A strong contender to become Alberta’s next Premier, Wildrose Party Leader Danielle Smith, has been in the hot seat lately over her statement that “the science [of climate change] isn’t settled, and we need to continue to monitor the debate.” She made the comment in an online leadership debate that two Alberta newspapers had organized.
Despite repeated questions from media and other candidates for Alberta’s upcoming election, Smith has so far avoided clarifying her stand on man-made climate change. Instead, she focuses on her support for extracting oil from the province’s tar sands.
Her stand has not wavered from her 2010 speech to the Wildrose annual general meeting, when she insisted critics of the oil sands were distorting the truth. Reacting to charges that “oil sands oil produces three times the greenhouse gases of conventional oil,” she said:
Now the fact is, by the time you take it out of the ground in Saudi Arabia, ship it, pipe it, truck it, refine it, it’s practically the same. They say mining the oil sands produces more carbon dioxide than is produced by all the cars in Canada combined. The fact is oil sands emissions make up just five percent of Canada’s total emissions, a fraction of the amount that’s produced by other sources.
That is as close as Smith comes to making any substantive comment on climate change. On her website, she slams the Alberta government’s “massive funding for selected carbon capture and storage experiments and oilsands lease cancellations under the guise of a land-use framework.” She goes on to say,
A better alternative is examining Alberta’s total emissions from all energy sources and working with energy producers to develop economically viable solutions that will yield measurable improvements to air, land and water province-wide.
Her statements are in line with Wildrose Party policy of skepticism toward climate science. Smith insists she is a realist, not a denier.
University of Alberta ecologist David Schindler reacted quickly to her statement that the science is still unsettled. “For a party leader to say, ‘Oh, we’ve got to procrastinate more until the science is settled is just disgusting. We have to expect more command of science in our leader than this, for crying out loud.’”
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