Technology & Science

Scientists urge PM to fund national climate strategy

A group of 90 Canadian atmospheric scientists write to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, urging him to do more about climate change. Earlier this month, federal government cut 15 climate-change programs such as the One Tonne Challenge.

A group of 90 of Canada's most senior climate scientists have sent an open letter to the prime minister, warning that global warming is happening now and the federal government needs to do more about the problem.

The letter comes in the wake of:

  • A report indicating that the Greenland ice sheet is melting faster than predicted.
  • A study predicting future water crises on the Canadian Prairies.
  • Recent extreme weather events worldwide, including a record hurricane season.

A who's who of the country's atmospheric scientists from the government, the private sector and universities have written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper to say the federal government isn't doing enough about climate change.

Earlier this month, the government cancelled 15 climate-change programs, including the One Tonne Challenge for individuals, another that encouraged clean urban transit and one to promote green power.

The government said the programs weren't helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, promising new ones would.

The 90 scientists who signed the letter worry climate change isn't on the federal government's list of five priorities.

"We urge you and your government to develop an effective national strategy to deal with the many important aspects of climate that will affect both Canada and the rest of the world in the near future," said the letter, which was delivered to Harper's office late Tuesday.

"There will be increasing impacts of climate change on Canada's natural ecosystems and on our socioeconomic activities," it added, highlighting more extreme weather events such as floods and droughts.

Under the terms of the Kyoto Accord, Canada is committed to cutting its emissions by six per cent from 1990 levels by 2008-12. The latest data show emissions are running more than 24 per cent above 1990 levels.

"This is an issue of societal relevance to all of us, and that is why we are worried if the momentum does not follow through in terms of dealing with the issue of climate change," said Andrew Weaver, who holds a Canada Research chair in atmospheric sciences at the University of Victoria.

"I've been doing this for probably 35 years," said Prof. Gordon McBean, chair of the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Western Ontario in London, who organized the letter. "I have seen more scientific evidence in the last five years to come out to indicate that the problem is much more severe than we would have said."

The scientists say they wrote the letter partly to counter the influence of another open letter to the prime minister from climate change skeptics, who dispute the scope and cause of climate change. They wrote "global climate changes all the time due to natural causes".

The Prime Minister's Office said the letter has been received, and Harper will respond when ready.