Tuvalu News

CSIRO muzzles climate scientists

Tracy Ong
February 13, 2006
The Australian

THREE of the CSIRO's (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) top climate change experts were repeatedly gagged from talking about cutting greenhouse emissions by an increasingly censorious organisation worried about continued government funding.

In claims to be aired on the ABC's Four Corners program tonight, former CSIRO climate director Graeme Pearman says he was told "at least a half a dozen times" not to talk publicly when it reflected poorly on government policy.

Dr Pearman, who won a UN environment award in 1989 and an Order of Australia in 1999, told the program he first came under scrutiny when he joined the Australian Climate Change Group, which recommended a 60 per cent reduction in emissions by 2050.

After 33 years at the CSIRO, he was made redundant in 2004.

"As far as I can see, the CSIRO was enormously frightened of the idea that anyone in government might interpret a piece of information that I was communicating from the basis of scientific knowledge as being critical of government policy," he said.

Recently retired scientist Barney Foran claimed in the program he got a call from the CSIRO's communications team telling him the Prime Minister's department called to ask him not to say anything about ethanol just after its biofuels announcement in August last year.

"That's how the system works these days. As a scientist you always get these powerful force fields sitting around your work and if you want your work to continue, sometimes you have to give a bit ... in the attempt to get a bigger picture out or maintain your funding," Mr Foran said.

A third scientist, Barrie Pittock, said he was told to remove a section on how rising sea levels could lead to millions being displaced in the Pacific and parts of Asia -- creating a potential refugee problem for Australia -- in a report on climate change.

"I was advised that if I wanted the book to pass acceptance as a government publication, it would be better to take it out," he said.

"I was told that Foreign Affairs and Trade or some of the other departments would probably not like it."

CSIRO executive Steve Morton said staff were encouraged to talk about reducing gas emissions, but saying how much and by when was "clearly policy prescription and it clearly intrudes upon the role of government".

The claims come after NASA public relations political appointee George C. Deutsch resigned in disgrace last week after trying to muzzle top climate specialist James Hansen. Mr Deutsch had also insisted a web designer insert the word "theory" after any mention of the Big Bang.


Related Links:

The Greenhouse Mafia on Australian Four Corners

CSIRO Website

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