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article imageCanadian gov't suppressed info on polar ice melt

By Martin Laine     Aug 21, 2014 in Politics
Canada’s Conservative-led government has tried to keep Canadians from finding out just how rapidly the Arctic ice is melting by suppressing the findings of its own scientists, as well as forbidding them from talking about global climate change.
In 2012, government scientists working for the Canadian Ice Service, the agency whose mission is “to provide the most accurate and timely information about ice in Canada’s navigable waters,“ reported that the Arctic ice had shrunk to the lowest point ever recorded.
Because of the worldwide interest in the condition of the polar ice caps, the scientists wanted to hold a “strictly factual” technical briefing for the media to let Canadians and others know that ice had disappeared from the Northwest Passage as well as other areas, according to an article on the canada.com website.
Before they could do this, it had to run through a gauntlet of nine levels of approval by various officials. It never made it through the process. According to the released documents, when it reached the sixth layer, known as “ministerial services,” the briefing was cancelled.
“It’s suppression through bureaucracy,” said Katie Gibbs, executive director of Evidence for Democracy (E4D), a nonprofit dedicated to open communication of government science.
“Why is it we need nine levels of approval for this sort of thing, what’s the justification?” asked Scott Findlay, a biologist, a co-founder of E4D, and a member of the Institute for Science, Science and Policy at the University of Ottawa.
The secret was out soon after, when the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center released their own, similar findings. By contrast there were briefings, interviews, and press releases about their record- shattering findings.
Findlay said government scientists are professionals and the government should trust them to interact with the media and release information that is in the public interest.
Under the government’s communications policy, put into effect shortly after the 2006 Conservative Party victory, government scientists are not allowed to talk to journalists without prior approval. One exception is meteorologists, who can discuss severe weather but not climate change.
“Environment Canada scientists speak to their area of expertise,” said government spokesman Mark Johnson in an email response to questions from investigative reporter Mike DeSouza. “Questions about climate change or long-term trends would be directed to a climatologist or other applicable authority.”
More about Arctic ice melt, Climate change, Canadian Ice Service
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