Posts Tagged ‘muzzling environmental scientists’

Gagged

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Censorship is a seductive tool for those in power. Unwanted evidence can be not just ignored, but even eliminated from the discussion.

Currently we are seeing too many successful efforts at higher government levels in both the US and Canada to limit and censor discussion of climate change.

In the US, apart from the refusal by the Republican Party in Congress to even address issues of climate change, the censorship has been at the state level. For instance last July the Virginia General Assembly agreed to the removal of all references to sea level rise and climate change from a commissioned study on coastal Virginia. About the same time, the North Carolina legislature insisted that a bill related to coastal development regulations be based only on historical records, rejecting any reference to predictions of sea level rise. And then in Texas state legislators made it illegal for state planners and zoning officials even to mention climate change or rising sea levels.

A recent report on the impact of rising sea levels in Galveston Bay estuary on the coast of Texas was censored, removing reference to rising sea levels. (rawstory.com)

A recent report on the impact of rising sea levels in Galveston Bay estuary on the coast of Texas was censored, removing reference to rising sea levels. (rawstory.com)

In Canada, it is actually worse. When the Conservative Harper Government came to power in 2008 they began to muzzle their own scientists. Scientists could publish their research, but they could not talk to the media about it. This censorship has grown to include discussion of Arctic climate change, polar bear protection, tar sands damage to the environment, and even reasons for the decline in sockeye salmon on the BC coast.

Canadian government scientists protested  government actions in Ottawa in summer 2012 (therecord.com)

Canadian government scientists protested government actions in Ottawa in summer 2012 (therecord.com)

Last summer, 2000 Canadian government scientists actually held a protest in Ottawa, lamenting ‘the death of evidence’ and surprising everyone since scientists are not renowned as activists. Theirs was a response not only to muzzling, but also to the extraordinary attack by the Harper government on its own federally-funded labs involved in environmental research: the closing of the world famous Experimental Lakes Area as well as the Polar Environmental and Atmospheric Research Lab are breath-taking examples of government cynicism. The Harper Government would like to see its support of the tar sands, its development of pipelines, its plans for Arctic development, and its management of fisheries all remain unexamined and uncriticized, free from the inquiring research of scientists or the glare of media interest.

Closing the Experimental Lakes Area in Canada is an absurd political decision by the Harper government. (wildernesscommittee.org)

Closing the Experimental Lakes Area in Canada is an absurd political decision by the Harper government. (wildernesscommittee.org)

So is closing the Polar Environmental and Atmospheric Research Lab at Eureka, Nunavut, at 80 degrees latitude (pearl.candac..ca)

So is closing the Polar Environmental and Atmospheric Research Lab at Eureka, Nunavut, at 80 degrees latitude (pearl.candac..ca)

And now, most recently, US and Canadian scientists working on a joint US-Canada Arctic research project were required to sign sweeping confidentiality agreements – an arrangement rejected by at least some of the US scientists.

The muzzling of scientists, the unfunding of inconvenient research, the censoring of commissioned reports, the passage of laws restricting even the use of the appropriate words – altogether, this is lousy news. Not surprisingly, criticism and ridicule in the national and international media have been ineffective.

Of course this a serious abuse of power, and such disdain for evidence erodes our democracies. Given what’s at stake, it is also very dangerous.

Famous writers have written seriously scary books about this sort of thing.