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Sometimes, it feels like the 1990s again. In both Canada and the US, budget shortfalls and political preferences are resulting in significant cuts to environmental scientists and regulators. For example, Environment Canada has announced that its current round of cuts will eliminate approximately 300 jobs, affecting 776 positions. Such drastic cuts are always painful, and are bound to affect the services that Environment Canada delivers.

Where will they cut? One important, but low-profile area of Environment Canada’s work is collection and analysis of environmental data, an area that has struggled for funding for years. Nature News reports that all 17 arctic ozone monitoring stations could be shut down as early as this winter. Closing the network is a significant loss to global arctic monitoring and may jeopardize Canada’s ability to meet its obligation under the Montreal Protocol to monitor the ozone layer and maintain scientific ozone research. The cuts come just as the hole in the ozone layer over the Arctic has grown to record levels, with potentially serious consequences for human health and the environment.

Yet accurate environmental data, available to researchers, legislatures and the public, is critical to good environmental decision-making. As the saying goes, “garbage in, garbage out” – if we don’t have the information we need to anticipate future changes or understand what is happening now, how can we develop and deliver effective public policy? Ignoring a problem rarely makes it go away.

Meredith James and Dianne Saxe

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