Blog Archive

Monday, December 5, 2016

Ugo Bardi: Climate science communication: trust begets trust


With more than 50,000 students, the University of Florence, in Italy, is a huge organization with plenty of problems. But it is also an ancient and prestigious university that, sometimes, manages to do something right. Recently, it organized an information day on climate change for its employees that was remarkably successful, showing that trust begets trust. 

by Ugo Bardi, Cassandra's Legacy, December 4, 2016

Why are we failing at communicating the danger of climate change? Maybe people don't have enough information? (This is the "information deficit" model.) Or maybe they have too much information? (This is called the "cultural cognition" model.) Or maybe they are not getting the right information? Or there is something else that's wrong?

Without going into the details of the debate, let me tell you of an event that was an eye-opening experience for me. It made me understand that there is such a thing as an "information deficit" problem, but also that things are not as simple as that. I think that more than an information deficit, there is a "trust deficit" that blocks communication. It is not enough to tell people how things stand: we need to generate trust. And trust begets trust. But let me tell you the story.

This year, the University of Florence decided to offer to its personnel - the employees working in the administration or in services - three "information days" on matters related to sustainability. One of these information days was dedicated to climate change and was held on November 9, 2016. I was one of the organizers, so I followed the event from the beginning. 

The first point is that this was supposed to be a class, not a vacation day: there would be several talks for a total of about eight hours, and we planned them as real, university-level lessons. We had climate modeling, paleoclimatology, climate negotiations, communication, mitigation, adaptation, and more. It was communication directed to non-scientists, but the speakers were all specialists in their fields and they made no attempt of sweetening the pill or of trivializing the subject.

To be honest, I wasn't sure that it would have worked. I was afraid that people would take the initiative as an excuse for a day of vacation; that they wouldn't show up, or show up and disappear shortly afterward. Or, if they were to stay, they would be bored to death and sleep throughout the day. I was even expecting that some idiot in the audience would stand up and say something like "don't you see how cold it is today? Climate change is a hoax!"

But nothing like that happened. With a certain surprise on my part, the aula magna of the University of Florence was crammed full with some  two hundred people, mostly university employees, but also students and faculty members. Most of them bravely sat through the 8 hours of talks, a remarkable feat (at some moments, some of them had to stand because there were not enough seats available). And not only they sat in the room; they listened to the talks. After much experience with public talks and lessons, I can sense whether the audience is attentive or not, and they were. They were not sleeping. Actually, I detected some closed eyes, occasionally - it is normal. But, on the whole, I would say that they were more attentive than many of my students.

We made no attempt of a formal evaluation of the results of this initiative, but I think I have sufficient informal feedback to be able to tell you that the message got through. Many people were not just interested, they were amazed. They had no idea that climate science was such a deep, wide, and fascinating field. They had never realized the extent of the threat we are facing.

For me, as I said, it was an eye-opening experience that made me re-evaluate everything I knew about scientific communication. It made me understand how remote climate science is for the people who, really, suffer from an information deficit problem. Most people who are not scientists get their information from the mainstream media (MSM) and there are two problems with that: one is that they only get snippets and glimpses, drowned in the general noise of the news. The other, perhaps more important, is that they correctly mistrust the MSM. Yet, where else can they get information from? It is truly a deadly combination: bad information from a mistrusted source: any wonder that nobody is doing anything about climate change?

And here comes the university - an institution full of problems but that's supposed to exist in order to create science and culture, not to make money. Because of this, it enjoys a certain prestige and, this time, it used it to do something right. It told its employees, "We value you, so we offer to you our knowledge about climate science for free. We trust that you will appreciate it." And the employees responded by reciprocating the trust and appreciating this gift. Trust begets trust.

I think this experience has a general value. It agrees with a fact that is described, for instance, by Ara Norenzayan in his book "Big Gods." Simply stated, people will believe a message, if (and only if) they believe the messenger. So, no wonder that people are not much moved by the messages on climate change that they receive by the MSM - not only they are receiving a garbled message, they don't believe the messenger. But when they receive the message from a trusted institution and from people who, clearly, are doing their best to inform them, then they understand. It is not a question of volume, not a question of sweetening the pill, not a question of public relation strategies. It is a question of trust.

And here lies the problem: we have squandered so much of the trust that the public had in its sources of information that we live squarely in an "Empire of Lies." Will we ever be able to restore trust? Perhaps not impossible, but very, very difficult. Still, what the University of Florence did was a step in the right direction. Maybe it can be replicated and then, who knows?

I would like to thank all those who participated in this information day as speakers or organizers, in alphabetic order. 

Adele Bertini
Francesca Bigi 
Marco Bindi

Federico Brocchieri
Stefano Caserini
Gianfranco Cellai 
Sara Falsini
Alessandro Galli 
Giovanni Pratesi 
Luca Toschi

Sunday, December 4, 2016

@realDonald Trump is going to get us all nuked - time for someone to check him into Bellevue

The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment

by John Dupuis, Confessions of a Science Librarian, May 20, 2013 (with later updates)
This is a brief chronology of the current Conservative Canadian government’s long campaign to undermine evidence-based scientific, environmental and technical decision-making. It is a government that is beholden to big business, particularly big oil, and that makes every attempt to shape public policy to that end. It is a government that fundamentally doesn’t believe in science. It is a government that is more interested in keeping its corporate masters happy than in protecting the environment.

As is occasionally my habit, I have pulled together a chronology of sorts. It is a chronology of all the various cuts, insults, muzzlings and cancellations that I’ve been able to dig up. Each of them represents a single shot in the Canadian Conservative war on science. It should be noted that not every item in this chronology, if taken in isolation, is necessarily the end of the world. It’s the accumulated evidence that is so damning.

Most of the items come from various links I’ve saved over the years as well as various other media articles I’ve dug up over the last week or so. This series at The Huffington Post has been particularly useful as has this article at the Wastershed Sentinal.

A long list of various environmental programs that the Harper government has discontinued or slashed funding to is here. I haven’t found individual media stories about all of them, so they aren’t in the list below. If you can help me find stories about some of those programs, etc, please let me know. As well, some stories are treated multiple times, with perhaps an initial story telling the big picture or introducing a large series of cuts and later stories fleshing out details.

Natural Resources Canada is set to close six of fourteen libraries in 2012-2013, Parks Canada will consolidate 5 libraries into one, Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. Undated list of women’s programs cut since 2006, including many science or health-related, including: Assisted Human Reproduction Canada, Atlantic Centre of Excellence for Women’s Health margin: 0px 0px 8

  • Apr 2006. One Tonne Challenge funding stopped
  • Oct 2006. Canadian Ambassador for the Environment (Karen Kraft Sloan) position abolished(More info: 1.)
  • Jan 2008. Nuclear safety watchdog head fired for ‘lack of leadership’
  • Jan 2008. Nuclear safety watchdog Linda Keen head fired for ‘lack of leadership’ in blatant example of political interference (More info: 12.)
  • Jan 2008. The Advisory Council on Science and Technology, the Council of Science and Technology Advisors, and the Canadian Biotechnology Advisory Committee consolidated into the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC), which is housed within Industry Canada, is more concerned with business innovation and less independent that former organizations, including the Office of the National Science Advisor. (More info: 123.)
  • Jun 2008. It’s the Beginning of the End for Federal Science: Expert Panel on Lab Transfers/divestment (and here 
    Oct 2008. Canada by 6 environmental groups for Failure to Protect Killer Whale Habitat. Groups are: the David Suzuki Foundation, Environmental Defence, Greenpeace Canada, the International Fund for Animal Welfare, the Raincoast Conservation Society and the Wilderness Committee (More info: 12345.)
  • Mar 2010. Interview approval rules introduced in at Environment Canada 2007 have lead to substantially reduced requests, especially about climate change coverage. 
  • Jul 2010. AIDS funding announcement insufficient and disappointing, out of step with international community
  • Jul 2010. After 18 months of deliberation and listening to expert testimony, the Standing Committee on Environment announced it will scuttle its own investigation of water pollution from the tar sands (More info: 12345)
  • Mar 2011. NSERC reduces funding for basic research
  • Mar 2011. Tri-Council reallocates funds from discovery to industry research 
  • Jun 2011. 28 term scientists laid off at Environment Canada in Downsview
  • Jul 2011. NSERC Discovery Grants reduced
  • Oct 2011. Scientist David Tarasick speaks out after finding ‘record’ ozone hole over Canadian Arctic 
  • Feb 2012. Closure of Kitsilano Coast Guard station
  • Feb 2012. Canada threatens trade war with EU over tar sands, over the bloc’s plan to label oil from Alberta’s vast tar sands as highly polluting
  • Feb 2012. Cuts to the ozone monitoring program are affecting ability to monitor air quality and ozone depletion, Canada is jeopardizing the scientific community’s ability to monitor for holes in the ozone, especially over the Arctic
  • Mar 2012. Gutting the Fisheries Act 
  • Apr 2012. Muzzling of scientists at international conferences
  • Apr 2012. Repeal of Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, download to provinces
  • Apr 2012. Sustainable Water Management Division cut
  • Apr 2012. Transport Canada Aircraft Services cut
  • Apr 2012. The Centre for Plant Health relocated (later reprieve)
  • Apr 2012. Scientists monitored at polar conference
  • Apr 2012. National Aboriginal Health Organization’s funding cut
  • Apr 2012. Parks Canada cuts affect four national marine conservation areas
  • Apr 2012. 47 scientists and researchers at the NRC Institute for Biodiagnostics laid off in Winnipeg and Calgary.
  • Apr 2012. 2012 Budget cuts Women’s Health Contribution Program, Canadian Women’s Health Network, National Network on Environments and Women’s Health, Federal Tobacco Control Strategy
  • Apr 2012. 2012 Budget cuts Centre of Excellence at B.C. Children’s and Women’s hospitals in Vancouver, Quebec Network of Action for Women’s Health, Prairie Women’s Health Centre of Excellence
  • Apr 2012. Budget cuts affect Canadian space programs such as RADARSAT (More info: 12.)
  • May 2012. Ocean Contaminants & Marine Toxicology Program axed.
  • May 2012. Centre for Offshore Oil & Gas Energy Research cut
    May 2012. Freshwater Institute cut
  • May 2012. Maurice-Lamontagne Institute cut
  • May 2012. Smokestacks Emissions Monitoring Team cut
  • May 2012. Cuts to NSERC Discovery, Major Resources Support and Research Tools and Instruments programs
  • May 2012. Mersey Biodiversity Centre slated for closure
  • May 2012. Transport Canada library closed
  • May 2012. Environment minister Peter Kent accuses environmental charities of ‘laundering’ foreign funds
  • May 2012. Killer whale expert out of work as Ottawa cuts ocean-pollution monitoring positions
  • May 2012. NSERC cuts to Canadian Neutron Beam Centre
  • May 2012. List of cuts to NSERC MRS program
  • May 2012. Limiting fish protection to “serious harm” is a serious problem, benefits oil & gas industry
  • Jun 2012. Addictions Research Centre cut
  • Jun 2012. When asked if he believes in evolution, Minister of Science and Technology refuses to answer question; suggests MP who asked the question has brain damage and here
  • Jun 2012. Canada falls out of top fifty in global freedom of information rankings with obvious implications for access to scientific, environmental and public health information  
  • Aug 2012. Tories have cancelled almost 600 environmental assessments in Ontario
  • Oct 2012. Declining grant success rate for Post Doctoral Fellows
  • Oct 2012. Ozone science group falls victim to government cuts
  • Oct 2012. Job cuts at NRC
  • Oct 2012. Navigable Waters Protection Act changed to weaken environmental oversight, changes sought by pipeline industry
  • Nov 2012. Salmon research lab run by Frederick Kibenge at the Atlantic Veterinary College-University of Prince Edward Island targeted
  • Nov 2012. Navigable Waters Protection Act altered to give developers more freedom to build around most Canadian rivers and lakes without obtaining permission from the federal government
  • Nov 2012. Environment Canada scientists Derek Muir and Jane Kirk discouraged from commenting on oilsands contaminant study 
  • Jan 2013. Canadian Space Agency battered by budget cuts, Steve MacLean leaves, sweeping changes expected
  • Jan 2013. Oil & Gas Industry thanks government for changing a series of environmental laws to advance “both economic growth and environmental performance.”
  • Jan 2013. Leona Aglukkaq, MP for Nunavut and Minister for the Arctic Council, prioritizes resource development in her vision for the North’s potential rather than issues such as food security, community health or engaging youth. (and here)
  • Jan 2013. Canada’s space agency spirals towards Code Red: CSA battered by funding cuts, criticism from government, and loss of leader
  • Feb 2013. Department of Fisheries & Oceans muzzles its scientists
  • Feb 2013. Information commissioner investigates ‘Muzzling’ of federal scientists, called a threat to democracy
  • Feb 2013. Prairies Regional Office: Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency closes
  • Feb 2013. US Scientist Andreas Muenchow Caught in Canadian Muzzle, fears he won’t be allowed to publish about a joint US/Canada project (More info: 123.)
  • Mar 2013. Experimental Lakes Area environmental research project loses funding
  • Mar 2013. The government votes against public science, basic research and the free and open exchange of scientific information are essential to evidence-based policy-making
  • Mar 2013. $100 million cut from Department of Fisheries & Oceans over three years
  • Mar 2013. National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy closes
  • Mar 2013. Centralizing, Slashing Federal Web Info
  • Mar 2013. Quit UN anti-drought convention
  • Mar 2013. Unnecessarily sabotaging ongoing research at the Experimental Lakes Area and deliberately robbing international and domestic scientist of the 2013 field season
  • Mar 2013. Environment Canada/Peter Kent give mixed messages to First Nations and oil industry about reform of conservation laws
  • Mar 1013. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver says that Canadian oil imports are greenest option for US, as rationale for Keystone XL support
  • Mar 2013. Burrard Inlet Environmental Action Program and the Fraser River Estuary Management Program (BIEAP-FREMP) closing
  • Mar 2013. 2013 Budget cuts: Health Canada’s Controlled Substances and Tobacco Program, Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, Drug Treatment Funding Program, Drug Strategy Community Initiatives Fund, Public Health Agency of Canada, Patented Medicines Prices Review Board
  • Mar 2013. ELA research programs being prematurely wound down
  • Mar 2013. Federal Government move to privatize management of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited (More info: 12345.)
  • Apr 2013. Environment Canada name removed from its weather website, replaced with government promotional links
  • Apr 2013.Closure of Department of Fisheries & Oceans libraries
  • Apr 2013. Prime Minister & cabinet take over power to dictate collective bargaining and terms for other salaries and working conditions at the CBC and three other cultural or scientific Crown corporations
  • Apr 2013. Scientist at National Water Research Institute in Saskatoon muzzled
  • Apr 2013. Minister blames David Suzuki, Environmental Groups To Blame For Pipeline Opposition
  • Apr 2013. Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver condemns climatologist James Hansen, says he should be ‘ashamed’ of his ‘exaggerated rhetoric’ on exploitation of tar sands (and here)
  • Apr 2013. Conservative MP Ryan Leaf has been peddling what researchers describe as “bogus” information on polar bears and citing U.S. climate skeptics as experts on the iconic creatures
  • Apr 2013. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver told the editorial board of Montreal’s La Presse newspaper that “people aren’t as worried as they were before about global warming of two degrees.”
  • Apr 2013. Agroforestry Development Centre wound down (and here)
  • Apr 2013. Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration with numerous environmental benefits closed
  • Apr 2013. Amends list of industrial projects requiring environmental reviews
  • Apr 2013. Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear remarks that “no government in the history of this country has supported science as much as this government has.”
  • Apr 2013. Kenora MP Greg Rickford hides from constituents rather than talk about ELA closure
  • Apr 2013. Case study of differences between communicating on science with a government department in Canada vs the US finds Canada much weaker 
  • May 2013. Minister of Natural Resources insults oil sands critics
  • May 2013. National Research Council overhauled to do business-friendly research rather than basic science
  • May 2013. Hundreds of jobs cut at Agriculture Canada
  • May 2013. Agriculture Canada cuts including Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration, Semi-Arid Prairie Agricultural Research Centre and various centres for beef and dairy research
  • May 2013. Free-speech report takes aim at Harper government’s ‘culture of secrecy’
  • May 2013. Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre budget reduced by a third
  • May 2013. Science, Technology and Innovation Council finds that Canada losing ground in global science race
  • May 2013. Astronaut MP Garneau snubbed at museum opening of Canadarm exhibit
  • May 2013. Government identifies PR challenge of promoting both energy efficiency & green programs at the same time as massively supporting oil & gas industry
  • May 2013. Prime Minister Harper tells US Keystone XL pipeline ‘needs to go ahead’ — in spite of how bad an idea it is
  • May 2013. Canadian Government PR campaign in US targets Keystone XL, including newspaper ads, websites and visit to NY
  • May 2013. The federal government removed some oilsands projects from a list of those requiring environmental screenings, after being told in an internal memorandum that this form of industrial development could disturb water sources and harm fish habitat (and here)
  • May 2013. Montreal’s Biosphere museum’s future in doubt
  • May 2013. NRC morale is very low  
  • Jun 2013. Genome Canada to stress practical results
  • Jun 2013. The federal government employs nearly 4,000 communications staff in the public service, an increase of 15.3 per cent since the Conservatives came to power in 2006
  • Jun 2013. Centre of the Universe education centre in Saanich closing by summer’s end in bid to pare costs
  • Jun 2013. Northern cod threatened by new fisheries rules: A Department of Fisheries and Oceans plan to increase northern cod quotas could devastate the species.
  • Jun 2013. Environment Minister Peter Kent fields questions from Conservative colleagues about climate change. He defends the science yet the government does little about it. This gives weight to idea that they are more beholden to industry than science they appear to agree with.
  • Jul 2013. Libraries consolidated (ie. trashed) at Department of Fisheries & Oceans, making it harder to find obscure information
  • Jul 2013. Greg Rickford, new Minister of State for Science & Technology, has the ELA in his riding and toed the government line on its fate (and more)
  • Jul 2013. Cabinet shuffle continues tradition of poor science knowledge and lack of clout in science-related departments (and here)
  • Jul 2013. Minister of State Greg Rickford will also focus on the economy in his new role: “our science and technology has to focus on job creation, economic growth and developing our prosperity”
  • Jul 2013. The government included communications strategists in closed-door discussions that led to an estimated $60 million in cuts at Environment Canada in the 2012 federal budget
  • Jul 2013. Government maintains an enemies list (and here)
  • Aug 2013. Experimental Lakes Area process for handover to private operator, the International Institute for Sustainable Development, begins with final handover in 2014
  • Aug 2013. Scientist miffed Tory MP Joyce Bateman takes credit for saving ELA
  • Aug 2013. Beaver Lake Cree case reveals flaws in environmental review process
  • Aug 2013. Government touted a special funding program for environmental community projects that is seeing its budget reduced, mainly to supposedly eliminate administrative costs.
  • Aug 2013. Canada’s Emissions Trends Report 2013, usually out in August, has been delayed and is still not released likely due to Keystone XL context
  • Aug 2013. Government supports putting a price on carbon emissions as part of a global climate change strategy yet still harshly criticizes opposition for supporting similar things when it’s called a carbon tax
  • Aug 2013. Government says some of Canada’s best known environmental groups are doing “significant” policy analysis and research even though it has described them as radical foreign-funded groups trying to wreck the Canadian economy
  • Sept 2013. PM Harper cuts off questions about muzzling scientists while in New York
  • Sept 2013. Is Health Canada bringing measles back by approving ineffective homeopathic remedies?
  • Sept 2013. Greg Rickford, Minister of State for Science & Technology, thinks universities vet researchers’ work same way his government does
  • Oct 2013. “I was in Oslo, just recently at the climate ch- ah climate conference, ah environment ministers conference, sorry” — Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq (from here)
  • Oct 2013. Stephen Harper’s environment minister casts doubt on climate change
  • Oct 2013. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq turns IPCC report into an opportunity for partisan attacks rather than substantive discussion and action
  • Oct 2013. Despite the abundant evidence, Health Minister Rona Ambrose said heroin-assisted treatment for addicts isn’t a safe and effective option
  • Oct 2013. Canada will use its position on Arctic Council to push for resource development
  • Oct 2013. Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada release The Big Chill: Silencing Public Interest Science (More info: 1234.)
  • Oct 2013. Canadian Institute of Health Research cuts grants for in-depth health journalism to focus on social media
  • Oct 2013. Drastic cuts to various labs relating to ocean sciences and wildlife make it difficult to get to the bottom of what’s causing drastic decline of beluga populations. (More info: 1234.)
  • Oct 2013. The riding association of Greg Rickford, the Environment Minister who oversaw the defunding of the Experimental Lakes Area, sent out a fundraising letter calling the scientists who disagreed with him “radical ideologues.” (More info: 1234.)
  • Oct 2013. World’s largest telescope, the Thirty Meter Telescope or TMT, stalled by Canadian funding woes (More info: 12.)
  • Oct 2013. Canadian Scientists Expose Their Government’s Tar Sands Obsession at DC Briefing
  • Nov 2013. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq, citing her brother the hunter as a source, claims that polar bear populations aren’t declining. Scientists say they are. (More info: 1234.)
  • Nov 2013. Changes to Canada’s fisheries law alarm biologists: Revisions that take effect today remove protections for 80% of endangered freshwater species. (More info: 123456.)
  • Nov 2013. The National Energy Board, an independent regulatory agency, coordinated with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the police, and oil companies to spy on environmental groups (More info: 12.)
  • Nov 2013. Public Health Agency of Canada blocking information on antibiotic-resistant superbugs infecting thousands of Canadians each year
  • Nov 2013. Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq attends her 1st UN climate change conference, Canadian delegation seen as largely irrelevant, even met with derision
  • Nov 2013. Canada reveals stance on climate/carbon tax with praise for Australian carbon tax repeal (More info: 123.)
  • Nov 2013. Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development releases report that says that the government ‘has not met key commitments, deadlines and obligations to protect Canada’s natural spaces.’ (More info: 123.)
  • Nov 2013. Council of Canadian Academies report point to lack of national strategy and co-ordination thwarting ocean research, report suggests (More info: 123.)
  • Dec 2013. Harper government gave oil and pipeline companies $400M in subsidies to go green & boost their environmental credentials (More info: 12.)
  • Dec 2013. Canada’s new emissions rules on hold again, Harper says (More info: 1.)
  • Dec 2013. Medical journal (CMAJ) slams Ottawa for cutting off post-trial heroin, breaching international medical ethics standards. (More info: 1234.)
  • Dec 2013. Minister of State for Science & Technology Greg Rickford thinks he should be thanked for saving the Experimental Lakes Area (More info: 1.)
  • Dec 2013. National Energy Board quietly given authority to assess pipeline damage to fish, formerly with Department of Fisheries & Oceans (More info: 123.)
  • Dec 2013. Ottawa dismantles South Shore hatchery, Mersey Centre for Biodiveristy, after $400K upgrade: Activist warns it could now be ‘virtually impossible’ to recover salmon stocks (More info: 1.)
  • Dec 2013. Environment Canada denied 22 per cent of interview requests with scientists in 2013: Department aims to “improve” how it communicates science (More info: 1.)
  • Dec 2013. National Energy Board sidestepping B.C. on Northern Gateway
  • Jan 2014. Hamilton loses over 20 top environmental scientists at the Canada Centre for Inland Waters
  • Jan 2014. Climate History is Under Attack in Canada via cuts to institutions such as St. Andrews Biological Station, Freshwater Institute Library in Winnipeg, and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre.
  • Jan 2014. The axeman cometh for DFO and Coast Guard? Federal cuts raise serious questions about fish management and offshore enforcement (More info: 1.)
  • Jan 2014. Conservative-appointee Canadian Security Intelligence Services Review Committee (SIRC) Chair Chuck Strahl caught lobbying for pipeline company (More info: 123456.)
  • Jan 2014. Tory MP Peter Braid’s late Christmas gift to environmentalists: The member of Parliament for Kitchener-Waterloo links extreme weather to climate change. Environmentalists surprised, PMO backpedals a bit. (More info: 12.)
  • Jan 2014. Main Health Canada Library Closure is Latest Blow to Canada’s Researchers, forcing Health Canada scientists and other to find other ways to get the information they need (More info: 1234.)
  • Feb 2014. Conservatives eye Arctic reindeer reserve for oil and gas (More info: 12.)
  • Feb 2014. Election Budget 2014 fails to hide cuts to Science and Technology (More info: 123.)
  • Feb 2014. U.S. EPA Denied Late Participation in Kinder Morgan Hearings, Exposes Shortcomings of New National Energy Board Project Review/Public Hearings Process
  • Feb 2014. Scientist silencing continues for federally-funded research: Federal scientists at annual conference of Fishermen and Scientists Research Society do not have permission to discuss their research
  • Feb 2014. Federal study confirms oilsands ponds leaking, Richard Frank, lead scientist in study, not allowed to comment to media and department downplays the findings (More info: 123.)
  • Feb 2014. Federal Government need to do more to fight climate change, finds Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Climate Change, Energy and the Environment to the Clerk of the Privy report(More info: 12.)
  • Feb 2014. Federal court finds ‘enormous systemic problem’ in enforcement of Species at Risk Act (More info: 123456.)
  • Feb 2014. Fisheries minister Gail Shea ignored advice from own scientists about the reopening of commercial herring roe fisheries on First Nations’ territories in British Columbia (More info: 123.)
  • Feb 2014. Sixty-three per cent of employees believe National Research Council management are failing to make the right decisions about restructuring into a concierge service. (More info: 1.)
  • Feb 2014. Revenue Canada audits of environmental charities linked to position on oilsands, supposedly for crossing line from education into political advocacy. (More info: 1234.)
  • Feb 2014. Former Conservative Prime Minister Joe Clark says that Prime Minister Harper should share blame for Keystone delays due to the ill will generated by constant attacks on environmentalists (More info: 12.)
  • Feb 2014. New science policy consultation document/report Seizing Canada’s Moment: Moving Forward in Science, Technology and Innovation is more focused on business and innovation rather than supporting science in the public interest. (More info: 12345.)
  • Mar 2014. Federal government has slashed funding for ParticipACTION, knocking the wind out of the organization that promotes fitness and healthy living — a message obesity experts say is more important than ever (More info: 12.)
  • Mar 2014. Environment Canada braces for cuts to climate programs
  • Mar 2014. New natural resources minister Greg Rickford invested in hedge fund with energy holdings
  • Mar 2014. Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade no longer has an environmental policy capacity with respect to numerous multilateral chemical conventions (More info: 1.)
  • Mar 2014. Department of Fisheries and Oceans ‘fudging the numbers,’ court finds; bars commercial fishery off Vancouver Island (More info: 12.)
  • Apr 2014. World famous research site the Experimental Lakes Area is reduced to crowdsourcing research funding on Indiegogo. (More info: 12.)
  • Apr 2014. Digital Canada 150 report is lazy and outdated and not offering much new to science.
  • Apr 2014. Fisheries department response to salmon decline report remains secret: Department prepared report as a response to Cohen Commission on Fraser River sockeye, and was then ignored by political leadership (More info: 123, 4.)
  • May 2014. The Atmospheric-Optics Laboratory at Dalhousie University closed
  • May 2014. Government’s weather forecasters shouldn’t discuss climate change, says Environment Canada (More info: 1.)
  • May 2014. Muzzling allegations are “absolutely ridiculous” says Canadian environment minister
  • May 2014. Science and technology expenditures by federal departments and agencies are expected to decline 5.4% from the previous fiscal year to $10.3 billion dollars in 2014/2015.(More info: 1.)
  • May 2014. Reporters access to speakers, etc, at government’s Saving Every Woman, Every Child maternal health summit is severely restricted by communications flacks (More info: 1.)
  • May 2014. Minister of Natural Resources Greg Rickford, whose announcement that Canada’s mining sector is “a leader in transparency, accountability and good governance” stood in stark contrast with reports of human rights violations carried out overseas by Canadian extractive corporations.
  • Jun 2014. New Parks Canada policy limits information by directing all request via high-ranking beaurocrats (More info: 1.)
  • Jun 2014. Government refuses to answer questions about new study concluding that deposits of toxic mercury were forming a bull’s eye around oilsands operations in Alberta
  • Jun 2014. Government of Canada Accepts Recommendation to Impose 209 Conditions on Northern Gateway Proposal, effectively approving project. Most of the conditions are actually quite basic or already met (More info: 1234.)
  • Jun 2014. In a TV interview, Stephen Harper chides Canadians for not listening to scientific advice — on vaccines (More info: 1.)
  • Jun 2014. Stephen Harper says Canada not avoiding action on climate change and further that no country will act on climate change if jobs and the economy are at stake. (More info: 123.)
  • Jun 2014. Dear Prime Minister: we 300 scientists find Northern Gateway review flawed: On the eve of Ottawa’s decision on Northern Gateway pipeline, 300 scientists say a recent federal review of the project was deeply flawed. (More info: 123.)
  • Jun 2014. According to report released by Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Canada has been “dragging its heels” on commitments to create marine protected areas and ranks last on the list of countries with the longest coastlines in terms of the amount of ocean where human activity has been restricted to preserve biodiversity (More info: 12.)
  • Jun 2014. Natural Resources Canada quietly releases the Canada in a Changing Climate: Sector Perspectives on Impacts and Adaptation report which paints a stark picture of the impacts of climate change on Canada in terms of the environment, health, and the economy, yet it is business as usual for the government (More info: 1.)
    Aug 2014. Respected biologist John Smol accused of being biased. (More info, including refutation of bias from scholarly society: 1234.)
  • Aug 2014. The College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), Canadian Medical Association (CMA) and Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada all refuse to participate in Health Canada drug awareness campaign due to over-politicization of issue by the government(More info: 12.)
  • Aug 2014. New Federal Conservation Plan missing many important elements such as focusing on non-urban areas and plans to work with important partners. (More info: 1.)
  • Aug 2014. During his annual visit to the arctic, Prime Minister talks Franklin, arctic research but fails to mention climate change, which is the biggest issue in the north (More info: 1234.)
  • Aug 2014. Harper government asks public servants to delete emails which have “no business value” raising red flags with union representing government professionals and scientists concerned with muzzling. (More info: 12.)
  • Aug 2014. Public health officials across Canada so starved of census data that they pay for local info of their own
  • Aug 2014. Ottawa safe injection site could work—if it overcomes ideology
  • Aug 2014. Federal government puts polar briefings on ice: Newly released federal documents show Tories have been thwarting Leah Braithwaite and other scientists’ efforts to keep Canadians informed on Arctic ice levels (More info: 1.)
  • Aug 2014. Queens University scientist John Smol accused in internal Natural Resources Canada memo of being biased and talking too much about his oil sands research (More info: 123.)
  • Aug 2014. Doctors, scientists warn CIHR plans quiet cut to drug-trial funding
  • Sep 2014. Canada’s battle with scientists plays out during Olympic torch relay: Athlete chosen for honour instead of member of Arctic Council who were invited by Russia and who other nations sent.
  • Sep 2014. Energy East oil terminal threatens belugas: federal scientists were not consulted on the project even though they had raised concerns before.
  • Sep 2014. TransCanada shareholder to head SIRC investigation into CSIS spying on pipeline opponents
  • Sep 2014. North-South Institute is closing due to Federal cuts. It studies areas such as energy and natural resources, the private sector’s role in development, maternal health and open data for transparency in the foreign aid. (More info: 123.)
  • Sep 2014. Canada Science and Technology Museum closes until 2015 due to mould, shoddy upkeep (More info: 1)
  • Sep 2014. Harper obsessed with Franklin Expedition and finding the boat but neglects other areas in Park Canada
  • Sep 2014. FIPA trade deal with China could force Canada to keep weak environmental laws(More info: 1234.)
  • Sep 2014. Parliamentary secretary to the Minister of the Environment Colin Carrie Says Tory Government Is ‘A World Leader’ On Climate Change
  • Sep 2014. Minister of the Environment Leona Aglukkaq’s UN climate speech doesn’t mention oil and gas emissions
  • Sep 2014. Clean Energy Canada says that Canada missing out on green energy revolution due to lack of government interest and investment in green technologies vs. oil & gas (More info: 12.)
  • Sep 2014. Prominent Canadian Academics Call Out Canada’s “Sustainability Deficit” Before Climate Summit (More info: 123.)
  • Sep 2014. Federal government didn’t fill either Chief Public Health Officer job or head of National Microbiology Lab after more than 15 months possibly because no one wants to work for controlling Harper government. (More info: 1.)
  • Sep 2014. Federal government admits to tracking hundreds of public demonstrations and protests, including environmental protests (More info: 123.)
  • Sep 2014. Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver tries to tell Nova Scotia what to do about fracking. (More info: 123.)
  • Sep 2014. The Canadian Government Needs to Recognize the Value of the Canadian Space Sector and Invest Accordingly
  • Sep 2014. International Institute for Sustainable Development says Canada’s new rules to control carbon pollution from coal plants will have a “negligible effect” on greenhouse gas emissions for at least the next 15 years (More info: 1.)
  • Sep 2014. Environment Minister in Stephen Harper’s government changes topic after NDP asks about climate rules (More info: 1.)
  • Sep 2014. Committee on pollution quietly silenced.
  • Sep 2014. RCMP warns environmental extremism a rising threat to energy sector (More info: 12.)
  • Sep 2014. Info on defective drugs kept hidden from Canadians, More info from USFDA while Health Canada keeps Canadians in the dark (More info: 12.)
  • Sep 2014. Request to interview federal scientist Max Bothwell about “rock snot” sparks 110 pages of government emails (More info: 1234.)
  • Sep 2014. As hundreds of thousands march in the street, Harper takes a pass on NY climate summit, opting for a invited dinner instead. (More info: 12345.)
  • Sep 2014. Canadian government declines interviews on oilsands health impacts (More info: 1.)
  • Sep 2014. Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has set aside $22.7 million for an advertising blitz this year to promote oil and Canada’s other natural resources in the United States, Europe and Asia (More info: 1.)
  • Sep 2014. Even Brian Mulroney thinks Stephen Harper should make a pristine environment a higher priority
  • Sep 2014. Canada Singled Out in International Report by French National Trade Union of Scientific Researchers on Endangered Science for budget cuts, muzzling and for a focus on applied, commercialized science rather than basic research (More info: 1.)
  • Sep 2014. Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) has a list of things it wants the government to do and has been working with Environment Canada on the list for some time, especially changes to the Species at Risk Act.
  • Sep 2014. CSIS trying to narrow the scope of an inquiry into whether they overstepped the law while eyeing environmental activists. (More info: 1.)
  • Oct 2014. Environment Commissioner slams Federal Government for problems with arctic mapping, falling further behind on emissions reductions target (among other things). (Full report here. Other stories: 1234.)
  • Oct 2014. Evidence for Democracy releases damning report detailing Federal Government muzzling of scientists. (Media stories here: 12345.)
  • Oct 2014. Federal Government cancels key industry and environmental group meeting intended to save species at risk – no rationale given (Media story: 1.)
  • Oct 2014. Federal Government play politics by banning Chinese and Russian delegates from space conference to look “tough” on Russia and China (More info: 12.)
  • Oct 2014. Leona Aglukkaq is silent on altered evidence in frog memo which could threaten development in La Prairie, QC
  • Oct 2014. Oil and gas emissions can create ‘extreme’ ozone pollution, study finds. But Environment Canada scientist that participated in the study is unavailable for comment.
  • Oct 2014. Revenue Canada targets birdwatching group for tax audit because of political activity; they complained to ministers about government approved pesticide
  • Oct 2014. The only French-Language Department of Fisheries & Oceans closes
  • Oct 2014. Diluting Fisheries Act to further fish farming, reducing environmental protection from aquaculture activities (More info: 123.)
  • Oct 2014. Harper and Quebec announce plans for petrolium resource exploitation in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the face of opposition from environmental, fishing, tourism and First Nation groups (More info: 12.)
  • Oct 2014. The Algonquin Wildlife Research Station (AWRS) is forced to use crowdfunding to try and raise money for research
  • Oct 2014. Federal government report on deforestation by oil, gas industry not out until after next election
  • Oct 2014. In an open letter, The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada and the Union of Concerned Scientists of the United States of American demand the return of scientific freedom in Canada. (More info: 1234.)
  • Oct 2014. Report by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe lists Canada among the world’s worst at fighting climate change at no. 58. (More info: 1.)
  • Oct 2014. Government uses disaster at the Experimental Lakes Area as an example of how they’ve improved the Fisheries Act.

  • This list is no doubt incomplete. There may also be link errors or duplications.
    In particular, if you have updates on any of the stories, including reversals or reprieves, I want to hear those too.
    Please feel free to make suggestions and corrections in the comments or to me at jdupuis at yorku dot ca.
    CC0. To the extent possible under law, I am waiving all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this post, The Canadian War on Science: A long, unexaggerated, devastating chronological indictment. This work is published from Canada.
    Additionally, two quick points.
    First, as to why this extended series of posts is named the way it is. I am mindful that this blog is hosted on a US-based site so my main aim is to make “The Canadian War on Science” both catchy and mostly meaningful to a broad audience. In that spirit, something like “The Canadian Conservative Government’s War on …” at least initially seemed to me to be too wordy. It’s also fairly common parlance to refer to the government of a foreign country, no matter the internal situation, just by that country’s name. When I say that “France is doing this” or “Japan is doing that,” I of course mean the French or Japanese governments. It’s a kind of shorthand, if you will, that makes more sense on a non-Canadian site where I’m talking about Canada. So, I’m sort of accepting that while this usage will be somewhat annoying to Canadians, it’s both a useful shorthand and the precedent I’ve set for myself.
    Second, on scope. I’ve mostly stuck to the natural sciences, environment and some public health topics here rather than looking more broadly at how the Conservative government treats the humanities, social sciences, memory and heritage institutions and just generally any sort of evidence-based policy- or decision-making. That’s purely for reasons of focus and time. It was quite time-consuming to compile this list initially so I was quite aware of just getting it finished. I’ve also received a huge number of suggestions both in the comments and by email and checking and adding those has also been a significant task. While I have in the past blogged about the challenges at, say, Library and Archives Canada, I decided that that would be out of focus for the purposes of this list. I would definitely encourage anyone out there to tackle creating a broader or a differently focused one. I have put this list under a CC0 licences so please feel free to take what I’ve done as a starting point.
    here. If I’ve missed anything or there are any errors or if I’ve duplicated some items, please let me know.
    here. Please let me know if there are any errors or omissions.