Dr. G. Cornelis van Kooten has created debate on campus with his controversial views on climate change.
One UVic professor is stirring up debate with his controversial ideas on climate change.
“CO₂ has no relation to temperature rises,” said Dr. G. Cornelis van Kooten, in an Economics of Climate Change lecture on Jan. 28; van Kooten teaches climate change economics at UVic and holds a Canada Research Chair in Environmental Studies.
His presentation included a case study of two Victoria Elementary schools’ rooftop weather stations that he described as an example of the Urban Heat Island affect (UHI). The two Victoria school weather stations that he acquired the information from are part of the “UVic School-Based Weather Station Network” (being developed by Andrew Weaver and Ed Wiebe), a collaborative project with UVic and the school districts of southern Vancouver Island.
In his case study, van Kooten showed how the hot air vents and nearby woodworking shop influence the temperatures of one of the weather stations, while at another school the weather station is uninfluenced by non-weather factors, thereby showing what he says is the influence of the Urban Heat Island effect. This, he argued, is one of the reasons why climate models that show global weather temperatures are rising may be wrong.
“Using the U.S. weather rating system, only 8,000 of the 22,000 weather stations [used to document global temperature rises] are reliable,” he said.
However, members of the audience expressed concerns with his methods, definitions and conclusions.
“Your definition of the Urban Heat Island effect is wrong,” said one audience member, who then proceeded to explain that the UHI is mainly related to the modification of land surfaces that are impermeable to rain and retain heat.
“OK, I stand corrected,” van Kooten replied, leaving an aura of confusion in the room.
Other parts of van Kooten’s talk were equally challenging to conventional wisdom.
“[Gross Domestic Product] is a non-climactic factor that causes temperature to go up,” he continued. “There is no statistical relationship between CO₂ and temperature.”
Van Kooten’s talk and methods left many puzzled and concerned.
Tom Pedersen, director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions interjected and challenged van Kooten’s approach during the presentation and expressed the need for expert advice.
“If one is going to draw deductions based on global warming trends, one needs to be very familiar with expert literature and speak to experts, many of whom are on this campus,” he said after the talk.
Van Kooten’s concerns lie in the authenticity of climate data gathering and modeling, and the ensuing problems that would transpire if major policy decisions were made off of false or inaccurate data. He argues in his classes, for example, that we can’t reduce poverty and carbon at the same time.
“You can’t do policy without reading the other side,” said van Kooten. “I’m becoming a denier more and more, the more I listen to these guys [climate scientists in agreement about global warming]. It’s a religion to them.”
Students in van Kooten’s classes have also raised concerns about his teaching of climate change-related issues.
“An economics professor should not be trying to dispute science in an economics class,” said Rob McDonald, a third-year political science student who dropped van Kooten’s third-year economics class, Climate Economics (ECON 383). “Also, he shows little academic integrity by using a book that he wrote that has not been reviewed as the textbook, and also by giving his very one-sided and narrow view of climate change without letting people know all the different things scientists are saying on the issue.”
The text for ECON 383, is van Kooten’s Policy Making under Wicked Uncertainty, available as a course pack for $48 at the UVic Bookstore.