Science Groups Call For Changes To Freedom Of Information Laws in Australia To Protect Climate Scientists From Harassment

TWO leading groups representing thousands of scientists across Australia are asking for changes to the country's Freedom of Information (FOI) laws to better protect climate change scientists from abuse and from deliberate attempts by climate sceptics to unfairly discredit them.

FOI laws are being used to “target and attempt to discredit individual scientists”, say the influential groups, with some applications under the laws resulting in climate researchers being subjected to abuse and harassment

Some scientists are cutting back on their use of email, a vital tool for scientific collaboration, as a result.

The Australian Meteorological and Oceanographic Society, the leading professional association for meteorologists, oceanographers and climate scientists, and Science and Technology Australia, which represents the interests of 68,000 scientists and technologists, have outlined their concerns in a joint submission to the Attorney General's Department, which is currently carrying out a review of the Federal FOI laws. The submission says:

Millions In Gas Industry Cash Poured Into Public Research In Australia

SO a major United States university has decided to pull the plug on a research institute focussing on energy from gas after questions were raised over its ties to the industry.

Bloomberg reports that the “potential conflicts of interest”  had created  a “cloud of uncertainty” over the work of the Shale Resources and Society Institute at New York's State University at Buffalo.

Investigations led by the non-profit Public Accountability Initiative alleged there were flaws in the institute's research, which had engaged in “industry-spin” while the authors of the institute's sole report had failed to disclose previous industry ties.

In closing down the institute, the university's president Satish Tripathi said in an open letter:  “Conflicts – both actual and perceived – can arise between sources of research funding and expectations of independence when reporting research results. This, in turn, impacted the appearance of independence and integrity of the institute’s research.”

DeSmogBlog has been rather less forgiving, placing the institute's research into a new category it has dubbed “frackademia” in reference to the controversial hydraulic fracturing technology used by the shale gas industry.

Tripathi said that given the university's “geographic situation” in the line of sight of the booming shale gas industry, it was important the university played a role in research into energy and the environment.

But it seems that even the perception that the university might be funded by the industry (it has claimed the institute hadn't received industry cash) was enough for the “cloud of uncertainty” to overshadow work it was doing.

In a similar geographical situation is the University of Queensland in Australia, one of the leading research institutions in a state where a $60 billion boom in the coal seam gas industry is currently underway. 

UQ also has a centre launched to research the coal seam gas industry. Yet the difference here is that the university has openly welcomed millions of dollars of coal seam gas funding.

Climate Denialist Aussie Radio Host Must Take Fact-Checking Course, Says Authority

IT'S not been a great few weeks for Alan Jones, arguably Australia's most influential radio personality who believes global warming is a hoax and that climate change science is “witchcraft”.

In a humiliating episode, Jones and his Sydney radio station 2GB have agreed with the country's radio broadcasting watchdog to undergo training in fact-checking after complaints about a statement Jones had made about climate change.

Jones' most recent episode of self-inflicted misery began a few weeks ago, when the veteran broadcaster issued a half-hearted apology to the Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard after telling a meeting of young Liberals that Ms Gillard's father had “died of shame” over what Jones described as her “lies”.

In the wake of Jones' invective, helped along by a social media campaign, dozens of advertisers pulled support for Jones, who will lose the use of a Mercedes-Benz car loaned to the station by the car maker.

Now the Australian Communications and Media Authority, a government agency which regulates radio broadcasting, has revealed that it has agreed a series of measures with Jones and 2GB over his fact-mangling on climate change.

Victory Declared For The Climate Science Denialists

A VICTORY has been declared in the field of climate change but the lap of honour is not being run by research scientists or renewable energy bosses, or by coral reefs, drought-stricken farmers or the citizens of low-lying countries.

Rather, if you accept as valid this declaration of victory from one of Australia’s leading thinkers, then those popping the champagne corks are the fossil fuel lobby.

Standing by the track cheering this triumph, are the conservative think tanks and the free market ideologues that believe the world should be run on their terms. To follow the analogy through to the bitter end, the losers are everyone else.

Professor Robert Manne, a political philosopher at La Trobe University, is making this declaration in a 7000-word essay published tomorrow in The Monthly magazine – its cover screaming “Victory of the Denialists: How Climate Science Was Vanquished”.

Manne’s essay charts the decades-long effort to spread doubt and confusion about the science of human-caused climate change, focusing on the think tanks and corporations that created and backed a “relentless” campaign in the United States which has infected other parts of the western world, including Australia.

Manne draws on already published books and research papers about the climate denial industry, and so in that respect close watchers won’t find anything new. But it is his declaration that climate science denialists have won which will stick in the throat of many climate change campaigners and science communicators.

I asked Professor Manne why he had come to that conclusion.

Climate Science Denier Debunks Greenhouse Theory With Two Fish Cooler Boxes And A Roll Of Cling Film

cling film, useful for wrapping food and debunking climate change, apparently

SOMETIMES in the world of climate science “scepticism”, things can become a little surreal. A bit odd, if you will, to the point where you need to inflict a sharp pain upon your person to confirm you've not drifted off into an alternate reality.

Like the time, for example, when Australian mainstream TV station Channel Seven chose a “climate expert” who once wrote a book called “Pawmistry” detailing how to read your cat's paws. 

Or the time when a Christian fundamentalist claimed the Victorian bushfires were his god’s revenge for the state’s “incendiary abortion laws which decimate life in the womb”. 

Then there was the time when US free market think-tank the Heartland Institute said “the people who still believe in man-made global warming are mostly on the radical fringe of society. This is why the most prominent advocates of global warming aren't scientists. They are murderers, tyrants, and madmen.”

To me, the odd thing about these instances is not that they actually happened or that there are people with enough arrogance and ideology to believe their own fantasies. What's odd, is that people in positions of influence still associate themselves with them.

Donna Laframboise Flown To Australia By Climate Science Denying Think Tank

CANADIAN blogger and climate science sceptic Donna Laframboise has flown off for a tour of Australia to tell anyone willing to listen that the world's foremost body on climate change, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, is something resembling a shambling mess.

Laframboise's trip has been organised by free market think tank the Institute of Public Affairs, which has a long history of promoting doubt about the science of human-caused climate change and the risks of the unmitigated burning of fossil fuels.

The blogger, who describes herself as an investigative journalist, gets to visit Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth to promote her book “The Delinquent Teenager Who Was Mistaken For The World's Top Climate Expert - IPCC Expose.

The IPA describe's Laframboise as a “world renowned author” which is stretching credibility to breaking point. This “world renowned author” has written just two books. Her first was about feminism published in 1996. The Delinquent Teenager is her second, and is currently ranked #17952 in the book seller Amazon's Kindle store [#41,202 in the U.S. Amazon Kindle Store.]

Essentially the book makes three central claims. The first is that the IPCC has engaged several young scientists which Laframboise says goes against the IPCC's claims that they use the world's top scientists. A second is that some of the scientists working on some of the reports have links to environmental groups which are not always made clear. A third is that the IPCC reports use too much non-peer reviewed literature.

All of these arguments are used as a proxy to question the science. Yet the IPCC's main climate change reports (the latest being the 2007 Assessment Report 4, the next being AR5 currently being worked on by more than 800 authors and expected some time in late 2013 or early 2014) don't actually do any science.

They are reviews - albeit almighty ones - of research being conducted at institutions around the world and of scientific papers published in journals.  This means that even if the IPCC was found to be run by a small group of mentally-challenged llamas, this wouldn't affect the science on human-caused climate change. In essence, Laframboise's book is one giant strawman argument.

Australia Gets a Price on Carbon Despite Toxic Anti-Science Campaign

THEY paid millions of dollars for adverts on television, in newspapers and online. They flew in climate change deniers from across the globe. They held rallies, engaged prominent right-wing media personalities, threatened scientists and turned the cold non-partisan findings of peer-reviewed science into some kind of blood sport.

But despite what was surely the dirtiest and most dishonest campaign ever waged before the Australian public, from next July major industrial emitters of greenhouse gases (about 500 of them) will have to pay $23 for every tonne of their pollution under laws passed earlier today.

The torrent of self-interest, archaic so-called “free-market” ideology and unmitigated greenhouse gas pollution, will give way to modest payments for the right to continue to pollute, while placing billions into funds to finance clean energy projects.

Away from the propaganda, the bare facts read like this. The laws now pass to the Senate for a vote in early November.

The previous Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme legislation also got this far but was voted down twice in 2009 before it was deferred permanently by then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

This time though, the Greens who helped forge the bills which make up the Clean Energy Future package hold the balance of power in the upper house. Barring something extraordinary, which noone - not even the Opposition - is able to envisage, the laws will pass.

From 1 July 2012, Australia's largest emitters of greenhouse gas emissions will have to pay a fixed price of $23 per tonne of pollution produced here. The price will rise to $25.40 per tonne in 2014/15. From 1 July 2015, an emissions trading scheme will be introduced where the government releases a fixed number of permits which major emitters will need to purchase through auctions. In the early stages, major industries will be given permits for free, but the assistance gets scaled back.  The number of permits released by the government will be capped to enable Australia to cut its emissions by five per cent by 2020, based on 2000 levels.

Australia's Climate Scientists Expose Shock-jock Distortion Tactics

Authored by Stephan Lewandowsky. This post originally appeared at The Guardian. Re-printed here with permission.

Australia has unwittingly become a social experiment. A ruthless experiment on the fate of a society when a single media conglomerate, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, owns 167 newspapers and controls around 70% of the printed media market.

After the phone-hacking scandal rocked Britain, News Corp officials in Australia struggled to put some daylight between its local operations and the rest of the empire, assuring the public that the country was spared phone hacking and other unethical practices. It is perhaps unlikely that wire tapping or phone hacking was practiced in Australia, simply because the local specialty of the Murdoch organs and their shock-jock allies has been a fairly low-tech reliance on outrageous spin.

Nowhere has the reliance on spin been more apparent than during the coverage of the climate “debate” by the Murdoch media and allied shock jocks.

Giant Xstrata Coal Mine Challenged Over Climate Change Impacts

Xstrata test pit being dug near Wandoan, Queensland

A GIANT mine planned in Queensland, Australia, is facing a court challenge over the impacts that burning its coal will have on rising sea-levels, global temperatures and ocean acidification.

The Swiss-owned mining company Xstrata wants to extract about 30 million tonnes of coal a year for the next 30 years from the mine next to the small township of Wandoan.

According to figures from Xstrata, once all emissions are counted for the life of the mine - including the burning of the coal - some 1.3 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases will be released into the atmosphere.

The mine would be the state’s largest and one of the biggest in the southern hemisphere in a country which is already the world’s leading coal exporter. The mining lease covers 32,000 hectares (123 sq miles).

Denial Down Under With The Galileo Movement

The Galileo Movement

THERE’S a new climate denial lobby group on the block - bravely regurgitating previously debunked pseudo-science and making wild unsubstantiated claims that climate scientists are all corrupt.

Not happy with misrepresenting the science on climate change, The Galileo Movement has also misappropriated the name of the father of modern science who was persecuted for his insistance that the Sun, rather than the Earth, was the centre of the universe.

The Galileo Movement, launched in Australia, has stated its prime mission is to stop the Government’s current efforts to introduce a price on greenhouse gas emissions and boasts a list of advisors resembling a who’s who of international climate change denial.


Subscribe to Australia