Canada’s Harper Government Guts Environment, Science and Monitoring Programs

Man w picture of grandchild was arrested for protesting against tar sands expansion, Sept 2011 Ottawa, Canada - Pix by R Leahy

Environment budget slashed while PM Harper’s office places a gag order on government scientists. (And a $60 billion order for military equipment)

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 9, 2011 (IPS)

Canada’s Stephen Harper government is spending more than 60 billion dollars on new military jets and warships while slashing more than 200 million dollars in funding for research and monitoring of the environment.

Amongst the programmes now crippled is Canada’s internationally renowned ozone monitoring network, which was instrumental in the discovery of the first-ever ozone hole over Canada last spring. Loss of ozone has been previously linked to increases in skin cancer.

“The proposed cuts go so far the network won’t be able to do serious science,” said Thomas Duck, an atmospheric scientist at Halifax’s Dalhousie University.

Canada was the pioneer in ozone monitoring, developing the first accurate ozone measuring tool that led to the discovery that the world’s ozone layer was dangerously thinning in the 1970s, which in turn led to the successful Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances.

Canada has about one-third of the ozone monitoring stations in the Arctic region. It also hosts the world archive of ozone data, which is heavily relied on by scientists around the world.

“There’s only one guy running the entire archive, and he’s received a lay-off notice letter,” Duck told IPS.

Ozone monitoring and research is part of Environment Canada, the government department charged with protecting the environment, conservation and providing weather and meteorological information.

“Canada can’t afford to pay scientists but we can line the pockets of big oil?

That is totally backwards.”

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Arctic Defrost Dumping Snow on U.S. and Europe

Images Modis sat - January 31 at 10:30 a.m., 12:05 p.m., and 1:45 p.m. Eastern Time

Parts of Arctic +21C above normal in January

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 28, 2011 (IPS)

The world’s northern freezer is on rapid defrost as large volumes of warm water are pouring into the Arctic Ocean, speeding the melt of sea ice, according to a new study.

Surface temperatures in parts of the Arctic have been 21 degrees C above normal for more than a month in recent weeks.

“Boats were still in the water during the first week of January,” said David Phillips, a senior climatologist with Environment Canada, referring to southern Baffin Island, some 2,000 km north of Montreal. This is a region that receives just four or five hours of weak sunlight during the long winter. Temperatures normally range from -25 to -35 degrees C but were above zero on some days in January.

“It’s impossible for many people in parts of the eastern Arctic to safely get on the ice to hunt much-needed food for their families – for the second winter in a row,” Phillips said in a report.

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The warming and melting of the Arctic is happening much faster than expected and new data reveals that huge volumes of warmer water from the North Atlantic are now flowing into and warming up the Arctic Ocean, researchers reported Friday in the journal Science.

In the past hundred years the waters in the Fram Strait have warmed about two degrees C,” says co-author Thomas Marchitto, of Colorado University’s Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research.

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