The Bureau fights back
The idea that the Bureau of Meteorology is part of a global conspiracy to destroy Australia’s economy impose communist world government (or in some more prosaic versions, to increase its funding) sounds like the basis of a bad comedy sketch. But, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, this claim is put forward, in apparent seriousness, by numerous anti-science advocates in Australia (Andrew Bolt, Jennifer Marohasy, and Warwick Hughes are leading examples) and implicily accepted by many others.
Back in October last year, the Senate’s Environment and Communications Legislation Committee agreed to table a letter from Cardinal Pell which quoted heavily from Heaven and Earth to claim there were “good reasons for doubting that carbon dioxide causes warmer temperatures”.
The Director of the Bureau of Meteorology Dr Greg Ayers has now responded at an estimates hearing, demolishing Plimer’s bogus claims and pointing to numerous scathing reviews of his trashy and dishonest book. Ayers is great value, but the real fun in reading the Hansard transcript comes from the frantic attempts of Senators MacDonald and Boswell to stop him talking.
Update This post was critical of the Australian Academy of Science for what I’ve seen as a “missing in action” response to the attacks on climate science in Australia. In response, Martin Callinan of the Academy points me to this ABC Radio Interview with AAS President Kurt Lambeck, in which he gives a very critical review of Plimer’s book. I’ll also link to the AAS pamphlet, which is very good. That said, I don’t retract my main point which is that the Academy needs to take a much more vigorous line against the attacks on science and individual scientists which have become a pervasive feature of Australian political commentary.
It’s great to see the Bureau taking a leading role in the defence of science. Sadly, some of those who should be speaking out, most notably the Australian Academy of Science, have been missing in action. The AAS has issued a fairly bland statement of support for the mainstream scientific consensus, but has failed to defend its members against the scurrilous attacks mounted on them, let alone to expose people like Plimer, who use the status derived from (highly profitable) research in geology to boost the credibility of their utterly bogus claims about climate science.
It’s also amusing to see leading figures on the political right like Pell, McDonald and Boswell expose themselves as gullible fools, along with most of the rightwing commentariat. While not everyone on the right thinks this way (as witness Turnbull’s near-victory over Abbott a year or so ago), the number willing to raise their voices in defence of science remains tiny.
fn1. Advocates of the conspiracy theory tend to shift between global communist and grant-grubbing theories, in a manner reminiscent of the (possibly apocryphal) Tasmanian politician who promised voters that, if they supported Federation they would build a glorious new nation under the Southern Cross and get higher prices for their apples.