Is basic science taking a back seat in policy development?

Is basic science taking a back seat in policy development?


There is a mantra that I hear all too often in reference to environmental management. “We can’t manage what we don’t measure.” While I agree, it seems to be me that we rarely measure enough to make truly informed decisions, and things are getting worse. Government mantras appear to be evolving into something like “absence of data equals absence of scrutiny” or perhaps more aptly “absence of public data equals absence of public scrutiny.


The most recent fatality of this trend is an Arctic lab that conducts basic science, the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka. Its funding has run out. In recent years the lab’s operations were largely funded through the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. The Foundation was formed in 2000 and has granted in excess of $100 million for atmospheric and climate science. All federal contributions to the foundation ended with the change in government, also meaning an end to the foundation. (Perhaps it was to be replaced by the Canada School of Energy and Environment.) The cost of PEARL has been cited as $1.5 million per year. Several researchers have commented that this will create a gap in knowledge in Arctic climate. Bob McDonald has noted that the decision “once again lowered this country’s environmental reputation on the world scene.


Read “Is basic science taking a back seat in policy development?” on the ELC blog.





The Environmental Law Centre (ELC) has been seeking strong and effective environmental laws since it was founded in 1982. The ELC is dedicated to providing credible, comprehensive and objective legal information regarding natural resources, energy and environmental law, policy and regulation in Alberta. The ELC’s mission is to educate and champion for strong laws and rights so all Albertans can enjoy clean water, clean air and a healthy environment. Our vision is a society where laws secure an environment that sustains current and future generations.


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