Policy

Canada's Unmuzzled Scientists Call for Protection From Future Muzzling

It already feels like a long time ago.
 
Remember way, way back when Canada’s federal scientists were shackled to their laboratory tables, unable to speak out or walk freely in the light of day?
 
I don’t mean to sound trivial; the war on science in Canada was real and severe in its implications and in some places devastating in its consequences.
 
But looking back on what Canadians are calling the ‘dark decade’ already feels ridiculous somehow, like it’s a caricature of our past reality. How did things get so bad?
 
That’s something the scientific community at large is asking itself, in a serious attempt to prevent ideology-driven, anti-science policies from taking root once again.
 
“Science should never be silenced again,” Debi Daviau, president of the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), a union representing more than 15,000 federal scientists, said in a statement released Wednesday.

Canada Must Adapt to Low Oil and Gas Price Environment, International Energy Agency Warns

If Saudi Arabia’s oil minister’s dire warning about high-cost energy producers didn’t effectively get the message across that Canada needs to adjust to a new market reality, perhaps a new warning by the International Energy Agency (IEA) might.
 
“We are likely to see continued capacity increases (in) the near term, with growth slowing considerably, if not coming to a complete standstill, after the projects under construction are completed,” the IEA said in an oil market overview published Monday.
 
According to the IEA, Canada’s oil era may be coming to an end due to dramatically low prices, increasing environmental concerns, a lack of public support for pipelines and evolving climate policies.
 
In an in-depth review of Canada’s energy portfolio and policies released Thursday, the agency urged Canada to adopt strong climate goals as it considers future energy production.
 
“As a leading exporter of oil, coal, natural gas, uranium and hydropower, Canada is a cornerstone of global energy markets and energy security,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said as he presented the report, Energy Policies of IEA Countries – Canada 2015.

Half of Albertans Think Oilsands are Large Enough, Majority Want Stronger Climate Policies, According to New Poll

A poll of more than 1,800 Albertans conducted by EKOS Research Associates shows more than half the population wants the province to take stronger climate action by introducing policies that limit carbon emissions.

The poll, commissioned by the Pembina Institute, also found 50 per cent of Albertans are in support of a broad price on carbon that would apply to both consumers and producers. Support for a price on carbon jumped by another 10 to 20 per cent if the money generated from the tax were to go towards carbon reducing technologies or projects.

Results also show a large portion of Albertans (66 per cent) want to diversify the province’s economy rather than up the competitiveness of the oil and gas industry (29 per cent). Forty-eight per cent of Albertans who took the poll said they feel the oilsands are large enough or should be downsized.

It’s encouraging to see such strong support among Albertans for action on climate change,” Simon Dyer, Alberta regional director for the Pembina Institute, said.

This poll shows that the public is open to many of the solutions being considered, such as an economy-wide price on carbon pollution, or phasing out coal power and replacing it with renewables.”

Federal Leaders Have Never Been Asked About Science Policy in an Election Debate. Ever.

This is a guest post by Katie Gibbs, PhD, a biologist and the Executive Director of Evidence for Democracy and Alana Westwood, a PhD Candidate at Dalhousie University and research coordinator for Evidence for Democracy. Evidence for Democracy is a not-for-profit organization promoting the transparent use of evidence in government decision-making in Canada.

Science, unquestionably, improves our everyday lives.

The work of scientists is everywhere; their efforts are reflected in everything from the cleanliness of our water to the success of medical treatments to the smartphones glued to our hands.

Alberta’s First NDP Climate Victory May Have Nothing to Do With the Oilsands and Everything to Do With Coal

Back in March when the prospect of a majority NDP government in Alberta was still a twinkle in Rachel Notley’s eye, the to-be premier introduced a motion to phase out the province’s use of coal for electricity by 2030.

The evidence is clear that it is time to phase out coal powered electricity in the province in Alberta. Coal is one of the single largest pollutants in Alberta. It costs our health care millions of dollars every year and is a massive source of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said, urging then premier Jim Prentice and the Progressive Conservative party to “do the right thing.”

So now that Notley has taken the reins, will she follow through with her own ambitious plan?

Does the Harper Government Have the Credibility to be Re-Elected?

prime minister stephen harper

This is a guest post by author and filmmaker Michael Harris. The article originally appeared on iPolitics and is republished here with permission.

From the cold porches of January, 2015 stretches out like a thousand miles of gravel road.

The country is facing an election that will be nasty, brutish and long — from now until the vote occurs, whenever that may be. The writ period is essentially meaningless. Under the Conservatives, it’s always game on.

True to his word, Stephen Harper has transformed the country, largely by stealth. Canada is now a nation that spies on its friends, guests and citizens. It accepts foreign intelligence even when there is a likelihood that it was obtained by torture. The government lies to the electorate on policy matters. It accuses veterans of exaggerating their injuries in order to take the taxpayer for a ride. It washes its hands of any stake in the fate of 1,200 missing or murdered Aboriginal women. It does not practise unite-and-lead politics, but divide-and-conquer stratagems. A government, by any democratic measure, in disgrace.

Report: Federal Departments Muzzling Scientists, Engaging in Political Interference

stand up for science rally, zack embree, muzzling scientists, canada

Media policies in most Canadian government departments do not effectively encourage open communication between federal scientists and journalists, says a report released Wednesday.

Published by Evidence for Democracy (E4D) and Simon Fraser University (SFU), the report said more than 85 per cent of the 16 departments studied were assessed a grade of C or lower in terms of openness of communication, protection against political interference, rights to free speech, and protection for whistleblowers.

The 22-page report also said that when compared to grades for U.S. departments (scored by the Union of Concerned Scientists), all but one Canadian department performed worse than the U.S. average.

Overwhelmingly, current media policies do not meet the basic requirements for supporting open communication between federal scientists and the media,” Katie Gibbs, E4D’s executive director and an author on the report, said in an accompanying media release.

These policies could prevent taxpayer-funded scientists from sharing their expertise with the public on important issues from drug safety to climate change,” Gibbs said.

Future of Our Climate Depends on Next Fifteen Years of Investment, New Report States

fossil fuel subsidies, clean energy, better growth better climate, kris krug

Investments in renewable energies and low-carbon infrastructure can help the environment and the economy at the same time, says a comprehensive new report released Tuesday.

The report — Better Growth Better Climate — found that about US $90 trillion will likely be invested in infrastructure in the world’s cities, agriculture and energy systems over the next 15 years, unleashing multiple benefits including jobs, health, business productivity and quality of life.

The decisions we make now will determine the future of our economy and our climate,” Nicholas Stern, Co-Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, said in a media release.

If we choose low-carbon investment we can generate strong, high-quality growth – not just in the future, but now. But if we continue down the high-carbon route, climate change will bring severe risks to long-term prosperity,” he said.

Felipe Calderón, Chair of the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate, said the report refutes the idea that humankind must choose between fighting climate change or growing the world’s economy.

That is a false dilemma,” Calderón said. “Today’s report details compelling evidence on how technological change is driving new opportunities to improve growth, create jobs, boost company profits and spur economic development. The report sends a clear message to government and private sector leaders: we can improve the economy and tackle climate change at the same time.”

Canada Needs Some Serious Climate Honesty

climate oilsands, kris krug, mark jaccard, harper government

This is a guest post by Mark Jaccard, professor of sustainable energy at Simon Fraser University. 

In 2007, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government asked me and four other economists if we agreed with its study showing huge costs for Canada to meet its Kyoto commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2010. We all publicly agreed, much to the chagrin of the Liberals, NDP and Greens, who argued that Kyoto was still achievable without crashing the economy. It wasn’t.

As economists, we knew that the Liberal government of Jean Chrétien should have implemented effective policies right after signing Kyoto in 1997. It takes at least a decade to significantly reduce emissions via energy efficiency, switching to renewables, and perhaps capturing carbon dioxide from coal plants and oilsands. Each year of delay jacks up costs.

Mr. Harper’s government knew this too. Years later, when environment minister Peter Kent formally withdrew Canada from Kyoto, he charged the previous Liberal government with “incompetence” for not enacting necessary policies in time to meet their target.

Katie Gibbs: Canada's War on Science is Raising a New Generation of Science Advocates

Katie Gibbs. DeSmog Canada.

There has been a lot of discussion around Canada’s “War on Science” over the last two years, prompted by a major gathering of scientists in Ottawa during the summer of 2012 who announced the “Death of Evidence” in the country. The scientists marched in response to the infamous Budget Bill C-38 that killed funding for numerous federal science positions and research labs coast to coast. The rally’s lead organizer, scientist Katie Gibbs, says the Death of Evidence protest made way for a whole new breed of young Canadian scientists who are eager to stand up and defend their laboratories. It’s about more than just science, says Gibbs, it’s really all about democracy.

Katie Gibbs was known around the lab as the graduate student who cared deeply about the implications of her science. “While I was doing my PhD, I was kind of the rabble-rouser on the floor. You know, I always had volunteers coming to the lab to pick up posters, or storing protest signs under my desk, that sort of thing,” she told DeSmog Canada.

Most of the professors she worked with didn’t participate in any kind of advocacy, she said. “My supervisor, in particular, he wouldn’t even write a letter to the editor.”

In the summer of 2012, however, it wasn’t Gibbs pushing for the Death of Evidence rally, the event that forced Canada’s science crisis into the public eye. Instead a group of professors at the University of Ottawa began organizing a public event and turned to Gibbs when they realized they needed someone brave to be the face of the march.

What was interesting was that it was a group of professors that started thinking around the rally. My supervisor poked his head into my office one day and said a bunch of professors were meeting to talk about doing something in response to the Omnibus Budget Bill. He said, ‘does anybody want to come,’ and I was like ‘hells yeah!’” Gibbs said, adding she became lead organizer after that meeting.

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