Climate change scientists fight for funding to save High Arctic lab – North

Some of Canada’s leading climate change scientists are fighting to keep the country’s northernmost research station in operation.

The Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL) in Eureka, Nunavut, tracks atmospheric data that no other research station can, given its High Arctic latitude, only 1,110 kilometres from the North Pole.

There, researchers study ozone depletion, and how the thawing Arctic is contributing to climate change, as well as other polar science.

The PEARL research station on Ellesmere Island has been operating continuously since 2005. (CANDAC/Paul Loewen)

But with PEARL’s core funding set to run out this year, scientists are warning if PEARL closes, there’s no filling the void.

“You’re in this part of the world that’s very significant for all these different global environmental challenges,” said Dan Weaver, a PhD student at the University of Toronto who has conducted research at PEARL since 2012.

“From climate change to ozone depletion, to even transport of pollution — we have that unique piece of the puzzle to offer the world.”

PEARL has been funded for the last five years by the Climate Change and Atmospheric Research Initiative, but the federal government has not renewed that program.

Scientists say there aren’t other funding sources that PEARL can tap into because its work is so specific in terms of its atmospheric research mandate. 

Weaver is part of Evidence for Democracy, a not-for-profit group that’s launched a petition calling on the federal government to commit to $1.5 million in annual funding for PEARL.

Scientists say if they can’t get more funding, they will have to pull the plug on the research station in May.

Harper government’s ‘war on science’

This isn’t the first time a funding shortfall has threatened the future of PEARL.

In 2012, cuts under the Harper government saw researchers come within 20 days of beginning a shutdown of the laboratory, until last-minute funding came through from the Climate Change and Atmospheric Research Initiative (CCAR).

One of the more vocal proponents to try to save PEARL at the time was Liberal MP Kirsty Duncan — now the federal minister of Science.

Science Minister Kirsty Duncan says she’s working on a ‘comprehensive, thoughtful approach to Arctic research.’ It’s not clear if that approach includes PEARL. (CBC)

“This is a government that has a war on science, a war on the environment,” Duncan said of the Harper government in the…

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