The House

'Connecting with people': The quest for common ground on climate change

Atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe and sustainable energy economist Mark Jaccard join host Chris Hall to talk about how to talk about climate change. Plus, we speak with Donald Savoie, scholar of Canadian public administration, about his magnum opus Democracy in Canada: The Disintegration of Our Institutions, and discuss tackling social isolation with Baroness Diana Barran, the U.K.’s "minister of loneliness".
How do we talk about climate change with people who think we're wrong? Atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe suggests a focus on what unites us rather than what divides us. (Ashley Rodgers/Texas Tech University)
Listen to the full episode49:41

It's the question that's been hanging over the climate change debate since the beginning: how do you talk about the problem with people who think you're wrong?

Start by focusing on what unites us rather than what divides us, said atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe.

"That is a lot easier said than done, because it seems like our entire public discourse these days is built on what divides us, on the tiny fraction of what we disagree on," Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Texas, told The House in an interview recorded in mid-December.

"Whereas most of us, if we actually sat down and had a genuine conversation, we would agree that we want to help other people, we want to do what's right. We're just disagreeing over how to get that done.

"Connecting with people on what we share — whether it is our faith, the sense of the place where we live, the things that we value, the activities that we participate in — is key to having positive conversations that are constructive, that actually end up in a place where we can agree on solutions, rather than ending up with both of our heads exploding."

As one decade ends and another begins, atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe and sustainable energy economist Mark Jaccard join Chris Hall to highlight the urgent and specific actions needed from everyday citizens and governments alike because the evidence is clear: doing nothing isn’t an option. 19:01

Hayhoe and Mark Jaccard, who teaches in the School of Resource and Environmental Management at Vancouver's Simon Fraser University, spoke to host Chris Hall about specific steps governments and private citizens ought to take right now to fight climate change.

Jaccard said a strategy to put a price on carbon, such as Canada's carbon tax, is an economically efficient way to reduce emissions. So is regulation, he added.

"Most of the heavy lifting around the world is not done with carbon pricing," Jaccard said. "It's done with regulation."

From Ontario to British Columbia to California to Scandinavia, regulations can be economically efficient, he said.

"And so, the good news is that we don't need to have silly fights over the exactly correct policy."

Debriefing democracy with Donald Savoie

Donald Savoie, left, walks with Justice John Gomery in 2005.

Donald Savoie has been thinking and writing about democracy and public administration in Canada for decades. He says he sees his 2019 book Democracy in Canada: The Disintegration of Our Institutions as his magnum opus.

In the 492-page book, Savoie — the Canada Research Chair in public administration at the University of Moncton and author of many other books — argues Canada's representative democracy is confronting significant challenges as it enters 2020. Chief among those challenges, he said, is the federal government's growing inability to create and articulate policies that resonate in all regions of the country.

Savoie's book leaves no stone unturned, examining the state of the judiciary, the media and the federal bureaucracy in the early 21st century.

Donald Savoie, the granddaddy of Canada’s public administration, on his magnum opus, Democracy in Canada: The Disintegration of Our Institutions. 16:04

But despite the headwinds facing Canada in the coming decade, Savoie said that Canadians still enjoy the benefits of one of the most solid democracies anywhere in the world.

"Look south of the border. I think no Canadian would want to trade places with (the) system they have, and certainly their party leaders," Savoie told The House in a pre-recorded interview taped in mid-December.

"We are a pretty tolerant society. We still have a deep respect for the law. We would like our Parliament to work better. We know there are flaws in the way we operate, in the way our system operates and the way our institutions operate.

"We know and we see the flaws. We know we could do better, but when we compare to Britain, the U.S., we stand in pretty good shape.

"I just want to make it better."

Meet the U.K.'s 'loneliness minister'

Studies say loneliness can have a negative impact on health. (Pedro Ribeiro Simoes/Flickr)

You might not see loneliness as a problem for governments to tackle, but the woman assigned that task on behalf of the U.K. government said she sees her new role "touching a chord" with people across the United Kingdom.

Baroness Diana Barran was re-appointed to the position in December following the Conservative Party's sweeping election victory. She is the second person to hold the job, which was created in 2018 by then-prime minister Theresa May after a U.K. government study found that nearly nine million Britons were suffering from loneliness — an emotional state many doctors say is linked to serious health conditions.

Baroness Diana Barran, the U.K.’s minister of loneliness, on the challenge of tackling social isolation. 6:38

"When you mention it, people absolutely light up, and they always tell you their story of either what's happening in their community to help with loneliness or where there's a group of hidden lonely people that I've missed and I need to go and talk to," Barran told The House in an interview taped in mid-December.

"I absolutely understand why people might have reservations about it, but in terms of addressing loneliness, we do need a number of government departments to get involved. I'm sure it's no different in Canada than it is here. Unless you have somebody who is actively encouraging that involvement, it can get lost.

"At the risk of stating the obvious, the same person can be both lonely and have huge things to offer, so I genuinely believe that it adds real value in terms of how we can respond. And it definitely is touching a human chord in the people I speak to."

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