Stop Silencing Climate Change Scientists


Target: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper

Goal: End bureaucratic media control of climate change science

The purpose of the 2006 communications policy in Canada was supposedly to “ensure that communications across the Government of Canada are well co-ordinated, effectively managed and responsive to the diverse information needs of the public.” However, rules added in 2007 controlling interviews and statements from scientists with Environment Canada seem to be doing little more than keeping Canadians uninformed about their nation’s environment.

Under the 2006 communications policy, government climate scientists are required to seek approval for interviews and for written answers to interview questions. Reports from 2010 Environment Canada documents show that media coverage of climate change had already dropped by 80 percent in the three years since the new policy’s enactment.

The main fear among media and nonprofit groups is that the Canadian government is simply trying to silence climate information to the public. As Graham Saul, executive director of Climate Action Network Canada said, the government is “muzzling scientists; they’re putting climate deniers in key oversight positions over research and they’re reducing funding in key areas.” Executive director Katie Gibbs of the nonprofit group Evidence for Democracy calls the policy, “suppression through bureaucracy.”

In 2012, Leah Braithwaite, Environment Canada’s chief of applied science, proposed a factual media briefing to inform Canadians of the record-low sea ice cover her team had found. To see the light of day, the briefing would have to receive nine levels of approval. No official reason was given for the proposal’s refusal and the information did not become headline news in Canada until the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center reported on the broken record.

Urge the Canadian Government to end its overreaching control of the nation’s climate change media and bring the Canadian public out of the dark.


Dear Prime Minister Harper,

The 2006 communications policy has cut media coverage of climate change by 80 percent, keeping Canadians uninformed about the current state of their nation. Important information like your record-low ice levels directly affect Canadians, yet scientists are finding it difficult to inform the public. Informational statements as innocuous as factual tweets by the government’s scientists are being denied with no clear reason, like this proposed tweet: “Canadian Arctic ice reached record low in summer 2012.”

To many media outlets and environmental groups, it is clear that the communications policy is meant to do little more than impede the flow of climate change information from experts to the public.

I urge you to rescind the revisions to the 2006 communications policy which limit public access to valuable climate change information.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Patrick Kelley via Wikimedia Commons

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