Who’s Killing Our Climate Scientists?

Well nobody, actually, unless you count a smattering of sometimes rude emails as representing credible threats to warmists’ lives and safety. As with climate change itself, our purportedly un-settled scientists refuse to share their evidence of bloodthirsty sceptics on the warpath

cyber skullWhy is the Australian Academy of Science going off the deep end claiming “reprehensible vilification” of warmist scientists? It’s now saying they’re being so threatened and harassed that their ability to do science is in jeopardy. Academy President Andrew Holmes, addressing a greenhouse conference in Hobart on October 27, claimed

The costs to individuals can be high. It is therefore critical that as scientists and experts we stand together. The ability of scientists to conduct their work, free of fear or hindrance, is vital to the future wellbeing of our community, and the Academy will continue to advocate for academic freedom…   

“As the International Council for Science proclaims, the free and responsible practice of science is fundamental to scientific advancement and human and environmental well-being. 

I thought at first he was chastising the academics at University of Western Australia over their successful witchhunt against non-sceptic Bjorn Lomborg, or that he was chastising academics at University of Melbourne for wanting punitive fines to drive sceptics out of the media. Or maybe rebuking US academic peers who wanted sceptic corporations to be prosecuted under the Racketeering and Corrupting Influences Act (that exercise backfired spectacularly). But I erred, Holmes’ victimology includes only orthodox climate scientists as its purported casualties.

Those climateers make unlikely victims. There were hordes of them at the Hobart greenhouse conference. My estimate: I’d say 95% are on government or academic payrolls, plus expenses. The evening after Holmes spoke, they went tooling across the harbor “by luxury catamaran” for dinner “at the world-renowned Peppermint Bay, where’ll we’ll enjoy a delicious three-course meal set against a backdrop of the lush rolling hills of the Huon region, with commanding views across the d’Entrecasteaux Channel and north to Mt Wellington.” Saving the planet is not work for the faint-hearted, n’est ce pas?

Holmes’ victimology statement comes about a month before the great climate confab in Paris, which warmists hope will raise the price of fossil-fuelled power for the Third World’s billions of abject poor, who are desperate for electricity’s benefits and not-so-worried about CO2 emissions.[i]

The previous victimology  statement by the Academy, on June 10, 2011, coincided with key Parliamentary debates on the Gillard carbon dioxide tax and a 200-strong deputation  of semi-scientists at Parliament House to urge MPs to crush ‘disinformation’ about climate change. The 2011 Academy statement was not just by then-President Sue Cory but by the Academy’s executive committee of council, indicating its seriousness. It reads quite similarly to the current Holmes’ text, with a cry to “defend intellectual freedom”.

Academy President Professor Suzanne Cory said the Academy is deeply concerned about the threats being made to scientists.

“Today the Academy’s Executive Committee of Council issued a public statement defending the right of researchers to do their work free from abuse, acts of intimidation and threats of violence,” Professor Cory said.

“We call on leaders across the community to make the same defence of intellectual freedom.”

The statement endorsed by the Executive Committee reads:

The Australian Academy of Science is firmly of the view that the interests of the community and the advancement of knowledge is best served by an environment where researchers can put forward views and present data for discussion and scrutiny free from threats of personal or professional harm.

The more controversial the area …the more important that any researcher should feel free to argue a case based on evidence without fear of reprisal. We know of examples where prominent researchers have been personally and professionally threatened by individuals and organisations that disagree with their findings and conclusions.

We reiterate our common defence of the principles of academic freedom: any researcher has the right and duty to argue a case based on evidence, because only public discourse and experimental challenge can advance understanding.

So what’s behind this Academy angst? We’ll start with the 2011 Council statement and work up to its 2015 variant.

In May, 2010, John Coochey, a retired public servant, was chatting at a climate seminar dinner in Canberra with the ACT Environment Commissioner Maxine Cooper about the annual ACT kangarroo culls and eating game meat. He remarked that he had his cull permit, which he added are issued only to reliable marksmen, and he assured Cooper that she need have no concerns about cruelty to roos.

Someone excitable overheard some of this chat and relayed a garbled version to the ANU’s climate czar, Will Steffen. Alarmed, Steffen sent an email to his group of ANU correspondents on June 2 saying they were now under serious threat from “a sniper”. About half a year earlier, someone had visited the ANU unit’s premises twice and. according to Steffen, displayed an aggressive demeanour.  This supposedly led to security upgrades, although the only actual step was the introduction of new, broadly issued entry swipe cards.

A year or so later, on June 4, 2011, an enthusiastic environmental reporter on the Canberra TimesRosslyn Beeby, ran with a story, “Climate of Fear”, about death threats or abuse to ANU and other climate scientists and abusive emails. This story caused an international sensation and the Academy weighed in with its statement barely six days later.

On June 20, a staffer for the science lobby group FASTS (and earlier, for Labor ministers) reported receipt of a death threat email, which turned out to be from a serial pest in Seattle who cut and pasted nasty text into emails to lots of people globally. Blogger Simon Turnill of Australianclimatemadness.com then FOI’d the ANU for the abusive/threatening emails. The ANU dug in its heels and refused for a year, until forced to come clean by the Privacy Commissioner Tim Pilgrim.

Well, well, well! There proved to be 11 emails to six climate people in the relevant six months of 2011, and the only one claiming a “death threat” was Steffen’s hyper-reaction to the garbled roo-cull conversation. The other 10 ranged from querulous complaints by citizens about waste of tax dollars on climate science (“Please be truthful in future,” one said),  to a few rich in four-letter words and insults.

Now scrabbling for credibility, the climate scientist community beat the bushes nationally for nasty emails — and it emerged that random nutters had indeed sent some sexist, abusive, threatening notes, a deplorable practice. The only actual violence cited involved someone throwing eggs at someone’s house and no-one thought of complaining to police.

To sum up, the Academy went into Full Outrage Mode over ANU claims of death threat-type emails, even though the “death threat” was rolled-gold hokum. The other ANU “abuse” emails work out at an average of two per climate academic during a six month period, of which one email, on average, involved nothing more sinister than members of the public griping about climate alarmism. After the Academy statement, details emerged of 30 or so other nasty, sexist emails nationally.

Keep in mind that un-elected alarmist climate scientists are advocating a total societal transformation to costly renewable energy involving massive government controls and big drops in living standards. Yet these brave climate warriors dissolve into puddles of jelly if a rude email hits their in-box.

I promised to fill you in on the Academy’s “evidence” for its latest victimology by President Holmes last month.  Sadly, the Academy refuses to provide any. Indeed it refuses to respond to Quadrant’s queries at all, on the ground that our article may not be flattering. Quadrant’s invitation to redact all identifying names failed to change the Academy’s stance.

All we can be sure about is that some climate scientists have complained to the Academy about hate mail, harassment and threats,   But whether those were just the 2010-12 complaints or new ones, the Academy declines to say. Other questions getting no answer were:

  • To what extent are these accounts from Australian sources, as distinct from overseas sources?
  • To your knowledge, did the providers of the accounts seek any police investigation of the  threats?
  • What is meant by the term ‘harassment’? Does that refer to allegedly excessive volumes of FOI requests (which have been publicly complained of by people like East Anglia Climatic Research Unit’s Phil Jones)? If not, can you clarify pls.

The Academy’s non-response rather undercuts President Holmes’ nice words at Hobart:

We can lead through small actions and words, such as…engaging in conversation with someone who lacks a scientific understanding of serious issues, instead of dismissing them.

Taking a tip from someone near the Molonglo, Quadrant decided to google “climate scientist abuse or threat 2015” . The  only thing relevant in the first few pages  was Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann, self-proclaimed Nobel Prize Winner, running a “poor victim me!” line. Other stuff just referred back to the ANU 2010-12 farce, although there was also one bad person urging the children of sceptic-minded UK journalist David Rose to kill him.

Inputting “2014” instead of 2015 produced a similar result, but with the interesting addition of climate scientist Lennart Bengtsson[ii]who wrote:

I have been put under such an enormous group pressure in recent days from all over the world that life has become virtually unbearable to me. If this is going to continue I will be unable to conduct my normal work and will even start to worry about my health and safety. I see therefore no other way out therefore than resigning from GWPF. I had not expecting such an enormous world-wide pressure put at me from a community that I have been close to all my active life. Colleagues are withdrawing their support, other colleagues are withdrawing from joint authorship etc.

I see no limit and end to what will happen. It is a situation that reminds me about the time of McCarthy. I would never have expecting anything similar in such an original peaceful community as meteorology. Apparently it has been transformed in recent years.

The back story there is that Bengtsson, of Sweden, had accepted an invitation to join the academic council of the UK’s non-alarmist Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) two weeks earlier, but pulled out because of the above-described hostility of the warmist climate team.

It’s all very unsatisfactory. Climate alarmists, far from being victims and underdogs, as the Academy would have it, are in fact calling the shots on anti-CO2 investment of well over $US1b per day.  A tiny fraction of that sum could make huge inroads into here-and-now Third World issues, such as infant mortality, malaria, education, clean water and sanitation, and cheap fossil-fueled electricity. For alarmists, the high moral ground can be a bit slippery.

Tony Thomas blogs at No BS Here, I Hope


[i] Plus transferring $US100b a year to Third World kleptocrats

[ii] Professor Lennart Bengtsson has a long and distinguished international career in meteorology and climate research. He participated actively in the development of ECMWF (European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting) where he was Head of Research 1975-1981 and Director 1982-1990. In 1991-2000 he was Director of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Hamburg. Since 2000 he has been professor at the University of Reading and from 2008 the Director of the International Space Science Institute in Bern, Switzerland.

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