He states that the media has to take responsibility for the fact that there is a notion that the issue of climate change is still controversial, even though the vast majority of climatologists in the world say something must be done.
DR. DAVID SUZUKI, ENVIRONMENTALIST AND BROADCASTER: In the United States, there has never been a science program in prime time television on any of the major American networks. So it’s not surprising to me that the public is very poorly served and ignorant about science. We spent several years trying to educate Canadian public about climate, what climate change was, what the causes were, and what the options were to avoid any worsening of the situation. Very, very little interest in terms of the media. Very hard to get stories on this. And the reason is it’s an ongoing process of education, and the media are very short, very immediate. They’re not interested in long-term education of the public. But at one point, Katherine Fitzpatrick, one of our campaigners, said, look, let’s forget about climate. What happens when you burn fossil fuels to the pollution at the ground level? And looking at the government’s data, we discovered that 16,000 Canadians die every year of air pollution from burning fossil fuels. The minute we said that, instant, instant interest from the public. Everybody is interested when it affects them or their children. Climate is a very difficult thing, because it’s a slow-motion catastrophe, and it’s much harder to get traction on that. But the minute Katrina hit and people saw, “Oh my God—has this got to do with climate change?” people got it. And I was just talking to a man from the States who said that the hurricanes Wilma and Katrina have had a huge impact on Americans. They’re suddenly taking climate change seriously, because they think they’re related. I think the media have to take a lot of responsibility for the fact that there is a notion that the issue of climate change is still controversial, so that when in Canada and on the CBC, when a program is presented on climate change, even though the vast majority of climatologists in the world are saying climate change is occurring and we’ve got to do something about it, there’s a handful of people, most of them paid for by the fossil fuel industry, that are saying no. And yet, in the name of balance, then we take this huge number of people that say it’s occurring, and we’ll take one representative, and then one representative from a tiny group of people that are saying no, and act as if they’re the same. And so we act as if it’s still a controversy. It’s not. And I think the media have perpetuated this tremendously. And of course the fossil fuel industry and the auto industry and many of the polluting industries have tried to support this small group of people that are saying, “No, climate change isn’t happening.” It’s always the same. The private sector fights, the automobile industry is one I think is absolutely disgusting what they have done. They fought against catalytic converters and said the cost was too great—it wouldn’t work. And they were finally forced to. And guess what? Now it cleaned up a lot of their emissions. They fought against seat belts like mad, said, “There’s no way we’re going to put them in. It’s going to cost too much.” For ten years they fought against airbags. They knew from their own evidence that airbags saved lives, and yet for ten years they fought Ralph Nader against airbags while tens of thousands of people died because they didn’t put airbags in. It’s absolutely disgusting. The pharmaceutical industry. The forest industry, the fishing industry, the fossil fuel industry, the auto industry, they always react the same way, and that’s certainly the way it is on climate change. They say, “Don’t regulate us, don’t regulate us. We’ll do it voluntarily, but don’t tell us what to do.” And they do nothing. It’s time we got government leadership and start setting the regulations. And you say, “You damn well live up to that. And if you don’t want to be in our country, get the hell out.” That’s my attitude. And you know what they’re doing right now? The auto industry, because they’ve refused to take government pressure to reduce their emissions, they said, “No, we can’t reduce our emissions that much,” what does the government do? They pull back and they don’t force them to meet standards. They say, “Okay, we’ll let the Canadian public do that then.” Now we’ve got to reduce our share more, because the automobile industry isn’t reducing their share. I think Canadians ought to be disgusted by this behavior and not accept their arguments any longer. It’s totally predictable. And let’s have the government do the right thing for a change. [Aside–Sorry. You pushed the wrong button.] The Bush administration, from the minute they came in, essentially declared that they’re going to be world bandits. They’re not going to abide by any international agreements. They said they will not abide by the World Court. They won’t have Americans go before a court outside of the United States. They said, “We’re not going to abide by the Nuclear Test-Ban-Treaty,” because they wanted to start testing again. They said that “We don’t want to enter into any kind of international land-mines treaty, and we sure don’t want to enter into the Kyoto agreement.” More and more Americans are embarrassed by this situation, and more and more Americans are saying, “We’ve got to ignore this administration and get on with it.” A hundred and eighty cities, mayors of cities in the United States, have now said, “Look, we’re going to go on and beat Kyoto, and we’re going to go for deeper cuts in the long run.” You’ve got the governor of California, for Heaven’s sakes, Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, who’s now setting targets for California way beyond Kyoto for the entire state. You’ve got New York. You’ve got the eastern states that are now working together with the premiers of the eastern part of Canada and saying, “We’ve got to get on with not only reducing our emissions but mitigating the impacts, because we’re already feeling the effects.” And I think Hurricane Katrina was a real slap in the face of the Bush administration that they haven’t still come to grips with, that the kinds of things that happened as a consequence of these terrible hurricanes are going to continue, and that if they don’t do something about it, they’re just going to be hit again and again with a reminder that climate change is happening and that it’s going to get more severe unless we begin to reduce our emissions. So I think the Bush government, I think in the upcoming elections, the interim elections, you’re going to see the American electorate say, “We want to get the environment back on the agenda.” That’s my prediction—you’re going to see Republicans lose. And I certainly will be interested who they run for the next election. But Bush has left a very bad legacy, and my bet is that Americans will reject that in the next presidential election.
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