Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Dear Vice-Chancellor

Academic enrollments are falling, placing some universities and departments under some stress. If you want to focus your displeasure at continued deliberate obfuscation (there can be no other term) then a letter to the VC of Charles Cook or Adelaide Uni might have a small influence. Target the bottom line – enrolments. Draft letters and contact details are provided below.

There are two prominent academic “skeptics” in Australia,  Dr Ian Plimer and Dr Bob Carter. Interestingly both from the fields of geology, both highly praised and both at the ends of their respective careers. Dr Plimer is not a disinterested party personally when it comes to climate change as he is in fact on the boards of several mining companies.

Both are also members or affiliates of that well known defender of the public good the IPA (Plimer, Carter).

Dr Carter recently had another opinion piece in The Age. It’s a sadly amusing read.

While both are free to express “their” opinion as they wish, so to are you. Should you need an avenue to do so I suggest the Vice Chancellors of the venerable institutes at whose publicly funded teat they are still attached – kind of hypocritical given the views of IPA.

Neither of these gentlemen need necessarily be “muzzled” from voicing their opinion, but on every such occasion that they do speak a disclaimer should be attached. They should be required to state publicly that their opinions are not supported by the universities that they represent nor the overwhelming majority of research on the issue. My thinking follows from Milgrams classic experiment on the acceptance of “authorities”.

Carters views were rebuffed later in the same paper.

Half the truth on emissions

John Cook, 28 June

A Yiddish proverb states ''a half truth is a whole lie''. By withholding vital information, it's possible to lead you towards the opposite conclusion to the one you would get from considering the full picture. In Bob Carter's opinion piece on this page yesterday, this technique of cherry-picking half-truths is on full display, with frequent examples of statements that distort climate science.

The partial truths are further bolstered by scientific statements that have almost no basis in fact. It is not surprising that people present such fallacies, since the blogosphere is full of climate pseudo-science, but it is surprising that newspapers are still reporting such statements. Opinion is one thing, but scientific fact is another. Every major science body in the world has effectively refuted the assertions made by Carter.

Tax on carbon won't break us

Tim Colebatch, 28 June

In South Korea, government and opposition have reached agreement on the design of an emissions trading scheme, to start from 2015. It shows us that others are acting to stop climate change, and that political rivals can work together to create big reforms.

It could have been that way here. But the Rudd government, rather than work with the Liberals to create an emissions trading scheme that both parties would own, tried to use climate change to divide them. It succeeded.

The very data source Professor Bob Carter relied on yesterday reports that from the 1960s on, every decade has been hotter than the decade before - and since 1980, significantly so. The average global temperature in the decade to 2010 was 0.7 degrees hotter than in the half century to 1950. If that trend continues, then climate change is an issue that governments cannot brush off.

Treasury notes that a carbon tax set at $20 a tonne would be less than a third the size of the GST. Its preliminary estimate is that a tax of $20 would lift consumer prices by just 1 per cent - $11.10 per household per week.

When science is undone by fiction

Jo Chandler, 29 June

GEOLOGIST and long-time climate change denialist Bob Carter materialised on this page on Monday, reprising a weary routine - tiptoeing through the scientific archive to find the morsels of data that might, with a twirl here and a shimmy there, contrive to support his theory that global warming is a big fat conspiracy.

Meanwhile, in real news, the journal Nature Geoscience published a paper by American and British scientists that found West Antarctica's Pine Island glacier is now melting 50 per cent faster than in 1994.

At the heart of Carter's argument against the science is the claim that the credentials of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - and hence its authority in underpinning policy such as a carbon tax - were ''badly damaged by the leaked 'Climate-gate' emails in November 2009''. He's right - terrible damage was wrought by the accusations that scientists had behaved without integrity or honesty.

What Carter fails to then mention is that, at last count, there have been eight separate inquiries by British and US government agencies, independent panels and universities. Their findings have consistently upheld the honesty and integrity of the scientists. None have identified wrongdoing, and the science was unassailed.

Below are some suggested drafts. Feel free to include any further information from the links provided above.

Vice-Chancellor’s Office
James Cook University
Townsville Qld 4811

Dear Professor Harding,

while it is important for a healthy and robust scientific discussion on climate change to take place, such a debate should be honest and free of either patently false or misleading statements.

While Professor Bob Carter is no doubt well qualified as a geologist, his recent continuing distortions of the science behind climate change (see SMH, 26 June)  are a disturbing indictment on the otherwise excellent academic and research achievements of James Cook University.

With final exams only a few months away and final decisions regarding which university to attend his continued anti intellectual outbursts unfortunately make our choice simpler. James Cook University will not be one of the universities we will be considering.

[name etc]

Variation for Adelaide Uni

Office of the Vice-Chancellor and President
The University of Adelaide

Dear Professor  McWha,

final exams are but a few months away and we will soon be making final decisions about Universities. Unfortunately, Adelaide Uni will be placed last.

Robust debate on important scientific issues is important, but should be carried out honestly and without resort to false and misleading statements.

Adelaide Universities excellent academic standing is tarnished by having not one, but two high profile practitioners of climate change “skepticism” on its staff list. Should either Dr Robert Carter or Dr Ian Plimer have any valid scientific contribution to make on this important topic they should attempt to voice their arguments in the appropriate media. They do not.

[name etc]

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