Fun with numbers

It is interesting how politicians play around with numbers either to make them appear more significant, or simply use them erroneously

It is interesting how politicians play around with numbers either to make them appear more significant than they really are, or simply use them erroneously. Two examples are presented in a recent edition of The Morning Star.

The first is from Scott Anderson who uses the figure of “58,000 person-years of work” created by the Northern Gateway Pipeline as “ongoing jobs”. Given that one person produces 40 “person-years of work” simple math indicates that he is talking about only 1,450 jobs. That is probably a high estimate, as the mayor of Kitimat said a couple of years ago that he would expect about 30 people employed at his distribution end of the pipeline. Certainly there will be some jobs for maintenance and inspection, but we do not need two inspectors/maintenance personnel per kilometre (do the math).

B.C. has a history of mega projects that boost the economy statistically but do nothing for the statistics on poverty in the province. Twelve per cent of B.C.’s population lives in poverty, that being 500,000 people, and 1,450 ongoing jobs will not do much to dent that – and they will occur at the expense of the environment and the native cultures of the pipeline route. His last line is interesting saying the poor shouldn’t have to choose between Alberta and the food banks – his pipeline plan makes that a necessity.

The second funny math comes from our local MP Colin Mayes, who indicates that we have 400 to 500 years of natural gas to go. Even Imperial Oil indicates on their website that Canada has about 100 years of natural gas left at current consumption rates, including as yet untapped non-conventional reserves (shale gas).

As consumption is expected to increase considerably in the near future (with the tar sands consuming the majority of the new fracking (shale) gas sources in order to produce more tar sands oil), that 100-year supply will be much less than that.

Colin Mayes displays his ignorance of science when he indicates he believed that “scientific studies were based on absolutes.” Scientists do not work with absolutes, and are usually quite willing to change their minds given new information. He then talks of “smart growth”, a term he defines as being “growth that sustains our environment.” That definition is self-contradictory as growth cannot sustain a finite environment.

I would like to add on that note a few more scientific ‘errors’. Scientists have been predicting the rate of Arctic sea ice melt, the rate of rise in the level of the oceans, the rate of increase in the earth’s average temperature, the rate of ocean acidification.

They have been proven wrong on all accounts recently as all these rates have been shown to be well below the actual rate of increase.

Growth cannot help the environment – it is not compatible with sustainability. The Northern Gateway Pipeline will only add to our environment’s woes and do little for B.C.’s poverty rate.

Jim Miles