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This article was published 3/11/2018 (898 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While Manitoban politicians spar over whether a carbon tax should be imposed on the province, David Suzuki believes that argument is ancient history.
Canadian politicians, he said, should opt for taxes far beyond those proposed so far.
The B.C.-based geneticist and broadcaster was in Winnipeg this week to promote local environmentalist Ian Mauro’s latest documentary, Beyond Climate – the third in a trio of films Suzuki narrates about how climate change is impacting different regions of Canada. Beyond Climate focused solely on British Columbia and was screened Friday at the University of Winnipeg. (This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.)
Q: What do you hope audiences take away from Beyond Climate?
A: "When I suggested we do the film on B.C., I was still saying, ‘We’ve got some hardcore people to convince that climate change is real.’ Now, I think that reality has just overwhelmed us and I think that you really have to be missing a few screws if you think climate change isn’t happening. It’s happening and the scientific evidence is very, very clear – we’re at the heart of the problem.
"And now the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report from Oct. 8 is the definitive document saying we can’t fool around any longer debating. We’ve got a big challenge if we are to prevent temperature from rising above a catastrophic level, and that is 1.5 degrees (C) above pre-industrial levels. We’ve already increased it by one degree and this document claims that we can keep it at 1.5 (C) if every country reduces its fossil fuel use by 45 per cent by 2030, and by 100 per cent by 2050.
"We’ve now got a call that is comparable to the call when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941. After that event, nobody said, ‘Those damn Liberals, they want to spend us into poverty.’ Nobody said, ‘This is a democratic or a republican issue.’ Nobody worried about the economic cost… We’ve got a challenge: how to create a peacetime economy in which our primary goal is to make a massive transition of our energy usage."
Q: Climate change is still very much a political debate. What’s the shift that’s going to make this a non-partisan issue?
"I’ve always said the problem with politicians is not politicians – it’s politics. It’s the game they play within. And most politicians now get in with the support of corporations, so they think supporting corporate agendas is the best thing for Canada. So we’ve got to now change them.
"We’ve got a challenge: how to create a peacetime economy in which our primary goal is to make a massive transition of our energy usage”
"They’re servants, they’re there on our behalf – on the public’s behalf – to look out for our future. And just because children don’t vote, that shouldn’t mean that they’re off the agenda… We have to break that corporate agenda and subsume that to a bigger issue, which is what kind of a world are we leaving for our children?"
Q: Is it possible to fight climate change without putting a price on carbon?
"I think a price on carbon is an instrument that we have. We need much more than that. But I talked to Preston Manning (the Albertan conservative, who founded Canada’s Reform Party) years ago, and he said, ‘Of course we have to put a price on carbon. That’s good economics.’ You want to use taxation as a tool to encourage good behaviour.
"Right now, we have to massively get off fossil fuels and we’ve got to do all we can to encourage that. And (carbon pricing) is just one instrument. We spend so much time arguing about whether you should have a carbon tax or whether you should have, I don’t know what the other instrument is… But I want to remind you that Sweden, which is a northern country like Canada, imposed a carbon tax in 1992 (of) $130 per tonne. We’re quibbling over $10 or $15 or $50 (per tonne)… During that time the tax was $130 per tonne, the Swedish economy grew by 40 per cent.
"So now let’s not waste time on that. Let’s get a carbon tax in and let’s start with a much bigger tax than either the Liberals or any of the other governments are speaking of. But certainly what (Premier) Doug Ford is doing in Ontario is absolutely crazy, because this is not a political issue any longer. It’s not a political football. Stop behaving as if it’s, ‘Oh it’s those greens who care about the environment and we don’t give a damn because the economy is our highest priority.' This is Pearl Harbor and let’s act on it -- together."