Canada is losing a critical research lab just at a crucial time when more information is needed, says the Green Party of Canada. The Greens are strongly protesting the loss of funding that has now led to the imminent closure of the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), located in Eureka, Nunavut, on Ellesmere Island. The lab is slated to close at the end of April because all of the funding programs that have allowed it to function have been cut. “I’ve been to Eureka and I realize just how important it is that we have researchers there to collect data. It simply doesn’t cut it to try to capture that information remotely,” said Green Leader Elizabeth May (Saanich-Gulf Islands).
PEARL is operated by CANDAC, the Canadian Network for the Detection of Atmospheric Change, and collects data on air quality, ozone and climate change. The lab requires $1.5 million per year to operate a year-round science program. “This small amount of funding should be made available in the upcoming budget. In addition, we need a serious look at why the Harper government has decided that science doesn’t merit investment,” said May. “Collecting atmospheric information is crucial as we try to keep track of how the climate is changing and how the ozone layer is being affected. We need a facility in the North to effectively provide quality data. To think that PEARL could close is alarming.”
The Greens are also concerned that this latest loss will add to the brain drain of scientists who have to find work elsewhere. “Canada has already invested in PEARL. With its loss, we are at risk of losing an entire team of scientists conducting critical work on Arctic issues,” said May.
The cuts to scientific funding are not being received well by the international community. A group of high-profile scientists from US universities and NASA released a paper recently that severely criticized Canada for jeopardizing the global effort to monitor the ozone layer. The paper was published in Eos, the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, which represents 61,000 earth and space scientists from around the world.
Budget cuts at Environment Canada have led to the loss of more than 700 scientific and research positions.
“Canada was once a scientific leader in the world. Now we are worse than a laggard; we are preventing the collection of data that would benefit the whole planet,” said May.