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Why politics and climate change science do not mix

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With climate change becoming an increasingly recognized –- and feared –- phenomenon, it’s remarkable just how indifferent, even contemptuous, the Canadian Conservative government appears to be of it. The government has recently made the decision to withhold further funding for the research organization, Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Science, making this its last year in operation. Without the kind of research this organization provides regarding the state of Canada’s environment, in this time of dramatic temperature increases and ecological degradation, it’ll be very difficult to make the kinds of informed policy decisions we should expect from our representatives. Which is perhaps what the government intends. In light of the Alberta tar sands and the government’s failure to seriously commit to negotiations during the Copenhagen climate change summit, it’s reasonable to believe the withholding of funding serves political ends.

Another report shows that the Conservative government has practically muzzled its Environment Canada scientists, refusing many requests from the media for interviews and developing guidelines regarding what the scientists can say.

The intense politicization of climate change science is a trend we should scale back. At worst, we get instances like those mentioned above: a complete loss of important voices. At best, we get the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s leading body for climate change research. In his recent book, Climate Wars, Gwynne Dyer levels his criticisms of the IPCC, noting its overly-conservative assessments and recommendations, and letting us know why that’s so:

"We really should not be surprised at the widening gap between the IPCC report and reality, for the IPCC’s estimates for how much global warming we should expect, and how soon, have fallen far short of the reality from the start. The IPCC is, as the title suggests, an inter-governmental organization involving all the major countries of the world. The executive summary (the only part of the report that lay people, including most journalists, will ever read) is edited by the participating governments in consultation with the scientists who are lead authors of the various parts of the report, but the governmental involvement starts well before that."

I hope we can make the division between the scientific community and those with political interests a lot clearer. Otherwise, we’ll be left completely uninformed during what might turn out to be the world’s most serious crisis.

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