The Canadian Government Cares About Climate Change, Sort Of

At least when it comes to the energy industry.

Dec 18 2014, 3:39pm

Aerial shot of the Alberta tar sands. ​Image: ​How Arts Collective/Flickr

​The same Stephen Harper government known for championing the Alberta tar sands has issued a call for a study examining the implications of climate change.

But if you're thinking that means a sudden movement from the Harper government towards fully accepting the scientific phenomenon of a warming planet plagued with human interference, think again—the study is basically asking for its implications on the energy industry and average Canadians.

Commissioned on behalf of Natural Resources Canada—the same government department monitoring the oil and gas and mining industry—the study is seeking to determine the true extent of drastic temperature changes on energy demands in Canada.

Building off a departmental wide project in 2013 requesting information from "provinces and territories, energy and/or electricity agencies and companies, along with lead Climate Change modelling organizations," the government is producing a nationwide project examining "the risks and opportunities of changes in demand as a result of projected temperature trends under a changing climate."

Related: ​Last Year, the World Pumped Out More Carbon Pollution Than Ever Before

The project will use climate forecasting scenario data and run it against something called the "ENERGY2020 model" a "multi-sector energy analysis system that simulates the supply, price and demand for all fuels." The model is apparently widely used by Environment Canada and the National Energy Board in various projects.

Using the temperatures of the last 30 years as a loose model for the next 30, the data gleaned from the new project will provide specific data for the future economic fallout on the energy industry. That includes data for both the commercial and public sector from 2011 to 2040. The project will also run multiple climate scenarios of varying temperatures to account for the "range of uncertainty in the climate models."

According to the release, the study will look at "Demand by Energy Source, Primary Energy Demands, Electricity Sales (GWH/Yr), Price of Electricity ($/MWH), Fuel and Electricity prices, [and] Device Efficiency electric and non-electric"—with an eye at examining those factors in the various regions of Canada, from the Arctic to Ontario.

It's an interesting twist of fate for the Harper government to be sanctioning scientific studies on climate change, but the energy angle is of clear interest for the economy-first platform of the ruling Conservatives. 

The other obvious reason for the project, is knowing how Canadians will heat their homes in a growingly warmer country currently dependant on heating mechanisms to mitigate frigid temperatures—something on the mind of the same government department responsible for enhancing "the contribution of the natural resources sector to the economy." In other words, warmer temperatures might mean less profits for electricity suppliers. 

The study also comes on the heels of high profile criticism against Stephen Harper from both the Canadian and international scientific community. His critics hold that rampant cuts in scientific research are part and parcel of an overall Conservative government plan to silence scientists—and in turn, the most important climate change activists in the country.

While Stephen Harper isn't really a champion of climate change research, if there's anything that will get he and his policymakers interested in boiling global temperatures—it's the profitability of the energy industry. So hey, this might just be a strange step in the right direction.