University of Maryland Newsdesk.www.newsdesk.umd.edu
For Immediate Release
Cuts to Canadian Research Agency Threaten Atmospheric Science, International Agreements
COLLEGE PARK, Md. -- Recent cuts to the Canadian agency responsible for meteorological services and environmental science threatens research on the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere and on pollution in the lower atmosphere, write U.S. environmental scientists in a commentary in the February 14 issue of the American Geophysical Union's Eos newspaper.
The scientists -- including the Ross Salawitch, a professor of Atmospheric and Oceanic Science at the University of Maryland, College Park -- say these reductions in personnel at Environment Canada and projected budget cuts to the agency, also threaten existing international agreements.
"Canada is a bellwether for environmental change, not only for Arctic ozone depletion but for pollutants that stream to North America from other continents," says Anne Thompson, a professor of meteorology at Penn State, and lead author of the Eos commentary. "It is unthinkable that data collection is beginning to shut down in this vast country, in some cases at stations that started decades ago."
The researchers note that since August when the cuts went into effect, ozone soundings have ceased at several Canadian stations. Lidar network measurements of particle pollution layers from five Canadian stations no longer occur, and the website that was distributing this data has disappeared.
Environment Canada conducts many programs in support of international agreements including the UN framework for Climate Change Convention, the Montreal Protocol and U.S. bilateral agreements. The Canadian government signed all these agreements, but their ability to fulfill their obligations is now in question.
"Research conducted by scientists in Canada has been instrumental for the success of the Montreal Protocol, the international legislation that has successfully reduced atmospheric levels of ozone depleting substances," says UMD's Salawitch. "The ozone layer, particularly in the Arctic, is still sensitive because of the long atmospheric lifetime of pollutants that cause ozone depletion."
Bi-national agreements between Canada and the U.S. are also of concern to scientists and policy makers.
"A number of research areas in which Canada has shown past leadership now face a questionable future," says Ray Hoff, professor of physics, University of Maryland, Baltimore County. "These include deposition of toxic organic chemicals from the air onto the Great Lakes and vertical profiling of aerosols using laser radar."
Franco Einaudi, retired, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, adds, "Recent comments by Canada at the Durban Climate Change Summit have added to the concern that Canada's environmental commitment may be changing."
With Canada's vast Northern Territory, tracking climatic sensitivities as well as ozone depletion and arctic pollution are concerns of scientists and policymakers alike. Environment Canada's programs have long been a gold standard. With personnel losses and further decisions on reductions in force or re-assignment of personnel pending, the researchers are concerned that they and the international community can no longer rely on the exceptional efforts and past leadership that Canada exhibited.
"Canada stands to lose an entire community of highly respected scientists who are experts on ozone and climate if further proposed budget cuts go through," says Jennifer Logan, senior research fellow in atmospheric chemistry, Harvard University.
According to the researchers, future budget cuts at Environment Canada appear certain. Until the community is given specifics about the longterm environmental program, the ability for Canada to maintain its key role in support of science and the international agreements like the Montreal Protocol is compromised. The world stands to lose an enormous amount of data necessary for our understanding of the environment in these cold reaches and around the globe if these programs end, they say.