3 December 2009

Shooting the Messenger

As the political and economic implications of climate change become clearer, the response from the politicians and the corporate elite who dominate politics will be to pressurise scientists not to blow the whistle. On Monday I was at a public policy seminar in London where Professor Kevin Anderson from the Tyndall Centre publicly admitted that he and his colleagues had spent years sweetening the pill on climate change so as not to cause political offence and damage his chances of receiving research funding. 'Nobody would be funded to find that globalised capitalism is the cause of the problem', he said, a view which I was able to support based on my personal experience.

And now another leading climate academic has had to leave his job for telling the truth about the sorts of changes that are needed to protect the human species from the corporate machine that is destroying our planet. Dr Clive Spash resigned yesterday from his job at Australia's CSIRO so that he would be free to seek the truth about the economics of climate change.

His excellent report 'The Brave New World of Carbon Trading' is due to be published in a peer-review journal early next year and so has already been subject to academic scrutiny. But because he finds that carbon trading will not be effective in addressing the problem of CO2 emission - and in fact doesn't really make sense in terms of economic theory – his employers demanded that he change his findings.

Spash was told that he was in breach of CSIRO policy, which restricts its scientists from making statements about public policy. Put together with the limitations on research funding for academics identified by Kevin Anderson this removes livelihood options from environmentally focused academic researchers unless they are prepared to toe the corporate line.

The climate change debate is hotting up in Australia, having nearly caused an emergency election last week, so Spash's claims that he was being censored forced his boss, Megan Clark, to publish the report on November 26th, but only on the condition that the scientist would be punished for refusing to change his findings. Under intense pressure, Dr Clark publicly released the report on November 26 but warned Dr Spash that he would be punished for his behaviour and his refusal to amend it. Spash, who has been suffering from stress as a result of his mistreatment, consequently decided to resign.

To find out what all the fuss is about read Clive's paper.

1 comment:

  1. As Anderson is not a climate scientist but an engineer, I find it concerning that he is so often quoted on climate science.