After more than a year of investigation, the Bureau is letting climate deniers off the hook

Last month we learned that the Competition Bureau has dropped its investigation into several climate change denier groups that have publically misrepresented climate science on billboards and online. This means no accountability for groups that use PR tactics — not sound science — to defy overwhelming scientific consensus and derail climate change solutions.

In December 2015, we helped six prominent Canadians apply for this investigation, arguing that denier groups have repeatedly violated the Competition Act by making materially false or misleading representations about climate science for the purpose of promoting business interests, such as fossil fuel development. Last June we were pleased to see the Bureau open an investigation. But now the Bureau is walking away without finishing the job.

It is crucial for every government agency to use its authority to facilitate the shift to a low carbon economy to mitigate climate change. By dropping its investigation, the Bureau is missing an opportunity to vindicate honest, evidence-based public debate on climate change science and policy. No other agency — and certainly no private citizen — has the legal tools and authority to investigate these climate science misrepresentations the way the Bureau can. The Bureau should be putting these tools to use protecting the public from self-interested and deliberate misinformation campaigns.

The next few years present a crucial window for aggressive climate change action. Canada and the world must decisively break away from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources that do not pollute our atmosphere with dangerous levels of greenhouse gases.

Economically this will be a great period of creative destruction. New technologies and methods that produce energy without ruining the climate will soon begin to prevail over fossil fuels at increasing scale.

Wealthy fossil fuel business interests are sophisticated — they have seen this coming for years and have worked to preserve the status quo. Sadly, this makes sense as a cold calculation. For the fossil fuel industry the era of serious climate action is not a new beginning, but rather the beginning of the end.

Their tactics are reminiscent of those used by the tobacco industry to sow doubts about scientific fact to protect business interests at the expense of public health.

If enough of the public doubts climate science, or loses trust in climate scientists and their institutions, or fails to grasp the urgency of the situation, the profits of established fossil fuel business interests will remain safer for longer. Misinformation means aggressive climate policies will be harder to achieve and capital and consumer markets will keep leaning towards polluting fossil fuels.

Now is the time we need our cops on the climate beat to be stepping up. The Competition Bureau took an encouraging first step but did not follow through. Canadians need their government to take a stand against misinformation campaigns that cloud climate science.

Letter from Competition Bureau re: Inquiry discontinued