Recalling Canada's Former, Climate Change-Denying Prime Minister

There are similarities between the policy actions of former Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative government and the nascent Trump Administration. The differences in approach between these two examples are also telling.

2 minute read

January 27, 2017, 7:00 AM PST

By James Brasuell @CasualBrasuell


Former Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Art Babych / Shutterstock

The news so far regarding to the Trump Administration's approach to environmental policy has been unsurprising, but alarming nonetheless.

In one week, news leaked of the administration's plans to freeze grants at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Andrew Revkin and Jesse Eisinger reported on the freeze, as did Katie Sheppard. Brad Plumer followed with an explainer post that provides additional information about EPA grants.

The Trump Administration will include former Oklahoma Attorney General and devout climate change denier Scott Pruitt, who has been tapped to lead the EPA. Planetizen correspondent Irvin Dawid has provided continuing coverage of the implications of that choice by President Trump.

The Trump Administration has also removed all climate change information from the White House website and shut down the Twitter handle of Badlands National Park for tweeting climate change research.

For those looking for some precedent to these anti-environmentalist actions, look no farther than the U.S.'s neighbor to the north, Canada. An article by Sarah Zhang takes a look at Stephen Harper, who served as the prime minister of the Canadian government from 2006 to 2015.

According to Zhang, under Harper, "the Canadian government routinely prevented scientists from talking to the media, while downplaying the effects of climate change."

The climax in what some have called Canada’s war on science was Bill C-38, a 2012 budget bill that stealthily stripped away environmental protections and cut funding at research institutes around the country. Government scientists lost their jobs, and monitoring stations shut down.

What stemmed the tide of anti-environmentalist action in Harper's Canada? Protests, and lots of them. To get more perspective on Harper's policies, and how they might inform an understanding of the actions of the Trump Administration, Zhang speaks with Chris Turner, a Calgary-based environmental journalist and author of The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada.

Thursday, January 26, 2017 in The Atlantic

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