When scientists become bureaucrats: A recipe for tyranny

cartoon gw heresy lg(h/t amirlach) The headline read: “Liberal MPs hold press conference on muzzling of scientists.” As usual, the headline differs from the story. The real story is the most egregious use of bureaucrat scientists for a political agenda in Canadian history. It is part of a larger problem of bureaucrats establishing policy and running governments. Mary McCarthy explains, Bureaucracy, the rule of no one, has become the modern form of despotism.” 

Three Liberal MPs are singing the same song as the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada, the largest multi-professional union in Canada with 60,000 members. This Union held public rallies a week before the MPs protestations about government interference. An anonymous bureaucrat set out the claim against the Harper government as follows:

The challenge, he said, is two-fold: for one, lack of freedom to speak freely with the media; and second, the inability to freely disseminate research to the public in a meaningful way.

“Basically, whenever there’s a call or a need to speak to the public or an opportunity to speak to the public, everything has to be approved at generally a fairly high level,” he said. “Particularly if it’s going to be a national story or it’s going to be something that would be of general interest.”

Though local stories are generally approved, he said he still has to go through a “hierarchy of approval.”

Of course! You are a bureaucrat, hired by and working for the government. The Public Service Commission Board appoints most bureaucrats and requires people “refrain from overt political activity once in office, lest their appearance of partisan neutrality be compromised.” The US has the Hatch Act, specific legislation to limit political activities of Federal bureaucrats.

The real story is the three MPs are protesting, with union support, the attempts of the Harper government to control the use of Environment Canada (EC) for a political agenda. It is perfectly within the government’s purview to control policy and bureaucrats. The story is an example of what happens when you have bureaucratic scientists. The scientists are protesting government interference in their practice of science, but they weren’t practicing science.

At a public presentation in Winnipeg a few years ago three EC employees told me afterward that they agreed with me but were afraid to say so. EC scientists promote an untested, unproven hypothesis known as the anthropogenic global warming hypothesis, when it is the role of scientists to challenge any hypothesis. They do this by using the scientific method of disproving the hypothesis. Karl Popper called it “falsifiability”. Scientists must be skeptics otherwise they are not practicing science. EC scientists only work to prove the hypothesis, so they are not practicing science.

Environment Canada’s Role And The Damage Done.

Environment Canada was very active with the IPCC and promoted their agenda from the start. It is no coincidence that Gordon McBean, Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment Canada (EC) chaired a 1985 meeting in Villach Austria at which they formulated the structure of the IPCC.

It took a massive diversion of funds within EC to pursue their goal. The Auditor General said EC spent $6.8 billion from 1997 to 2005 on climate change. Almost all went to people and programs supporting the government position. Diversion of funding to climate change left other legislated requirements incomplete.

To cover these wastes they took money from other programs. There are fewer weather stations in Canada now than in 1960, and many were replaced with unreliable Automatic Weather Observing Stations (AWOS). Important activities and data collection practices were abandoned. While I was chair of the Assiniboine River Management Advisory Board (ARMAB) in Manitoba the worst flood on record occurred.

We asked Water Resources why they didn’t forecast the event. They said they had no data on the amount of water in the snow in the valley.  We learned EC had canceled flights that used special radar to determine water content. Savings, as I recall, were $26,000. The cost of unexpected flood damage was $7 million to one level of government alone. Loss of weather data means long continuous records, essential to any climate studies, are impossible.

EC failures caused public protests that forced them to take action. They commissioned an internal study and report titled “Action Plan for Climate Science Research at Meteorological Service of Canada (MSC)” prepared by a group called The Impact Group. This report was obtained by Canada’s Access to Information (ATI) provision. Ken Green wrote an article in the National Post on December 12, 2003 identifying some of the issues. Here is the major conclusion of the Impact Report that shows why they did not want it disclosed:

Elements of an “Action Plan for Climate Science Research at MSC” (obtained through an Access to Information request) indicate that Canada’s climate change science program is being driven by a predetermined political agenda with a clear disregard of scientific needs. The Impact Group observes for example, that Canada collects “less climate science data per-square-kilometer of any other major country.” It observes that “the archiving of climate data is so highly fragmented that it is difficult to find out what datasets are available, let alone how to access them.”

Yet the report shows that our resources are not being directed to remedy those information gaps. Rather, our climate resources are being directed toward finding ways to “mitigate” climate change before it’s even adequately measured. The Impact Group also points out that we are only just beginning “to unravel the complexity of the physical, chemical, and biological interactions that determine climate” and suggests that the manmade component of climate change is still to be discerned. Coming from a contractor to Environment Canada, that’s a pretty sharp divergence from the claims by Environment Minister David Anderson that the science of climate change is “solid” and “settled.”

Green spoke about the exclusion of Canadian skeptics that the Report confirms:

Skeptics of catastrophic climate change theory such as myself have long complained that the way governmental agencies conduct science is badly politicized. We have also complained about a lack of consultation – although some of the most reputable climate scientists in the world work in Canada, they have rarely been consulted or asked to advise the government on the science of climate change.

In 2006, 60 prominent Canadian climate-related experts wrote a letter to Prime Minister Harper asking for an open debate on global warming. It began:

As accredited experts in climate and related scientific disciplines, we are writing to propose that balanced, comprehensive public-consultation sessions be held so as to examine the scientific foundation of the federal government’s climate-change plans.

McBean orchestrated a response letter with another IPCC member, computer modeller Andrew Weaver. They got 90 signatures, but most were Environment Canada employees or people benefiting from government largess.

A simple definition of science is the ability to predict. If your prediction is wrong your science is wrong. How good is the “science” these bureaucrats produce. The answer is, by their measure, a complete failure.

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