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Forecasts are updated annually but encompass a multi-year view. The Netherlands is funded in accordance with forecasts and processing time: The funding model in the UK is tied to the government funding cycle, updated annually, with some flexibility to reallocate internally or access a central contingency fund to adapt to fluctuations in volume.
The remainder are usually completed within 12 months. The UK also sets targets for other elements of the process, such as screening interviews. The Swedish Migration Agency similarly maintains a comprehensive forecasting model and reports quarterly to the Swedish Ministry of Justice.
USCIS has a staffing allocation model, which applies data-driven methodologies to quantify resource needs by office, including the Refugee, Asylum and International Operations, with the key drivers being the projected intake, hours per completion rate or productivity rates , utilization or take up rate, and subject matter expert input.
This rests within a larger governance structure and is reviewed and revalidated by management in operational, policy and finance three times a year. Of note, both the U. However, the Swedish model provides additional flexibility: In Germany, to address the crisis, two supplementary budgets were approved in , along with subsequent annual budgets negotiated among all levels of government. Within the Ministry of Finance, a coordination committee for refugee-related issues was established to monitor and plan asylum system expenditures.
At the end of the fiscal year surplus funds were used to build a reserve for additional refugee-related expenditures. The staff budget was also significantly increased by nearly permanent and temporary positions mainly to secure the border and decide asylum claims.
In addition, humanitarian aid was almost tripled to help address the root causes of the mass migration. The organizational structure of asylum systems determines to a large extent the complexity and efficiency of procedures. Of the countries studied there were systems with integrated asylum procedures and others which engaged multiple parties from intake to decision. In European countries great emphasis is placed on quick registration and identity verification for security purposes.
At the initial registration basic information about the claimant is collected: Electronic forms are often completed by officials, rather than the claimant. Registration serves to quickly verify identity, inadmissibility history, and previous visa applications or asylum claims.
This step can be as short as a few hours in Sweden where there is no criminal check as per EU asylum policy, criminality is not a bar to access a claim to 4 hours in the UK, which involves an admissibility decision.
Germany, like the UK, does not release claimants until cleared by a security check, which takes a few hours for the majority of cases. To confirm identity of large numbers of undocumented claimants, Germany uses voice biometrics, specialized keyboards to translate names and mobile data analysis.
For unaccompanied minors, a significant volume in the wave of asylum seekers, the Netherlands, France and Sweden conducted medical tests to verify age. In Sweden, the UK, and the U. In France claims must be made within days of entry unless there is a valid reason for delay. Under law, registration must take place within three working days after asylum seekers have expressed their intention to file a claim, which can be extended to 10 working days when there are large numbers of arrivals.
In the Netherlands registration typically takes one to three days, including reporting, interview and health screening.
Then, claimants have a minimum six-day rest period or up to three weeks prior to the start of the eight-day decision-making process. Most countries have a triage system with several case streams to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the asylum process. Each organization determines specific streams according to specific criteria, such as the country of origin, travel route, complexity of the claim, past outcomes and the time required to complete processing.
These streams vary anywhere from three to seven different categories, including manifestly unfounded and founded cases, and country or geographic groups. Claims that appear well-founded and unfounded are generally put through an expedited process. Most countries also prioritize unaccompanied minors and individuals in detention. Strong exemplars of efficiency in the EU asylum context are applying new management tools to their systems to address fluctuations in intake, supported by the UNHCR and the European Asylum Support Office EASO , which have become centres of expertise in the sharing of best practices.
EASO also provides operational assistance, such as interviews, quality assurance and other support to EU member states. Key best practices are provided below:. In France, the municipality receiving the claim identifies the stream.
In Sweden, teams of dedicated case workers triage the files into streams prior to sending notices to claimants to appear. In the UK, files are triaged following the screening interview. Where interviews are required clients and counsel are convened according to the readiness of the file and the scheduling strategy, which takes into account the assigned stream.
For example, Sweden sends notices one month in advance, based on the availability of counsel using an electronic availability calendar and consequently there are very few requests for date changes. Most systems operate under the premise that it is the responsibility of the claimant and counsel lawyer or other to be available or to find a replacement counsel that can be present. All countries examined have an interview process in an informal setting focused on determining the basis of claim, often with case specific research and submissions occurring afterwards.
Several countries use specialized staff for different steps in the decision-making process, meaning that interviewers are not always decision makers.
Some use regional country specialists in response to short-term surges but reported that case type specialists for particular vulnerable groups provide longer term efficiency benefits.
Most countries have detailed weekly targets based on case types and streams, with higher targets for straightforward cases and lower targets for complex cases. In Germany, during the crisis, straightforward cases and large families were prioritized with higher targets.
In the UK, a dedicated casework team is testing new ways of working to improve efficiency. In all countries studied there is a decision review process with a second decision maker, a senior decision maker or a supervisor. Complex cases and those with no appeal rights must also be signed off by a senior case worker. In Germany, the U. In Sweden, the interviewer makes a recommendation to a decision maker, who oversees a team of interviewers. Interpreters participate in the interviews in person, by video conference or by phone.
In Germany, interpreters are assigned based on the language that claimants can understand to avoid the need for rare language services. Individuals may be supported by a lawyer or another representative. In Sweden and the Netherlands, free legal assistance is provided to claimants under a duty counsel model in most instances.
Interestingly, in Sweden cases streamed to positive decision making are not represented. The Netherlands has a notable appeal-like step integrated into the eight-day decision-making process, whereby they work collaboratively with counsel to finalize draft negative decisions, which reduces formal appeals and significantly improved efficiency of the overall process.
In an effort to maximize productivity, tools such as checklists are provided to interviewers and decision makers to help them focus on the factors required to make a decision. Most countries have templates for interview notes and decisions. The UK has a notable assisted decision-making tool, which is a digital decision tree to support consistency while allowing for case precision where relevant.
European countries provide summaries and findings on country conditions, and instructions on the aspects for decision makers to address based on the type of refugee claim and the countries involved. Other ministries of government are responsible for either preparing such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the Netherlands or providing input to reports on major intake countries.
Germany prepares concise reports. Country of Origin information is made publicly available, with the exception of Germany. All countries studied evaluate the quality of asylum decisions on an ongoing basis through formal quality assurance programs. Quality assurance systems include decisional review models at the operational level, in addition to quality assessment units responsible for random post-decision reviews and reporting to management.
Quality control is an internal function of each organisation, with the exception of France, which employs the UNHCR on contract to evaluate the quality of interviews, research and decisions, with the findings made public.
Specialized quality units within organizations are typically responsible for the creation of standards, guidelines, training, regular auditing of decisions, timely identification of issues, as well as monitoring trends. In the Netherlands, randomly selected cases are reviewed weekly. In the UK, operational assurance is directed by executive and risk assurance committees, as well as a governance board. At the operational level, there are first line checks and performance monitoring, while an independent compliance team assesses a small percentage of random cases and conducts targeted reviews.
In Germany, a team also reviews a small percentage of cases monthly and addresses complaints. The UK, the U. Of the countries reviewed all have appeal processes for rejected claimants under justice ministries, separate from the decision-making organization. In most countries, appeals are heard by an administrative law court, often a specialized migration chamber with immigration law experts. In general refugee claims that are determined to be manifestly unfounded do not have a right of appeal.
The Netherlands allows one-week for appeal applications to support quick removals and decisions are provided in four weeks. Most appeal bodies studied have the authority to substitute decisions. Judicial review is also generally available to claimants following the appeal process. The UK has a notable process to encourage resolution of claims without litigation in an effort to bring down the percentage of cases that proceed to judicial review.
Pre-Action Protocol letters are exchanged between the claimant and government. Removals are a challenge for all countries. To complement forced removals all countries examined have voluntary or assisted return programs usually within asylum organizations to encourage departures. Information to claimants about assisted return is shared throughout the asylum claim process. Most countries offer assistance with return travel and reintegration in home countries including employment and training , and many have tailored projects with the International Organization for Migration.
The Netherlands funds its program through its foreign aid program, with grants and contributions available to NGOs, which provide practical reintegration assistance to failed claimants. The Netherlands actively manages the removal of failed claimants with automatic interviews every six weeks tied to ongoing social support. In France approximately 4, persons returned voluntarily in and 1, persons benefited from some kind of assistance.
Countries noted that these programs are a cost effective means for governments to support reintegration of failed claimants, as well as helping to meet humanitarian objectives, particularly where other return measures have proven inadequate in increasing compliance with departure. As most countries have integrated systems within one larger agency, there is flexibility to reallocate staff as needed.
In Sweden and the U. While the Netherlands has a decentralized system decision makers are regularly reallocated based on caseload. To cope with the crisis Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands hired new permanent and temporary staff from a wide range of backgrounds through agencies, mainly to assist with registration and screening interviews and other support functions.
Germany also seconded thousands of officials from other federal organizations and hired additional local staff. The UK and the Netherlands both deployed mobile decision-maker teams during the crisis and Germany also set up centralized decision-making hubs to support arrival centres.
In Sweden, when refugee claims decreased substantially in , resources were moved from the front end intake and first-level decisions to later stages in processing re-assessment of the temporary status permits. With respect to international resettlement processing, most countries send asylum decision makers on refugee resettlement missions given the similar nature of work between in-country asylum and overseas protection.
All countries recognize the critical role of the decision maker and focus on the recruitment of the right individual based on key competencies. France and Sweden recruit individuals with international experience.
In Sweden personality tests are also used and problem-solving capacity is evaluated. In the Netherlands most case workers are trained lawyers. The UK job poster emphasizes the requirement to meet performance targets.
Training for new decision makers varies from 5 to 16 weeks and occurs online, in the classroom and through practical exercises. All countries cover essentially the same subject matter: Germany has a training centre delivered in multiple locations and a large pool of trainers to address the high demand.
During the crisis the training program was reduced, re-focused on training to specific skills such as interviewing or country specialization. Follow-up training was provided by Germany as well as quality standards.
Most countries have a one year probation period at which point the decision maker is considered to be fully trained. Retention of highly skilled decision makers is a universal challenge with regular staff turnover, usually every three years. The UK is beginning a new developmental program to improve recruitment and retention. The Independent Reviewer engaged with a broad range of stakeholders who shared their insight into the current functioning of the system from the perspectives of users, advocates and specialists in the asylum field.
Stakeholders were forthcoming with ideas, offering proposals for efficiencies and opportunities for improvements. While there was not consensus on all issues, stakeholders universally stressed the importance of the fairness of the system.
Equally, stakeholders raised concerns related to policy and legislation that are not summarized here as these considerations were outside of the scope of this Review. In addition to the focussed consultations undertaken by the Independent Reviewer, the Review had access to the results of IRCC stakeholder consultations that were held in July Across the themes of this Review, stakeholders provided valuable input which is summarized below. Stakeholders universally support a fast system that ensures fairness to the claimant.
System inefficiencies amongst the key organizations are viewed as undermining this goal. Concerns were raised about the lack of overall management of the system, and the need for a more coherent process. Clients and their cases suffer from the unnecessary and unclear hand-offs between organizations and the delays which result.
Some stakeholders wish to see decision making aligned in a single, expert organization, including Humanitarian and Compassionate decisions, Pre-Removal Risk Assessments and status decisions pertaining to stateless persons in order to ensure consistency of decision making and client treatment in relation to these similar decisions.
There is a desire to increase accountability of the system with a reporting and oversight mechanism, such as an ombudsman or inspector that could monitor asylum processes and report to Parliament.
Stakeholders support the need for increased flexibility in the system in keeping with the principles of natural justice and without sacrificing fairness. Many stakeholders encouraged moving away from rules-based processes such as rigid timelines that do not reflect case complexity, so as to be as informal as possible in resolving cases. For example, look to minimizing the number of steps clients need to take in the process and eliminate redundancy. Simple technology solutions were recommended to speed up processing, such as e-mail to communicate with counsel and claimants, and electronic filing.
Many suggested that tight timelines for the lodging of the Basis of Claim and for hearings lead to postponements. Plain language in all communications with claimants was also suggested to improve understanding of the process.
A pre- and post-reform comparison was recommended to determine what aspects of the process are now taking longer than previously. The need for consistent, stable funding for legal aid across the country was stressed.
It was reinforced that claimants are screened for legal aid through both means and merit-based tests. Early access to work permits could decrease costs of means tested legal aid. To address other issues contributing to poor representation, such as inadequate regulation and training, confidentiality and ineffective complaints processes are needed in the system.
A quality assurance mechanism tied to funding was suggested to increase public accountability on legal aid costs.
Stakeholders agreed that there should be a consistent process wherever a claim is made whether at the port or inland. The claimant process was often viewed as necessitating claimants and counsel to submit the maximum amount of information to ensure that any relevant issue that may arise in a hearing is not inadvertently missed.
This approach has significant costs and would be better corrected by clarifying substantive issues prior to the hearing or as early as possible in the claim process.
Other specific suggestions included:. There was a widespread call for more expedited processing and short hearings, open to all claimants regardless of country of origin. The system should provide more flexibility to triage straightforward decisions that can be made quickly on clearly positive cases that do not require hearings. A triage process prior to scheduling, focused on the defining issue s , was recommended to identify expedited cases and to free adjudicative resources for more complex cases.
Many suggested using administrative support models to recommend positive cases to decision makers. This would both lower costs and increase productivity. Case streaming by country of origin, unaccompanied minors, single issues, persons in detention or unique claimant circumstances, expedited groups, and Ministerial interventions was raised as a useful tool to better manage caseload.
Several experts in the field of asylum adjudication spoke candidly to the Review of the opportunities to improve the quality and productivity of decision makers. Two key themes emerged with respect to decision making. First, improve consistency and speed. Second, hearings should be as informal as possible, as overly strict rules inhibit the ability of claimants to give spontaneous accounts of their experiences.
Pre-hearings with counsel were also widely recommended. Several proposals were provided to streamline processes following the first protection decision, notably, that Refugee Appeal Division should make final decisions and not return cases to the Refugee Protection Division.
Priority processing at the Refugee Appeal Division was also proposed. To assist the Refugee Protection Division, broader use of Refugee Appeal Division jurisprudential guidelines were suggested, particularly in relation to state protection and internal flight alternatives. The goal for the appeal should be for the Federal Court to fully defer to the competency of the Refugee Appeal Division, reducing judicial review to questions of law.
To encourage the return of persons to their countries of origin with dignity and anonymity, a voluntary returns program was recommended as a more effective approach than forced removal. In lieu of forced return, an independent office could facilitate the return of refused claimants to their country.
This could be offered as in-kind assistance for housing, or livelihood training or through discretionary payments for transportation and resettlement. Stakeholders recommended streamlining the permanent residence application process with the claim process to improve efficiency.
All stakeholders agreed there should be sufficient funding to process claims on a timely basis. A mechanism to provide extra resources for increased claims or backlogs was strongly recommended.
To support processing efficiencies stakeholders emphasized that maintaining a full complement of available decision makers and interpreters at all times must be a priority to eliminate capacity shortfalls.
Well-trained and supported decision makers was highlighted as the essential component of an effective system and that recruitment is critical. While the interests of stakeholders are wide-ranging there is a thread of consensus that is instructive. From discussions with stakeholders it is clear that there are many opportunities to make improvements to the overall functioning and efficiency of the system and that external contributors such as lawyers and NGOs should be part of the considerations of any revised approaches to asylum adjudication.
On the front-end of the system, stakeholders support a better process for claim intake that would reduce duplication and improve the collection of information, making better use of automation to assist the process. For decision making, stakeholders have a strong interest in ensuring that case resolution is tailored to the case, such as through better triage, informal resolution of issues and narrowing of issues in advance of hearing the claimant.
The ideas of stakeholders are driven by procedural fairness interests of the claimants who bear the weight of the formality of the process and equally by NGOs and legal aid which bear part of the cost of this formality. There is a common interest in fairness, accountability and results which resonate in this Review.
This Review has considered many of these practical suggestions in developing the recommendations that follow. A key observation arising out of consultations with IRB, IRCC, CBSA and stakeholders is that the efficiency of the asylum system in Canada has suffered as a result of the lack of active, coherent and accountable management across the entire continuum of its activities. In the absence of such management decisions for different components of the system are being made without due regard for their impact on other parts of the system — including the protection decision-making process.
Productivity and efficiency of the system as a whole suffers as a result. Hence a system management approach is essential. Within this approach different governance options are possible, ranging from a more efficient and coordinated system to one that is integrated largely into one organizational structure.
However, there are some common parameters and principles that provide the essential framework for the overall approach, and irrespective of the option for the end state, this Report recommends that a number of systems improvement. Such a programme of action would result in necessary short-term improvements, while also paving the way for more meaningful, systemic transformation.
In other immigration and refugee programs, the government has levers to control access through selection processes and screening tools. Apart from visas and travel authorities, there are few asylum-specific levers that control access to protection — Canada has a legal obligation to consider all eligible claims made in Canada seeking protection on a case-by-case basis.
Decades of experience demonstrates that regardless of the source of asylum spikes, there are periods when asylum demand outstrips the capability of the system to respond. A managed system will be helpful in addressing these cycles, but contingencies will also be needed to get out of the cycle of spikes being followed by the accrual of backlogs and delayed decision making. Within a systems management paradigm, it is important to draw a distinction between managing caseload across the asylum system, and managing decision making on individual cases.
For the latter, natural justice and international and Canadian legal norms provide an essential framework. Managing caseload relates to how decisions are made to manage, prioritize and stream volumes of cases across the asylum system.
Strategic caseload management presupposes a governance structure providing accountability — ultimately to Parliament for all component parts of the system, against a coherent plan. The system requires collective governance that would permit coherent and strategic management of asylum flows. The independence of decision making on individual cases is essential, in accordance with the principles of natural justice, and respecting international and Canadian norms.
The independence of a quasi-judicial administrative tribunal is a model for protecting the independence of decision making that rests at one end of the spectrum relative to international practice. However, and as underscored in the analysis of other international models, maintaining this unique model is not essential for preserving decision-making independence. Irrespective of the organizational model, there are management practices that can be pursued in support of decision makers related to how cases and decisions are triaged, streamed and prepared.
In considering options for models that would encourage a systems management approach, without sacrificing independence of decision making, some basic parameters and principles have framed the recommendations:. Bearing in mind the above parameters and principles, within a management paradigm, steps can be taken to put in place foundational measures. First a reset of governance including a reset of the management approach and funding of the system. From this foundation transformative change can be built, which is addressed in this chapter.
Horizontal trilateral governance requires exceptional commitment by all parties to maintain and has proven frail when tested over time. When discrete parts of the system are performing poorly, the impact is felt across all the partner organizations. Results frameworks for the asylum program require both vertical and horizontal governance to be effective, target-focussed and functioning as a whole system.
Resource allocation for asylum is also not managed as a system. Departments receive a fixed level of funding for asylum processing and are accountable individually on the management of those funds. The majority of planning and negotiations that occur take place on an ad hoc basis when new incremental resource requests are made; for example, in relation to visa policy changes or during a spike in claims as in the current situation of irregular migration along the U.
There are no formal mechanisms to strategically focus or shift resources between departments from different activities in response to demand, if warranted. In day-to-day operations, each department internally allocates resources towards or away from asylum processing as deemed appropriate in each organization. Given that each department has numerous priorities to balance, resources for asylum processing may be in competition with other programs.
While there may be notional allocations for asylum within any given department, given that these resources are not fenced or constrained, they can be moved to meet other operational needs without consideration or accounting to the system as a whole.
Over time, what was originally in the organizational budgets may become unknown. Lastly, there are few mechanisms to easily access contingency. During a spike in intake, organizations are required to internally reallocate resources.
Organizations, with the exception of the CBSA which has a two-year carry forward, do not have the ability to move resources from one year to the next.
There is also no established mechanism to easily access revisions to permanent funding or contingency funding without the unwelcomed process of developing proposals for government deliberation. Canada Border Services Agency CBSA was created in to provide integrated border services, and incorporated responsibilities from the customs and immigration departments at the time. CBSA plays an integral role in asylum processing at ports of entry, security screening of cases, intervening in serious cases and ensuring timely removal of failed claimants from Canada.
An analysis of the expenditures of the Agency since the reforms shows that under current horizontal accountability the asylum system is competing for resources with the broader priorities of the Agency.
In the case of removals output is significantly below pre-reform levels. An annual plan should be tabled to Parliament by the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship in consultation with the Minister of Public Safety and the Minister of Justice to report annually on the system as a whole. To achieve a systems management approach a more robust model for governance is needed that would establish a trilateral governance to engage in system-wide planning, allowing opportunities for all contributing partners to develop plans to meet the dynamic needs of the overall system.
In such a model, a Management Board would undertake a system forecast for intake, set processing priorities, establish resource levels, and formalise a three-year plan annually for consideration by the Ministers and Parliament. This would complement the current multi-year immigration levels plan. A target and a range is established for each category and for the plan overall, and if required, additional resources are sought to meet the objectives of the plan.
While the plan will continue to be tabled annually, in for the first time, a multiyear levels plan was presented. The target for the next three years is now earmarked in the fiscal framework. Leveraging the knowledge and foresight of the Management Board, the Minister should be enabled to provide direction on the administration of the workload of all organizations, including the IRB, IRCC and CBSA, and set operational performance expectations without being perceived as influencing or directing outcomes on protection or enforcement cases.
This could be achieved transparently through a mandate letter from the Minister to all deputy heads or via the Clerk to deputy heads through alignment of performance management agreements or letters of expectations. The Asylum System Management Board should develop productivity measures across the asylum system. Productivity of the system has not been stable or predictable and has undermined confidence in further resourcing of the system.
Uneven productivity rates coupled with changing intake has rendered it challenging to establish core cost drivers. Establishing a baseline for performance is critical to achieve predictability. Costing assumptions and methodologies of all partners need transparency so that all actors in the system understand and appreciate resource trade-offs.
Departments should collectively determine measures for productivity which are reported upon and reviewed on a quarterly basis.
Develop an annual asylum budget that is reset each year based on forecasted intake and productivity targets set by the Asylum System Management Board. While the Minister of IRCC remains responsible for the asylum system, ultimately the deputy head of each organization is responsible for presenting funding requests and are accountable for expenditures. It is evident departments are consulted for each incremental request for funding, however there lacks a central authority responsible for taking a horizontal approach to funding and to appropriately consider potential trade-offs, including shifting resources between departments where warranted.
While central agencies can play this role to an extent, often intervention occurs too late in the process to effectively address systemic issues. To address this, departments should immediately begin laying the foundations to develop an annual asylum budget within the Asylum System Management Board. One annual budget should be presented for the whole system that includes a forecast of the next two years for planning purposes.
The level of funding would be reset each year based on the forecasted intake for the next year and the productivity targets set by the Asylum System Management Board. It is recommended that an annual plan is put in place starting in with a new ongoing baseline, and a draft budget should be developed for The asylum budget should form a key component of the annual asylum plan which would be tabled in Parliament by the Minister of IRCC at the same time as the annual multiyear immigration levels plan.
To support an asylum budget all departments should review and determine a mechanism to track expenditures. The horizontal evaluation brought to light that not all departments were able to track expenditures related to asylum processing pre For example, while one of the intentions of the horizontal evaluation was to present the per unit cost pre and post reforms, the evaluation was only able to compare the average cost of support services and not the cost of processing as not all departments systematically track costs related to asylum system and are not able to accurately track and present all of their program related expenditures.
Notably, this Review has gathered —for the first time — an accounting of the full expenditures for all partners for asylum processing over time. In order to understand the full cost of asylum processing and to establish a true baseline going forward, systems are needed to ensure that expenditures and resources are fully tracked. Departments should immediately review how expenditures are captured such as through a program assessment and systematically track resources going forward in a consistent manner.
Given that the government cannot stop processing asylum claims once capacity is reached it is paramount that a system-wide approach is taken to manage resources and provide flexibility to adjust funding where warranted.
The Asylum System Management Board should work with central agencies to immediately develop a system-wide flexible funding model. This model would be supported by robust tools for forecasting, costing and tracking of expenditures.
This would allow quarterly updates of the forecasted intake and resource requirements to be presented and approved by the Management Board, allowing for in-year adjustments as necessary and provide greater ability to forecast large changes. In terms of structure the Management Board should work with central agencies to develop an annual asylum budget with the asylum plan which is congruent with the current immigration levels plan.
This would help situate in-year plans and enable the earmarking of future year funding requirements. Specifically, funding should address processing estimates at the top end of the forecasted range and contingency funding would also be provided for activities over the top of the range e. Both the funding from the target to the top of the range and the contingency could be placed in specific allotments in departmental reference levels.
With updated and enhanced tools such as the cost per claimant, departments should be able to precisely determine the amount of funds needed per activity. For example, if the number of appeals processed exceed the pre-determined baseline, funding could be released based on the set amount of funding per appeal at the end of the year.
Conversely, if the number of appeals do not exceed the baseline, funds could either be reallocated by the Asylum System Management Board or be returned to the fiscal framework based on discussions with central agencies. Two viable options include placing funds in a special purpose allotment or frozen allotment. Most critically, when funds are placed in a separate allotment, they would be required to be tracked separately and cannot be used towards other activities. While at first glance, another option would be to put all the funding, rather than the top range and contingency, into an allotment, this would severely constrain the ability of departments to cash manage.
To support either option, mechanisms should be in place for the transfer of funding to organizations from front to back-end processes when intake declines or as operational pressures arise, but that such transfers are directed and approved by the Management Board. Quarterly updates to the Management Board would allow sufficient time to plan and adjust funding levels accordingly for the following year.
In a fully integrated Agency model, further flexibility including ability to address large surges could be provided through seeking a two-year carry forward or appropriation. A two-year appropriation would be viable if activities were consolidated within one organization and would require legislative authority. As with the previous model, the same range and contingency per activity could be retained and kept in allotments, so that unused funds could return to the fiscal framework.
Current examples of organizations with a two-year carry forward include Parks Canada and the CBSA because of the operational nature of their business and their limited ability to control their client groups. In the case of asylum processing, a compelling argument can be made given the government has limited control over the number of claims received.
Formalize regular, system-wide human resource planning and monitoring processes. Disciplined processes are needed to ensure that human resources are allocated as effectively as possible across organizations at all times. There should be clear staffing and performance goals, HR plans to accomplish these goals, regular national reporting to identify issues and make adjustments and account for progress. Building on the current weekly and monthly review of productivity and availability reports at the RPD, a formal, monthly, national review of performance would maximize the allocation and recruitment of decision makers across the system.
Establish an External Advisory Committee composed of asylum experts to advise the proposed Asylum System Management Board on plans and proposals. Stakeholders have suggested that ministerial oversight could best be achieved through an independent review body that could report to the Minister or Parliament on the effectiveness of the tribunal, reducing the perception of political interference in the operation.
There is significant merit in establishing a core group of external advisors that would be able to advise on the feasibility of priorities and plans of an Asylum Board both to reflect the needs of the claimant and advocacy community and build necessary transparency and stakeholder support for plans through early and informed engagement.
Existing capacity gaps need to be addressed. Reducing the systems backlogs to working inventories within 24 months will increase the chances of success for the post system. Backlogs have significant downstream impacts for provinces which bear the costs of providing health, education and social service supports to claimants as they await a final decision.
Adopt one of two models for a systems management approach for asylum. In order to provide coherence to the implementation of these management reforms, it is recommended that a Board be established as soon as feasible. A decision needs to be taken from the outset as to the vision for the end state.
The key choice to be made is between:. This report details the characteristics needed to support either model. Option 1 is the system reform model. Under the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, the Asylum System Management Board oversees, monitors, adjusts the asylum plan, resources, timelines, priorities and results.
The Board would recommend the asylum budget to the Minister, including adjustments based on updated forecasts. Support from Public Safety and Justice deputy ministers would be as required.
Option 2 is the Integrated Model that would place the whole protection-related federal mandate within a Refugee Protection Agency reporting to the Minister of IRCC, merging protection programs in one integrated Agency. As in the proposed Systems Reform Model, front-end processes would be integrated and streamlined to reduce redundancy and duplication.
All first-level protection decision making, whether in Canada or abroad, would be entrusted to one agency reporting to the Minister of IRCC.
This includes the registration, screening and triages of claims. Security and intervention functions would remain under the Minister of Public Safety though opportunities exist to explore improvements to front-end processing at ports of entry.
The asylum system process is built around three core steps: While legislative reforms in produced an initial amelioration in processing time and finalizations early in the new asylum system, as intake increased timelines were not being met in a majority of cases and backlogs have grown at all levels of the process.
With procedural fairness for the claimant as a given in any system design, what are the characteristics of an efficient asylum process. From a process perspective, there are some essential characteristics needed to support a streamlined and efficient processing model:.
These characteristics are strikingly deficient in the current system. The process today is significantly siloed, complex for both users and delivery agents, with parties separately carrying out their role in accordance with their own internal goals and priorities. With the significant increase in cases, the system has been unable to come to a common set of processing priorities and organize itself around those priorities.
As a consequence, the process is not respectful of the time of claimants nor the energies expended across the continuum all aimed at bringing cases to finality.
A simple and informed process would involve a single intake interview, unified case triage and one-step, early decision making supported by clear information flow from intake, to decision, to post-decision. There are many opportunities to bring about efficiencies — some more valuable from a cost-benefit perspective but all contributing to better economies of scale, reduction of overlap and redundancies, fewer errors in quality and integration of the process between all partners.
This chapter will assess efficiency opportunities of the process from end-to-end. It should be noted that some of the current inefficiencies in the process are reinforced by legislation. In an integrated Agency model supported by a new legislative framework certain process challenges are overcome. Recognizing that changes to legislation can require significant time to develop and implement, it should be noted that the majority of these recommendations can be implemented without legislation.
Establish an expert committee to engage and consult in detailed process design and processing solutions with the legal community and stakeholders.
Resources with deep knowledge of asylum in the Canadian context are rare. With the system poorly understood, design has suffered — corrections to one aspect of the process open new challenges elsewhere. This image shows a simplified in-Canada asylum system process flow. Intake includes admissibility and eligibility security, biometric and biographic checks, form intake, and seizure of travel documents. A positive decision results in protected person status and the individual can apply for permanent residence.
A positive decision on appeal results in protected person status and the individual can apply for permanent residence. Negative appeal divisions can be appealed to the Federal Court. A positive PRRA decision results in protected person status and the individual can apply for permanent residence.
The intake process establishes the informational foundation of a claim. This includes information needed for the admissibility identity documents, fingerprints, passports, personal history and security screening and eligibility decision travel history, previous claims, residency, admissibility in order to refer a claim to the RPD.
In addition, the inland and port of entry staff also provide the claimant with information about the process, obligations as a person under an enforcement order and authorize temporary health care benefits. Implement a consistent claim intake process whether the claim occurs in country or at a port of entry. Feedback from stakeholders and the Refugee Reform evaluation report indicate that the overall intake process requires a consistent and streamlined method for all claimants, whether they enter a port of entry or an inland office.
Currently, IRCC inland and the CBSA at the port of entry and for those detained inland are responsible for carrying out the intake process and interview for individuals making asylum claims. There are different timeframes and inconsistent processes due to the decentralized nature of respective locations and mandates.
A concern raised by stakeholders is that the port of entry examination by CBSA is more exhaustive than the intake interview of IRCC, giving rise to the concern that one process is too detailed and invasive for vulnerable persons presenting claims at the port and the other less rigorous and value-added. A common, consistent, respectful but thorough approach is needed. Implementation of this recommendation would create a single process, allowing for consistent information gathering and an opportunity for IRCC and CBSA to focus on quality and maintaining integrity of the system.
In an Agency model, the Agency would be responsible for these activities both inland and at high volume ports of entry. Streamline the intake process by adopting electronic forms to simplify how information is collected from the client and recorded in the Global Case Management System GCMS. There is an opportunity to consolidate intake forms to avoid duplicating the information gathered at the outset.
Establishing e-forms would ensure that essential information needed along the processing continuum is collected early in the process and only collected once. Provide plain language information and forms in a variety of languages to ensure individuals understand the asylum process. In addition, many do not speak either English or French. Coupled with simplification, this could reduce the time spent with the claimant explaining their obligations, reduce the length of overall processes and achieve greater client compliance with procedures.
While in most cases eligibility can be assessed within three working days, in cases where there is insufficient information, a reassessment of eligibility should be mandatory prior to a first level hearing. Currently, the eligibility decision is seen as critical to ensure claimants are given timely access to benefits such as work permits, health benefits and other support services.
This places undue pressure on the system when there is insufficient information to make a sound eligibility decision. Benefits could continue to be available to the claimant once the registration and data collection step is complete, but where identity is not well-supported, eligibility should always be re-reviewed once greater information is available i. Procedures pertaining to the treatment of exclusions cases under the Refugee Convention are poorly understood.
When light hits an atom, if it is absorbed by an electron, the photon gives the electron the energy to move to an orbit farther away. When an electron emits light, that lost photon removes energy and the electron falls to a lower orbit. The potential energy in the electron as it orbits the nucleus and the potential energy in a rock that I hold above the ground are similar, as the diagram below demonstrates. Below is a diagram of a hydrogen atom as its electron orbits farther from the nucleus when it absorbs energy.
As the diagram depicts, the atom gets larger. Lateral movement also called translational motion is called temperature. While finding an accurate definition of temperature can be a frustrating experience, temperature is a measure of the kinetic energy the energy of motion in matter. As with the behavior of photons, at the atomic level the concept of temperature can break down, and classical behaviors emerge as groups of atoms lose their quantum properties. The transferred energy can be stored by the electrons leaping into higher orbits.
They can in turn release that energy in the form of photons and return to lower orbits. The increas ed movement of heated atoms is why substances expand in volume. The more motion, the higher the temperature, and just as an engine will fly apart when the RPMs go too high, when an atom vibrates too fast, an electron can leave the atom entirely and the atom becomes an ion.
As substances become hotter, the electrons will be in higher orbits, and will fall farther when giving off photonic energy, so the photons have more energy shorter wavelengths. Get a substance hot enough and it will emit photons that we can see visible light.
Those first visible photons will be on the lower end of the spectrum of light that we can see with our eyes, and will be red. Get the substance hotter and the light can turn white, which means that we are seeing the full visible spectrum of light. Get matter hot enough and it becomes plasma , as electrons float in a soup with nuclei. Those electrons are too energetic to be captured by nuclei and placed into shells.
When tw o atoms come close to each other, if the potential energy of their combined state is less than their potential energy when they are separate, the atoms will tend to react. But the reaction only happens when the electron shells come into an alignment so that the reaction can happen.
If the shells do not meet in the proper alignment and velocity, the reaction will not happen and the atoms will bounce away from each other. The faster and more often the atoms collide, the likelier they are to react and reach that lower energy state.
Chemical electron shell reactions need to reach their activation energy to occur, and this is measured in temperature. The activation energy for hydrogen and oxygen to react and form water is about degrees Celsius o C.
The fusion of a helium nucleus releases more than a million times the energy that it takes to ionize a hydrogen atom. As will be discussed later , some reactions have a cumulative result of absorbing energy , while others release it.
The first can be seen as an investment of energy, while the second can be seen as consuming it. Below is a diagram of two hydrogen atoms before and after reaction, as they bond to form H 2. Elements with their electron shells mostly, but not completely, filled are, in order of electronegativity: In that upper right corner of the periodic table , of largely filled electron shells, phosphorus and sulfur also reside.
Carbon and hydrogen have their valence shells half filled. Flu orine forms the smallest negatively charged ions known to science and wrecks organic molecules for reasons discussed later in this essay.
Organisms do not use fluorine, except for some plants that use it as a poison. The classic example of this is the water molecule. In a body of water, oxygen atoms will attract hydrogen atoms of neighboring molecules, and a relatively weak attraction known as a hydrogen bond forms.
Below is a picture of hydrogen bonds in water. Those hydrogen bonds make water the miraculous substance that it is. The unusual surface tension of water is due to hydrogen bonding. Water has a very high boiling point for its molecular weight compare the boiling points of water and carbon dioxide , for instance because of that hydrogen bonding.
Those energy and chemistry concepts should make this essay easier to digest. Timelines of En ergy, Geology, and Early Life. Provides the power for all of Earth's geophysical, geochemical, and ecological systems, with the only exception being radioactivity within Earth. Enzymes accelerate chemical reactions by millions of times, making all but the simplest life pre- LUCA possible. Oxygen is generated, which complex life will later use, which makes non-aquatic life possible and also preserves the global ocean.
Allows for larger cells and far greater energy generation capacity — pound for pound, a complex cell uses energy , times as fast as the Sun creates it. Dramatic climb in atmospheric oxygen , to eventually achieve modern levels, begins.
Largest organisms ever, and greatest energy storage and delivery to any biome, and they become the basis for coal. Among the first terrestrial animals with upright posture, enabling great aerobic capacity and domination of terrestrial environments. Great energy innovation to reduce reproductive costs, and animals are the beneficiaries, as they act as reproductive enzymes in greatest symbiosis of plant and animal life, which allows flowering plants to dominate terrestrial ecosystems.
Allows protohumans to leave trees , become Earth's dominant predator , alter ecosystems , and cooked food helped spur dramatic biological changes, including encephalization in human line. Changes the terms of engagement with prey and reduces hunting risk of large animals and increases effectiveness. Allows for first low-energy transportation, and ability to travel to unpopulated continents. Provides the local and stable energy supply that allowed for sedentary human populations and civilization.
Allows for tools highly improved over stone, for greater energy effectiveness of human activities. Turns global ocean into low-energy transportation lane and allows Europe to conquer the world.
First attempt to create "free energy" technology is abandoned due to lack of funding. First man-powered flight , and establishment of first company to mass-produce automobiles. Albert Einstein published his special theory of relativity and equation for converting mass to energy. Forms the framework for 20 th century physics, including the energy that can be liberated from an atom's nucleus. Oil-rich Ottoman Empire dismembered by industrial powers , establishing imperial and neocolonial rule in Middle East.
USA harnesses the atom's power, and first use is vaporizing two cities , and the greatest period of economic prosperity in history begins. The USA's national security state is born , Roswell incident. This is the final technology, along with free energy technology, to make humanity a universally prosperous and space-faring species. Former astronaut nearly dies immediately after rejecting the American military's UFO research "offer".
The incident is one of many that demonstrate that the UFO issue is very real, but happened to somebody close to me. A close personal friend is shown free energy and antigravity technologies, among others , and another close friend had free energy technology demonstrated.
Those incidents are two of many that demonstrate that the free energy suppression issue is very real, but were witnessed by people close to me. Abbreviated Geologic Time Scale. Earth , Moon , and oceans form.
Earth is bombarded with planetesimals. Atmosphere is primarily comprised of carbon dioxide. Too much uncertainty and too little evidence to confidently draw maps, but landmasses existed. Earth cools to habitable temperature. Continents begin forming and growing. Atmosphere is mostly nitrogen, but oxygen begins to increase. All life is bacterial. Oxygenic photosynthesis first appears. Complex cell eukaryote first appears. Aerobic respiration first appears.
Sexual reproduction first appears. Grazing of photosynthetic organisms first appears. Supercontinent Rodinia breaks up. Second Snowball Earth event. Atmosphere oxygenated to near modern levels. Final banded iron formations appear. First land plants may have appeared.
Deep ocean is oxygenated. Mass extinction of microscopic eukaryotes. First large animals appear. First mass diversification of complex life.
Most modern phyla appear. Paleo-Tethys Ocean begins forming. Ice age begins and causes mass extinction which ends period. Complex life continues diversifying. First large reefs appear. Mollusks proliferate and diversify. Nautiloids are apex predators.
First fossils of land plants recovered from Ordovician sediments. Period ends with first great mass extinction of complex life. Hot, shallow seas dominate biomes. Climate and sea level changes cause minor extinctions. Reefs recover and expand. Fish begin to develop jaws. First invasions of land by animals. First vascular plants appear.
Continents closing to form Pangaea, ice age begins at end of Devonian and cause mass extinction , possibly initiated by first forests sequestering carbon. First vertebrates invade land. Atmospheric oxygen levels highest ever, likely due to carbon sequestration by coal swamps. Ice age increases in extent, causing collapse of rainforest. First permanent land colonization by vertebrates.
Fungus appears that digests lignin. Great mountain-building and volcanism as Pangaea forms, and its formation initiates the greatest mass extinction in eon of complex life. Synapsid reptiles dominate land. Conifer forests first appear. Pangaea begins to break up.
Greenhouse Earth begins and lasts the entire Mesozoic Era. Stony corals appear as reefs slowly recover. Northern continents split from southern continents. Atlantic Ocean begins to form. Sea levels dramatically rise. Continents continue to separate. Asteroid impact drives non-bird dinosaurs extinct and ends the Mesozoic Era.
Chewing dinosaurs become prominent. Forests near the poles. Rudist bivalves displace coral reefs, but go extinct before the end-Cretaceous extinction. Greenhouse Earth conditions still prevail, and an anomalous warming occurred to end the epoch. Mammals grow and diversify to fill empty niches left behind by reptiles. Warmest epoch in hundreds of millions of years, but began cooling midway into epoch, beginning Icehouse Earth conditions.
Europe collides with Asia, and Asian mammals displace European mammals. A Golden Age of Life on Earth, when life thrived all the way to the poles. Cooling in Late Eocene drives warm-climate species to extinction. Early whales die out , replaced by whales adapted to new ocean biomes. First half of epoch is warm, and called The Golden Age of Mammals. Apes appear and spread throughout Africa and Eurasia.
Apes migrate back to Africa in cooling, while some remain in Southeast Asia. Earth continues to cool, and land bridge of North and South America initiates mass extinction of South American mammals and initiates current ice age. First stone tools made at end of epoch. Mammals already cold-adapted, and relatively few extinctions, until the rise of humans. Interglacial period in current ice age, and recent and probably human-caused warming may extend the interglacial period.
Mass extinctions of large animals happen wherever humans begin to appear. By the 21 st century, the Sixth Mass Extinction in the eon of complex life appears to be underway, entirely caused by humans. First major ice age begins snowball Earth event.
Orthodox hypotheses for the beginning of the universe , and formation and composition of the Sun and its planets Sun's influence on Earth, which is primarily an energy influence Earth's composition and early development Earth's geophysical and geochemical processes , and their interactions with life processes In the tables above, some dates have ranges as such old dates often have relatively thin evidence supporting them, which can be interpreted in different ways.
Those dates will be adjusted as the scientific evidence and theories develop. As I was writing this essay, a study was published that may have pushed back the beginning of the Great Oxygenation Event by several hundred million years. After t he Big Bang , when matter began to coalesce, virtually all mass in the universe was contained in hydrogen atoms, with traces of the next two lightest elements: According to the Standard Model , atoms have no mass by themselves, but the field that gives rise to the Higgs Boson provides the mass.
That fusion released a great deal of primordial Big Bang energy, and fusion powers stars. Nuclei larger than the simplest hydrogen nucleus contain neutrons as well as protons. As the name implies, neutrons have no net electric charge, but have about the same mass as a proton an electron has less than a thousandth the mass of a proton, so virtually all the mass in atoms is provided by its protons and neutrons. Radioactive decay into daughter isotopes is mediated by the weak nuclear force.
In the smaller stars that eventually become white dwarfs , the primary fusion process creates oxygen as its heaviest element. Several differe nt fusion processes have been identified, and stars from about half the size of the Sun to about nine times larger can undergo a process known as s-process fusion late in their lives, and that process has created about half of the elements heavier than iron; bismuth is the heaviest element created by the process. Those heavier elements are eventually blown from the star by its stellar wind as it becomes a white dwarf.
Stars with more than nine times the mass of the Sun undergo a different process at the end of their lives. That collapse creates the pressures needed to fuse those other atoms heavier than iron, including the heaviest elements. Uranium is the heaviest naturally produced element. In an instant, r-process fusion occurs. When a star becomes a supernova, those heavy elements are sprayed into the galactic neighborhood by a stupendous release of fusion energy.
Over the subsequent eons, gravity will cause the remnants of stars, and hydrogen that had not yet become a star or did not fuse within a star, to coalesce into an accretion disk , and a new star with its attendant planets will form. The Sun will take more than ten billion years to live its life cycle before becoming a white dwarf. Large stars burn much more quickly and can become supernovas after as little as ten million years of main-sequence burning.
The accretion disk from which the Sun and its planets were formed appeared in a relatively short time, and the disk was originally a molecular cloud that may have been disturbed by an exploding star.
A "local" exploding star likely provided the bulk of our solar system's matter, and the entire mess gravitationally collapsed into the disk. In a mere 50 million years after formation, the Sun became compressed enough to initiate the sustained fusion that still powers it and will for several billion more years. Those that began their lives inside the frost line were rocky, and those outside the frost line were generally comprised of lighter elements.
Those planetesimals bombarded the forming planets and increased their mass. Other planetesimals were ejected from the solar system as the gravity of the Sun and planets whipped them around.
Venus and Mars were also bombarded with the lighter elements and may have plentiful water long ago, but only Earth retained its water. The biggest colli sion between Earth and its neighbors may well have created the Moon , and although the currently prevailing hypothesis has plenty of problems, the other hypotheses have more. At this time, dark energy and dark matter have never been observed.
Any theory that relies on unobserved phenomena is going to be highly provisional, and I consider it unlikely that the prevailing cosmological theories a century from now will much resemble those of today. The scale of the universe, from its largest to smallest objects, is truly difficult to imagine, and this animation can help provide some perspective. The scale of geologic time strains human brains with its immensity. The journey of life on Earth has been greatly affected by geophysical and geochemical processes as well as influences from beyond Earth, such as:.
It seems to me, however, that geophysical and geochemical processes are understood better and have more robust data than many other areas of science, so geophysics and geochemistry are areas where I expect fewer radical changes than others. Maybe that is because it is neither too big nor too small and closer to our daily reality than distant stars or what is happening inside atoms. Tectonic plate movements can alter the circulation of the atmosphere and ocean.
Tectonic plates can collide, such as the collision of India into Asia , which formed the Himalayan Mountains and raised the Tibetan Plateau. That may have contributed to the ice age that we currently experience, although other studies indicate that the carbon removal may have been more due to the burial of organic matter. The debate is continuing as the complex dynamics are subjected to scientific investigation. It is already nearly PPM and rising fast.
Ultrav iolet light breaks water vapor into hydrogen and oxygen. Scientists believe that that happened to Venus and Mars, although Venus may have never cooled enough to form liquid water; it split in the atmosphere and hydrogen then escaped to space.
On Earth, that hydrogen liberated by ultraviolet light reacts with atmospheric oxygen and turns back into water before it can escape into space. Photosynthesis led to atmospheric oxygen, which led to the ozone layer that helped prevent the splitting of water, and atmospheric oxygen recaptured hydrogen that would have otherwise escaped to space, which prevented the oceans from disappearing, which probably led to plate tectonics, which led to the formation of granitic continents , which led to land-based life.
In short, life made Earth more conducive to life. That is the most important impact of life on geophysical and geochemical processes, but far from the only one; others will be explored in this essay. Geology in the West is considered to have begun during the Classic Greek period , and Persian and Chinese scholars furthered the discipline during the medieval period. There is a constant upwelling of mass from the mantle, riding those energy currents.
Three bya, the continents may have only had about a quarter of the mass that they do today. The granites formed when basalt was exposed to water , and the process partly replaced heavier iron with lighter sodium and potassium.
Water also became incorporated into the rocks, generally where the heavier oceanic crust was subducted below the lighter continental crust. Those tectonic plates have been likened to the surface of a pot of boiling oatmeal. Plates can collide and form mountains, and they can pull apart and expose the hot interior, which spews out in volcanism at the edges of tectonic plates , including ridges in the oceans.
The mantle is thought to be mostly oxygen and silicon, and the remainder is largely composed of the lighter alkali and alkaline earth metals, such as sodium, potassium, and calcium. Those mantle metals are primarily bound in oxides. The crust also is almost solely comprised of oxides. Land-based biomass is about times greater than ocean-based biomass. Life as we know it seems to be rare and delicate, found nowhere else in our solar system so far, and few places seem promising for it to exist.
Earth rec eives less than one-billionth of the energy that the Sun produces. That infinitesimal proportion captured by photosynthesis is the basis for nearly all life on Earth. Planets with weak magnetic fields, such as Mars, are believed to be vulnerable to the solar wind stripping away their atmospheres. If Earth did not have a magnetic field, its ozone layer may have been stripped away , which may have led to the extinction of complex life on Earth, if it would have ever appeared at all.
The fact that complex life exists on Earth seems to be a miracle of circumstance. A naked human would not have survived for a minute on the Hadean Earth. The Moon was probably created during the Hadean Eon when a planet-sized mass collided with Earth. Appearance of life on Earth , and its energetic basis Role of DNA , enzymes , ATP , and membranes Basic aspects of life Biochemistry , geochemical cycles , and entropy Respiration and photosynthesis Split of bacteria and archaea Oxygenic photosynthesis Formation of the continents, plate tectonics Great Oxygenation Event , and formation of the iron deposits , the first ice age , and formation of the ozone layer Development of the complex cell and its energy centers - the mitochondria - and mitochondrial DNA Development of aerobic respiration Free radicals and cell death Formation of supercontinents Evolutionary struggles , the appearance of plants , sexual reproduction , grazing , and predation One-way path of evolution Above a ll else, life is an energy acquisition process.
All life exploits the potential energy in various atomic and molecular arrangements, or captures energy directly, as in photosynthesis. Early life ex ploited the potential energy of chemicals. The chemosynthetic ideal is capturing chemicals fresh to new environments that have yet to react with other chemicals. The currently most-accepted hypothesis has life first appearing on Earth about 3.
Life had to be opportunistic and quick in order to capture that energy before other molecules did. When life first appeared on Earth, the evolutionary process that led to humanity began.
The USA's population has more doubt about evolution than any other Western nation , and that is primarily because Biblical literalism is still strong here. In all other Western nations, there is virtually no controversy over evolution being a fact of existence, and those nations view the controversy over evolution in the USA with befuddlement. Many molecules with the same atomic structure can form mirror images of themselves. That mirror-image phenomenon is called chirality.
In nature, such mirror images occur randomly, but life prefers one mirror image over the other. In all life on Earth, proteins are virtually without exception left-handed, while sugars are right-handed.
All other lineages died out the likely answer, and there was probably hundreds of millions of years of evolution on Earth before LUCA lived , or they may have all descended from the same original organism. As we will see, this is far from the only instance when such seminal events are considered to have probably happened only once.
Also, the unique structure of DNA and many enzymes are common to all life, and they did not have to form the way that they did. That they came through different ancestral lines is extremely unlikely. The critic al feature of earliest life had to be a way to reproduce itself, and DNA is common to all cellular life today. The DNA that exists today was almost certainly not a feature of the first life.
If w e think about activation energy at the molecular level, it is the energy that crashes molecules into each other, and if they are crashed into each other fast enough and hard enough, the reaction becomes more likely. But that is an incredibly inefficient way to do it. Proteins make the process far easier, and those proteins are called enzymes. Enzymes speed up chemical reactions and they do it as in the above analogy but as if a person entered that room, picked up the key, and inserted it into the lock.
That took far less effort than shaking up the room a million times. Enzymes are like hands that grab two molecules and bring them into alignment so that the key inserts into the lock. The lock-and-key analogy is the standard way to explain enzymes to non-scientists. Life would never have grown beyond some microscopic curiosities without the assistance that enzymes provide. Almost a ll enzymes are proteins, which are generally huge molecules with intricate folds.
The animation of human glyoxalase below depicts a standard enzyme author is WillowW at Wikipedia , and the zinc ions that make it work are the purple balls. Enzymes lo ok like Rube Goldberg-ish contraptions when their function is considered: Proteins have a four-level structure , and the second level is held in place by hydrogen bonds. An enzyme can catalyze millions of reactions per second. Adenosine triphosphate "ATP" is a coenzyme used to fuel all known biological processes.
The human body produces its own weight in ATP each day. Cyanide kills by disabling a key enzyme that produces ATP, which induces an energy shortage at the cellular level. There are two primary aspects of life, and what can be observed in human civilization are often only more complex iterations of those aspects, which are:. Life harnessed energy so that it could manipulate matter to create itself;.
Life created information so that it could reproduce itself. Entropy is another important concept for this essay. Entropy is, in its essence, the tendency of hot things to cool off. The concept is now introduced to students as energy dispersal. Even though science really does not know what energy is , it can measure its effect.
At the molecular level, entropy is the tendency of mass to become disordered over time, as the random motion of molecules spreads in collisions with other molecules, until the interacting molecules have the same temperature.
Life had to overcome entropy in order to exist, as it brought order out of disorder and maintained it while alive, and it takes energy to do that. The prevailing theory is that net entropy can only increase, and life has to create more entropy in its surroundings so that it can reduce entropy internally and produce and maintain the order that sustains itself.
Of those key elements necessary for life as we know it , the most diverse is carbon, with that half-filled outer electron shell. Carbon can form one, two, three, and four bonds with itself and so forms the most diverse bonds with itself of all elements, and an entire branch of chemistry is devoted to carbon, called organic chemistry. Organic molecules are by far the largest known to science.
In the eyes of an organic chemist, burning fossil hydrocarbons to fuel our industrial world is like making Einstein dig ditches or making Pavarotti wash dishes for a living. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the most vital elements for life after carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen. In its pure state in nature, nitrogen, like hydrogen and oxygen, is a diatomic molecule.
Hydrogen in nature is single-bonded to itself, oxygen is double-bonded, and nitrogen is triple-bonded. Because of that triple bond , nitrogen is quite unreactive and prefers to stay bonded to itself. In nature, nitrogen will not significantly react with other substances unless the temperature activation energy is very high. Also, some bacteria can fix nitrogen directly from atmospheric nitrogen, but it is an energy-intensive operation that uses the energy in eight ATP molecules to fix each atom of nitrogen.
For the earliest life on Earth, nitrogen would have been essential, and some nitrogen is fixed at volcanic vents , where life may have first appeared. It has held that dominant status for billions of years. Carbon dioxide, on the other hand, has been generally decreasing as an atmospheric gas for billions of years, and has consistently declined for the past million years. The geochemical process is like nitrogen's in that atmospheric water combines with carbon dioxide to form a weak acid, which then falls to Earth in precipitation.
But carbon is in the same elemental family as an abundant crustal element: Carbon replaces the silicon in crustal compounds and turns silicates into carbonates in a process called silicate weathering. More carbon di oxide was removed from the atmosphere by those processes than was reintroduced to the atmosphere by volcanism and other processes.
When life first appeared, it was single-celled and simple, and such organisms are called prokaryotes today.
Below is a diagram of a typical prokaryotic cell. The diagrams used in this chapter are only intended to provide a glimpse of the incredible complexity of structure and chemistry that takes place at the microscopic level in organisms, and people can be forgiven for doubting that it is all a miraculous accident. I doubt it, too, as did Einstein. Prokaryotes do not have organelles such as mitochondria, chloroplasts, and nuclei, but even the simplest cell is a marvel of complexity.
Cellular division would be an amazing sight. The so-called tree of life at the microbe level better resembles a web. In the earliest days of life on Earth, it had to solve the problems of how to reproduce, how to separate itself from its environment, how to acquire raw materials, and how to make the chemical reactions that it needed.
The earliest process of skimming energy from energy gradients to power life is called respiration. That earliest respiration is today called anaerobic respiration because there was virtually no free oxygen in the atmosphere or ocean in those early days.
Predation was then born. Photosynthesis may have begun 3. Bacteria are true photosynthesizers that fix carbon from captured sunlight. Archaeans cannot fix carbon via sunlight capture , so are not photosynthesizers, even those that capture photons.
The scientific consensus today is that a respiration cycle was modified, and a cytochrome in a respiration system was used for capturing sunlight. Intermediate stages have been hypothesized, including the cytochrome using a pigment to create a shield to absorb ultraviolet light, or that the pigment was part of an infrared sensor for locating volcanic vents.
But whatever the case was, the conversion of a respiration system into a photosynthetic system is considered to have only happened once , and all photosynthesizers descended from that original innovation. Metals used by biological processes can donate electrons, unlike those other elements that primarily seek them to complete their shells.
Those metals used by life are isolated in molecular cages called porphyrins. The cycles that capture energy photosynthesis or chemosynthesis or produce it fermentation or respiration generally have many steps in them, and some cycles can run backwards, such as the Krebs cycle. The respiration and photosynthesis cycles in complex organisms have been the focus of a great deal of scientific effort, and cyclic diagrams 1 , 2 can provide helpful portrayals of how cycles work.
Photosynthesis has several cycles in it, and Nob el Prizes were awarded to the scientists who helped describe the cycles. Below is a diagram of a chlorophyll molecule. Those molecules initiate photosynthesis by trapping photons.
The wavelengths that plant chlorophyll does not absorb well are in the green range, which is why plants are green.
Some photosynthetic bacteria absorb green light, so the bacteria appear purple , and there are many similar variations among bacteria. Those initial higher electron orbits from photon capture are not stable and would soon collapse back to their lower levels and emit light again, defeating the process, but in less than a trillionth of a second the electron is stripped from the capturing molecule and put into another molecule with a more stable orbit.
Separating protons from electrons via chemical reactions, and then using their resultant electrical potential to drive mechanical processes, is how life works. Early photosynthetic organisms used the energy of captured photons to strip electrons from various chemicals.
Hydrogen sulfide was an early electron donor. In the early days of photosynthetic life, there was no atmospheric oxygen. Oxygen, as reactive as it is, was deadly to those early bacteria and archaea, damaging their molecules through oxidization.
The dates are c ontroversial, but it appears that after hundreds of millions of years of using various molecules as electron donors for photosynthesis, cyanobacteria began to split water to get the donor electron, and oxygen was the waste byproduct. Cyanobacterial colonies are dated to as early as 2. Those cyanobacterial colonies formed the first fossils in the geologic record, called stromatolites. At Shark Bay in Australia and some other places the water is too saline to support animals that can eat cyanobacteria, so stromatolites still exist and give us a glimpse into early life on Earth.
Oxygenic photosynthesis uses two systems for capturing photons. The second one called Photosystem I because it was discovered before Photosystem II uses captured photon energy to add an electron to captured carbon dioxide to help transform it into a sugar.
Below is a diagram of the Calvin cycle. More than two bya, and maybe more than three bya, cyanobacteria used both, and a miraculous instance of innovation tied them together. Some manganese atoms were then used to strip electrons from water. Although the issue is still controversial regarding when it happened and how, that instance of cyanobacteria's using manganese to strip electrons from water is responsible for oxygenic photosynthesis.
It seems that some enzymes that use manganese may have been "drafted" into forming the manganese cluster responsible for splitting water in oxygenic photosynthesis. Oxygen is a waste product of that innovative ATP factory. Click on image to enlarge. About the time that the continents began to grow and plate tectonics began, Earth produced its first known glaciers, between 3. It might have been an ice age or merely some mountain glaciation.
Because the evidence is relatively thin, there is also controversy about the extent of Earth's ice ages. But life may well have been involved, particularly oxygenic photosynthesis, and it was almost certainly involved in Earth's first great ice age, which may have been a Snowball Earth episode, and some pertinent dynamics follow.
The ancient carbon cycle included volcanoes spewing a number of gases into the atmosphere, including hydrogen sulfide, sulfur dioxide, and hydrogen, but carbon dioxide was particularly important.
When the continents began forming, carbon dioxide was removed from the atmosphere via water capturing it, falling onto the land masses as carbonic acid , the carbon became combined into calcium carbonate, and plate tectonics subducted the calcium carbonate in the ocean sediments into the crust, which was again released as carbon dioxide in volcanoes. When cyanobacteria began using water in photosynthesis, carbon was captured and oxygen released, which began the oxygenation of Earth's atmosphere.
But the process may have not always been a story of continually increasing atmospheric oxygen. There may have been wild swings. Although the process is indirect, oxygen levels are influenced by the balance of carbon and other elements being buried in ocean sediments. If carbon is buried in sediments faster than it is introduced to the atmosphere, oxygen levels will increase.
Pyrite is comprised of iron and sulfur, but in the presence of oxygen, pyrite's iron combines with oxygen and becomes iron oxide, also known as rust and the sulfur forms sulfuric acid.
Pyrite burial may have acted as the dominant oxygen source before carbon burial did. The dissolved iron was oxidized from a soluble form to an insoluble one, which then precipitated out of the oceans in those vivid red the color of rust layers that we see today and are called banded iron formations "BIFs" , which became an oxygen sink and kept atmospheric oxygen low.
Far less ore needs to be melted to get an equivalent amount of iron. BIFs are the source of virtually all iron ore that humans have mined.
Life processes almost certainly performed the initial work of refining iron, and humans easily finished the job billions of years later. Copper was not refined by life processes, and copper ore takes twice as much energy to refine as iron ore does.
When BIF deposition ended about 2. The high oxygen levels may have turned pyrite on the continents into acid, which increased erosion, flooded essential nutrients, particularly phosphorus, into the oceans, and would have facilitated a huge bloom in the oceans.
The first was a positive excursion more carbon than expected , and the second was negative. Scientists are still trying to determine what caused them. Beginning a little less than 2. Atmo spheric oxygen prevented Earth from losing its water as Venus and Mars did, which saved all life on Earth. An atmosp here of as little as two percent oxygen may have been adequate to form the ozone layer, and that level was likely first attained during the first GOE.
Ultraviolet light carries more energy than visible light and breaks covalent and other bonds and wreaks biological havoc , particularly to DNA and RNA. Ultraviolet light damage presented a formidable evolutionary hurdle, and proteins and enzymes that assist cellular division are like those that arose to repair damaged DNA.
During the Permian-Triassic extinction event , which was the greatest extinction event yet known, there is evidence that the ozone layer was depleted and ultraviolet light damaged photosynthesizing organisms that formed the base of the food chains. From the formation of stromatolites to mass extinction events, ultraviolet light has played a role. Today's prevailing hypothesis is that an archaean enveloped a bacterium, either by predation or colonization, and they entered into a symbiotic relationship.
That purple color is probably because the original enveloped bacterium that led to the first mitochondrion was purple. That first mitochondrion became, according to the most restricted definition , the first organelle. Cells with organelles are called eukaryotes , and today they are generally thought to have descended from that instance when a hydrogen-eating archaean enveloped a hydrogen-producing bacterium.
That animation of ATP Synthase in action depicts a typical event in life forms - the generation of energy as protons cross a membrane - which in that instance makes the turbine rotate that manufactures ATP.
For prokaryotes , the cellular membrane is their only one and the site of the process that fuels their lives. If the diameter of a spherical bacterium is doubled, its surface area increases four times, but its volume increases eight times, and the disparity between surface area and volume increases as the diameter does.
That means that with increasing size comes slower metabolism, so the cell becomes sluggish. Imagine a grown man trying to live on the calories that he ingested when he was an infant. He would quickly starve to death or have to hibernate each day.
Prokaryotic cells are limited in size because their energy production only takes place at their cellular membranes. The average eukaryotic cell has more than 10 thousand times the mass of the average prokaryotic cell, and the largest eukaryotic cells have hundreds of thousands of times the mass or around a trillion times for ostrich eggs, for instance, which exist as single-cells when formed.
Where an organism has the greatest energy needs, such as in muscle and nerve cells, the greatest numbers of mitochondria are found. In a typical animal cell, dotted with hundreds of mitochondria, a single mitochondrion is the size of the prokaryote that became the mitochondrion, and is representative of prokaryote size in general. That increased surface area to generate ATP allowed eukaryotic cells to grow large and complex.
There are quintillions a million trillion of those ATP Synthase motors in a human body, spinning at up to hundreds of revolutions per second, generating ATP molecules. The new mode of energy production presented various challenges, but it allowed life to become large and complex.
Size is important, at the cellular level as well as the organism level. Below is a diagram of a typical plant cell. The primary adv antage that mitochondria provided was not only increased surface area for reactions, but unlike other organelles that began as bacteria such as hydrogenosomes , mitochondria retained some of their DNA.
Mitochondria move around inside the cells and provide energy where it is needed. Perhaps a few hundred million years after the first mitochondrion appeared, as the oceanic oxygen content, at least on the surface, increased as a result of oxygenic photosynthesis, those complex cells learned to use oxygen instead of hydrogen.
It is difficult to overstate the importance of learning to use oxygen in respiration, called aerobic respiration. Before the appearance of aerobic respiration, life generated energy via anaerobic respiration and fermentation. Because oxygen is in second place for creating the most energetic reactions , aerobic respiration generates, on average, about 15 times as many ATP molecules per cycle as fermentation and anaerobic respiration do although some types of anaerobic respiration can get four times the typical ATP yield.
At minimum, nothing could have flown, and any animal life that might have evolved would have never left the oceans because the atmosphere would not have been breathable. Whether the first animals needed oxygen at all is controversial. Compl ex life means, by definition, that it has many parts and they move.
Complex life needs energy to run its many moving parts. For various reasons that are far from settled among scientists, eukaryotes did not immediately rise to dominance on Earth but were on a fairly even footing with prokaryotes for more than a billion years. That situation was at least partially related to continental configurations and oceanic currents. Without the Moon, Earth could have up to 90 o changes in its axis of rotation instead of the 22 o -to Earth would have had mass-extinction effects on those portions, and the rest of the biosphere would have been extremely challenged to survive.
Without that oxygenation, there would be little life on the ocean floor or much below the surface; almost the entire global ocean would be lifeless. Before the GOE , this was certainly the case, but relatively recent hypotheses make the case that the oceans were anoxic for more than a billion years after the GOE began, largely because of the continental configurations and geophysical and geochemical processes.
Pangaea formed about mya, but it was not the only supercontinent; it was just the only one existing during the eon of complex life. One called Rodinia may have existed one bya and did not break up until mya and reformed into another supercontinent, Pannotia , mya, which did not break up until mya , and there is a hypothesized earlier one called Columbia that existed two bya.
There is also a hypothesis that all continental mass was contained in one supercontinent that lasted from 2. When the total continental land mass was small or combined into a supercontinent, there was no land to divert that diffusion of warm water toward the poles, which results in currents. During those times, the global ocean became one big, calm lake, with no currents of significance. Those oceans are called Canfield Oceans today, and they would have been anoxic; the oxygenated surface waters would not have been drawn by currents to the ocean floor, and the oceans were certainly anoxic before the GOE.
The interplay of those many interacting dynamics can be incredibly complex and lead to the multitude of hypotheses posited to explain those ancient events, but a leading hypothesis today is that a combination of factors, including supercontinents, variations in volcanic output, Canfield Oceans, and ice ages prevented eukaryotic life from gaining ecosystem dominance until the waning of the second Snowball Earth event, which was the greatest series of glaciations that Earth has yet experienced.
It is known today as the Cryogenian Period , which ended about mya. All animals, except for some tiny ones in anoxic environments , use aerobic respiration today, and early animals multicellular heterotrophs , which are called metazoans today may have also used aerobic respiration. Before the rise of eukaryotes, the dominant life forms, bacteria and archaea, had many chemical pathways to generate energy as they farmed that potential electron energy from a myriad of substances, such as hydrogen sulfide, sulfur, iron, hydrogen, ammonia, and manganese , and photosynthesizers got their donor electrons from hydrogen sulfide, hydrogen, arsenate , nitrite , and other chemicals.
If there is potential energy in electron bonds, bacteria and archaea will often find ways to harvest it. Many archaean and bacterial species thrive in harsh environments that would quickly kill any complex life, and those hardy organisms are called extremophiles. In harsh environments, those organisms can go dormant for millennia and perhaps longer , waiting for appropriate conditions usually related to available energy.
In some environments, it can take a hundred years for a cell to divide. The conventional view has long been that the GOE was a microbe holocaust , as most anaerobic microbes died from oxygen damage. However, there is little evidence for a holocaust.