The Current

What Trump's climate change denial means for Canada

If president-elect Donald Trump doesn't believe the science, how do you combat climate change? The Current looks into the new reality of environment protection and how it will factor in Canada's big decisions— from pipelines to carbon taxes.
Now that Donald Trump is president-elect, Canada no longer has an ally in the United States on climate change. (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

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The day after Donald Trump's election win, Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall said it  made no sense for Canada to push ahead with a carbon tax, now that it seems America  — our biggest trading partner, and competitor —  would not be going in that direction.

'There is tremendous economic disadvantage from not acting in the fight against climate change ... for not pushing towards cleaner jobs and reducing emissions, towards not showing leadership at a time where the world is looking for leadership." - Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Nov. 10

Under a Trump administration, senior policy advisor with Friends of the Earth Canada John Bennett, tells The Current's Friday host Kelly Crowe that Canada will be taking "another huge step backwards."

"Twenty-five years of work is probably going to go for nought," Bennett says. "And it's going to have huge implications for — not only Canadians — but for people around the world."

Bennett predicts the impact of Trump's policies will affect more than just the environment.

"He's probably going to kill far more people by not acting on climate change than he will no matter what military operations he launches in the next four years." 

Bennett says the industry will take this opportunity to push back on paying carbon fees if the U.S. isn't doing it  — making it impossible to impose on Canada. 

Stunned participants at UN climate talks in Marrakesh insisted that climate change denier Donald Trump cannot derail the global shift to clean energy. (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

If environmentalists want to efficiently address their concerns, former minister of natural resources Joe Oliver says they need to rethink strategy and tactics, and "not exaggerate the problem."

"They should be focusing on things that cost the least and achieve the most," Oliver tells Crowe.

He suggests mitigation and investment in science and technology as the best way forward.

According to Anna-Liisa Aunio, an environmentalist and sociology professor at Dawson College, Canada tends to follow step with the U.S. on environmental policy and she tells Crowe now is the time to focus on the long-term consequences of our relationship with our neighours.

"Justin Trudeau is going to have to think long and hard about — not just whether or not it is going to have a significant impact on their carbon tax now — but for years to come."   
Will Trudeau's approach to climate change still work with Trump as president? (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

Aunio tells Crowe that the Alberta protests against carbon tax at a provincial level shows just how worried people are about their future — the resistance is because their pocket books are taking a hit.

"The current carbon tax as it is currently structured doesn't seem to speak to those needs in terms of being able to pay for your bills when you are living paycheque-to-paycheque."

Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University, agrees that the cost to the working poor and middle-class is a key message to focus on — one that Trump's campaign successfully addressed.

"Donald Trump has given voice to the frustration from people who feel — not that the goals are wrong — but that they are paying really heavy prices and it's not fair," Sands tells Crowe.

Sands gives Trump's skepticism credit and says if we continue to include voters moving forward then there's a chance to "get Americans back in the tent."

"But we have to start recognizing this differential cost."

"If we take his voters seriously and we can marry some of our social justice concern with our environmental justice concern," Sands says. "There is a way forward that is more compassionate but doesn't necessarily deviate from the larger goal."

Listen to the full segment.

This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli and Kristin Nelson.