Science

This Vigilante Scientist Trekked Over 10,000 Kilometres to Reveal B.C.’s Leaking Gas Wells

John Werring in the field

If you’d met John Werring four years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to tell you what an abandoned gas well looked like.

We had no idea whether they were even accessible,” said the registered professional biologist.

That was before the summer of 2014, when he headed up to Fort St. John, B.C., on a reconnaissance mission. At that time, much was known about leaking gas wells in the United States, but there was very little data on Canada.

All Werring had to work with was a map of abandoned wells provided by B.C.’s Oil and Gas Commission. Armed with a gas monitor and a metal detector, he headed into what the gas industry calls the “Montney formation,” one of the largest shale gas resources in the world. Shale gas is primarily accessed via hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking.

Most of these places, there’s nobody in the field,” Werring said. “You won’t see anybody for miles and miles. Just well after well after well.”

Key Arctic Research Station Set to Close Because of Liberal Government’s Funding Cuts

PEARL research centre. Photo: Dan Weaver

Essential information on Arctic climate change, ozone depletion and pollution reaching the Arctic from B.C.’s recent forest fires will be lost unless the federal government comes through with funding to save Canada’s unique high Arctic research station.

After years of funding cuts to scientific and climate change programs under the Conservatives, the Liberal government’s emphasis on making science-based decisions in response to climate change was a welcome relief to researchers, but some are now shocked that crucial projects are about to be lost because the 2017 budget did not renew the five-year Climate Change and Atmospheric Research (CCAR) funding which expires this year.

Unless the Trudeau government comes up with approximately $7-million a year, six projects, including the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) on Ellesmere Island, will close down next year. A seventh — Canadian Sea Ice and Snow Evolution Network — will shut down the following year.

Eclipse of Reason: Why Do People Disbelieve Scientists?

Eclipse glasses

By Bryan Gaensler

If you’ve been paying attention, you know that on Aug. 21, we’re in for a special cosmic treat: the Great American Eclipse of 2017.

The moon’s shadow will track a 4,000-kilometre course across the continental United States from coast to coast, beginning with Depoe Bay, Ore., and end after 93 minutes in McClellanville, S.C.. As a result, tens of millions of Americans will be treated to that rarest of natural wonders: a total eclipse of the sun.

B.C. Government Scientists Say Staff Cutbacks, Outsourcing and Political Interference Threaten Public Health and Safety

Contracting out scientific work to non-government professionals, while cutting back on ministry scientists and experts, is threatening the B.C. government’s ability to make decisions based on sound science, says a highly-critical report released Thursday by the Ottawa-based group Evidence for Democracy.

The report, based on a survey distributed to 1,159 B.C. government scientists in 10 ministries, found that almost half of the 403 who responded to 64 questions believe that Tweet: ½ of 1,159 BC gov’t scientists believe political interference compromises their laws, policies & scientific evidence http://bit.ly/2o1CfbKpolitical interference is compromising their ministry’s ability to develop laws, policies and programs based on scientific evidence and that decisions are often not consistent with the best available scientific information.

Tweet: Since @BCLiberals elected in ‘01, BC public service has been reduced to the smallest per capita in Canada http://bit.ly/2o1CfbK #bcpoliSince the Liberal government was elected in 2001, B.C.’s public service has been reduced to the smallest per capita in Canada and departments with science-based mandates have lost 25 per cent of staff scientists and licensed expert positions, according to the survey, which was partially funded by the Professional Employees Association.

Overwhelmingly, the scientists felt that their ministries had insufficient resources to fulfil their mandates and that means they don’t have the ability to produce the expert reports that they used to,” said Katie Gibbs, one of the report’s authors.

We Need to Admit the Limitations of Science When it Comes to Pipeline Decisions

Winter Coast Salish Gathering. Photo by Zack Embree.

With federal decisions on major oil pipeline and tanker projects in the headlines, many suggest our elected officials should lean more on science to make these kinds of decisions.

Those exhortations sound very reasonable. But they reveal an enormously important misunderstanding about the role of science in making decisions on major resource projects.

Take the case of Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline and tanker project on the West Coast.

On one side, you have staunch opposition from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and other coastal and Fraser River First Nations, West Coast municipalities like Vancouver, Burnaby and Victoria, and a sizable percentage of B.C.’s voting public.

On the other side, you have staunch support from Alberta Premier Rachel Notley, the mayors of Calgary and Edmonton, and a sizable percentage of Alberta’s voting public.

Tweet: 'Is one side simply too dumb to understand the science — or simply willing to flatly ignore it?' http://bit.ly/2ly7haN #bcpoli #cdnpoliIs one side simply too dumb to understand the science — or simply willing to flatly ignore it?

Of course not.

Trudeau Promised To Bring Us Out of Canada’s Anti-Science Era, But We’re Not There Yet

The Harper years were characterized by a sustained war on science, as documented by science librarian John Dupuis and Calgary writer Chris Turner, among others.

So when Justin Trudeau’s Liberals won a majority government in last fall’s federal election, some commentators suggested that Canadians weren’t necessarily drawn to the Liberal platform, but were so fed up with the Conservative government that they voted for “anyone but Harper.”

The Harper legacy that Trudeau inherited was a troubling one.

It included muzzling of government scientists and cuts to key government-based science-related positions and programs such as the National Science Advisor and the Advisory Council on Science and Technology — to name just a few.

Canadian Scientists Say They’re Unsure What Trudeau Means When He Says ‘Science’

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau campaigned aggressively on the issue of science in the lead up to the last federal election. And it makes sense that he did: for the first time ever in Canadian history the issue of scientific integrity was a major election issue for voters across the nation.

Images of shuttered libraries, gagged scientists and dumpsters full of books haunted the Canadian imagination under the Harper government.

Trudeau promised to change all of that. Brandishing the language of the scientific community itself Trudeau painted a vision of a Canadian scientific renaissance, with the restoration of scientific integrity and the veritable holy grail of political vows: evidence-based decision-making.

As a scientist, I was personally thrilled with the Liberal government’s vocal support for science, especially regarding the critical role that scientific evidence should play in informed decision-making,” Wendy Palen, associate professor and biologist at Simon Fraser University, told DeSmog Canada.

In the early days of the federal government under Trudeau, there were several events that shored up that sense of optimism including the anchoring of ministerial duties in science in open mandate letters and restored funding for research in the first Liberal budget.

Trudeau also promised to bring social and scientific credibility back to the environmental assessments of major resource projects.

I think I can say the scientific community breathed a sigh of relief over the change in attitude around science and the role of scientific decision-making,” Palen said.

But, she added, that sentiment has stopped short in recent months.

How to Convince Your Neighbors Climate Change Is Real? Stop Calling Them Idiots, Says DeSmog Founder Jim Hoggan

James Hoggan AGU speech

Clean coal.” “Ethical oil.” How could fossil fuels that produce pollution which sickens, kills, and hospitalizes tens of thousands of Americans each year end up sounding so … desirable?

Jim Hoggan, founder of DeSmog, watched these industry-funded campaigns — and an increasingly toxic public discourse around climate change — unfold in the U.S. and Canada and wondered the same thing. 

As Hoggan told an audience of earth and climate scientists at the American Geophysical Union conference today, “These campaigns are not so much about persuasion as they are about polarization, about dividing us.”

Review of 9,000 Studies Finds We Know Squat About Bitumen Spills in Ocean Environments

Nobody knows how a spill of diluted bitumen would affect marine life or whether a bitumen spill in salt water could be adequately cleaned up, because basic research is lacking, says a new study.

The peer-reviewed paper, which will be published later this month in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, looked at more than 9,000 studies of the effect of oilsands products on the marine environment.

Canada Isn't Immune to Trump-ism

By Sarah Boon from Watershed Moments.

In the days following the U.S. election, two former Canadian ambassadors to the U.S. had some advice for Canadians worried about the future of Canada-U.S. relations.

Calm down,” they said. “Change the channel and watch some hockey.”

This paternalistic statement not only played on the worn cultural stereotype that all Canadians like hockey, Tweet: Nope, sorry. A ‘head in the sand,’ ‘everything will be fine’ mentality is NOT a good way to deal with Trump, Canada http://bit.ly/2gwbt7Ebut it suggested that a ‘head in the sand,’ ‘everything will be fine’ mentality was a good way to deal with Trump.

In truth, Canadians have every reason to worry.

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