More science troubles for Harper

Harper’s Conservative government has had a troubled relationship with science. From demoting, then removing the National Science Adviser, to appointing a creationist science minister, Harper’s Conservatives have never held science in  high regard. Now comes word that Harper is appointing two anti-science climate deniers to important federal scientific bodies. The scientific community is justifiably appalled.

Top Canadian scientists are accusing the Harper government of politicizing science funding and jeopardizing climate research by naming global warming critics to key boards that fund science.

The government’s actions are “dreadful,” said Garry Clarke, a leading international glaciologist at the University of British Columbia, and undercut public pledges to tackle climate change.

“Their mouths are doing one thing and their hands are doing something different,” Prof. Clarke said.

The two appointees are Mark Mullins and John Weissenberger

Dr. Mark Mullins, executive director of the Fraser Institute

The quote “It strikes me that the science is not settled,” he said in a 2007 interview posted at BCbusinessonline. “‘Put caps on global emitters’ is not the natural conclusion I would come to.”

The appointment April, 2009. Dr. Mullins is one of 18 members of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), a body that makes strategic decisions on the agency’s priorities. The granting agency funds university research. Specific projects are approved by a separate panel at arm’s length from the council.

What he says now “I’ve got personal views on all kinds of things. I’ve never been asked for any of them in relation to this appointment and it’s got no implications, I don’t think, for any of the work that might be done there. We’re not, as I understand it, vetting any sort of scientific research at the board level.”

Dr. John Weissenberger, a geologist with Husky Energy and former chief of staff in the Harper government.

The quote “To those who doubt the scientific basis of global warming theory, we say: Don’t let a cabal of government-funded scientists, environmental activists and journalists convince us they’re the mainstream.” — April 28, 2006, opinion piece co-authored in the Calgary Herald.

The appointment April, 2009. Dr. Weissenberger will work as one of 15 board members at the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The foundation helps fund the purchase of expensive research equipment. The board of directors makes final decisions on what to fund and sets strategic objectives.

What he says now “My appointment should be judged based on my academic and professional qualifications.”

And way back in 2006 Harper appointed another anti-science denier, Christopher Essex, to a prominent science position.

Dr. Christopher Essex, math professor at University of Western Ontario

The quote “The claim that there is a global warming crisis threatening to bring chaos and destruction upon the world is so feeble you were probably feeling skeptical anyway. You were right.” — From the 2002 book Taken By Storm, which Dr. Essex co-authored.

The appointment October, 2006. Dr. Essex is a member of NSERC.

What he says now Dr. Essex said the council’s work at NSERC is at such a high level, specific issues such as how to fund climate change have never come up. He said outspoken climatologist Andrew Weaver is the one who is “politicizing” science issues.

This is absurd, and shows how little Harper cares about global warming or science in general.  As Andrew Weaver puts it:

What would the public think if we appointed outspoken proponents of the fallacy ‘smoking doesn’t cause cancer’ as members of the boards funding medical and, in particular, cancer research?

We would naturally be outraged.  And we should be outraged by these decidedly un-scientific appointments.

When will the government return science in its rightful place?

3 thoughts on “More science troubles for Harper

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  1. See what it took in the states.

    When I started working in my current (NSERC-supported) lab, I looked up who was running NSERC. I was utterly shocked to find Christopher “There is no basis for average temperature” Essex running it. Now it’s the freakin’ Fraser Institute? What next, primary research only getting approval if it completes an economic-benefits analysis?

  2. @ Brian D

    Now it’s the freakin’ Fraser Institute?

    Scary isn’t it? Hopefully what’s next is en election that restores science to it’s rightful place.

    @ Mark

    I had no idea, but it does explain a few things.

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