Scientists this week were rallying around a rogue National Parks account tweeting facts about climate change, suggesting a pessimism about how science will fare under Donald Trump. In the president’s first week in office, his administration has moved quickly to restrict communications from U.S. science agencies. The EPA, for example, is reportedly under a media blackout and Trump administration officials are reviewing all content on the agency’s website.
Canadian scientists have seen policy changes like these before. Under Justin Trudeau’s Conservative predecessor, Stephen Harper, the Canadian government routinely prevented scientists from talking to the media, while downplaying the effects of climate change. The climax in what some have called Canada’s war on science was Bill C-38, a 2012 budget bill that stealthily stripped away environmental protections and cut funding at research institutes around the country. Government scientists lost their jobs, and monitoring stations shut down.
Then, the protests erupted. In July of that year, a few hundred scientists came out to Parliament Hill in white lab coats for a Death of Evidence march, the first of many such protests.
Chris Turner is a Calgary-based environmental journalist, who covered science under Harper’s government. He is also the author of The War on Science: Muzzled Scientists and Wilful Blindness in Stephen Harper’s Canada. We spoke by phone yesterday about Canada’s experience under Harper. An edited and condensed transcript of our conversation is below.