IPCC burned on claim of wildfires affecting Canadian tourism

10 Feb

In the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment report, section 14.2.7 Tourism and recreation of WGII, they make the following claim (emphasis mine):

“Climate variability affects many segments of this growing economic sector [Tourism]. For example, wildfires in Colorado (2002) and British Columbia (2003) caused tens of millions of dollars in tourism losses by reducing visitation and destroying infrastructure (Associated Press, 2002; Butler, 2002; BC Stats, 2003).”

Lets look at the references they cited. Associated Press, 2002 is referenced as:

Associated Press, 2002: Rough year for rafters. September 3, 2002.

Butler, 2002 is referenced as:

Butler, A., 2002: Tourism burned: visits to parks down drastically, even away from flames. Rocky Mountain News. July 15, 2002.

BC Stats, 2003 is referenced as:

BC Stats, 2003: Tourism Sector Monitor – November 2003, British Columbia Ministry of Management Services, Victoria, 11 pp. [Accessed 09.02.07:

That’s two newspaper articles and one tourism statistics newsletter. I can’t find the first two articles, one is an old AP story and the other was in a newspaper that folded last year. If anyone can find them, let me know. I assume those both deal with the Colorado half of the claim. However, the link to the BC stats works.

The claim is that wildfires in Colorado and British Columbia caused tens of millions in tourism losses. The first two references are for Colorado, and both are news stories. I don’t know how valid they are. That means the sole source of the claim of lost British Columbian tourism is the BC stats reference. Let’s take a look. Keep in mind that the fires in British Columbia were at their peak (according to this source) during the months of July, August and September. Here are quotes from their source:

The month of August saw room revenues
increase strongly (+2.9%, seasonally adjusted)
for the second time in a row. This
rise, driven by a strong performance in
Mainland/Southwest (+4.4%) and Vancouver
Island/Coast (+3.7%), was the strongest
since December 2002. Despite the forest
raging in the Interior, revenues were
down or virtually unchanged in the affected
regions….The Increase in Room Revenues was the
Highest since December 2002
Despite the Wildfires

Hmm. Let’s read more.

It would appear that the summer
2003 forest fires only had a limited effect on the rebound that
started in July.

Limited effect. Interesting.

Province wide, room revenues continued to increase July (+1.0%)
and August (+2.9%) largely as a result of stronger growth elsewhere
in the province. The current rebound in room revenues
from the outbreak of SARS and the war in Iraq more than offset
the adverse effect of forest fires in regions far from the fires. It is
possible that the stronger performance of regions far from the fires
is due to travellers who changed their plans to visit these regions
instead of those heavily affected by the forest fires.

Oh! So tourism isn’t really negatively affected, unless the entire province is on fire.

Tourism is a seasonal phenomenon. The wildfires unfortunately
burned mostly during July, August and September, the three
months of the year when most room revenues are typically generated.
More precisely, establishments generated 38% of their
annual room revenues in these three months between 1995 and
2001. Moreover, the forest fires were at their peak in August, also
the peak month for tourism. Despite this bad timing, the peak of
the 2003 season does not appear to be lower than the peak of previous

The Peak isn’t lower? Tens of millions in lost tourism doesn’t affect the peak? If the peak wasn’t lower, then tourism was the same (or higher) than last year.

It is difficult to isolate the effect of BC fires on room revenues since
the wildfires happened when the recovery from the SARS outbreak
and the Iraq War was underway. Despite this caveat, the
tourism sector did not suffer as much due to the wildfires as the
Iraq War, SARS or September 11th.

They then show a table which compares the wildfire’s affect on tourism to the effects of Sept 11’th and the SARS outbreak in Toronto. -10.8% for 9/11, -9.7 for SARS, +1.1% for July 03 (during the fires) and +2.9% for August 03 (during the fires). That’s right, positive numbers.

The only real lost costs they associate with the wildfire is in this passage:

Forest fires affected other industries besides the tourism sector.
Logging and forestry activities and manufacturing industries such
as wood and paper were shut down due to extreme fire hazard.
Fears of supply shortages and low inventories due to the forest
fires may have partially contributed to the jump in lumber prices
in August.
Government spending went up due to firefighting. By October 25,
the province had identified an estimated $550 million in total costs
related to wildfires. Government spending represents an offset to
the losses incurred in other industries in the BC economy. On the
bright side, the BC Government is currently studying the possibility
that wood affected by wildfires might be marketable timber for
China, which may increase BC exports in the future.

Government spending increased. The cost was to government, not to the tourism industry as the IPCC claimed. Tourism went up! Read it yourself. It does mention some negatives of the fires, but overall, tourism is up, and there is certainly no mention of “tens of millions of dollars in tourism losses“. If you can find something in their source that supports their claims, e-mail me or comment below.

Once again, I am not saying that their claim is wrong. I am only underlining that their sources don’t match their claims. This shows that the IPCC already had a point of view, and they simply wanted a source to back up their claims. They found this BC Stats, probably didn’t read it because they figured it must show that fires reduce tourism, and cited it as the source of their claim. The IPCC makes a conclusion, then looks for evidence that supports their claims, and cite it. Sometimes they even cite evidence that doesn’t support their claims. Since no one read it for 2 years, they almost got away with it. This isn’t how a reputable scientific organization works.



Posted by on February 10, 2010 in IPCC


Tags: ,

15 responses to “IPCC burned on claim of wildfires affecting Canadian tourism

  1. Donna Laframboise

    February 10, 2010 at 3:55 pm

    Two more newspaper articles! And here I thought I’d found them all 🙂 when I wrote my blog piece that includes the soundbite of IPCC chairman Dr. Pachauri declaring:

    “We don’t pick up a newspaper article and, based on that, come up with our findings.”

  2. ClimateQuoter

    February 10, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    Actually there are a lot more where that came from. Tomorrow’s post will have dozens of news articles….

  3. art

    February 10, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Pay parking in bc parks that was the reason Thanks to Gordon Campbell

  4. bigcitylib

    February 11, 2010 at 9:09 am

    The stats doc says that there were indeed tourism losses, but they were local and off set. How does that contradict the IPCC?

  5. sovi

    March 28, 2010 at 4:32 am

    how lucky we are if we have an opportunity to see some beautiful places in this world…

    nice info..thank you

  6. Roger

    July 10, 2010 at 5:05 am


    The stats doc says that there were indeed tourism losses, but they were local and off set. How does that contradict the IPCC?

    Because both in the given context, and in the normal, common-sense interpretation of this sentence, wildfires in … British Columbia (2003) caused tens of millions of dollars in tourism losses … clearly means ”overall” losses.

    That a nett gain may also include some losses is not relevant in the context. (Nor, indeed, in very many other contexts.) And if you told your friends and family that you had gained from your “investments” at the racetrack, when you had won a couple of hundred on one race but lost thousands on other races, they would conclude that not only were you a self-delusional gambling addict, but that your disease had lead you into lying to others, too.

    The fact is, any normal person reading that sentence would conclude that due to climate change, BC tourism was tanking. That impression, as we have seen, would be quite false. The fact that a non-false interpretation can be defended by an unusually expansive interpretation of key words is nothing but sophistry.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: