, an attack-PR operation associated with the Independent Petroleum Association of America, received US$50,000 for a study titled “Foreign Funding Targeting Canada’s Energy Sector”.
It wasn’t a good look for an inquiry for which the Kenney government has already had to dial down expectations, and is now less than two weeks away from its January 31 reporting deadline. “This is a multi-million-dollar inquiry with subpoena power and public inquiry power,” Leach told CBC. “And what we are getting, the first indication of any kind of research they have gathered, is commissioned reports from industry front groups and people with a questionable history on exactly the types of topics they are trying to look into.”
“The fact Commissioner Steve Allan thought it relevant to commission and consult reports denying the reality of the climate crisis is just another example of how deeply flawed and biased Premier Jason Kenney’s inquiry into so-called ‘anti-Alberta’ campaigns is,” Ecojustice Executive Director Devon Page said in a release.
“Commissioner Allan has already demonstrated time and again that Albertans should not take his findings seriously,” he added. “If it wasn’t already obvious, the commissioner’s latest update of climate denier reports makes it clear: This inquiry lacks any shred of credibility.”
Ecojustice, one of the named targets of the inquiry, will be in court February 11-12 challenging the “partisan political purposes” behind the process.