Spoofing Canada on climate

Earlier today, pranksters impersonating Environment Canada issued a phony press release which contained new targets for greenhouse gas mitigation in Canada. While Canada’s actual targets are 20% below 2006 levels by 2020 (equivalent to about 3% below 1990 levels) and 60-70% below 2006 levels by 2050, the press release included the much more ambitious figures of 40% below 1990 levels by 2020 and over 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. The release also made reference to a major transfer of funds to the developing world, as compensation for past harm and to encourage both mitigation and adaptation actions.

Compared to Canada’s real targets, the phony tougher targets are much more in line with an emissions pathway set up to reduce the risk of more than 2°C of warming. The stunt also draws attention to how Canada isn’t really negotiating in Copenhagen. We came in with a pair of targets that we say we will reach, regardless of what anyone else does, though we also frequently say that we won’t do anything until the US acts. Indeed, our environment minister was saying less than a month ago that Canada won’t take meaningful action for years. It should also be recalled that the government once promised that their intensity-based approach would lead to emissions peaking by 2012. Nobody mentions that pledge anymore.

The identities of those behind the stunt remain unknown. Hopefully, it will draw attention to Canada’s evasion and lack of ambition, prompting a genuine change of targets and approach soon.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

17 thoughts on “Spoofing Canada on climate”

  1. Tuesday, December 15, 2009 8:14 AM
    Meet the merry climate pranksters
    who put Canada on the spot
    Jane Taber

    1. Hoax explained. The Yes Men called this morning from Denmark; they’re the merry band of anti-globalization and environmental pranksters who wreaked havoc on the Copenhagen climate conference yesterday, badly embarrassing Canada.

    Although they are American, they say about five or six Canadian activists were involved in their prank but The Yes Men are refusing to identify them. “They have chosen to remain a bit under the radar,” said one of the group members.

    Meanwhile, several of The Yes Men called to explain why they targeted Canada yesterday: “We’ve always kind of grown up looking up to Canada, literally on the map,” says Andy Bichlbaum, one of the principals. He is also known as Jacque Servin. (It seems that no one who is they say they are when it comes to this group.)

  2. 14 December 09
    Document shows Canada removing emission restrictions

    As if Canada’s performance on climate were not already the second worst among all countries surveyed by GermanWatch for the Global Climate Change Performance Index (we were aced for last place by Saudi Arabia), new documents discovered by the CBC show the Conservative government actually looking to WEAKEN the pathetic greenhouse gas emission limits that barely restrain the Alberta oil and gas sector.

    The government, which has presented no plan to meet its humiliating target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by three per cent below 1990 levels by 2020, is now leaning toward giving the oil and gas sector even more room to pollute, leaving the responsibility for reducing emissions (should the country ever decide to do so) on individuals and businesses outside the industry that is primarily responsible.

    As long as Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s oil patch buddies are making money, though, what can go wrong?

  3. My favourite part of the whole escapade was PMO spokesperson Dimitri Soudas’ response to this, which was (in true Harper style) random fingerpointing:

    Dear media,

    You may have received a release entitled:


    This is not a government of Canada press release.

    We’re told it may have been issued by mr. Guilbault from equiterre.

    If that’s the case, time would be better used by supporting Canada’s efforts to reach an agreement instead of sending out hoax press releases.

    More time should be dedicated to playing a constructive role instead of childish pranks.

  4. the greatest contributer to climate change is never mentioned by media or governments. Only on thing has changed over the past 60 years in the way we pollute – jet air travel. Each and every day of the year over 5000 litres of gas/kerosene is being burned per second at 25,000 to 40,000 feet by commercial aircraft over the USA alone!! It has beeen documented that vapour contrales alone can reduce anual sunshine by 20% over flyways. The only time there has been a recordable significant change in our weather was the 5 days after 9/11 when commercial air trave was stopped.

  5. Air travel only represents 2% of global emissions, though I agree that it is a growing problem.

    The only time there has been a recordable significant change in our weather was the 5 days after 9/11 when commercial air trave was stopped.

    This isn’t true at all. While stopping air travel may have had some effects on weather, climate change is manifesting itself all the time in many different ways and places. We have observed changes in climate around the world: increasing mean temperature, increased incidence of extreme weather events, loss of glacier and Arctic ice, etc.

  6. The 3 days following 9/11 concerning air travel, global dimming, average evaporation rates etc… is a serious issue. It’s very important for climate modeling because different assumptions about the amount of energy getting into the atmosphere affects other parts of climate models.

    Speaking roughly, if global dimming is twice as significant as we assume, then our climate models are only half as sensitive as the actual system is. This is because the reduced input of sunshine can effectively hide the sensitivity of climate systems to CO2 increases.

    So, jet air travel is not only important for its 2% role in CO2 emissions, it is important for its role in particulate and water vapor emissions in the atmosphere which change the earth’s absorption of energy from the sun. Jet travel might be a form of geo-engineering which is cooling the planet while we are warming it – but this is very hard to study since the only control data we have is a few days after 9/11.

  7. Milan

    I suggest you Google aircraft and global warming – vapor contrails alone
    can reduce annual sunshine by up to 20% in any given area. The immediate
    return to a more natural cycle of clear skies and night time cooling
    experienced after 9/11 far outweigh the >1 degree warming experienced over
    the past 80 years. You can shut down all the CO2 emitters on the planet- but
    unless you also shut down commercial aviation – the warming will continue.
    The UK break out commercial aircraft CO2 emissions on their charts but not
    so for Canada – 30% of Canada’s CO2 is transportation – but try to find out
    what percentage of that is from aircraft. The Suzuki foundation is also
    looking into aviation as the major contributor as is the EU. Perhaps this
    is the reason for a lack of will amongst the developed nations to enter into
    a meaningful treaty for C02 reduction. – who is travelling on those
    I am not a scientist but have worked in the airline industry, am a pilot,
    and have flown since the 1960’s observing first hand the changes in the
    upper atmosphere. You can now see the brown haze at 30 to 40 thousand feet
    even over the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Man kind has always been
    emitting CO2 as has nature (forest fires) – but, like major volcanic
    eruptions – only when the CO2 is directly emitted in the upper atmosphere
    are the climate changes immediate.

    Regards, bob

  8. Aviation is a significant contributor but it is dwarfed by meat production, which has increased more than 300% globally since 1970. And it’s projected to double again by 2020. Scary number.

  9. So, these contrails from commercial aviation reflect some sunlight that would otherwise reach the earth? Does this not mean that, in a way, for each unit of CO2 taken out of the air by reducing aviation, we will experience some corresponding warming?

    I’m not sure if this effect would be so small as to be negligible but it sounds something like the scenario predicted if we start geo-engineering the atmosphere with sulphur dioxide and then ever decide to stop doing so – the pent up warming would be too great.

  10. Charlie,

    The full consequences of aviation remain uncertain, according to the IPCC.

    For instance, they have this to say about contrails:

    “Moreover, the uncertainties on some aviation forcings (notably contrail and cirrus) are still high, such that the overall radiative forcing consequences of changing cruise altitudes need to be considered as a time-integrated scenario, which has not yet been done.”

    Also: “In its 1999 Special Report on Aviation in the Global Atmosphere, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) estimated the RFI from air travel in 1990 to be between 2 and 4, averaging 2.7 times the carbon impact alone.”

    As such, the number of tonnes of physical emissions from planes should probably be multiplied by 2.7 to get their full climatic effect. That means that the additional warming effects of associated processes far overpower any net cooling effect produced by the reflection of short-wave radiation, at least as far as the current science knows.

  11. This flowchart gives a really good at-a-glance understanding of which greenhouse gasses and energy uses are most important.

    All of transportation is only about 13.5% of emissions, with all air travel representing 1.6% of the total. By contrast, the cement industry represents 3.8%, deforestation is 18.3%, and unintentional natural gas leakes are 3.4%.

  12. Flying is important, but a small part of the picture.

    The real challenge is to deal with coal burning and deforestation.

  13. General Electric Co, embroiled in controversy over its low 2010 U.S. tax bill, was the target of a bogus press release claiming that it would donate billions of dollars to the federal government.
    The official-looking release, complete with the GE logo and slogan “imagination at work”, said that GE would send its US$3.2-billion tax refund from 2010 back to Washington.
    The Yes Men, an activist group known for issuing hoax statements claiming major attitude changes in corporate America, said it sent the release in an e-mail to media outlets Wednesday.
    “It’s a hoax and GE did not receive a refund,” said Deirdre Latour, a spokeswoman for the largest U.S. conglomerate.
    The spoof came amid an ongoing battle in Washington between President Barack Obama’s Democratic party and the Republican-controlled House of Representatives over how to cut the nation’s budget deficit.
    GE shares slipped after at least two news organizations, the Associated Press and Dow Jones, reported the hoax as fact.

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