This year marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the Montreal Protocol. It is an international treaty that phased out chemicals that were destroying the ozone layer. Without the protocol, experts say skin would burn after a five-minute exposure to the sun in London or New York by the year 2065. And NASA has calculated that skin cancers would be at least 650% higher.
But on this anniversary celebrating ozone protection, a different narrative is playing out in Canada.
Canada‘s ozone science group is the latest victim of the Conservative government’s budget cuts. There are reports this week that everyone who was still left in the group has been re-assigned to other projects.
The Harper government introduced budget cuts to Environment Canada, where the ozone science and monitoring were done. The cuts to the agency totaled $13.3m this year and will be $31.1m next year. Environmental advocates have been furious with the Tories following the announcement.
UK newspaper, the Guardian, recently picked up this story. It quotes Gordon Mcbean, a former assistant deputy minister of EC and president-elect of the International Council for Science: “There’s been no celebration of Canada’s scientific achievements. Never mind continuing to invest money into science. Canada can afford to do top-notch environmental science but this government has simply chosen not to make it at priority.”
The newspaper goes on to report that: “Rather than celebrate the anniversary of this vital scientific contribution, Canada’s Stephen Harper government instead choose to spend $28m celebrating the War of 1812. The U.S. invaded Canada when it was a British colony in 1812 and after a few battles the Americans went home.”
The other point that angers many scientists across Canada is that they were never consulted by the government, before it killed the ozone science group. Critics have long argued that the decision could compromise international efforts to monitor what is happening to the Earth’s protective layer.
2012 is also the 20th anniversary of the invention of the UV index. This index accurately forecasts UV levels. At least 25 countries’ reportedly use some form of UV index to advise the public.