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Scientists speak out against Canada’s ‘war on science’

Scientists speak out against Canada’s ‘war on science’.

by Peter Rugh, originally published by Waging Nonviolence  | TODAY

Dr. Katie Gibbs speaks at a Stand Up for Science rally at Parliament Hill in Ottowa last September. (Evidence for Democracy / Kevin O'Donnell)

Dr. Katie Gibbs speaks at a Stand Up for Science rally at Parliament Hill in Ottowa last September. (Evidence for Democracy / Kevin O’Donnell)

Seven of Canada’s most prized scientific libraries are being shut down and some of their contents have already been burned, thrown away or carted off by fossil fuel consultancy firms. This development is part of a Harper administration plan to slash more than $160 million in the coming years from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, or DFO — an agency charged with protecting the country’s vast waterways.

The Harper government has portrayed the move as necessary in order to reduce the country’s deficit and provide Canadians with greater access to scientific information through the Internet. But alongside the cuts, the Harper administration has doled out billions in subsidies to the fossil fuel-dominated energy sector — $26 billion in 2011, according to a recent International Monetary Fund report. As for accessing the information at the shuttered libraries, an internal DFO document labeled “secret” obtained by Postmedia News in late December, along with the scientists who utilize the research facilities, tell a different story.

The once-secret DFO document speaks of “culling” materials in the libraries, a term that critics believe to be far more devastating than it sounds. Much like its original meaning — the killing of animals with undesired genetic traits — they see the budget cuts as a way to do away with undesirable science.

“The Harper government is not simply influenced by the fossil fuel industry, it isthe fossil fuel industry,” said Brad Hornick, a lead organizer with of the Vancouver Ecosocialist Group.

The Harper administration has long been known for its anti-environment stance. Harper’s environment minister, for instance, has publicly cast doubt on research documenting Arctic sea ice melt. Observers have also complained of a revolving door between the government and industry that has effectively placed Canada’s natural resources at the disposal of fossil fuel corporations supporting hydraulic fracturing, carbon-rich tar sands extraction and pipeline projects. In the process, a host of conservation laws and sovereignty treaties with Canada’s First Nations population have been unwound at the behest of oil and gas lobby groups. The Center for Global Development ranks Canada last among wealthy nations in terms of environmental protection.

Meanwhile, 2,000 government scientists have been fired over the past five years and hundreds of environmental programs that monitor food, water and air quality, study and prevent oil spills, as well as track atmospheric changes have been shut down for lack of funds.

Dr. Katie Gibbs with Evidence for Democracy, a grassroots organization composed of scientists mobilizing against the culling, said it is only the latest development in a “long trend.”

“Over the past few years we’ve seen huge cuts in funding for science, layoffs for scientists who work for the government and reduced funding for academic scientists,” Gibbs said. “Some are calling it a war on science.”

British Columbia’s independent online news magazine The Tyee detailed the scope of the latest assault, citing several research hubs where scientific literature has been trashed, burned or picked apart. According to The Tyee, they include, “[The] Maurice-Lamontagne Institute, which housed 61,000 French language documents on Quebec’s waterways, as well as the newly renovated $62-million library serving the historic St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick.” Also shut down, were “the famous Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and one of the world’s finest ocean collections at the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John’s, Newfoundland.”

In a fitting addendum to this assault on science, the magazine noted that Rachel Carson — a founder of the modern environmental movement — corresponded with researchers at St. Andrews while writing her pioneering book on environmental contamination, Silent Spring, half a century ago.

According to Gibbs, whose group is circulating a petition against the cuts, “There’s no way this information was digitized. Many scientists have spoken out and said that everything is being done in a huge rush, completely disorganized. Private companies came and picked up truck loads of this material. They saw the value in it.”

The gas and dam powered-utility, Manitoba Hydro, plus North/South Consultants — a firm that counts oil and gas corporations among its clients in the heavily-frackedManitoba province — obtained troves of research documents pertaining to water treatment and aquatic habitats from Winnipeg’s Freshwater Institute. Scientists have also reported witnessing the incineration of literature at DFO libraries and one researcher at the Maurice Lamontagne Institute in Mont Joli, Quebec posted a photo online of a dumpster full of discarded books and journals. Although, scientists have done their best to salvage the research, more federal libraries are slated for culling.

Like the indigenous-led Idle No More movement and the climate activists who raised a sign that read “climate justice” over the prime minister’s head at a Vancouver Board of Trade meeting earlier this month, scientists are increasingly standing up to Harper, though doing so comes with great risk to their careers.

Last fall, Evidence for Democracy staged “Stand Up for Science” rallies in 17 Canadian cities against legal restrictions to their ability to share research and communicate with the public — one of the first steps in the so-called war on science taken by the Harper administration upon its ascent to power in 2006.

“The restrictions play into the library closures,” said Gibbs. “When scientists have spoken out they’ve had to do so anonymously because they fear for their jobs.”

According to critics of the Harper administration, such attacks on science are part of the prime minister’s small government, big business ideology, which assigns a negative value to any science that adversely impacts the production of fossil fuels.

“If you are going to be in favor of fossil fuel expansion, and tar sands in particular, and you are going to try to sell that to the Canadian public — part of doing that means dulling the awareness and importance of science,” said Rodger Annis, a Vancouver-based environmental activist and writer. “Science tells us in stark terms that if we want to prevent the very serious consequences of climate changethen we have to leave the tar sands in the ground.”

While the Harper administration may be able to dull, or even subvert the science behind such a message, it’s the scientists who are proving difficult to silence. And perhaps that’s just what’s needed. After all, science is only as strong as the scientists behind it.

Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility: Only 1 of 9,136 Recent Peer-Reviewed Authors Rejects Global Warming | DeSmogBlog

Why Climate Deniers Have No Scientific Credibility: Only 1 of 9,136 Recent Peer-Reviewed Authors Rejects Global Warming | DeSmogBlog.

This is a guest post by James Lawrence Powell.

I have brought my previous study (see here and here) up-to-date by reviewing peer-reviewed articles in scientific journals over the period from Nov. 12, 2012 through December 31, 2013. I found 2,258 articles, written by a total of 9,136 authors. (Download the chart above here.) Only one article, by a single author in the Herald of the Russian Academy of Sciences, rejected man-made global warming. I discuss that article here.

My previous study, of the peer-reviewed literature from 1991 through Nov. 12, 2012, found 13,950 articles on “global warming” or “global climate change.” Of those, I judged that only 24 explicitly rejected the theory of man-made global warming. The methodology and details for the original and the new study are described here.

Anyone can repeat as much of the new study as they wish–all of it if they like. Download an Excel database of the 2,258 articles here. It includes the title, document number, and Web of Science accession number. Scan the titles to identify articles that might reject man-made global warming. Then use the DOI or WoS accession number to find and read the abstracts of those articles, and where necessary, the entire article. If you find any candidates that I missed, please email me here.

The scientific literature since 1991 contains a mountain of evidence confirming man-made global warming as true and no convincing evidence that it is false. Global warming denial is a house of cards.

Are we trading away our rights and environment? | Science Matters | David Suzuki Foundation

Are we trading away our rights and environment? | Science Matters | David Suzuki Foundation.

Photo: Are we trading away our rights and environment?

(Credit: Gord McKenna via Flickr)

By David Suzuki with contributions from with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

Global trade has advantages. For starters, it allows those of us who live through winter to eat fresh produce year-round. And it provides economic benefits to farmers who grow that food. That could change as oil, the world’s main transport fuel, becomes increasingly scarce, hard to obtain and costly, but we’ll be trading with other nations for the foreseeable future.

Because countries often have differing political and economic systems, agreements are needed to protect those invested in trade. Canada has signed numerous deals, from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) to several Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPA), and is subject to the rules of global trade bodies, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Treaties, agreements and organizations to help settle disputes may be necessary, but they often favour the interests of business over citizens. With Canada set to sign a 31-year trade deal with China, a repressive and undemocratic country with state-owned corporations, we need to be cautious.

Should we sign agreements if they subject our workers to unfair competition from lower-paid employees from investor nations, hinder our ability to protect the environment or give foreign companies and governments excessive control over local policies and valuable resources? Under some agreements, basics like protecting the air, water and land we all need for survival can become difficult and expensive.

One recent case could put Canada on the hook for $250 million. Quebec has put a hold on fracking pending a study into the environmental impacts of blasting massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals into the ground to fracture rock and release gas deposits. A U.S. resource company plans to sue Canada under Chapter 11 of NAFTA, claiming compensation for the moratorium’s damage to its drilling interests. Similar disputes have already cost Canada millions of dollars.

Ontario also wants assurances that fracking is safe before it allows the practice. That province is facing costs and hurdles because of another conflict between trade and environment. Japan and the European Union filed a complaint with theWTO, claiming a requirement under the Ontario Green Energy Act that wind and solar projects must use a set percentage of local materials is unfair.

Many of the problems arise because of an investor-state arbitration mechanism, which is included in NAFTA, as well as the proposed Canada-China FIPA, Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and Trans-Pacific Partnership. It allows foreign investors to bring claims before outside arbitrators if they believe their economic interests are being harmed by a nation’s actions or policies. So economics trump national interests.

This has caused many countries, including Australia, South Africa, India and several in Latin America, to avoid signing deals that include the investor-state arbitration mechanism. In Australia’s case, the country recognized the pitfalls when tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, attempted to claim damages under a bilateral investment treaty after the federal government introduced a science-based law requiring cigarettes to be sold in plain, unappealing packages.

According to Australian National University law professor Thomas Faunce, Philip Morris then lobbied the U.S. government to include a similar mechanism in a new trade agreement it was negotiating with Australia. In an article for Troy Media, Faunce wrote that, with such a mechanism, the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes “would, in effect, become the final arbitrators on major Australian public policy questions concerning mineral royalties, fossil fuel and renewable energy, water, telecommunications, banking, agriculture and power.”

The 31-year trade agreement between Canada and China is worrisome, with its 15-year opt-out clause (compared to just six months for NAFTA), but the inclusion of the mechanism in other agreements is also cause for concern. At the very least, we could be on the hook for millions or billions of dollars if our environmental, health, labour or other policies were deemed to harm the interests of those investing in or trading with Canada.

The government’s desire to expand global trade may be understandable, but we mustn’t give away too much. We must tell our elected representatives to at least delay the Canada-China FIPA until it has been examined more thoroughly, and to reconsider the inclusion of investor-state arbitration mechanisms in all trade deals.

Technology offers no ‘un-do’ switch for global warming — Transition Voice

Technology offers no ‘un-do’ switch for global warming — Transition Voice.

seeing through car dashboard

Can we cool down the Earth? Don’t count on it, say scientists. Photo: KristinaDragana.

In September, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), among the most conservative scientific organizations on Earth, issued a report concluding that global warming is irreversible without geo-engineering.

Yet, as Earth System Dynamics recently pointed out, known strategies for geo-engineering are unlikely to succeed and that “climate geo-engineering cannot simply be used to undo global warming.”

Meanwhile, in December, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences announced that gradual change of the climate is not guaranteed: “The history of climate on the planet — as read in archives such as tree rings, ocean sediments, and ice cores — is punctuated with large changes that occurred rapidly, over the course of decades to as little as a few years.”

Indeed, Earth has witnessed a five-degree Celsius rise in global-average temperature during a span of 13 years.

Writing for the Arctic Methane Emergency Group, John Davies concludes: “The world is probably at the start of a runaway Greenhouse Event which will end most human life on Earth before 2040.” Davies considers only atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration, not the abundant self-reinforcing feedback loops triggered on the climate-change front.

Considering only one feedback loop among many, methane release from the Arctic Ocean is expected to increase global-average temperature by more than 4°C by 2030 and 10°C by 2040, according to Sam Carana’s research (see especially Image 24).

Humans have not occupied Earth at 3.5°C above baseline. If this seems problematic to you, I believe you’re paying attention.

– Guy McPherson, Transition Voice

Science Cuts: Ottawa Views Pure Science As ‘Cash Cow,’ Critics Say

Science Cuts: Ottawa Views Pure Science As ‘Cash Cow,’ Critics Say.

 

Ex-NASA scientist hits back at ‘Neanderthal’ Conservatives – Politics – CBC News

Ex-NASA scientist hits back at ‘Neanderthal’ Conservatives – Politics – CBC News.

Elizabeth May: What Does Joe Oliver Know About Science? Not Much

Elizabeth May: What Does Joe Oliver Know About Science? Not Much.

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