‘Arctic Freeze Out’: Is Canada dropping out of climate change research?
The Bank of Canada’s new $50 note features the Arctic research icebreaking ship CCGS Amundsen — a vessel which, according to the Bank, “reflects Canada’s commitment to Arctic research and the development and protection of northern communities.” But with the federal government’s recent confirmation to stop funding the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences (CFCAS), and the resultant grant cut to our High Arctic research station, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), we’re forced to question: is Canada, perplexingly, retreating from climate change research at a time when knowledge is evermore valuable to the global conversation?
Canada’s environmental performance has never impressed (we are currently at the bottom in international rankings, such as our fifty-fourth global position in the recent Climate Change Performance Index), although the Martin and Chrétien Liberals pushed forth encouraging progress. Stemming from their innovations, university climatology programs attracted global experts and our Arctic research facilities fed data into a wide network of international centres. But this spurt was short-lived, and the country’s reputation in climate change science is declining: dozens of newly trained climate specialists are leaving the country en masse for jobs abroad. “We’re bleeding people,” atmospheric physicist Richard Peltier, the 2012 recipient of Canada’s top science prize, the Herzberg Gold Medal, recently told Postmedia News.
The Arctic — like the Antarctic — is an acutely sensitive ecosystem that feels atmospheric and temperature changes more drastically than other places, serving as an early warning system. For instance, its temperature rises at nearly double the average rate, while its enormous ozone hole is caused by CFC emissions from across the world. Researchers at the poles have pure access to the atmosphere, and can track miniscule changes in sea ice. Variations in the Arctic also affect global climate and environment patterns.