"Stephen Harper Hates Science": Federal Scientists Muzzled to Protect Tar Sands Reputation

The Canadian government is working hard behind the scenes to cover up the negative effects that tar sands extraction is having on the local environment, wildlife, communities and the global climate. According to Access to Information documents obtained by Postmedia's Mike De Souza, the Stephen Harper government has actively suppressed the release of vital information regarding the spread of tar sands contamination by muzzling federal scientists.

The gag order, according to De Souza, came on the heels of a newly researched government report in November 2011 which confirmed the findings of University of Alberta scientists Erin N. Kelly and David Schindler. The scientists discovered concentrations of toxics such as heavy metals were higher near tar sands operations, showing a positive correlation between tar sands activity and the spread of contaminants in the local environment.

The government of Canada and the government of Alberta denied the correlation, saying local waterways tested showed no signs of toxic contamination and reports of mutated and cancerous fish downstream from the tar sands were unfounded.

Comedian Kamau Bell Joins Romney, says F**K Science!

This is a funny video brought to you by - the same team that produced Samuel L. Jackson's election video “Wake the F**k Up!”


PBS NewsHour Falls Into “Balance” Trap, Provides Megaphone For Anthony Watts

PBS – the network that conservatives have regularly attacked for “liberal bias” for more than 40 years – finally put that myth to rest tonight by airing a one-sided interview with climate change denier Anthony Watts. The former weatherman-turned business owner and blogger Watts, was given close to ten minutes of uncontested airtime to spout his disinformation about climate change, without any retorts from actual climate scientists.

Update: Forecast The Facts launched a petition calling for PBS Ombudsman Michael Getler to investigate whether the segment met PBS' standards.

Watts freely admitted in the interview that he is not a climate scientist, but said that he has a problem with climate scientists because, as Watts says, they are using “faulty data.”

Watts should know a thing or two about faulty data, as he was recommended to PBS reporter Spencer Michels for an interview by the disinformation specialists at the Heartland Institute.

Here is a brief snip from the PBS Newshour interview:

U.S. Government Significantly Underestimating Costs Of Climate Change And Dirty Energy

A new study released today shows that the U.S. government is using faulty calculations and outdated information to determine the costs of energy and climate change in America. The study was written by Chris Hope from the University of Cambridge and Laurie Johnson of the Natural Resources Defense Council, and published in the Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences.

Current government models would have us believe that fossil fuels provide the cheapest sources of electricity for the United States, but the new study says that the numbers being used are misleading, as they do not take into account all of the costs, specifically those related to climate change, that these sources of energy carry.

From NRDC:

What's The Fracking Problem With Natural Gas?

This is a guest post by David Suzuki with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Communications Manager Ian Hanington.

At least 38 earthquakes in Northeastern B.C. over the past few years were caused by hydraulic fracturing, commonly called fracking, according to a report by the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission. Studies have found quakes are common in many places where that natural gas extraction process is employed.
It’s not unexpected that shooting massive amounts of water, sand and chemicals at high pressure into the earth to shatter shale and release natural gas might shake things up. But earthquakes aren’t the worst problem with fracking.
Hydraulic fracturing requires massive amounts of water. Disposing of the toxic wastewater, as well as accidental spills, can contaminate drinking water and harm human health. And pumping wastewater into the ground can further increase earthquake risk. Gas leakage also leads to problems, even causing tap water to become flammable! In some cases, flaming tap water is the result of methane leaks from fracking. And methane is a far more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide!
Those are all serious cause for concern—but even they don’t pose the greatest threat from fracking. The biggest issue is that it’s just one more way to continue our destructive addiction to fossil fuels. As easily accessible oil, gas and coal reserves become depleted, corporations have increasingly looked to “unconventional” sources, such as those in the tar sands or under deep water, or embedded in underground shale deposits.

Just 2% of Canadians Deny Climate Change Occurring, Poll Finds

Originally published on

A recent survey conducted by Insightrix Research, Inc. has found that only 2% of Canadians believe climate change is not taking place.

The online poll, commissioned by IPAC CO2 Research Inc., a Saskatchewan-based center studying carbon capture and storage, asked respondents where they stood on the issue of climate change.

32% of participants said they believe climate change is occurring as a result of human activity, and 54% said they believe climate change is happening because of a combination of human activity and natural variation.  Meanwhile, 9% believe climate change is the result of the natural climate cycle.  Far in the minority were respondents (2%) that believed climate change is a hoax.

Conversely, in the United States climate denial represents a much larger chunk of the population, as a recent survey shows. 15% of Americans believe climate change is not occurring.

Much like the United States, Canadians' opinions on climate change vary depending on the region.  The Insightrix survey found that residents in the Prairies (Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) are least likely to believe humans are changing the climate, while those living in the Maritimes, Quebec, and British Columbia are most likely to hold the belief. 

Fracking Industry Paying Off Scientists For "Unbiased" Safety Studies

As a whole, Americans have an unfortunate tendency to distrust scientists. The number of those who distrust science and scientists is skewed heavily by ideology, with self-identified “conservatives” overwhelmingly saying that they don’t trust science. DeSmogBlog’s own Chris Mooney has spent an enormous amount of time and energy devoted to finding out why science has become so controversial, and has compiled a great new book explaining why certain sectors of the U.S. population are more prone to denying many scientific findings.

And while most of the distrust that Americans have for scientists and science in general is completely without warrant, there are times when it is reasonable and often necessary to question the findings of scientists. Especially when the money trail funding certain science leads us right back to the oil and gas industry.

Five years ago, the ExxonMobil-funded American Enterprise Institute began offering large cash incentives to scientists willing to put their conscience aside to undermine studies that were coming out regarding climate change. The dirty energy industry knew that these studies would put their well-being at risk because they were responsible for so much of the global warming emissions, so they had to open their wallets to scientists who were more concerned with their finances than the well being of the planet.

A similar scenario played out in the months following BP’s Gulf of Mexico oil disaster. BP arranged meetings with scientists and academics all along the Gulf Coast, offering them $250 an hour to report on the oil spill, as long as the reports weren’t negative. This also would have allowed the oil giant an advantage in future litigation, by creating a conflict of interest for scientists that might otherwise testify against the company.

And then we have the media’s role in all of this, with 'experts for hire' like Pat Michaels allowed to pollute the public conversation with disinformation.

Understanding Harper's Evangelical Mission

This post originally appeared in The Tyee, and is re-published with permission.
Any Canadian listening to the news these days might well conclude that the Republican extremists or some associated evangelical group has occupied Ottawa.

And they'd be righter than Job, I believe.

Almost daily, more evidence surfaces that Canada's government is guided by tribalists averse to scientific reason in favour of Biblical fundamentalism – or what some call “evangelical religious skepticism.”

First came Canada's pull-out of the Kyoto agreement without any rational or achievable national plan to battle carbon pollution.

Next came the hysterical and unprecedented letter by Natural Resource Minister Joe Oliver, an investment banker. It branded local environmentalists and First Nations as foreign radicals because they dared to question the economic and environmental impacts of a Chinese-funded pipeline.

At the same time federal security types declared Greenpeace, a civil organization originally started by Canadian journalists, to be a “multi-issue extremist group.”

Hot Enough For Ya? Extreme Weather Events Consistent With Climate Change Science

Large portions of the U.S. are on fire. Record droughts currently encompass massive swaths of America. The areas not experiencing droughts have been inundated with flooding. Winter weather in many areas was almost non-existent. A few years ago, an Academy Award-winning film called “An Inconvenient Truth” warned wary Americans that all of these events would become the new normal due to climate change. But these are no longer warnings – this is the reality that we’re living in now.

It is becoming increasingly more difficult to ignore the evidence of extreme weather that surrounds all of us. And it isn’t just the United States. Every corner of the globe is experiencing the direct effects of climate change in some form or fashion. And again, we were warned that all of this was going to happen.

My hometown of Gulf Breeze, Florida feels like it's been a petri dish for climate change disaster stories. In the past month, we’ve had two separate droughts that were both ended by flash flooding. In between these events, we avoided a hit from pre-season tropical storm Debby, which turned eastward and drenched central Florida with torrential rains. Last weekend we had a heat index of 112 degrees, and I awoke this morning (again, after weeks of drought) to find half of my yard underwater due to coastal flooding.

In the U.S., the reality of climate change has certainly been an eye opener for many Americans.

Is BP's Attempted Climategate Strategy To Attack Scientists Ethical?

In late 2009, climate change deniers thought they had found the Holy Grail in terms of climate denial – a collection of more than 3,000 hacked emails that they took out of context to “prove” that scientists were lying about human-driven climate change. This so-called scandal became known as “Climategate.” And even though the full context of the emails revealed that the scientists involved undoubtedly agreed that climate change was real and that the science proved so, climate deniers today still use those false, cherry-picked emails to sell their conspiracy theory to the American public. Reputations were destroyed, the truth was kept hidden, and the public was left confused and annoyed as a result of the entire fiasco.

With Climategate still weighing heavily on the minds of climate scientists and the entire scientific community, it's no surprise that these professionals would want their private communications to remain exactly that, for fear that anything they’ve said could be taken grossly out of context, or completely re-worded to fit a biased agenda. If information is pertinent and relevant to public discourse, they have been more than happy to oblige requests, but anything beyond that is clearly a violation of their privacy.

So why then is BP trying to obtain every piece of email correspondence from scientists who researched the Gulf of Mexico oil geyser?

That’s a question that numerous scientists have tried to figure out in recent weeks. The oil giant has subpoenaed emails from scientists who studied the oil and its impact on coastal and marine environments to use in the numerous civil and federal lawsuits against the company.

What makes this a problem is that scientists have already turned over the relevant data to the company and the federal government, but BP wants access to the private correspondence between the scientists as well, hoping for another “Climategate”-type email chain that can be used to discredit the scientists.


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