Reader concerned about ‘Need to Know’ speaker series

by John Clinton

The Need To Know Speaker Series, originally hosted in Renfrew, is now offered in Burnstown. The series brings presenters who are supposed experts in currently controversial questions. Past speakers have lectured on climate change and power generation. The next will lecture on electric vehicles.

For reasons that only the organizer of the series knows, each of these speakers undermines our trust in science and creates doubt with clever, misleading messages that contribute to a strategy of delay, which spreads confusion.

Tom Harris is the executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition (ICSC), a climate contrarian public relations and lobby group that claims it is a group of independent scientists, although Harris is a mechanical engineer. The ICSC uses the same tactics as other climate denier/skeptic organistions, the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, Australian Climate Science Coalition and the Climate Science Coalition of America.

Harris has promoted climate change denial activism and has spoken to the Heartland Institute in Illinois, a free market think tank supported by the Koch Brothers, ExxonMobil and others. The Heartland Institute and Mr. Harris’s ICSC use contrarian research to show there is little or nothing we can do to prevent climate change, so we all should oppose legislation that attempts to ameliorate it.

So, let us all enjoy the scenery on the way down.

Paul Acchione is a past president of the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers. Mr. Acchione explains that wind and solar energy are too expensive to be a serious contender for our future energy needs. He supports nuclear power generation, and says it is the safest source we have.

To help us understand this, he states that we have about 2000 deaths and 170000 injuries from auto accidents each year, so the risk from nuclear energy is orders of magnitude lower than the risk from automobiles.

During the last several years Ontario Power Generation has been mailing potassium iodide pills to residents and businesses within the danger zones around the Pickering and Darlington nuclear power plants, for protection against a radiation leak. This medication protects the thyroid gland only. How are we meant to correlate the risk of driving a car with this other surreptitious risk over which we have no possible control? Mr. Acchione also points out that the waste from nuclear reactors is not dumped into the atmosphere like wastes from cars.

Nuclear waste, however, is lethal for tens, hundreds or even thousands of years and must be stored. Considering the aspect of time (future generations), radioactive waste disposal is also a moral issue.

The next scheduled speaker is Jim Kenzie, an automotive journalist who writes car reviews and opinion pieces in the Toronto Star newspaper as well as other publications. He also appears on TSN’s Motoring TV program. Mr. Kenzie tells us that “there is no hope for electric cars to achieve any of the goals their proponents make for them, and your tax dollars are being profligately wasted.”

He even has berated Elon Musk because Tesla “makes about as many cars in a year as Toyota does in a minute.” Mr. Kenzie pulls out all the usual information as regards distance driven per charge, toxic battery material, greenhouse gas emissions to produce electricity, market share, even how building roundabouts will reduce pollution. So, let us all sit back in our 700 horsepower Dodge Chargers and… then ??

The organizer of the Need To Know series claims to be offering speakers that present fair and balanced viewpoints. After all, shouldn’t we listen to all sides of an issue?

This explanation is a tactic used by some to persuade the audience to give equal time to their hidebound views. The warming world and its consequence, climate change, is happening and human activity is the cause. The jury is IN. Thousands of scientists, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, have confirmed this fact. The time for debate has ended. To refute this and to protest efforts to improve our situation, as with alternative (renewable) energy generation and electric vehicles, does not seem to be something we “need to know.”

I suggest Mr. Ainsworth rename his speaker series NEED TO DOUBT.

But, there is a riddle in the details. If the science is clear, what is it that is causing normal citizens in many nation states to reject the science? It is obvious that commercial interests cast doubt due to the loss of profit.

But many normal small ‘c’ conservative people see climate change as an assault on a way of life.

“Are you telling me that the way I have been living is flawed? Well, you are not going to tell me how I should be living.

“And along come these people that sow some doubt and it works because I am looking for that answer. I want the science to be phony. I don’t want change because change is hard and it makes me anxious.”

Are we leaving our children and grandchildren the legacy of our leaders who have failed to lead?