Michael Mann: Canadians Should Fight Harper's War on Science and the U.S. Should Help

stephen harper

This is a guest post by distinguished climatologist Michael Mann. The article originally appeared on The Mark News.

The scientific community has long warned that environmental issues, especially climate change, need to be a global concern. Climatologist Michael Mann argues that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration is purposely obstructing the research that needs to take place to solve these problems.

In early 2013, the government of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper introduced new science communications procedures that threatened the publication rights of an American scientist who had been working in the Arctic with Canadian researchers since 2003.

This was the first time the Canadian government’s draconian confidentiality rules had infringed on the scientific freedom of an international academic – or, at least, it was the first time such an incident had been made known. Professor Andreas Muenchow from the University of Delaware publicly refused to sign a government agreement that threatened to “sign away [his] freedom to speak, publish, educate, learn and share.”

To many of us American scientists, this episode sadly came as little surprise. We have known for some time that the Canadian government has been silencing the voices of scientists speaking out on the threat of fossil-fuel extraction and burning and the damaging impacts they are having on our climate. I have close friends in the Canadian scientific community who say they have personally been subjected to these heavy-handed policies. Why? Because the implications of their research are inconvenient to the powerful fossil-fuel interests that seem to now run the Canadian government.

This is really just a page from the George W. Bush administration’s playbook, used to muzzle government scientists in the United States only six years ago. In his book Censoring Science, for instance, Mark Bowen details the Bush administration’s efforts to silence James Hansen, then director and leading scientist of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

The Harper administration has made it clear that all research related to Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), even that conducted with the help of outside parties, is “deemed to be confidential.” According to its new policy, no involved party “may release such information to others in any way whatsoever without prior written authorization of the other party.” Silently released behind the doors of the DFO, the new protocol only came to light after an anonymous researcher published the document online.

The new restrictions constitute just one of many new protocols that the Harper government has introduced since 2006 that restrict the flow of scientific communication, not just in Canada, but within the global scientific community. And those rules are paired with severe monitoring and oversight of federal science employees.

Federal government handlers often chaperone Canada’s scientists at international scientific conferences, monitoring their public-speaking engagements and presentations and participating in interviews with the media to limit any unsanctioned chitchat. These policies are disturbingly reminiscent of the George W. Bush administration’s attempts to censor the views of U.S. government scientists speaking out on the threat of fossil-fuel burning and human-caused climate change.

Government interference in scientific research in Canada extends well beyond message control. Numerous scientific institutions and research stations across the country have been shuttered, including the world-famous Experimental Lakes Area (ELA), home to groundbreaking research on freshwater ecosystems and the effects that industrial pollutants have on them.

My own experiences at the center of the climate-change debate, which I’ve recounted in my book The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars, began a decade and a half ago, when I published what is now popularly known as “the hockey-stick graph.” The graph clearly showed the unprecedented nature of the recent rise in temperature, and was a threat to entrenched fossil-fuel interests. That placed me in the crosshairs of industry front groups and hired guns that attempted to discredit the science by attacking individual scientists like myself.

Sadly, Canada is the latest front in the expanding battlefield, as Chris Turner indicates in his new book, The War on Science:

A war on science, after all, is ultimately a war on scientists … Canada has become a place where the best and brightest scientists are less and less likely to feel welcome … Who would want to work in an environment so anxious and chaotic, under an authority so arbitrary, for a nation so contemptuous [of] certain kinds of science that it seems to have all [but] reneged on its commitment to the Enlightenment itself?

The Harper government’s efforts to chill scientific discourse are part of a larger war on science conducted by well-funded special-interest groups that value short-term profit over the long-term public good. Recognizing this, it is important not only that Canadians fight back in an effort to restore the nation’s scientific integrity, but also that Americans, who understand all too well what is at stake, do all we can to support them in this battle.


Hi WWallace Mud,

There is a small x in the top right corner of the pop up window. If you click on that, the window will close.

Hi,the small x doesn't appear when the screen settings are 800x600 pixels, an older seting or sure but one that sight challenged folks like me use always. perhaps you could explain this to your webmaster. on the normal maddening popouts the little x does appear but not on this twitter type.

thanks or the hint though. 

Hi WWallace Mud,

Sorry for that inconvenience. We very rarely have a popup of this sort - that features an embedded tweet - so hopefully the problem won't be a reoccurring one. I'll pass your concerns along to our web developer, however, to see if the issue could be resolved in the future.

Thanks for your readership!

Would it be possible for scientific conferrences to make policy of banning these government handlers or of making them account for their actions and prove that they are acting in good faith and not trying to censor science? Perhaps their should have to face public interviews about what they are doing?

Yes, although many Americans complain about their two party system the only thing worse is a three party system. Mini me Canadian Republican popularity has diminished to 25% while they still feel they have some mandate to rewrite the global thermometer record and threaten unwarranted hacking, the other 75% of Canadians agree  these people are getting wackier by the minuet. Vic towes became too obvious and was made to walk the plank by a bad Lennon impersonator but he probably didn’t go to the bottom completely. The public was unaware this was a secret ceremony.In the ancient tradition, A witch is made of wood and will float and can be named bob. In ancient times of the bush medieval warring period you could make a bond fire or just whittle away at them. The ones that go to the bottom are presumed innocent or possibly just aquatically challenged passive aggressives.   

 “Drill Babies drill!!!” That particular chant could be heard by US Republicans ending with the gulf coast too deep for words well, spewing oil at 10,000psi.  A month long sequester of global bullshit was barely noticed in the fog.  As a Quantum theorist, I predict that eventually physicists will find that unrelated mass less particle and black hole vacuums can be unified and produced simply by giving faux news an enema maybe with one of those one ball dysons . These are vacuum cleaners but sound like a quantum particle. The other Canadian parties tried a badly named “coalition”. The main problem with this move was the term coalition was mocked universally when used by George Bush.  That coalition turned out to include countries with armies not big enough to keep four boy scouts with a pea shooter out of an Iraqi Museum. The Canadian coalition plan was vetoed by the British who still own the Canadian cow. They largely ignore the cow except for the odd pail of milk or in this case cow tipping for entertainment. I did agree with their monarchical decision at least until the other parties find a new publishing agent.

Lloyd, we call it censorship, but in reality those scientists are employees, and subject to all kinds of controls.  In private industry scientists and engineers (like me) are subject to pretty Draconian IP agreements.

This 'censorship' is essentially a combination of IP and employee standards agreements.

This kind of stuff started under Liberal rule, and shifted into high gear under Harper.

Personally, I feel that hiding data and findings is a truly truly silly approach.  As an engineer, I've noticed that problems won't go away if I ignore them.  They just get worse.

Does science need protection and anonymity the answer is YES in some instances it is imperative. Secret patents do exist for a good reason. In the case of anoilman his own industries public declaration is that global warming information is scaring the kids so everyone should shut up. They are yelling it from the hilltops like Julie Andrews on crack.  Hopefully the oil industry are not the ones tracking meteorites.. There was a recent diatribe by one of the consulting firms listed in the recent TAR BABY TAR hose line campaign. There long winded explanation was that the US had tons of oil due to frackin’ and they didn’t need the Canadian oil and this was some reason to build a pipeline? That is a reason not to build it if the banks end up eating it, we all pay for it, but whatever, sounds dumb enough for a paycheck.  If the private companies make lots of money we all don’t profit from it. It kind of sounded like we would lose money somehow if they don’t build. It wasn’t explained why the exports would decrease from what they are now due to something that isn’t there now? I understand spooky interaction at distance but I’m a little fuzzy on interpretive sublight bullshit.

 Burning questions like how some other country can get oil to the gas pump for 25cents a gallon and the five bucks we put out seems to evaporate into trickle up economics. We all get to clean up the mess for free.THE PLAN, Everyone gets a free can to start bailing when they stick a fork in Greenland and it’s done.  If the company anoilman works for feels that his engineering is of little value to helping out its competitors in a positive way, they may publish everything anoilman does down to the toilet breaks. I have some really nice looking stereos and dvd  etc that don't work in my home hoping someone will steal them in a break in. I expect that the oil industry is just stealing my ideas again with anoilmans job description and now they will be busy for awhile finding out just what problems Anoilman has noticed and is refering to. Oh no not the bitchuman ass water boarding again !!

” What did you say? What did you say? dam, we need an interpretor who can understand you with your head under water, I'll call my cell phone company…” 

An excellent re-statement of the Harper government's attempt to avoid any data or conclusions that contradict his preheld beliefs.

The only problem here is that Mann insists on using his controversial Hockey Stick Graph at every possible juncture to justify even unrelarted issues, like this one. By and large i agree with the graph's reasoning - GHGs caused by human consumption are driving tempratures and climate chaos ever higher. But as it is such a lynchpin for closing the ears/mnds of those who disagree and because its inclusion here in no way changes the point of tha arrticle, why use it?

IMO the reason to write an article like this is to communicate not just to those who already agree, but also those who don't. The highly publicized controversy about this damned stick doesn't open minds to new ideas, it closes them.