This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
Thomas Stocker is a climate modeler. He also, we are told, holds “one of the world’s most prestigious scientific jobs, co-chairing a working group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change” (IPCC).
In Switzerland, where he resides, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation refers to Stocker as “the guardian of our climate.” Based on comments he made this week to Canada’s Vancouver Sun newspaper he certainly can’t be regarded as a guardian of humanity.
Recently, the IPCC adopted new guidelines which say its personnel are supposed to be circumspect in their public comments:
When speaking on behalf of the IPCC, individuals should take care…not to express views beyond the scope of the IPCC reports, or to advocate specific policies. [bold added, see p. 7; backup link here]
But it seems Stocker didn’t get the memo. Instead he told a reporter that he thinks tripling – or even quadrupling – the price of gasoline could help save the planet. According to the newspaper, Stocker believes that:
Much higher pump prices would help people realize there are “much smarter ways to go from point A to point B” than climbing into “three tonnes of steel and rubber” that spew greenhouse gases…
Neither Stocker, nor the journalist who wrote the story, appears to be the least bit interested in what effect that sort of price increase might have on human beings.
So here’s a bit of a reality check. First, Switzerland is a T – I – N – Y nation. It’s population is less than 8 million and the entire country comprises less than 40,000 square kilometers.
You could fit 227 Switzerlands within Canada’s vast land mass. Moreover, Switzerland’s population density is 54 times higher than ours.
So Stocker, who gave a talk here, thinks he’s entitled to advise us Canadians that there are “smarter ways to go from point A to point B,” does he?
Perhaps before he returns home he’d care to spend some time on our prairies. Our province of Saskatchewan, for example, has two urban centers – Regina and Saskatoon. As Google maps will confirm, getting from one to the other involves a three-hour drive of some 260 kilometers (160 miles).
In comparison, from the University of Bern, where Stocker teaches, the same amount of driving will get you well inside France, Germany, or Italy.
Since the average human walking speed is 5 kilometers (3 miles) per hour and Stocker apparently prefers that mode of transportation I’m sure he’ll enjoy the 52-hour stroll between Regina and Saskatoon.
On the other hand, if he can’t fit us in until January, as an official government website warns immigrants, normal daytime temperatures are in the -5 to -15C range (23 to 5F). Overnight I’m sure the thermometer will drop to -25C (-13F) just to make Stocker feel welcome.
During his trek Stocker will no doubt encounter a few wheat farmers. Perhaps he can explain to these people – whose tractors are powered by gasoline – why quadrupling the price of that fuel is such a splendid idea.
No doubt he’ll also make the acquaintance of a few truck drivers. I’m sure they, too, are dying to hear the professor explain how their livelihoods will continue to be viable should the price of gasoline skyrocket.
When Stocker meets those who raise cattle, hogs, and bison for a living I’m confident he’ll have no trouble convincing them that a sharp increase in the price of everything that gets transported anywhere (including their livestock) is just what the planet needs.
We should never forget that a great deal of blood was spilled in the 20th century by people who were prepared to sacrifice their fellow human beings in the pursuit of a larger goal (let’s start with Mao and Stalin).
So what I want to know is this: how much harm is Stocker prepared to inflict on Canadians in pursuit of his larger goal – that of saving the planet?
Where does he draw the line? How many casualties are, in his view, acceptable? Really, I want to know.
* h/t to Hilary Ostrov, who comments on Stocker’s recent visit to Canada here