Over at DeSmogBlog, Ross Gelbspan has an article titled Is Canadian Government Muzzling the Messengers? about the Canadian Government’s new rules governing when and how climate scientists can speak to the media.
Since the introduction of the new rules governing how environment Canada scientists speak to media, the article claims there has been an 80% reduction in stories about climate science.
The post links to an article in the Montreal Gazette that looks into the issue: Climate-change scientists feel ‘muzzled by Ottawa’: Documents:
OTTAWA — A dramatic reduction in Canadian media coverage of climate change science issues is the result of the Harper government introducing new rules in 2007 to control interviews by Environment Canada scientists with journalists, says a newly released federal document.
“Scientists have noticed a major reduction in the number of requests, particularly from high profile media, who often have same-day deadlines,” said the Environment Canada document. “Media coverage of climate change science, our most high-profile issue, has been reduced by over 80 per cent.”
The analysis reviewed the impact of a new federal communications policy at Environment Canada, which required senior federal scientists to seek permission from the government prior to giving interviews.
In many cases, the policy also required them to get approval from supervisors of written responses to the questions submitted by journalists before any interview, said the document, obtained in an investigation into the government’s views and policies on global-warming science that was conducted by Climate Action Network Canada, a coalition of environmental groups.
Now, as a government employee, I do get requests for information from media and interviews, but I am not the one to do them. Our executive director is the person who conducts media interviews so there are these kinds of rules governing most ministries, I imagine. Climate scientists who work for government are still government employees and they are expected to be seen as implementing the government’s agenda and policies. Hence, if there is some concern over whether the appropriate message will be provided to media, you can expect that there will be some effort to control who speaks on behalf of the government. That’s the way it is.
Is that the right way to do things? I’ll let the reader decide. I have a conflict of interest in this since I am a government employee.
Here is more from that article:
The Environment Canada analysis noted that four prominent scientists, who regularly spoke for the government on climate change science issues, appeared in only 12 newspaper clippings in the first nine months of 2008, compared with 99 clippings over the same period in 2007.
“There is a widespread perception among Canadian media that our scientists have been ‘muzzled’ by the media relations policy,” said the Environment Canada document. “Media coverage of this perception, which originated with a Canwest story in February 2008, is continuing, with at least 47 articles in Canadian newspapers to date.”
The document also noted that government scientists voiced their displeasure to communications officials about the policy during meetings in June 2008. A few months later, a couple of requests for interviews with scientists in the midst of the 2008 federal election campaign were never answered, including one request that was “denied” after it was forwarded to the office of former environment minister John Baird.
I remember reading a similar article about the Bush admin muzzling climate scientists in the USA. This Washington Post article, “Climate Findings Were Distorted” sounds surprisingly similar:
From the fall of 2004 through 2006, the report said, NASA’s public affairs office “managed the topic of climate change in a manner that reduced, marginalized, or mischaracterized climate change science made available to the general public.” It noted elsewhere that “news releases in the areas of climate change suffered from inaccuracy, factual insufficiency, and scientific dilution.”
Officials of the Office of Public Affairs told investigators that they regulated communication by NASA scientists for technical rather than political reasons, but the report found “by a preponderance of the evidence, that the claims of inappropriate political interference made by the climate change scientists and career public affairs officers were more persuasive than the arguments of the senior public affairs officials that their actions were due to the volume and poor quality of the draft news releases.”
I don’t have to mention how important crude oil and gas are to the Canadian economy, do I?
And with Peak Oil approaching – 2014 according to the latest research, that means Canadian tar sands will be worth even more.
That might be quite the incentive to control the message on global warming…