Discovery of Arctic Ozone Hole Brings Environment Canada Cuts Sharply into Focus

This past weekend, the journal
Nature published a paper detailing, for the first time, the discovery of
a hole in the ozone layer near the North Pole. This critical layer of
our atmosphere is responsible for sheltering the Earth from harmful
ultraviolet radiation, and this recent discovery is cause for concern.
Although seasonal fluctuations in stratospheric ozone concentrations are
a natural phenomenon, never before have scientists observed such a
severe depletion.

to this worrying discovery, were measurements taken by Environment
Canada’s Ozonesonde program, whose sole manager, along with nearly 800
other Environment Canada scientists, recently received a letter of
notice that his position was potentially subject to being cut. These
recently announced cuts will critically undermine Canada’s ability to
monitor the Arctic ozone levels, essential data that is relied on by
scientists worldwide. These recent cuts are consistent with a longer
term trend, dating back to 2007, of the Harper government clamping down
on Canada’s scientists by requiring all senior federal scientists to
request governmental permission before speaking to media.

the Environment Minister insists that the government is not attempting
to muzzle its scientists, it appears that the 776 ‘adjustment letters’
that were sent out to Environment Canada staff are casting doubt on
their jobs which, coupled with the gag orders, have created a very
troubling cloud over government science”, says Green Party Leader
Elizabeth May. “If the government actually respects the work of its
scientists, as the Environment Minister claimed repeatedly today during
Question Period, then it would not be threatening to eliminate their
jobs or the important work that they’re doing.”

study’s authors attribute the hole to unusually long-lasting cold
conditions in the lower stratosphere, the causes of which are still
poorly understood. But given the global climatic disruptions and
instability recently observed, which continue to result from increasing
human intervention into the climatic system, this recently observed
phenomenon would fit within this trend.

underlying point of this discovery is that the impacts of a changing
climate are not well enough understood, and the emergence of an Arctic
ozone hole warrants much further study. Yet this critical discovery has
been made at precisely the time that Environment Canada stands to lose
much of its capacity to collect and monitor data on Canada’s climate and
atmosphere. The Green Party of Canada calls on the government to
recognize the critical importance of the work done by Environment Canada
scientists, and to immediately rescind all of the 776 notice letters
sent out to staff.

Debra Eindiguer