The House

Midweek podcast: Meet the Canadian behind the frank U.S. climate report

This week on The House midweek podcast we talk to the Canadian scientist who helped author the exhaustive draft report on climate change, now awaiting approval from U.S. President Donald Trump's administration. Then, Senator Bob Runciman gives a final interview before leaving the Red Chamber.
This spring the federal government released details of how it plans to put a "price on pollution" that would ensure a carbon price of at least 11 cents a litre on gasoline in all provinces by 2022 but will include flexibility for provinces working towards their own plans. (Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

A Canadian scientist who helped author the exhaustive draft report on climate change awaiting approval from U.S. President Donald Trumps' administration says Canada is on the right path implementing a national carbon tax.

The U.S. report, written by scientists from 13 federal agencies, concludes that the United States is already feeling the negative impacts of climate change, with a stark increase in the frequency of heat waves, heavy rains and other extreme weather over the last four decades.

"The reality is, we need that policy mechanism to point us in the right direction because otherwise, we as humans are just resistant to change. We're like, 'Why can't we do it the way we've always done it?' Well, we can't because we've found out there are side effects," Katharine Hayhoe, director of Texas Tech University Climate Science Center, told Chris Hall in an interview on CBC Radio's The House.

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe is one of the lead authors of the draft climate change report written by scientists from 13 federal agencies. (Ashley Rodgers/Texas Tech University)

"Which of these policies is best is not really a scientific question. As a human being though, I do support a price on carbon because it actually allows the free market to then kick in and say, 'Ok you have a  choice. You pay for your choices but if you really want to drive a gas guzzler you still can. Nobody is trying to tell you you can't.'"

The report, which is part of the National Climate Assessment, calls the long-term evidence that global warming, is being driven by human activities "unambiguous."

"Because this document is based on the solid, peer-reviewed science of climate change it does flatly contradict many of the statements people in the U.S administration have made over the past year," Hayhoe said.

Trump has called climate change a "total con job" and "hoax" perpetrated to harm U.S. economic competitiveness, while the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, has cast doubt on whether human behaviour has contributed to the planet's warming.

While a version of the report was available online for months, it made headlines on Monday when the New York Times published a copy.

The Trump administration has until Aug. 18 to review the final stage of the report. After that, they can approve the report, reject it, or conditionally approve with revisions. 

"We don't have any indication which of those three options will happen," said Hayhoe.

Runciman says goodbye 

Ontario Minister of Public Safety and Security Bob Runciman frowns during a news conference on Parliament Hill , January 3, 2003, in Ottawa. Runciman called on the federal government to suspend implementation of its gun registry until the Auditor General completes an audit of the program. (CP PHOTO/Dave Chan) (Dave Chan/Canadian Press)

At the stroke of midnight Bob Runciman will no longer be a Conservative senator.

The former Ontario MPP turns 75 on Thursday, reaching the Red Chamber's mandatory retirement age. 

Runciman was appointed back in 2010 under then prime minister Stephen Harper.

"I think it's an effective place today and perhaps arguably more effective with the recent additions. I think we are being more activist and that can be good, but it also has some potential downsides," he said, referring to the new Independent senators appointed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

As chair of the legal and constitutional affairs committee, Runciman helped author a report on court delays, oversaw the rewriting of the law relating to prostitution, and the passage of a law to deal with physician-assisted suicide.

On the eve of his departure, Runciman said he still wishes the Senate had moved to an elected body.

"The whole issue comes back to accountability and that's where I continue to have reservations," he said.

"I think an important body like that should have a significant degree of accountability to the taxpayers and people of this country, and that's missing. And we'll continue to miss until someone is prepared to come to grips with it," he said.