Wonder why the sun feels so intense of late?

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The (6) articles below, in order from top to bottom, form a quite clear picture. Though the BBC science reporter (who authored the first article below) does not mention aluminum as the primary element in geoengineering “proposals”, the majority of geoengineering patents do. Aluminum is also the primary ingredient showing up in lethal levels in all lab tests to date. Over 50 in Shasta County alone. Again, the majority of these tests are rain and snow. The quantities that have shown up are absolutely off the charts. The ozone layer is being ripped to shreds. According to CARB (California Air Resources Board), who measured aerosols (fine particulates) migrating from China, aluminum was not among the elements found. So where is this massive amount of metal coming from? Some rain tests have had quantities of aluminum elevated some 50,000% (just under 3500 PPB)over an initial base line test taken in 06 that was already high at 7PPB.

Whatever one wants to consider as the source, highly toxic particulates are raining down on us in lethal quantities and we are all inhaling it with every breath we take.

SW

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Climate ‘fix’ could deplete ozone <–Link to BBC Story
By Helen Briggs
Science reporter, BBC News

 

But one Canadian government department approached by the BBC said it held the communication of science as a priority.

Prof Thomas Pedersen, a senior scientist at the University of Victoria, said he believed there was a political motive in some cases.

“The Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) is keen to keep control of the message, I think to ensure that the government won’t be embarrassed by scientific findings of its scientists that run counter to sound environmental stewardship,” he said.

“I suspect the federal government would prefer that its scientists don’t discuss research that points out just how serious the climate change challenge is.”

The Canadian government recently withdrew from the Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The allegation of “muzzling” came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.

The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.

Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview.

‘Orwellian’ approach

Andrew Weaver, an environmental scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, described the protocol as “Orwellian”.

The protocol states: “Just as we have one department we should have one voice. Interviews sometimes present surprises to ministers and senior management. Media relations will work with staff on how best to deal with the call (an interview request from a journalist). This should include asking the programme expert to respond with approved lines.”

Professor Weaver said that information is so tightly controlled that the public is “left in the dark”.

“The only information they are given is that which the government wants, which will then allow a supporting of a particular agenda,” he said.

The media protocol was obtained and reported three years ago by Margaret Munro, who is a science writer for Postmedia News, based in Vancouver. Speaking at the AAAS meeting, she said its effect was to suppress scientific debate on issues of public interest.

“The more controversial the story, the less likely you are to talk to the scientists. They (government media relations staff) just stonewall. If they don’t like the question you don’t get an answer.”

Ms Munro cited several examples of what she described as the “muzzling” of scientists by the government.

The most notorious case is of that of Dr Kristi Miller, who is head of molecular genetics for the Department for Fisheries and Oceans. Dr Miller had been investigating why salmon populations in western Canada were declining.

The investigation, which was published in one of the leading scientific journals in the world, Science, seemed to suggest that fish might have been exposed to a virus associated with cancer.

The suggestion raised many questions, including whether the virus might have been imported by the local aquaculture industry.

Requests denied

The journal felt this to be an important study and put out a press release, which it sent out to thousands of journalists across the world. Dr Miller was named as the principal contact.

However, the government declined all requests to interview Dr Miller. It said it was because she was due to give evidence to a judicial inquiry on the issue of falling fish stocks.

According to Ms Munro, because reporters were denied the opportunity to question Dr Miller about her work, important public policy issues went unanswered.

“You have a government that is micromanaging the message, obsessively. The Privy Council Office (which works for the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper) seems to vet everything that goes out to the media,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada told BBC News: “The Department works daily to ensure it provides the public with timely, accurate, objective and complete information about our policies, programmes, services and initiatives, in accordance with the Federal Government’s Communications Policy.

“In 2011, Fisheries and Oceans publicly issued 286 science advisory reports documenting our research on Canada’s fisheries; our scientists respond to approximately 380 science-based media calls every year.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada declined a request by the BBC to interview Kristi Miller for this article. Dr Miller told us she would have been willing to be interviewed had her department given her permission.

The AAAS meeting’s discussion on muzzling is organised by freelance science reporter Binh An Vu Van. She says fellow journalists across Canada are finding it “harder and harder” to get access to government scientists.

Ms Vu Van claims that as well as “clear-cut cases of muzzling”, such as the one involving Dr Miller, media relations officers use more subtle methods. She said that when she requests an interview, she has to enter into prolonged email correspondence to speak to a scientist she knows is ready and willing to be interviewed, often to be declined or offered another scientist she does not want to interview.

“It’s so hard to get hold of scientists that a lot of my colleagues have given up,” she explained.

Ms Munro cited another example of research published in another leading scientific journal, Nature, that was published last October.

An international team including several scientists from the government agency, Environment Canada, set out details of a hole that appeared in the ozone layer above the Arctic.

Ms Munro said she had called one of the scientists involved who she had dealt with several times in the past. He agreed to speak to her, but said that he had been told that her request had to be put to government media relations officials in Ottawa.

“So I phoned up Ottawa and they just said no you can’t talk to the guy. A couple of weeks later, he was available but by then the story had been done. So they take them out of the news cycle,” she said.

Ms Munro also claims that journalists were denied access to scientists working for the government agency Health Canada last year, when there was concern about radiation levels reaching the country’s western coast from Japan following the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Ultimately, journalists obtained the information they sought from European agencies.

The Postmedia News journalist obtained documents relating to interview requests using Canada’s equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act. She said the documents show interview requests move up what she describes as an “increasingly thick layer of media managers, media strategists, deputy ministers, then go up to the Privy Council Office, which decides ‘yes’ or ‘no'”.

“The government has never explained what the process is. They just imposed these changes and they expected us to sit back and take it,” she explained.

Professor Andrew Weaver believes that the media protocol is being used by the Canadian government to “instruct scientists to deliver a certain message, thereby taking the heat out of controversial topics”.

He added: “You can’t have an informed discussion if the science isn’t allowed to be communicated. Public relations message number one is that you have to set the conversation. You don’t want to have a conversation on someone else’s terms. And this is now being applied to science on discussions about oil sands, climate and salmon.”

Research has cast new doubt on the wisdom of using Sun-blocking sulphate particles to cool the planet.

Sulphate injections are one of several “geo-engineering” solutions to climate change being discussed by scientists.

But data published in Science journal suggests the strategy would lead to drastic thinning of the ozone layer.

This would delay the recovery of the Antarctic ozone hole by decades, and cause significant ozone loss over the Arctic, say US researchers.

The idea of pumping sulphur into the upper atmosphere ito counteract global warming comes from nature.

Major volcanic eruptions emit vast quantities of sulphur particles that can cool the planet significantly.

This was observed following the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo.

But one potential drawback is that sulphates provide a surface on which chlorine gases in polar clouds can become activated, causing chemical reactions that lead to the destruction of ozone molecules.

Ozone loss

Dr Simone Tilmes of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCar) in Boulder, Colorado, and colleagues used a combination of measurements and computer simulations to estimate future ozone loss if sulphate injections were carried out.

Quantities capable of mitigating climate change would destroy as much as three-quarters of the ozone layer over the Arctic, if carried out in the next few decades, they said.

This would also delay the expected recovery of the ozone layer over the Antarctic by about 30 to 70 years, they concluded.

Hold the climate fixes

Ozone depletion was enhanced in the Antarctic in the Mt Pinatubo aftermath.

Dr Tilmes said more research was needed before society attempted global geo-engineering solutions in the future.

However, she said the study should not rule out the approach altogether.

She told BBC News: “Politicians have to decide what is most important – if you have climate change you might have catastrophic conditions – they might decide to do this anyway.

“If you have to make decisions you need to know what is good about it and what is bad about it. With this scheme the bad side is definitely the ozone depletion, but you can cool the climate.”

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“Unprecedented” Arctic Ozone Hole: Inaction Risks “Future Nasty Climate Change Surprises Far More Serious” <–link to story
By Joe Romm on Oct 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Dr. Jeff Masters:  An unprecedented ozone hole opened in the Arctic during 2011, researchers reported this week in the journal Nature….  We know that an 11% increase in UV-B light can cause a 24% decrease in winter wheat yield (Zheng et al., 2003), so this year’s Arctic ozone hole may have caused noticeable reductions in Europe’s winter wheat crop….
It is highly probable that we will see future nasty climate change surprises far more serious than the Arctic ozone hole if we continue on our present business-as-usual approach of emitting huge quantities of greenhouse gases. Humans would be wise to act forcefully to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, as the cost of inaction is highly likely to be far greater than the cost of action.

Left: Ozone in Earth’s stratosphere at an altitude of approximately 12 miles (20 kilometers) in mid-March 2011, near the peak of the 2011 Arctic ozone loss. Right: chlorine monoxide–the primary agent of chemical ozone destruction in the cold polar lower stratosphere–the same day and altitude. Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech.
JR:   This important finding almost qualifies as an “unknown unknown,” in that this impact was considered unlikely.  And if it harms Europe’s winter wheat crop, it could seriously add to the world’s growing food insecurity (see “Global Food Prices Stuck Near Record High Levels and links therein.   Meteorologist Dr. Jeff Masters has a great post on this, which I reprint below.

Unprecedented Arctic ozone hole in 2011

by Dr. Jeff Masters
An unprecedented ozone hole opened in the Arctic during 2011, researchers reported this week in the journal Nature. Holes in the Antarctic ozone layer have opened up each spring since the early 1980s, but the Arctic had only shown modest springtime ozone losses in the 5% – 30% range over the past twenty years. But this year, massive ozone destruction of 80% occurred at altitudes of 18 – 20 kilometers in the Arctic during spring, resulting in Earth’s first known case of twin ozone holes, one over each pole.During late March and portions of April, the Arctic ozone hole was positioned over heavily populated areas of Western Europe, allowing large levels of damaging ultraviolet rays to reach the surface. UV-B radiation causes skin damage that can lead to cancer, and has been observed to reduce crop yields in two-thirds of 300 important plant varieties studied (WMO, 2002.) The total loss of ozone in a column from the surface to the top of the atmosphere reached 40% during the peak of this year’s Arctic ozone hole. Since each 1% drop in ozone levels results in about 1% more UV-B reaching Earth’s surface (WMO, 2002), UV-B levels reaching the surface likely increased by 40% at the height of this year’s hole. We know that an 11% increase in UV-B light can cause a 24% decrease in winter wheat yield (Zheng et al., 2003), so this year’s Arctic ozone hole may have caused noticeable reductions in Europe’s winter wheat crop.

What caused this year’s unprecedented Arctic ozone hole?
Earth’s ozone holes are due to the presence of human-emitted CFC gases in the stratosphere. The ozone destruction process is greatly accelerated when the atmosphere is cold enough to make clouds in the stratosphere. These polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) act like ozone destruction factories, by providing convenient surfaces for the reactions that destroy ozone to occur. PSCs only form in the 24-hour darkness of unusually cold winters near the poles; the atmosphere is too warm elsewhere to support PSCs. Stratospheric temperatures are warmer in the Arctic than the Antarctic, so PSCs and ozone destruction in the Arctic has, in the past, been much less than in the Antarctic. In order to get temperatures cold enough to allow formation of PSCs, a strong vortex of swirling winds around the pole needs to develop. Such a “polar vortex” isolates the cold air near the pole, keeping it from mixing with warmer air from the mid-latitudes. A strong polar vortex in winter and spring is common in the Antarctic, but less common in the Arctic, since there are more land masses that tend to cause large-scale disruptions to the winds of the polar vortex, allowing warm air from the south to mix northwards. However, as the authors of the Nature study wrote, “The persistence of a strong, cold vortex from December through to the end of March was unprecedented. In February – March 2011, the barrier to transport at the Arctic vortex edge was the strongest in either hemisphere in the last ~30 years. This unusual polar vortex, combined with very cold Arctic stratospheric temperatures typical of what we’ve seen in recent decades, led to the most favorable conditions ever observed for formation of Arctic PSCs. The reasons for this unusual vortex are unknown.

Figure 2. Global lower stratospheric departure of temperature from average since 1979, as measured by satellites. The large spikes in 1982 and 1991 are due to the eruptions of El Chicon and Mt. Pinatubo, respectively. These volcanoes ejected huge quantities of sulphuric acid dust into the stratosphere. This dust absorbed large quantities of solar radiation, heating the stratosphere. Stratospheric temperature has been generally decreasing in recent decades, due to the twin effects of ozone depletion and the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the lower atmosphere. During Jan – Aug 2011, Earth’s stratosphere had its 3rd coldest such period on record. Image credit: National Climatic Data Center.

Greenhouse gases cause stratospheric cooling
When ozone absorbs UV light, it heats the surrounding air. Thus, the loss of ozone in recent decades has helped cool the stratosphere, resulting in a feedback loop where colder temperatures create more PSCs, resulting in even more ozone destruction. However, in 1987, CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances were banned. As a result, CFC levels in the stratosphere peaked in 2000, and had fallen by 3.8% as of 2008, according to NASA. Unfortunately, despite the fact that CFCs are falling in concentration, the stratosphere is not warming up. The recovery of the ozone layer is being delayed by human emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and methane. These gases trap heat near the surface, but cause cooling of the stratosphere and increased formation of the PSCs that help destroy ozone. We need only look as far as our sister planet, Venus, to see an example of how the greenhouse effect warms the surface but cools the upper atmosphere. Venus’s atmosphere is 96.5% carbon dioxide, which has triggered a hellish run-away greenhouse effect. The average surface temperature on Venus is a sizzling 894 °F, hot enough to melt lead. Venus’s upper atmosphere, though, is a startling 4 – 5 times colder than Earth’s upper atmosphere. The explanation of this greenhouse gas-caused surface heating and upper air cooling is not simple, but good discussions can be found at Max Planck Institute for Chemistry and realclimate.org, for those unafraid of radiative transfer theory. One way to think about the problem is that the amount of infrared heat energy radiated out to space by a planet is roughly equal to the amount of solar energy it receives from the sun. If the surface atmosphere warms, there must be compensating cooling elsewhere in the atmosphere in order to keep the amount of heat given off by the planet the same and balanced. As emissions of greenhouse gases continue to rise, their cooling effect on the stratosphere will increase. This will make recovery of the stratospheric ozone layer much slower.

Greenhouse gases cause cooling higher up, too
Greenhouse gases have also led to the cooling of the atmosphere at levels higher than the stratosphere. Over the past 30 years, the Earth’s surface temperature has increased 0.2 – 0.4 °C, while the temperature in the mesosphere, about 50 – 80 km above ground, has cooled 5 – 10 °C (Beig et al., 2006). There is no appreciable cooling due to ozone destruction at these altitudes, so nearly all of this dramatic cooling is due to the addition of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Even greater cooling of 17 °C per decade has been observed high in the ionosphere, at 350 km altitude. This has affected the orbits of orbiting satellites, due to decreased drag, since the upper atmosphere has shrunk and moved closer to the surface (Lastovicka et al., 2006). The density of the air has declined 2 – 3% per decade the past 30 years at 350 km altitude. So, in a sense, the sky IS falling due to the greenhouse effect!

Since any increase in solar energy would heat both the lower and upper atmosphere, the observed drop in upper atmospheric temperatures in the past 30 years argues against an increase in energy coming from the sun being responsible for global warming. The observed cooling of the upper atmosphere is strong evidence that the warming at Earth’s surface is due to human-emitted greenhouse gases that trap heat near the surface and cause compensating cooling aloft. It should also give us additional confidence in the climate models, since they predicted that this upper atmospheric cooling would occur. Keep in mind, also, that 2010 was tied for Earth’s hottest year on record, and the amount of energy coming from the sun during 2009 – 2010 was the lowest since satellite measurements began in the late 1970s. There has been no long-term increase in energy coming from the sun in recent decades, and the notion that global warming is due to an increase in energy coming from the sun simply doesn’t add up.

Commentary
The development of an ozone hole in the Arctic is a discouraging reminder that humans are capable of causing harmful and unexpected planetary-scale changes to the environment. A 2002 assessment of the ozone layer by the World Meteorological Organization concluded that an Arctic ozone hole would be unlikely to occur, due to the lack of a strong Arctic vortex in winter, and the fact CFCs levels had started to decline. However, an Arctic ozone hole may now become a regular visitor in the future. “Day-to-day temperatures in the 2010 – 11 Arctic winter did not reach lower values than in previous cold Arctic winters,” said the lead author of this year’s Nature study, Gloria Manney, of NASA and the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro. “The difference from previous winters is that temperatures were low enough to produce ozone-destroying forms of chlorine for a much longer time. This implies that if winter Arctic stratospheric temperatures drop just slightly in the future, for example as a result of climate change, then severe Arctic ozone loss may occur more frequently.” I might add that its a very good thing CFCs were banned in 1987, or else the Arctic ozone hole would have opened up much sooner and would have been far worse. It turned out that the costs of the CFC ban, while substantial, were far less than the dire cost predictions that the CFC industry warned of. It is highly probable that we will see future nasty climate change surprises far more serious than the Arctic ozone hole if we continue on our present business-as-usual approach of emitting huge quantities of greenhouse gases. Humans would be wise to act forcefully to cut emissions of greenhouse gases, as the cost of inaction is highly likely to be far greater than the cost of action.

 

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Huge hole opens in Arctic ozone layer <–link to story
BY MARGARET MUNRO, POSTMEDIA NEWS OCTOBER 2, 2011


View of the Ozone layer shot in January 1996 by European Space Agency (ESA) satellite ERS-2 taking part in the ‘Gome’ project surveying the ozone layer
Photograph by: File photo, AFP

A massive Arctic ozone hole opened up over the Northern Hemisphere for the first time this year, an international research team reported Sunday.The hole covered two million square kilometres — about twice the size of Ontario — and allowed high levels of harmful ultraviolet radiation to hit large swaths of northern Canada, Europe and Russia this spring, the 29 scientists say.
The discovery of the “unprecedented” hole comes as the Canadian government is moving to reduce staff in what Environment Minister Peter Kent calls the “streamlining” of its ozone monitoring network.

Environment Canada scientist David Tarasick, whose team played a key role in the report published Sunday in the journal Nature, is not being allowed to discuss the discovery with the media.
Environment Canada told Postmedia News that an interview with Tarasick “cannot be granted.” Tarasick is one of several Environment Canada ozone scientists who have received letters warning of possible “discontinuance of job function” as part of the downsizing underway in the department.

In Sunday’s report Tarasick and his colleagues say the “chemical ozone destruction over the Arctic in early 2011 was — for the first time in the observation record — comparable to that in the Antarctic ozone hole.”

It also highlights the importance of Environment Canada’s ozone networks, which scientists have warned could be drastically reduced. Department officials say ozone monitoring will continue but will be “streamlined” to eliminate “redundancy.”

“The Canadian stations were an absolutely key element of the network of stations we used to do the study,” says co-author Marcus Rex, of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, in Potsdam, Germany. “Canada is the backbone of that network.”

The scientists say maintaining “comprehensive” data is “critical” to understanding Arctic ozone depletion and the threats it poses.

They used U.S. and European satellites, along with ground stations and scientific balloons — including those operated by Environment Canada — to find and track the hole.

“The satellites, ground stations and balloons each provide a piece of the puzzle,” says co-author Kaley Walker, at the University of Toronto. “It is important to have them all.”

The hole formed over the Arctic in February and March, then swung across northern Canada, northern Europe and Central Russia to northern Asia, prompting scientists to issue warnings this spring about excess radiation.

Sunday’s report shows just how big and remarkable the hole was and how it moved. It also points to what scientists are calling “ominous” changes in the Arctic stratosphere, about 20 kilometres above the surface, which may be linked to climate change and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Tarasick and Walker are among four Canadian co-authors, who had front row seats as the hole formed. They released scientific balloons, known as ozone sondes, which make hundreds of measurements on their way from the ground to 30 kilometres up in the atmosphere.

The measurements helped confirm that chlorine-based pollutants in the stratosphere, 18 to 20 kilometres above the ground, triggered a process that chewed up molecules in the ozone layer that protects Earth from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet light.

Walker says it was “exciting” as a scientist to see the hole form, but sobering to see how humans are altering the atmosphere.

Extreme and prolonged cold in the stratosphere last winter and spring speed up and enhanced the chemical reactions that destroy the ozone, says co-author Michelle Santee, of the Jet propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute for Technology. Her group was monitoring the hole from space using satellites.

The ozone-destroying chlorine compounds have been banned internationally, but they are so “long lived” the scientists expect them to stay in the atmosphere for decades.

Rex says it will likely be about 70 years — “a full generation of humans” — before the chlorine compounds disappear from the atmosphere. Meantime a cooling trend in the stratosphere, which is thought to be tied to increasing greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, could create more ozone holes.

Rex says the spring’s hole “clearly showed us that we don’t have a good understanding of what the Arctic ozone layer will do during the next several decades.”

The scientists say the destruction this spring “attained, for the first time, a level clearly identifiable as an Arctic ozone hole.”

It “far exceeded” any previously observed loss in the Arctic, says the scientists who warn of even more “severe depletion” if temperatures in the stratosphere keep dropping.

They also say “more acute Arctic ozone destruction could exacerbate biological risks from increased ultraviolet radiation exposure, especially if the vortex shifted over densely populated mid-latitudes, as it did in April 2011.” The “polar vortex” is the frigid air mass that circles the Polar region in winter and can dip as far south as New York and Rome.

Environment Canada’s media office refused repeated requests for an interview with Tarasick. It sent an email instead saying the information could be attributed to Tarasick.

The email says that UV levels were as much as 60 per cent higher than normal under the hole this spring. The ozone layer recovered in late April and May when winds mixed the atmosphere, but the effects of the hole lingered for months.

There was “somewhat lower ozone over our heads this summer, and higher UV levels (about 3-5% higher than we would expect if there had not been a hole),“ the email says.

Environment Canada media officer Mark Johnson downplayed the “alleged cuts” to the department’s ozone monitoring programs. Many scientists and politicians are denouncing the department’s plan to reduce scientific staff and ozone measurements.

Johnson said the department will still continue to monitor ozone and is “integrating” the two different instrument networks now in place. He also said “sites critical for long-term ozone trend information, including the world’s oldest ozonesonde station in Canada’s far north, will be maintained.”

Rex says he understands the need for budgetary constraint, but takes issue with recent statements by Environment Canada official Karen Dodds who said there is “redundancy” in the existing Canadian networks that can be eliminated.

“There is no redundancy,” says Rex, noting that the current Canadian measurements are essential to the international ozone monitoring program.

“The scientists in Environment Canada are bright guys,“ he says. “They have never wasted money by doing redundant measurements.”

mmunro@postmedia.com

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Canadian government is ‘muzzling its scientists’ <–link to story
By Pallab GhoshScience correspondent, BBC News, Vancouver
The Canadian government has been accused of “muzzling” its scientists.

But one Canadian government department approached by the BBC said it held the communication of science as a priority.

Prof Thomas Pedersen, a senior scientist at the University of Victoria, said he believed there was a political motive in some cases.

“The Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) is keen to keep control of the message, I think to ensure that the government won’t be embarrassed by scientific findings of its scientists that run counter to sound environmental stewardship,” he said.

“I suspect the federal government would prefer that its scientists don’t discuss research that points out just how serious the climate change challenge is.”

The Canadian government recently withdrew from the Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The allegation of “muzzling” came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.

The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.

Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview.

‘Orwellian’ approach

Andrew Weaver, an environmental scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, described the protocol as “Orwellian”.

The protocol states: “Just as we have one department we should have one voice. Interviews sometimes present surprises to ministers and senior management. Media relations will work with staff on how best to deal with the call (an interview request from a journalist). This should include asking the programme expert to respond with approved lines.”

Professor Weaver said that information is so tightly controlled that the public is “left in the dark”.

“The only information they are given is that which the government wants, which will then allow a supporting of a particular agenda,” he said.

The media protocol was obtained and reported three years ago by Margaret Munro, who is a science writer for Postmedia News, based in Vancouver. Speaking at the AAAS meeting, she said its effect was to suppress scientific debate on issues of public interest.

“The more controversial the story, the less likely you are to talk to the scientists. They (government media relations staff) just stonewall. If they don’t like the question you don’t get an answer.”

Ms Munro cited several examples of what she described as the “muzzling” of scientists by the government.

The most notorious case is of that of Dr Kristi Miller, who is head of molecular genetics for the Department for Fisheries and Oceans. Dr Miller had been investigating why salmon populations in western Canada were declining.

The investigation, which was published in one of the leading scientific journals in the world, Science, seemed to suggest that fish might have been exposed to a virus associated with cancer.

The suggestion raised many questions, including whether the virus might have been imported by the local aquaculture industry.

Requests denied

The journal felt this to be an important study and put out a press release, which it sent out to thousands of journalists across the world. Dr Miller was named as the principal contact.

However, the government declined all requests to interview Dr Miller. It said it was because she was due to give evidence to a judicial inquiry on the issue of falling fish stocks.

According to Ms Munro, because reporters were denied the opportunity to question Dr Miller about her work, important public policy issues went unanswered.

“You have a government that is micromanaging the message, obsessively. The Privy Council Office (which works for the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper) seems to vet everything that goes out to the media,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada told BBC News: “The Department works daily to ensure it provides the public with timely, accurate, objective and complete information about our policies, programmes, services and initiatives, in accordance with the Federal Government’s Communications Policy.

“In 2011, Fisheries and Oceans publicly issued 286 science advisory reports documenting our research on Canada’s fisheries; our scientists respond to approximately 380 science-based media calls every year.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada declined a request by the BBC to interview Kristi Miller for this article. Dr Miller told us she would have been willing to be interviewed had her department given her permission.

The AAAS meeting’s discussion on muzzling is organised by freelance science reporter Binh An Vu Van. She says fellow journalists across Canada are finding it “harder and harder” to get access to government scientists.

Ms Vu Van claims that as well as “clear-cut cases of muzzling”, such as the one involving Dr Miller, media relations officers use more subtle methods. She said that when she requests an interview, she has to enter into prolonged email correspondence to speak to a scientist she knows is ready and willing to be interviewed, often to be declined or offered another scientist she does not want to interview.

“It’s so hard to get hold of scientists that a lot of my colleagues have given up,” she explained.

Ms Munro cited another example of research published in another leading scientific journal, Nature, that was published last October.

An international team including several scientists from the government agency, Environment Canada, set out details of a hole that appeared in the ozone layer above the Arctic.

Ms Munro said she had called one of the scientists involved who she had dealt with several times in the past. He agreed to speak to her, but said that he had been told that her request had to be put to government media relations officials in Ottawa.

“So I phoned up Ottawa and they just said no you can’t talk to the guy. A couple of weeks later, he was available but by then the story had been done. So they take them out of the news cycle,” she said.

Ms Munro also claims that journalists were denied access to scientists working for the government agency Health Canada last year, when there was concern about radiation levels reaching the country’s western coast from Japan following the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Ultimately, journalists obtained the information they sought from European agencies.

The Postmedia News journalist obtained documents relating to interview requests using Canada’s equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act. She said the documents show interview requests move up what she describes as an “increasingly thick layer of media managers, media strategists, deputy ministers, then go up to the Privy Council Office, which decides ‘yes’ or ‘no'”.

“The government has never explained what the process is. They just imposed these changes and they expected us to sit back and take it,” she explained.

Professor Andrew Weaver believes that the media protocol is being used by the Canadian government to “instruct scientists to deliver a certain message, thereby taking the heat out of controversial topics”.

He added: “You can’t have an informed discussion if the science isn’t allowed to be communicated. Public relations message number one is that you have to set the conversation. You don’t want to have a conversation on someone else’s terms. And this is now being applied to science on discussions about oil sands, climate and salmon.”

But one Canadian government department approached by the BBC said it held the communication of science as a priority.

Prof Thomas Pedersen, a senior scientist at the University of Victoria, said he believed there was a political motive in some cases.

“The Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) is keen to keep control of the message, I think to ensure that the government won’t be embarrassed by scientific findings of its scientists that run counter to sound environmental stewardship,” he said.

“I suspect the federal government would prefer that its scientists don’t discuss research that points out just how serious the climate change challenge is.”

The Canadian government recently withdrew from the Kyoto protocol to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The allegation of “muzzling” came up at a session of the AAAS meeting to discuss the impact of a media protocol introduced by the Conservative government shortly after it was elected in 2008.

The protocol requires that all interview requests for scientists employed by the government must first be cleared by officials. A decision as to whether to allow the interview can take several days, which can prevent government scientists commenting on breaking news stories.

Sources say that requests are often refused and when interviews are granted, government media relations officials can and do ask for written questions to be submitted in advance and elect to sit in on the interview.

‘Orwellian’ approach

Andrew Weaver, an environmental scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, described the protocol as “Orwellian”.

The protocol states: “Just as we have one department we should have one voice. Interviews sometimes present surprises to ministers and senior management. Media relations will work with staff on how best to deal with the call (an interview request from a journalist). This should include asking the programme expert to respond with approved lines.”

Professor Weaver said that information is so tightly controlled that the public is “left in the dark”.

“The only information they are given is that which the government wants, which will then allow a supporting of a particular agenda,” he said.

The media protocol was obtained and reported three years ago by Margaret Munro, who is a science writer for Postmedia News, based in Vancouver. Speaking at the AAAS meeting, she said its effect was to suppress scientific debate on issues of public interest.

“The more controversial the story, the less likely you are to talk to the scientists. They (government media relations staff) just stonewall. If they don’t like the question you don’t get an answer.”

Ms Munro cited several examples of what she described as the “muzzling” of scientists by the government.

The most notorious case is of that of Dr Kristi Miller, who is head of molecular genetics for the Department for Fisheries and Oceans. Dr Miller had been investigating why salmon populations in western Canada were declining.

The investigation, which was published in one of the leading scientific journals in the world, Science, seemed to suggest that fish might have been exposed to a virus associated with cancer.

The suggestion raised many questions, including whether the virus might have been imported by the local aquaculture industry.

Requests denied

The journal felt this to be an important study and put out a press release, which it sent out to thousands of journalists across the world. Dr Miller was named as the principal contact.

However, the government declined all requests to interview Dr Miller. It said it was because she was due to give evidence to a judicial inquiry on the issue of falling fish stocks.

According to Ms Munro, because reporters were denied the opportunity to question Dr Miller about her work, important public policy issues went unanswered.

“You have a government that is micromanaging the message, obsessively. The Privy Council Office (which works for the Prime Minister, Stephen Harper) seems to vet everything that goes out to the media,” she said.

A spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada told BBC News: “The Department works daily to ensure it provides the public with timely, accurate, objective and complete information about our policies, programmes, services and initiatives, in accordance with the Federal Government’s Communications Policy.

“In 2011, Fisheries and Oceans publicly issued 286 science advisory reports documenting our research on Canada’s fisheries; our scientists respond to approximately 380 science-based media calls every year.”

Fisheries and Oceans Canada declined a request by the BBC to interview Kristi Miller for this article. Dr Miller told us she would have been willing to be interviewed had her department given her permission.

The AAAS meeting’s discussion on muzzling is organised by freelance science reporter Binh An Vu Van. She says fellow journalists across Canada are finding it “harder and harder” to get access to government scientists.

Ms Vu Van claims that as well as “clear-cut cases of muzzling”, such as the one involving Dr Miller, media relations officers use more subtle methods. She said that when she requests an interview, she has to enter into prolonged email correspondence to speak to a scientist she knows is ready and willing to be interviewed, often to be declined or offered another scientist she does not want to interview.

“It’s so hard to get hold of scientists that a lot of my colleagues have given up,” she explained.

Ms Munro cited another example of research published in another leading scientific journal, Nature, that was published last October.

An international team including several scientists from the government agency, Environment Canada, set out details of a hole that appeared in the ozone layer above the Arctic.

Ms Munro said she had called one of the scientists involved who she had dealt with several times in the past. He agreed to speak to her, but said that he had been told that her request had to be put to government media relations officials in Ottawa.

“So I phoned up Ottawa and they just said no you can’t talk to the guy. A couple of weeks later, he was available but by then the story had been done. So they take them out of the news cycle,” she said.

Ms Munro also claims that journalists were denied access to scientists working for the government agency Health Canada last year, when there was concern about radiation levels reaching the country’s western coast from Japan following the explosion at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Ultimately, journalists obtained the information they sought from European agencies.

The Postmedia News journalist obtained documents relating to interview requests using Canada’s equivalent of the Freedom of Information Act. She said the documents show interview requests move up what she describes as an “increasingly thick layer of media managers, media strategists, deputy ministers, then go up to the Privy Council Office, which decides ‘yes’ or ‘no'”.

“The government has never explained what the process is. They just imposed these changes and they expected us to sit back and take it,” she explained.

Professor Andrew Weaver believes that the media protocol is being used by the Canadian government to “instruct scientists to deliver a certain message, thereby taking the heat out of controversial topics”.

He added: “You can’t have an informed discussion if the science isn’t allowed to be communicated. Public relations message number one is that you have to set the conversation. You don’t want to have a conversation on someone else’s terms. And this is now being applied to science on discussions about oil sands, climate and salmon.”

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Depleted Ozone and the Immune System
CIESIN Thematic Guides
Suppression of the Immune System from Increased Ultraviolet-B Exposure due to Ozone Depletion

Excessive ultraviolet-B radiation (UV-B) exposure interferes with the normal functioning of immune systems in animals and human beings. Relatively low doses of UV-B compromise the immunological defenses of the skin, thus limiting the skin’s allergic response to local attacks. Higher doses of UV-B can lower an individual’s overall immunological response. Damage to the immune system has several implications for an individual’s health: increased risk of the incidence and severity of infectious disease, increased risk of malignant melanoma, and diminished efficacy of vaccinations. Longstreth et al. (1991) present evidence indicating skin pigmentation does not serve a protective role for the immune system, as it does in the prevention of skin cancer. Vermeer et al. (1991) also reach this conclusion. Ilyas (1986) and Jeevan and Kripke (1993) emphasize that damage to the immune system due to UV-B could have far-reaching effects for the health of populations.
Several sources include good descriptions of immunosuppression as one of the health effects from increased UV-B radiation. In the chapter “Human Health” of the Environmental Effects Panel Report (UNEP 1989), van der Leun, Takizawa, and Longstreth summarize what is known about the effects of UV-B exposure and damage to the immune system. Longstreth et al. provide an update in the chapter “Human Health” of UNEP’s 1991 report Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion. In “Loss of Stratospheric Ozone and Health Effects of Increased Ultraviolet Radiation,” Leaf’s 1993 contribution to Critical Condition, the author provides a detailed review of the effects of UV-B exposure on the immune system. Van der Leun and de Gruijl (1993) also examine the complex relationship between exposure to increased UV-B irradiance and immunosuppression in the chapter “Influences of Ozone Depletion on Human and Animal Health” of UV-B Radiation and Ozone Depletion. Noonan and De Fabo (1992) explain the process by which exposure to UV-B radiation initiates systemic immunosuppression of delayed-type hypersensitivity responses in “Immunosuppression by Ultraviolet B Radiation.”

Many of the papers that discuss the effects of UV-B exposure on the immune system are also concerned with the increasing incidence of skin cancer. These include Kripke’s 1988 article “Impact of Ozone Depletion on Skin Cancers”; Bridges’ 1990 review “Sunlight, DNA Damage and Skin Cancer”; Baadsgaard’s 1991 study “In Vivo Ultraviolet Irradiation of Human Skin Results in Profound Perturbation of the Immune System”; and Urbach’s 1991 paper “Potential Health Effects of Climatic Change.” In “Sunscreens Do Not Abrogate UV-Induced Suppression of Contact Hypersensitivity,” Fisher et al. (1986) indicate that sunscreen does not prevent the immunologic suppression of contact hypersensitivity by UV radiation in mice. In “Effects of Ultraviolet B Light on Cutaneous Immune Responses of Humans with Deeply Pigmented Skin,” Vermeer et al. (1991) present findings that black- and white-skinned individuals were equally susceptible to the adverse effects of acute, low-dose exposure of UVB on their immune systems.

Giannini (1986) addresses the question of how UV-B radiation compromises a person’s ability to fight infections entering via the skin in “Effects of UVB on Infectious Diseases.” In the 1990 paper “Effects of UVB on Infectious Diseases,” Giannini explores the possible effects of immunosuppression on the incidence and severity of several infectious diseases. In both papers, she points out that populations residing in the tropics are subjected to high UV-B flux, experiencing very high effective doses within a few hours of exposure to midday sun. These people are already at high risk for serious infectious diseases. The weakening of these individuals’ immunological responses could dramatically increase morbidity and mortality rates for entire populations. Ilyas (1986) also considers the effects for populations residing in the tropics in “Ozone Modification: Importance for Developing Countries in the Tropical/Equatorial Region.”

Two more articles presented here focus exclusively on the effects of UV-B exposure on the immune system: Daynes’ 1990 paper “Immune System and Ultraviolet Light” and Jeevan’s and Kripke’s 1993 contribution to the Lancet series on health effects from global change, “Ozone Depletion and the Immune System.” Together they highlight the urgent need for more research on this potentially devastating effect.

 

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