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Climate change in spotlight after comments from new Sask. environment minister

In a portfolio that includes landfills, forestry and water quality, the government says new Environment Minister Herb Cox may need more time before fully commenting on climate change. File / Global News

REGINA – Moments after being sworn in, Saskatchewan’s new Environment Minister wasn’t willing to take a clear stance on global warming.

“Those are the kinds of things I want to talk with my officials about and (see) where we’re at as far as the science goes,” Herb Cox said.

While he went on to say climate change isn’t being made up and is “something we all need to be concerned about,” Cox is being criticized for not fully standing behind his belief in climate change.

Scientists say, overwhelmingly, the planet is getting warmer every decade, with the trend speeding up since 2000.

Climate researchers want to see more politicians take notice.

“They’re there to manage their portfolio and their ministry,” said David Sauchyn, a senior research scientist at the University of Regina’s Prairie Adaptation Research Collaborative. “They’re not there to learn about the science of climate change.”

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READ MORE: Global CO2 levels reach ‘astounding’ record high

Sauchyn says governments need to be more diligent on climate change initiatives and set more aggressive targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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Peter Leavitt, who runs the U of R’s Institute of Environmental Change and Society, says he expects an improved long-term vision from the Saskatchewan government to address climate challenges as an election nears in spring 2016.

Both are willing to cut Cox slack for his comments, which came the first day on the job as Environment Minister.

Moments after being sworn in, Saskatchewan’s new Environment Minister Herb Cox wasn’t willing to take a clear stance on global warming. Matt Myers / Global News

“I wouldn’t tell politicians what to do,” Sauchyn said. “I would just show them the facts about global warming and I would tell them the risks if they don’t do something about it.”

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NDP environment critic Cathy Sproule isn’t so forgiving; the Opposition says funding for climate change initiatives under the Sask. Party has been cut by 85 per cent.

“Most people are far more up to speed on (environmental issues) than the current minister,” Sproule said. “To me, it’s just a sign of the weakness in the backbenches this premier has.”

READ MORE: Carbon capture essential for action on climate change, Wall says

A government spokesperson pointed to key programs aimed at reducing emissions, including the Boundary Dam carbon capture project.

In a portfolio that includes landfills, forestry and water quality, the government says Cox, as a new minister, may need more time before fully commenting on climate change.

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