Thank you very much, Chair.
Thank you for inviting me to the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development to discuss Environment Canada's plans for ozone monitoring.
With me today is Dr. Charles Lin, who holds a Ph.D. in meteorology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He's had a distinguished career as an academic researcher at both the University of Toronto and McGill. At McGill, he served as chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences before he joined Environment Canada as director general of atmospheric science and technology.
Before going into specifics on the ozone monitoring program, I would like to give you some background on science and research at Environment Canada.
To support the regulatory, programmatic, and service functions of Environment Canada, which includes our work in protecting the environment and forecasting the weather, we do a great deal of environmental science. About half of the 7,000 people in the department are involved in science. Indeed, Environment Canada is the seventh largest producer of environmental science in the world, and the largest outside of the United States.
Our scientists do applied research in scientific monitoring in direct support of the department's mission. That's how we prioritize our science and research and how we allocate our resources. We don't do curiosity-based research, as many academic researchers do.
This brings me to ozone monitoring.
First, despite what you may have read, Environment Canada has made no changes to ozone monitoring.
We are planning to make some changes, because we believe we can do so in a way that's consistent with our mandate and makes better use of taxpayers' dollars. I understand that a number of academic scientists use the data we currently collect to support their research, and we're very happy to share our data. But the needs and interests of academic research cannot be the determining factor in how we allocate and use our scientific resources. Much of the work our scientists do is in collaboration with other scientists in Canada and around the world. Our scientists are always encouraged to disseminate and discuss their scientific findings in a timely way for the public good. This is demonstrated on a daily basis through the publication of their scientific findings in peer-reviewed journals and through presentations at conferences.
Environment Canada is committed to continuing our monitoring of water and air quality, including our monitoring of ozone.
Ozone in the upper atmosphere protects the earth's surface and humans from harmful UV radiation from the sun by absorbing radiation. Ozone at ground level is a component of smog and is considered harmful to human health and the environment.
The Montreal Protocol, which took action against ozone-depleting substances and was agreed to in 1987, has been very successful. The Canadian ozone science document released by Environment Canada in 2007 noted that, because of the success of the Montreal Protocol, the ozone layer no longer appears to be thinning and is expected to return to its 1970s levels later this century. The World Meteorological Organization updated that 2007 report with an ozone assessment in 2010. This confirmed the finding, and emphasized the maturity of this issue. However, both of these documents indicate that there are uncertainties about the verification of ozone recovery and the influence of other factors such as climate change.
Overall, both documents support Environment Canada's position to continue ozone monitoring in the upper atmosphere. I would like to make it clear that Environment Canada will continue to monitor ozone in the upper atmosphere, also known as stratospheric ozone, in order for Canada to meet its obligations for the surveillance of ozone and the chemical composition of the atmosphere.
In 2011, Environment Canada has not reduced the frequency with which it monitors stratospheric ozone or the number of sites at which we take measurements. The monitoring is conducted via two complementary monitoring methods. First, there is the ozonesonde method, which measures the vertical distribution of ozone concentrations in the atmosphere. Second, there is the Brewer method, which measures the total thickness of the ozone layer.
As a result of our continuing efforts to make the best use of the public funds allocated to us, Environment Canada managers are working closely with their scientists to define the optimal and integrated ozone monitoring network for the upper atmosphere. The guiding principles are to ensure scientific integrity; to recognize our commitments, such as supporting the validation and dissemination of the UV, or ultraviolet, index; to maintain critical long-term ozone-trend information; to facilitate the validation of satellite data; and to continue surveillance of ozone holes. This optimization will be carried out with scientific rigour and will ensure the quality assurance and quality control of ozone data.
In addition, Environment Canada will continue to manage the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre. That centre is an international data archive in which all government-obtained observations of ozone and ultraviolet radiation are reported.
Environment Canada is proposing to better integrate the data centre with our updated data management processes. The department will provide staff with enough time to manage the WOUDC at a level comparable to that of other resources. Moreover, scientific oversight of the data centre will continue.
Canada has had a strong ozone measurement program for many years. Many of our measurement methods are now used globally and were pioneered by Canadian scientists. These measurements will continue, but they will be delivered under a different program and data-management model. Let me assure you and all Canadians that ozone monitoring and our continued management of the database remain a priority for Environment Canada and that there will continue to be investment in these areas.
Scientists in our department conduct research and related scientific activities in order to better understand wildlife, biodiversity, water, air, soil, climate, and environmental prediction and environmental technologies. I am very proud and pleased to lead this world-class group of scientists who carry out Environment Canada's mandate and sincerely serve Canadians every day.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to discuss our ozone monitoring initiatives with you this morning.