Minister McKenna: where’s the science?

On 16 June 2017, the Qualicum Institute submitted an Environmental Petition to the Canadian Commissioner for Environment and Sustainable Development.
The petition consisted of nine questions, but the first question contained our central concern:

“What peer reviewed science—not neoclassical economics—is the government relying on to make the claim that we don’t need to choose between a healthy environment and a strong, growing economy?”

We know from the 2014 IPCC report that economic growth and population growth are the primary drivers of CO2 emissions and biodiversity loss: “Globally, economic and population growth continue to be the most important drivers of increases in CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion. The contribution of population growth between 2000 and 2010 remained roughly identical to that of the previous three decades, while the contribution of economic growth has risen sharply (high confidence)”1. It follows, as many scientists have pointed out, that economic growth and a healthy, sustainable environment appear to be mutually exclusive goals. Peer-reviewed science has also shown that economic growth is the limiting factor to biodiversity conservation.2

This contradiction surely warrants, at the very least, implementation of the precautionary principle; in fact a prudent government would be working towards planned degrowth. But the Canadian government—indeed, most governments around the world—still aim for increased economic growth as a policy goal further exacerbating the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.

To review the lack of science in the Canadian government’s policy of continued economic growth, see our petition, the Minister’s response, and our critical review of the Minister’s response at Where’s the science?

1 IPCC report, 2014 (accessed 9 October 2019)
2 Czech, B. 2000. Economic growth as the limiting factor for wildlife conservation. Wildlife Society Bulletin 28:4–15. (accessed 9 October 2019).

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