Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

Beeby follow-up on threats

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Via Deltoid, Rosslyn Beeby has followed up in the Canberra Times on threats to climate scientists. As I reported here, a counterpoint article was quickly published in the Daily Telegraph maintaining that all the threats were old and that the claims were made to support the case for a climate price. This misinformation was spread on a number of blogs and resulted in an insulting (to scientists) press release from shadow science minister Sen Sophie Mirabella.

Beeby is quite clear the threats were recent, university security was beefed up in response to those threats and they follow a pattern of meda appearances by individuals or major climate science-related events. She details two particularly disgusting examples to quite innocuous pieces of science communication.

Comments to these articles, including Beeby’s latest, are trying to fob off these threats by identifying word of abuse by pro-climate commenters on blogs. Deltoid describes Bolt’s reaction. It’s a crazy kind of equivalence that implies “they’re saying it, so they are just as bad as us” and “if they are as bad as us, why are they complaining?” This suggests an argument is decided by the company you keep. And if someone on the “same side” as the science heaps abuse, the science is abusive.

Given Senator Mirabella’s part in all of this – and the current poll position of the government, let’s speculate. What if the Liberal-National coalition won government at the next election and the current shadow minister became minister? How could the science community work with someone who will say this on the basis of a scurrilous report in the Daily Telegraph without checking her facts?

Just as it is important that science professionals are treated with respect, so is the need for there to be honest disclosure to the public.
Claims that recent revelations concerning death threats were not lies, because no dates were specified, are a little too cute. Everyone reading the initial report drew the logical conclusion that the death threats related to the current carbon tax debate. This now appears not to be the case.
The carbon tax debate is important and should be conducted without hysterics. The apparently false allegation of death threats have diminished the individuals involved and reflect poorly on the scientific community.
No, these comments reflect poorly on the shadow science minister. There are very good advocates for science on the opposition benches, I might add. Just not her.
Violent abuse on either side of the debate shouldn’t be tolerated. (Have to create an out for satire, though, so humour with language can slip through.) If  abuse in comment threats is held to be equivalent to emails to people containing direct threats, excrement on windscreens and photos of individuals in cross-hairs then we are in trouble. All of us. A  bit of smacking around, running someone off the road, who knows where this debate might lead?

Written by Roger Jones

June 18, 2011 at 6:50 pm

Posted in Denialism

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