A senior Environment Canada scientist whose job may be eliminated through budget cuts has highlighted the importance of maintaining the country's world-leading atmospheric monitoring network after new research showed a record hole in the planet's ozone layer above the Arctic.
David Tarasick was among four Canadian authors of the international study, published Oct. 2 in the British scientific journal Nature, that reported on the hole — twice the size of Ontario — in the ozone layer that protects life on Earth from the sun's harmful radiation.
Until now, the Conservative government, facing criticism about its decision to review resources in the monitoring network, has prevented Tarasick from speaking publicly about the research.
"We've been doing this (for) about 45 years now," Tarasick said in a telephone interview supervised by Environment Canada officials. "The Canadian stations have been the backbone of the global network (of monitoring) ever since we started measuring ozone."
But Tarasick explained that the monitoring network already has "limited resources" for maintaining the existing quality of data collected and used in the recent Nature study.
"If the taxpayer in his infinite wisdom were to give me 10 times the budget I have now, I think I could use all that money quite usefully and do good science with it," Tarasick said. "I don't think we're wasting a penny . . . Could we get by on less money? Well, we could do less with less money. We could do more with more money."
Tarasick also indicated that the warning about his job was not rescinded and lightheartedly said that it was increasing his "stress level."
Before the interview started, Environment Canada tried to limit the interview topics, telling Postmedia News Tarasick would not answer questions about potential cuts to the ozone monitoring network. A spokeswoman intervened when Tarasick was asked about the government's efforts to keep him from speaking when the Nature study was published at the beginning of October.There you have it in a nutshell, they can't have the scientists speaking because it will lead to more coverage of one of the great issues of our day. And despite their meddling efforts to prevent his response on the government's proposed cuts to the ozone network, he confirmed the difficulty they'll have with less money.
"David is here and available to speak to you now, so I think that's kind of a moot point," said Renee David, the manager of media relations at Environment Canada.
But Tarasick proceeded to answer the question.
"Well I'm available when media relations says I'm available," he said. "I have to go through them."
Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government introduced new rules to control interviews with journalists by Environment Canada scientists in 2007, resulting in an 80 per cent drop in media coverage of climate change science, according to an internal analysis that was released in 2010.
Sounds very much like a key scientist doing instrumental work that should not be under threat of job loss, particularly when his recent work has led to this world leading research that is of health consequence to us all. We are committing billions upon billions for military hardware. Yet vital environmental infrastructure is facing the axe. The priorities of this government are shown to be woefully off once again.