The long arm of the climate change clampdown

Environment Canada has clamped down on its scientists because of climate change talks in Durban, South Africa. Two Environment Canada scientists were scheduled to meet with the Yukon News on Wednesday to discuss studies they've conducted on contaminants in the North.

Environment Canada has clamped down on its scientists because of climate change talks in Durban, South Africa.

Two Environment Canada scientists were scheduled to meet with the Yukon News on Wednesday to discuss studies they’ve conducted on contaminants in the North.

But Wednesday morning word came from Ottawa that Hayley Hung and Sandy Steffen were not allowed to do the one-on-one media interview.

Instead the News was invited to attend an hour-long presentation the scientists were giving at Yukon College later that day.

Any additional questions would have to be sent to them through the federal government’s new communications regime.

Since 2008, Environment Canada scientists have been ordered to refer all media queries to Ottawa where communications officers help to deal with them.

In a marked change from previous governments, even basic demands for information – once easily fielded by department spokespeople – are now vetted by the Prime Minister’s Office.

It’s a process that can sometimes take days.

The Yukon College lecture topic was fairly innocuous: atmospheric transport and transformation of contaminants in the Arctic.

For 19 years, Environment Canada has been monitoring chemical pollutants at research stations at the Yukon’s Little Fox Lake and Alert, Nunavut.

They’re looking at two toxic chemicals in particular – mercury and persistent organic pollutants, known as POPs. Mercury is naturally occurring but is largely caused by the burning of fossil fuels. POPs usually come from pesticides. Both travel to the North on air currents, often from Asia.

Mercury is a huge problem in the North because it never really breaks down and ends up getting stuck in the Arctic Ocean, eventually entering the food chain.

POPs levels have been diminishing, largely due to international agreements, but because of global warming, scientists have seen a rise in the levels of some of these pollutants.

Traces of chemicals banned for years, like PCBs, are being released into the air again because of ice retreat and warmer weather.

According to a recent report from Statistics Canada, the average area covered by sea ice during the summer has declined in all nine of Canada’s northern sea-ice regions over the past four decades.

“The Arctic is changing so rapidly, it’s hard to keep up,” said Steffen.

One of the main goals of the 2011 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Africa is to try to secure a new global climate change agreement, as the Kyoto Protocol’s first commitment period ends in December, 2012.

Canada has been accused of obstructing progress.

There have been reports that Canada plans to withdraw from Kyoto before it officially ends. They’ve also said that Environment Minister Peter Kent is refusing to sign on to any new climate change regime until all major emitters, such as India and China, agree to limit emissions as well.

On Thursday, Kent called for a comprehensive treaty as early as 2015.

If it takes somewhat longer, that would be fine, Kent told reporters this week. That would leave the world without any binding emissions treaty for at least two years.

The climate change conference ends today.

Contact Chris Oke at

chriso@yukon-news.com

Just Posted

XX
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for May 12, 2021.… Continue reading

Health Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Brendan Hanley announced youth vaccination clinics planned for this summer. (Alistair Maitland/Yukon government file)
Vaccination campaign planned for Yukon youth age 12 and up

The Pfizer vaccine was approved for younger people on May 5.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced two new cases of COVID-19 on May 11. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Two new cases of COVID-19 reported, one in the Yukon and one Outside

One person is self-isolating, the other will remain Outside until non-infectious

Courtesy/Yukon Protective Services Yukon Wildland Fire Management crews doing a prescribed burn at the Carcross Cut-Off in May 2020.
Prescribed burns planned near Whitehorse neighbourhoods to improve wildfire resistance

Manual fuel removal and the replacement of conifers with aspens is also ongoing.

Chloe Tatsumi dismounts the balance beam to cap her routine during the Yukon Championships at the Polarettes Gymnastics Club on May 1. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Gymnasts vie in 2021 Yukon Championships

In a year without competition because of COVID-19, the Polarettes Gymnastics Club hosted its Yukon Championships.

Haley Ritchie/Yukon News file
File photo of the legislative assembly. The previous spring sitting began on March 4 but was interrupted due to the election.
Throne speech kicks off short spring legislature sitting

The government will now need to pass the budget.

The deceased man, found in Lake LaBerge in 2016, had on three layers of clothing, Dakato work boots, and had a sheathed knife on his belt. Photo courtesy Yukon RCMP
RCMP, Coroner’s Office seek public assistance in identifying a deceased man

The Yukon RCMP Historical Case Unit and the Yukon Coroner’s Office are looking for public help to identify a man who was found dead in Lake LaBerge in May 2016.

Yukon Zinc’s Wolverine minesite has created a mess left to taxpayers to clean up, Lewis Rifkind argues. This file shot shows the mine in 2009. (John Thompson/Yukon News file)
Editorial: The cost of the Wolverine minesite

Lewis Rifkind Special to the News The price of a decent wolverine… Continue reading

Letters to the editor.
Today’s mailbox: border opening and Yukon Party texts

Dear Premier Sandy Silver and Dr Hanley, Once again I’m disheartened and… Continue reading

Fire chief Jason Everett (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City launches emergency alert system

The city is calling on residents and visitors to register for Whitehorse Alert

Two young orienteers reach their first checkpoint near Shipyards Park during a Yukon Orienteering Association sprint race May 5. (John Tonin/Yukon News)
Orienteers were back in action for the season’s first race

The Yukon Orienteering Association began its 2021 season with a sprint race beginning at Shipyards.

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at issues discussed by Whitehorse city council at its May 3 meeting and the upcoming 20-minute makeover.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland met with MP Larry Bagnell and representatives from the Tourism Industry Association via Zoom on May 4. (Facebook)
Deputy Prime Minister talks tourism in “virtual visit” to the Yukon

Tourism operators discussed the budget with Freeland

Most Read