Achieving Net Zero for Nova Scotia: can we take a lead from Dr. Strang? 26Jun2021

“Achieving net-zero emissions means our economy either emits no greenhouse gas emissions or offsets its emissions, for example, through actions such as tree planting or employing technologies that can capture carbon before it is released into the air.” From canada/ca: Net-Zero Emissions by 2050

 The pandemic & Dr. Strang have taught us a lot about how to use ‘the science’ to deal with complex issues, and to date, at least, we have  done it better than most other jurisdictions; why not apply the same approach to achieve Net Zero for Nova Scotia?

“Nova Scotia will be the first province in Canada to achieve carbon neutrality,” said Lieutenant Governor Arthur LeBlanc in the first throne speech after Iain Rankin became premier, echoing Rankin’s campaign promises (quoted on Mar 9, 2021)

Iain Rankin promoted his environmental agenda as a major plank in his successful campaign to  replace Premier McNeil as premier of Nova Scotia.

Now with the feds widely expected to call an election in the fall, there is speculation that Rankin could call a provincial election earlier. (The second McNeil government was elected on May 30, 2017; an election must be called within 5 years, i.e. by May 30, 2022)

So far, however, the Rankin government’s actions or lack of action on some key environmental issues have not won them credos amongst the ‘environmental community’, notably in relation to

Owls Head; opposition to developing a golf course on this  rare,  coastal barrens site  has continued to grow.
– Forestry: Rankin announced that there would be No Moratorium on clearcutting/even-aged management while we wait, seemingly forever, for the Lahey recommendations to be implemented.
Biodiversity Act – this was considered ‘Rankin’s Baby’ from his days as Minister of DNR/Lands & Forestry but he quickly backed off on applying it to private lands following a concerted campaign by ForestNS and allies, leading at least one once moderate critic to call for a cessation of all logging on Crown lands

On Monday coming up (June 28, 2021) the feds will release their Climate Change Adaptation Report.

I am not a fan overall of the federal Liberal’s progress on the climate change front, but I was pleased that earlier in the year  a “the federal environment minister… named a group of outside experts who will advise him on the best way Canada can get its carbon pollution to net zero by 2050” (National Observer story Feb 26, 2021) and I was impressed with the membership of the group.

In particular I was pleased to see that the member with the most scientific climate change creds, Professor Simon Donner of the  Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, has a strong background in Atmospheric and Ocean Sciences.  Such scientists are generally regarded as holding  the most objective and comprehensive perspectives overall on climate change and how to tackle it  (e.g., James Hanson‘s academic field was atmospheric physics, his 1967 thesis  on The atmosphere of Venus : a dust insulation model). Prof Donner is clearly well qualified and respected and I think can  be broadly  perceived as non-biased – I don’t think that some of the top climate scientists working directly for Natural Resources Canada would be so perceived, regardless of what the reality might be.

We have such people outside of government in Nova Scotia and,  I suggest, it would generate  public confidence  and also provide cover for whoever is premier to make controversial decisions that really address climate change for government – and the public – to actively engage them.

It’s also opportune  because of the successes we have realized in Nova Scotia in regard to the pandemic from respecting and following the advice of Dr. Robert Strang, and the widespread support for doing so.

That’s not been without its bumps along the way, but Dr. Strang has been a steady hand at the tiller, and responded when the winds – the actual level of pandemic or our understanding of it – changed. The experience has taught us a lot about how to use ‘the science’ to deal with complex issues, and to date, at least, we have  done it better than most other jurisdictions.

I think it is key that Dr. Strang is not,  and is not seen as a political appointee, also that he is seen as quite independent and has been able to speak often and very frankly about the ins and outs, the certainties and the uncertainties, of our response to the pandemic. Notes the Wikipedia entry on Dr. Strang,

Strang has been an anti-smoking advocate and an outspoken critic of pseudoscience[5] and misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. – Wikipedia

In the public domain,  climate science is fraught with pseudoscience, misinformation and  many self-appointed experts, while the science itself is complex and continually evolving, like that surrounding Covid-19.

So in developing our path to carbon neutrality/Net Zero, why not follow the same approach that we have successfully followed in relation to Covid-19? It could begin with the appointment of a highly qualified scientific advisor or small group of scientific advisors, drawn from outside of government  and giving him or her (or them) a high degree of independence, and also reporting to the public  at the same time that they report to government (as  Lahey did with the Independent Review).


I met Dr. Strang fairly early on after he came to NS  (1999) and was the Medical Officer of Health for the  Capital District Health Authority. I interacted with him on several occasions one on one or in small groups.  Dr. Strang was not one to immediately endorse anything, but he gave everyone a respectful hearing. In connection with writing this post, I checked out Robert Strang on Wikipedia and was amazed to read that he had played for the Canada men’s national rugby union team;  after getting his medical degree, he  served as a team doctor for the same team. I never head a word about his rugby career in side chats with him, nor have I heard him using rugby analogies in his public discussions of health issues – but evidently that background has been a big factor in his success as ‘Nova Scotia’s Covid Doctor’.* Dr. Strang’s modesty is another plus for Nova Scotians who  generally  appreciate modesty.
*A quick search brought up this informative piece by Bryan Ray for CBC News : How rugby prepared Dr. Strang for Nova Scotia’s COVID-19 pandemic (Posted: Jan 01, 2021)

Related Links

Canada’s environment minister names expert group on net-zero emissions
By Carl Meyer | News, Ottawa Insider | February 26th 2021 NationalObserver

Net-Zero Advisory Body
Government of Canada website

14 people are mapping Canada’s path to net-zero emissions — can they do it?
CBC News · Posted: Apr 01, 2021

Canada to Release Climate Change Adaptation Report
Media Advisory – June 25, 2021 “On June 28, 2021, Natural Resources Canada will host a technical briefing for members of the media for the release of Canada in a Changing Climate: National Issues Report.”

Natural climate solutions for Canada
C. Ronnie Drever et al., in Science Advances 04 Jun 2021. View related CBC article June 4, 2021

Senators should pass the Liberals’ imperfect climate bill
By Shawn McCarthy on, Jun 24, 2021 “It’s hard to see how Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole can make political gains if his party stands accused of blocking greater transparency and accountability in climate-change policies.”

A few related posts on NSFN

Is High Production Forestry compatible with the Nova Scotia Premier’s commitment to carbon neutrality? 11Mar2021
Posted on March 11, 2021

Canada’s faulty forest carbon accounting laid bare 30Mar2020
Posted on March 30, 2020 by admin

Marcus Zwicker: Managed forests sequester more carbon than unmanaged forests
Posted on February 20, 2019 by admin

In 2020, strict standards and transparency are required for Nova Scotia’s forest chipping/bioenergy projects to be credible as “good for the environment” 11Feb2020
Posted on February 11, 2020 by admin

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