Over the past couple of months some might have seen this billboard on highway 40 and around Montreal claiming that the sun is the real cause for global warming. In response to such a claim a Quebec based organization led a funding campaign, with Indiegogo, to offer a new billboard to the population of Montreal.(1)
(English: what science really says: climate is changing. Because of us.)
This introduces the main topic of this blog, What do we do when fallacious information is being presented as representing the scientific truth? In the case of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) when such instances occur, agencies such as the Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement (BAPE), when mandated, would identify and offer suggestions. BAPE exists to offer a voice to those who believe negative environmental impacts could arise from upcoming projects(2). When the demand is felt the government would mandate BAPE to carry out an investigation.
“Le Bape a pour mission d’éclairer la prise de décision gouvernementale dans une perspective de développement durable, lequel englobe les aspects biophysique, social et économique” (2)
(English: BAPE’s mission is to enlighten the decision making process for the government, keeping in mind sustainable development, which encompasses the biophysical, social and economic sphere. )
There is an obvious need to have a regulatory agency who would protect the public in EIAs, which would act like consumer protection does with deceptive business practices(3 & 4). It would expose misleading information presented to the public related to the implementation of development projects. The public could gather all the false or erroneous facts, with the help of social media, such as twitter. Once reported and confirmed, all the information could be collected in one area, possibly a web page. Then a specialist could potentially provide an alternative explanation to what is being claimed.
When NGOs find errors
Lacking an agency do this task, we could turn to NGOs, which have been known to report instances where sure incidences were found in EIA reports. Here are two case studies where NGOs have acted in the interests of the public when faced with shady EIA reports.
India, Mithivirdi nuclear power plant
-Anomalies were found in the EIA report made for this project by a local NGO, Paryavaran Suraksha Samiti. Concerns for the potential cumulative impacts due to the location of nearby dam and ship-breaking yard were ignored in the final assessment. Was this intentional, or a case of simple carelessness? (more info)(5)
Malaysia, 300mW coal-fired plant
-The NGO at work under the name Green Surf noted many errors in the EIA report made available for the coal-fired plant, ranging from falsely identifying communities to assessing species of birds not actually present on the site of the future project. The presence of multiple errors has made local communities hesitant towards the project. (more info)(6)
As a future EIA practitioner, I believe it is important to keep in mind who the results of EIA reports affect the most: the ones at risk with fallacious reports are the local communities around the future project site. There are also ecological risks. To some extent, concerning money & reputation, one could even argue that proponents are also at risk if an issue were to arise in an EIA report and affect the environment. May it be for monetary or for health motivations, one should always express the truth in these report and work with the local NGOs. The extent of the potential impact is too important to continue carrying out EIAs as they are. Information authenticity should be a priority.
Association des Communicateurs Scientific du Quebec
An article about the Friends of Science billboard:
(1)”Riposte à la désinformation scientifique au Québec” https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/riposte-a-la-desinformation-scientifique-au-quebec. Retrieved 23rd, 2015.
( 2)”Le Bureau d’audience publiques sur l’environment” http://www.bape.gouv.qc.ca/sections/documentation/depliant_Participation.pdf Retrieved 23rd, 2015.
(3) “Consumer Information:Provincial and Territorial Legislation” http://www.consumerinformation.ca/eic/site/032.nsf/eng/01173.html Retrieved 25th Jan 2015.
(4) “Consumer information: Unfair or Deceptive Business Practices” http://www.consumerinformation.ca/eic/site/032.nsf/eng/00072.html Retrieved 25th Jan, 2015.
(5)dna “NGO finds errors in Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) report of Mithi Virdi” http://www.dnaindia.com/ahmedabad/report-ngo-finds-errors-in-environmental-impact-assessment-eia-report-of-mithi-virdi-1830875 Retrieved 25th Jan, 2015.
(6)Sario, R( 2010)”Errors in DEIA leaves Sabahans stunned” http://www.thestar.com.my/story/?sec=southneast&file=%2f2010%2f8%2f2%2fsouthneast%2f6777380 & Green SURF (2009) http://nocoalsabah.blogspot.ca/2009/10/unite.html Retrieved 25th Jan, 2015.