Environment Minister Scrapped Public Statement Saying Climate Change is Human-Caused and “Serious,” Internal Documents Show

A proposed public statement that acknowledged humans were “mostly responsible for climate change” and that Environment Canada took this threat “seriously” was dropped by environment minister Leona Aglukkaq in favour of a watered-down partisan message that made no meaningful mention of the issue of climate change, new documents show. The proposed statement, drafted for the release of the 2013 assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), was released to Postmedia’s Mike De Souza through access to information legislation.

The internal documents were a part of a larger Environment Canada communications strategy designed to raise awareness about climate change and the link between fossil fuel consumption and global warming, reports De Souza.

The statement, prepared for minister Aglukkaq, recommended she state Canada “takes climate change seriously, and recognizes the scientific findings that conclude that human activities are mostly responsible for this change.”

The 2013 IPCC report, the most definitive piece of scientific literature on climate change, concluded it was “extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming” in recent decades.

Upon release of that report, minister Aglukkaq read a new statement, using the opportunity to praise the Harper government for its action on climate change and condemn opposition parties for their policies.

Unlike the previous Liberal government, under whose watch greenhouse gas emissions rose by almost 30 per cent, or the NDP, who want a $21 billion carbon tax, our Government is actually reducing greenhouse gases and standing up for Canadian jobs,” she said in a statement delivered September 27.

The two statements can be compared below:

Recommended statement:

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I would like to thank and congratulate the Canadian scientists who worked on the Working Group I contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fifth Assessment Report.

The Government of Canada takes climate change seriously, and recognizes the scientific findings that conclude that human activities are mostly responsible for this change. As an Arctic nation, Canada profoundly understands the impacts of climate change and is taking action on many fronts to address climate change.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change continues to provide policy-relevant scientific assessments that clearly document the significant changes underway in the climate system. Today’s report builds on the tradition of excellence that earned the IPCC the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007.

Ten Canadian scientists had lead roles and many others made contributions to this report. Their scientific expertise continues to improve our collective understanding of climate change.

This work once again showcases the world-class science that exists in the Government of Canada and throughout the Canadian scientific community. The Government of Canada takes great pride in the work of all its scientists, who contribute every day to the assessment and advancement of science, both at home and on the international stage.

Actual statement:

As an Arctic nation, Canada has been playing a leadership role in addressing climate change. Our Government has already taken action on two of the largest sources of emissions – namely transportation and coal-fired electricity. In fact, we were the first country to phase out traditional coal power generation. These actions are benefiting Canadians and their families.

Unlike the previous Liberal government, under whose watch greenhouse gas emissions rose by almost 30 per cent, or the NDP, who want a $21 billion carbon tax, our Government is actually reducing greenhouse gases and standing up for Canadian jobs.

The Government of Canada takes great pride in the work of all its scientists, who contribute every day to the assessment and advancement of science, both at home and on the international stage.

It was a 100 per cent partisan attack document,” NDP environment critic Megan Leslie told Postmedia. “It didn’t talk about the issue of climate change.”

The minister and the government have blinders on because it doesn’t suit their communications strategy,” Liberal environment critic John McKay told Postmedia. “I don’t think she actually runs the department. I think it is run out of the PMO.”

Green Party leader Elizabeth May said the statement had been “watered down politically.”

It’s further indication that Stephen Harper and his cabinet simply don’t understand that the climate is a huge threat to Canada, to our kids, to our economy and we’re running out of time,” she said. “Stephen Harper doesn’t want to actually do anything that by his (opinion) impedes the oil and gas industry.”