“No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy”

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canada-flag“To the extent that we tolerate the suppression of science in Canada, we can expect a correlative suppression of democracy,” writes Carol Linnitt in “Harper’s attack on science: No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy.” Climate scientist and IPCC lead author Andrew Weaver says “we have a crisis in Canada … in terms of the development of information and science to inform decision-making. What we have replaced that with is an ideological approach to decision-making.”

Harper’s attack on science: No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy” is an excellent review and discussion in Academic Matters – The Journal of Higher Education in Canada by Carol Linnitt, site manager and director of research at DeSmog Canada. We have posted multiple times during the past five years on the right-wing Harper government’s political control of communication by government scientists and undermining of environmental science research and data collection. Linnitt’s review of the numerous harmful steps taken by the Harper regime makes some key points about science, democracy, and the current state of affairs. A few excerpts — but read the full article:

Since 2006, the Harper government has made bold moves to control or prevent the free flow of scientific information across Canada, particularly when that information highlights the undesirable consequences of industrial development. The free flow of information is controlled in two ways: through the muzzling of scientists who might communicate scientific information, and through the elimination of research programs that might participate in the creation of scientific information or evidence.

Federal scientists, academics, journalists, and environmental organizations across Canada have complained of increasingly strict communications policies that prevent researchers from relaying crucial scientific information to the media or the public. …

Beyond tight communications controls, the Harper Government has also constrained or eliminated several high-profile research labs, scientific institutions, and other data-gathering organizations. The effect of these closures is that the very building block of science—evidence—is cut off at its roots. …

These cuts to funding for environmental research were followed by the infamously anti-science Omnibus Budget Bill C-38 in June 2012. …

[I]n light of Prime Minister Harper’s agenda to rebrand Canada as the next energy superpower, it would seem that both the corporate interests and the state are focused on the expansion of the resource extraction industry in Canada. …

Calvin Sandborn, legal director at the University of Victoria’s Environmental Law Centre,  [says]: “It is interesting to see that the topics that require the highest level of ministerial control are topics related to the tar sands, climate change, polar bears, caribou, and the oil and gas industry. Those are all terms used in the federal government policies and on those topics the rules are the strictest. The scientists have to get the highest level of ministerial approval to talk about those topics. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether that’s a coincidence.” …

Science, and the evidence-based discourse it enables, is the foundation upon which the whole democratic mechanism turns. … The relationship between science and democracy is thus an intimate one. And to the extent that we tolerate the suppression of science in Canada, we can expect a correlative suppression of democracy. …

Nobel Prize-wining climate scientist Andrew Weaver* argues that “we have a crisis in Canada.” This crisis, he says, “is in terms of the development of information and science to inform decision-making. What we have replaced that with is an ideological approach to decision-making.” …

“So,” he says, “we have a problem. [Muzzling] throws a wedge into our democratic process.” He adds, “This is a crisis of democracy. We need to actually, as citizens, reclaim democracy and there are many ways of doing it. But the first thing we have to demand is access to information because without information we’re ignorant and ignorance actually leads to the rise of these autocratic systems.” …

If Canada is to recover from the serious dismantling of scientific institutions and practices across the country, it will require a sustained effort by scientists, citizens, and policymakers. It is much easier, after all, to tear down than to rebuild.

*    *    *

*Weaver is a professor in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He was a lead author of the IPCC’s report Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis.

Earlier posts:

New report on Harper government interference with science communication in Canada (March 20, 2013)

Canada: Entering a new Dark Age for science and environmental protection? (July 4, 2012)

The state of politics and climate change – A Northern update (December 12, 2010)

Canada’s ‘creeping authoritarianism’ in political pre-screening of scientists’ media contact (September 19, 2010)

Leaked document says Canadian federal climate scientists being blocked from media contact (March 15, 2010)

New Harper government policy muzzles communication by Environment Canada government scientists (February 13, 2008)

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2 Responses to “No science, no evidence, no truth, no democracy”

  1. John Mc geough says:

    Could you please refer me to the Nobel Prize winners list showing Andrew Weaver as a winner of said prize.
    Thank you

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      Weaver is a professor in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences at the University of Victoria, British Columbia, and was a member of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which was awarded the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize. He was a lead author of the IPCC’s report Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. I’ve modified the text to clarify this point.

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