Two Marches in April: for Climate action and Science-Based Policy

In releasing its  most recent working paper , the Labor Network for Sustainablity (LNS) states : “On the eve of the second Peoples’ Climate March, we offer this as a contribution to the conversation that we must continue in earnest and move us to bold, decisive and immediate action.”  Comments are invited, as is participation in Labor Contingent of the People’s Climate March in Washington D.C. on April 29.  According to 350.org,  , more than 100,000 people have already RSVP’ed for the Washington March alone, as of April 13.   See information about the March in Toronto or Vancouver.

The LNS paper, Jobs for Climate and Justice: A Worker alternative to the Trump Agenda , describes  a Jobs for Climate and Justice Plan – a four-part strategy to defeat  the Trump ideas,  and develop  a climate-safe and worker-friendly economy.  Author Jeremy Brecher states that “protecting the climate requires a massive and emergency mobilization” comparable to the industrial transformation of World War 2.   The paper suggests ideas to create new climate-friendly jobs and protect the workers and communities who are threatened by climate change, and while most of these have appeared in earlier LNS publications , the sheer number of positive, concrete examples of worker  initiatives across the U.S. makes this an inspiring document .

According to an article in Common Dreams, “The Fights to Protect Science, People and Planet Are Inherently Connected” (April 6)   .  A  blog post from Legal Planet,  “The War on Science continues”  also makes clear how the Trump administration disregard for science is impacting climate change research, and how closely intertwined the two issues are.  So on April 22,  Earth Day, watch for or join the March for Science “the first step of a global movement to defend the vital role science plays in our health, safety, economies, and governments”. “….. We are advocating for evidence-based policy-making, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science.”

ScientistsThe main Science March is set for  Washington D.C., but there are sister marches around the world, including in 18 cities across Canada . The Canadian organizers, Ottawa-based  Evidence for Democracy , state: “The politicization of science, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted”.  This is not just an American issue.  Canadians remember the muzzled scientists of the Harper era, and can see current examples  – Evidence for Democracy published a report on April 6, Oversight at Risk: The state of government science in British Columbia   – the first of several planned surveys of provincial government scientists . Some results:  32 per cent said they cannot speak to the media about their research; 49 per cent think said political interference reduces their department’s ability to create policies and programs based on scientific evidence.

 

Climate science and facts in the Trump Administration -protecting the public right to know

For those who rely on U.S. climate change research and science, two recent  incidents in the Trump transition are noteworthy. First, the U.S. Department of Energy released a Directive for Scientific Integrity,  approved January 4, 2017,  which states:  “The cornerstone of the scientific integrity policy at DOE is that all scientists, engineers or others supported by DOE are free and encouraged to share their scientific findings and views. ” Department of Energy personnel “will not suppress or alter scientific or technological findings or intimidate or coerce any covered personnel, contractors or others to alter or censor scientific or technological findings or conclusions.” It also directs the DOE to appoint a “Scientific Integrity Official within the Office of the Deputy Secretary of Energy to serve as an ombudsperson for matters related to scientific integrity.”  Canadians, who recall the muzzled scientists of the Harper era , will applaud the policy, even as we  continue to fight for scientific rigour  in environmental assessments .  A recent DeSmog blog explains.

Every day brings new developments in Washington:  President Trump has effectively gagged staff at the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture.  In response, a Scientists March on Washington is being organized, according to Scientists.jpgClimate Central (Jan. 25).    The preliminary website states: ” There are certain things that we accept as facts with no alternatives. The Earth is becoming warmer due to human action. The diversity of life arose by evolution. Politicians who devalue expertise risk making decisions that do not reflect reality and must be held accountable. An American government that ignores science to pursue ideological agendas endangers the world.”

A  reassuring development for researchers, in light of the Trump order to dismantle the Environmental Protection Agency website:  Volunteer scientists, computer programmers, librarians and citizens  have been hard at work since December,  gathering and archiving environmental and climate change data produced by the U.S. government, in advance of the Trump inauguration. “Guerilla archiving” events, beginning at  the University of Toronto , have also taken place at  University of Pennsylvania,  San Francisco, and Los Angeles (on Inauguration Day!)  in the coordinated task of identifying and gathering the URL’s of important sources of information which will likely become vulnerable to removal in the Trump government.   Read “Climate Data Preservation Efforts Mount as Trump Takes Office”  in MIT Technology Review (Jan. 20) for an up to date summary and links to some of the many players in this complex effort.  A December blog by The Project Archivists Responding to Climate Change (ProjectARCC) group explains the major players and indicates the scale of the effort.

Briefly, many of the collected web sites are being stored in the servers of the End of Term Web Archive,   a collaborative effort  of established actors such as the Internet Archive , (which already stores 279 billion web pages!), Library of Congress, the U.S. Government Publishing Office, University of California Digital Library, and others. Over 10,000 URL’s of federal climate data websites have already been nominated for archiving, according to the public list available here , though none of the “in process”  web pages are available to view yet . For those concerned by the scrubbing of the White House website of all mentions of “climate change”,  a separate White House archive , housing the Obama version, is available here .

The University of Pennsylvania’s Program in Environmental Humanities is housing a separate DataRefuge project, in part to back up environmental data sets that standard Web crawling tools can’t collect.  The  Climate Mirror is a distributed effort conducted by volunteers to mirror and back up  data in locations outside the U.S. – an effort also underway at the Internet Archive.   Quartz has published  “Hackers downloaded US government climate data and stored it on European servers as Trump was being inaugurated”    (Jan. 21) .

Most of the work is being done by volunteers, who are eager for help and donations.  The Environmental Data and Governance Initiative   has a clear set of requests for help, including a list of upcoming archiving events in Ann Arbor and New York City. There is a well-developed process to nominate vulnerable sites, which requires the help of knowledgeable researchers, as well as a need for programmers and IT nerds to work on scripts to help harvest data sets and web pages not easily accessed.  The Free Government Information  website (another volunteer group )  has also published “2016 End of Term (EOT) crawl and how you can help” .   Success will ensure that environmental data and facts survive in the public realm.

 

Australia announces Clean Energy Investment Fund

A March 22 announcement establishes a A$1 billion clean-energy innovation fund to  invest in clean-energy technologies and businesses in Australia; the Australian Renewable Energy Agency  will also be retained.  Yet a controversy continues over the Australian government’s cut-backs on climate change science – see “Grim prospects: the shake-up of Australia’s climate science”  from the Sydney Morning Herald (March 11).  Another current controversy is highlighted in The Guardian: “Australia’s emissions rising and vastly underestimated, says report”  (March 18).

Federal Government Scientists: an Open Letter in their Support, and an Injunction for Energy East Based on their Concerns

The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), along with the Union of Concerned Scientists, marked the Government of Canada’s Science and Technology week with an advertising campaign which included an open letter to Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

muzzle_scientists_canada_report_535_692The letter states: “Canada’s leadership in basic research, environmental, health and other public science is in jeopardy…We urge you to restore government science funding and the freedom and opportunities to communicate these findings internationally”. The letter was signed by more than 800 scientists from 32 countries, from institutions such as Harvard Medical School in the U.S. and the Max Planck Institute in Germany. PIPSC, which represents scientists employed by the federal government, has published earlier surveys of its members to document their perceptions of being “muzzled”; a related advocacy group, Evidence for Democracy, released its own report on October 8, compiling and ranking the communications policies of federal government departments.

The world has seen this before, as described in a blog by the Union for Concerned Scientists, and coincidentally, by the New York Times obituary on October 19, 2014 for Rick Pitz. Pitz was a U.S. whistleblower who exposed the subtle manipulation of scientific reports on climate change in the Bush administration between 2002 and 2003.

Ignoring the opinions of federal government scientists has its perils. On September 23, the Quebec Superior Court issued a temporary injunction to stop TransCanada’s exploratory drilling for the Energy East pipeline. Part of the reason for the injunction: environmental groups provided internal documents showing that scientists from the federal department of Fisheries and Oceans had been raising concerns for months about the impact of the exploratory drilling on the habitat of threatened St. Lawrence beluga whales, and of the proposed oil terminal that would be built to service 250-metre long supertankers. The court ruled that, by ignoring the scientists’ concerns, Quebec’s Minister of the Environment erred in issuing a permit for the exploratory work.

LINKS:

PIPSC Press release, with a link to the Open Letter, is at: http://www.pipsc.ca/portal/page/portal/website/news/newsreleases/news/21102014

Can Scientists Speak? Grading Communication Policies For Federal Government Scientists is at: https://evidencefordemocracy.ca/canscientistsspeak, with a blog which summarizes Canadian and U.S. experience at the Union of Concerned Scientists at: http://blog.ucsusa.org/want-to-talk-to-a-scientist-in-canada-dont-look-to-the-federal-government-678

See the CBC report at:http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/foreign-scientists-call-on-stephen-harper-to-restore-science-funding-freedom-1.2806571 for links to previous stories in this ongoing issue.

Rick Pitz obituary in the New York Times (Oct. 19, 2014) is at: http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/a-passing-rick-piltz-a-bush-era-whistleblower/?_php=true&_type=blogs&module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar&_r=0, and the related expose of Philip A. Cooney, “Bush Aide Softened Greenhouse Gas Links to Global Warming” in the New York Times (June 8, 2005) at: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/06/08/politics/08climate.html?emc=eta1

“TransCanada work on St. Lawrence port Suspended by Quebec Court Order” on the CBC website (September 23) at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/montreal/transcanada-work-on-st-lawrence-port-suspended-by-quebec-court-order-1.2775613