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Weaver gives B.C. legislature polite touch

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VANCOUVER -- Andrew Weaver, a leading expert on global warming who shares the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, has, at least temporarily, added a new title to his already impressive resumé.

Understanding that climate change is already affecting the human species, Weaver successfully contested the Victoria-area Oak Bay-Gordon Head seat in the recent B.C. election and now sits as the only Green Party provincial politician in Canada.

While he has only been an MLA for a few months, Weaver is garnering extremely positive reviews for his hard-work ethic, his intelligent analysis on energy and environment issues and his fearless deconstruction of both provincial Liberal and NDP positions that he considers unsustainable and wrong.

In a legislature that has been running on or idling near empty for far too long, Weaver is a breath of fresh air. And he's polite, too.

Almost perpetually polarized and too often bereft of new ideas, the legislature can be a nasty battleground where mocking bullies reign supreme, where science is often distorted to augment a political agenda that mostly chooses jobs over the environment.

Enter Weaver, 52, a longtime climate professor and academic star at the University of Victoria.

According to his official website, Weaver believes the tone of the conversation in B.C.'s legislature needs to be changed. "I chose to run for the Green Party as it values strong, independent voices and credible, evidence-based ideas."

The author or co-author of more than 200 peer-reviewed, scientific papers, Weaver has long contributed to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which six years ago shared the Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. vice-president Al Gore for their efforts to spread greater knowledge about man-made climate change and the need to counteract it.

Relentlessly fair and reasonable, Weaver believes climate change is the biggest challenge humans face. What is needed, he says, are mechanisms that can put an escalating price on carbon while society continues to embrace clean-tech industries and green technologies.

But Weaver is far from being a one-trick, climate-change pony. Indeed, he says he gets great satisfaction from being able to deal with the micro, and sometimes mundane, problems raised by his constituents.

"Dealing with climate change is a challenge," he says in an interview. "I like to help people -- you can solve real problems with real people."

He also said it has not been difficult to shift from having a scientific adviser's position to serving a more activist politician's role. "In science, you find a problem and you try and solve it. In politics, it's the same."

Weaver is quick to praise any ideological position that makes sense to him. He recently praised the government for moving the previously independent Pacific Carbon Trust into the environment ministry in order to save $5.6 million annually. He was also supportive of a move to expand the Carbon Neutral Capital Program, which supports school districts to fund energy-efficiency projects, to include hospitals and post-secondary institutions.

While the legislature has not sat much since the May election, in which the Liberals formed a majority government, Weaver has repeatedly pointed out the folly of Premier Christy Clark's grand ambition to transform B.C. into an international energy powerhouse over the next century by developing and exporting large amounts of liquefied natural gas to Asia. To him, such a plan is a pipe dream when the global needs for LNG and the vast supplies of the fuel in other parts of the world are considered.

It's a long time until the 2017 election, of course, but Weaver is clearly enjoying himself in his new role, one that allows him to let science and reason trump ideology and party politics.

"I love this job," he says. "I find it so rewarding."

In a province where politics is often divisive, cruel and ineffective, Weaver's gentle, forthright philosophy just might be able to change the conversation -- be it climate-change mitigation or spending tax dollars efficiently -- after all. Let's hope so.

Chris Rose is the Winnipeg Free Press West Coast correspondent.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 25, 2013 A9

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