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Dating

February 22nd, 2006

Today’s Fin (subscription only) has a piece by AGW contrarian Garth Paltridge claiming that, while he was establishing the Antarctic CRC in the early 1990s, CSIRO threatened to pull out of the project if he didn’t stop saying in the media that there were doubts about the science of global warming. CSIRO’s motive, he says, was the desire to extract millions of dollars in funding from the “newly-established” Australian Greenhouse Office. Paltridge presents this as a counter to the recent Four Corners program about suppression of scientists like Graham Pearman, and it reads very effectively. The same story is reported by Andew Bolt

There is just one slight problem with the story. The Antarctic CRC was set up in 1991 with CSIRO participation. Further negotiations (given the timelags in putting together a CRC bid and getting it approved, these would have been in the mid-1990s), led to a new version of the CRC which commenced operations in 1997 (it’s not clear if CSIRO was part of this one).

The Australian Greenhouse Office wasn’t “newly established” in the early 1990s, or even in 1997: in fact it wasn’t established at all until 1998. Its formation wasn’t even announced by the Prime Minister until November 1997.

Of course, it may be that this dispute took place at some other time and in the context of some other negotiation. But if Paltridge is wrong on dates and context, maybe he has also got other things wrong, such as the content of the conversations he describes.

Update My guess is that Paltridge is referring to this Sunday program broadcast in November 1997. It’s about the time the AGO was announced, but clearly too late for the alleged threat to have been made. It’s interesting to note, by the way, how heavily the sceptics who got nearly all the running on the Sunday program rely on Christy’s satellite data, and on now-discredited hacks like Pat Michaels.

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  1. Merredin
    February 23rd, 2006 at 01:35 | #1

    Yes, I read this piece this morning and was not to impressed. I was not aware of the conflicts in the dates that you point out (which makes me less impressed).

    If I remmember correctly (I don’t have the paper anymore), his comments made strong suggestions that people in the BOM and CSIRO were basically comming to conclusions that would get them more funding. What pieces and suggestions like this always seem to forget is that the scientific work done by BOM and CSIRO is published and discussed at conferences in Australia and elsewhere and hence is well and trully open to scrutiny. Also, they seem to forget that various well funded interest groups tried hard to kill (for want of a better word) the greenhouse debate and failed. This happened because the scientists knew that their work was going to heavily scrutininsed and hence their work and conclusions they drew from it was done as well as possible.

    On as final note, I find it ironic the way that the modelling done in this area of science is always called uncertain etc by its critics. The reallity is however that all modelling in all fields is uncertain including economics. Why is it that people are not more critical of modelling in these other fields? I suspect I know the answer to this but would like to hear other’s comments.

  2. Stephen L
    February 23rd, 2006 at 12:12 | #2

    I think you’ve missed the point here John. Obviously CSIRO knew six years beforehand that the Australian Greenhouse Office would be established and were planning for that eventuality. Of course, their ability to see so far into the future calls into question the claims by the contrarians that they can’t predict future climate – it seems CSIRO at the time could have predicted next weeks lotto results if they wanted to. .

  3. February 24th, 2006 at 18:28 | #3

    Dear John and readers,
    The AGO was predated by the National Greenhouse Advisory Committee (NGAC) which was hosted in the Department of Arts, Sport, the Environment & Territories in the early 1990′s

    It seems to me a fairly minor lapse in memory to confuse the acronyms AGO and NGAC over a period exceeding a decade.

    NGAC distorted a broad area of scientific research as multi millions of Canberra dollars were pumped out to support projects which generally buttressed pro-IPCC positions.

    Professor Paltridge gave us a rare insight into what happens behind the scenes in science and the value of this is not affected by his writing AGO instead of NGAC.

    Best wishes to you all,
    Warwick Hughes

  4. jquiggin
    February 24th, 2006 at 19:49 | #4

    Actually Warwick, since the Antarctic CRC was established in 1991, you need to go back before the “early 90s”. And then a new problem arises.

    Paltridge’s article is an attack on Graeme Pearman, the CSIRO Chief of Atmospheric Research who was recently made redundant and the implication is that Pearman organised the alleged attempt to silence him. But Pearman didn’t become Chief until 1992.

    His predecessor, Brian Tucker is mentioned in the article as someone who was a sceptic but kept quiet until after his retirement (when he was hired by the IPA). But if Paltridge was threatened in the leadup to the formation of the Antarctic CRC, it must have been when Tucker was Chief of Atmospheric Research.

  5. jquiggin
    February 24th, 2006 at 20:31 | #5

    A further problem with Paltridge’s account is that the total budget for NGAC, and its successor the National Greenhouse Research Strategy was about $5 million per year, making the task of extracting “many tens of millions” rather difficult.

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