Ontario’s chosen experts question basic climate science and dismiss Ontario’s responsibility to lower emissions

Toronto | Traditional territories of the Huron-Wendat, the Anishnaabeg, Haudenosaunee, Chippewas and the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation – The Ontario government solicited expert testimony from a known climate change denier to defend its poor record on climate action, in a court challenge brought from seven Ontario youth.

The youth are arguing that the Government of Ontario violated their charter rights when it rolled back targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The provincial government also solicited evidence from an economist who believes that Ontario’s actions have little to no impact on Canada’s overall emissions and, therefore, the province bears no responsibility for the damages caused by climate change.

“This Ontario government has been playing pretend on climate for years, and now we know why. The government is apparently not convinced by the scientific consensus on climate change, or that Ontario has a role to play in reducing Canada’s or the world’s greenhouse gas emissions,” said Keith Brooks, Programs Director for Environmental Defence. “The delusional arguments put forward by the province’s hand-picked expert witnesses could well explain why Ontario’s climate plan never stood up to scrutiny and never went anywhere.”

Ontario sought out William van Wijngaarden and Philip Cross to present expert affidavit opinions pertaining to climate science and climate economics, respectively.

William van Wijngaarden is a member of the CO2 Coalition, whose stated purpose is to “provide facts, resources and information about the vital role carbon dioxide (CO2) plays in our environment” and provide education “about the important contribution made by carbon dioxide to our lives and the economy.” In his affidavit, Van Wijngaarden suggests that atmospheric CO2 levels are saturated and increasing concentrations of CO2 will not cause rising temperatures or lead to more extreme weather. He also states that CO2 is plant food and “very beneficial.”

Philip Cross argues that “Emissions from Ontario do not have a decisive impact” on whether Canada will meet its climate targets (which is demonstrably untrue). He argues at length that “Ontario is an insignificant portion of global emissions…,” an argument designed to excuse Ontario of responsibility to address climate change. He also argues that energy transitions take a long time, implying that trying to reach Ontario’s, Canada’s, or even global climate targets is futile. These arguments are sometimes referred to as “the new climate denialism.”

“The provincial government may say that they care about climate change, and may even claim to be on track to reach its target to reduce emissions, but the choice of expert witness reveals a fact that should be shocking to Ontarians: our government doubts the science on climate change and doesn’t really believe that the province has a responsibility to act. This is profoundly worrisome given that scientists tell us we’re in a critical decade for climate action, and the window to limiting warming to 1.5 degrees is rapidly closing,” added Brooks.

The affidavits by William van Wijngaarden and Philip Cross can both be found here.

ABOUT ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is a leading Canadian environmental advocacy organization that works with government, industry and individuals to defend clean water, a safe climate and healthy communities.

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For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Allen Braude, Environmental Defence, abraude@environmentaldefence.ca