James Cook University sacks reef scientist with contrarian views

James Cook University has sacked academic Professor Peter Ridd, he claims because he “dared to fight the university and speak the truth about science and the Great Barrier Reef”. He rejects the scientific evidence linking human activity to degradation of the Great Barrier Reef, and takes the view that the Reef is doing fine.

James Cook deputy vice chancellor Prof Iain Gordon says:

    “We defend Peter’s right to make statements in his area of academic expertise and would continue to do that until we are blue in the face,” Gordon says.

    “The issue has never been about Peter’s right to make statements – it’s about how he has continually broken a code of conduct that we would expect all our staff to stick to, to create a safe, respectful and professional workplace.”

Peter Ridd is a physicist with expertise in marine sediments. However, he presumed to know better than his colleagues the marine biologists what was happening with the reef. Moreover, he accused them of knowingly using misleading information, hence acting fraudulently and dishonestly. He impugned their ethics and integrity and suggested that “we can no longer trust the scientific organisations” such as the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University. He kept saying so, bluntly, forthrightly and defiantly when his university instructed him to desist.

By November last year Ridd had begun legal action in the federal court, seeking a ruling that the disciplinary action being taken by JCU be dropped.

    On 21 November, he received a “final censure” after a finding of “serious misconduct” for “deliberately breaching confidentiality and denigrating the university, its employees and stakeholders” contrary to the code of conduct.

Perhaps unwisely, the university had insisted that he keep the disciplinary action confidential. On the contrary, Ridd told everyone, seeking crowd funding with the call:

    Support Peter Ridd, academic freedom, and scientific integrity

First responder was IPA’s executive director John Roskam, who pledged $500. In a little over four months he raised $260,000, and thanked some of his more notable benefactors:

    As mentioned before, thanks to Anthony Watts, Jo Nova, Jennifer Marohasy, Benny Peiser (GWPF), John Roskam and Matthew Lesh, James Delingpole and Breitbart, Rowan Dean, Andrew Bolt and many others who got the word out.

From that you may get a picture of the company he keeps. This post at Quora says:


    He’s also a science adviser to the climate change denialist group, the Galileo Movement. Oops. And he’s also the science coordinator for the Australia Environment Foundation, which sounds nice, but is a spin-off climate change denial group of the right-wing advocacy group the Institute for Public Affairs. That sounds nice too, but it’s the Australian equivalent of the Heritage Foundation and in fact got a bunch of its funding from it. Basically part of the dark money climate denial network funded by the Koch brothers and similar people.

So he’s the science guy for a couple of climate change denial organisations. But apparently he’s not a climate change denier, just a sceptic.


    Ridd said in an email to Guardian Australia that he’s not a climate change denier but is “yet to be convinced” about human-caused global warming, which is perhaps splitting hairs.

Not splitting hairs, I think, because as such he doesn’t need to scientifically prove the position he takes, but can freely spread doubt.

It’s not clear to me that he has subscribes to the common trope that the climate change scientific fraternity are involved in a conspiracy, and are just in it to keep the money flowing. However he has said:


    “There is now an industry that employs thousands of people whose job it is to ‘save the Great Barrier Reef’. As a scientist, to question the proposition that the reef is damaged is a potentially career-ending move.”

I suspect Ridd is right to suggest that too much has been made of damage to the reef from the runoff from agricultural pursuits. For over a decade until the 2016 bleaching event, greenies almost exclusively complained of runoff, overlooking warming and acidification. I simply don’t know whether reef scientists have over-egged this issue. It’s not for me to say. His comments about methodology and the lack of replication of studies are worth considering. However, he goes against overwhelming scientific opinion with this:

    In 2017, Ridd published an essay in an IPA book on climate change, in which he again challenged the science indicating the reef was in serious danger. The massive coral bleaching in recent years was no cause for concern, because coral grew back, he claimed. A rise in temperature on the reef wasn’t a big issue, either, because coral did well in hot weather.

That’s his view, and he is welcome to it. However, he perhaps crossed a line when he impugned the integrity of his colleagues by saying:

    the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies – based at James Cook University –“should check their facts before they spin their story … my guess is that they will both wiggle and squirm because they actually know that these pictures are likely to be telling a misleading story – and they will smell a trap.”

JCU obviously felt they had to discipline one party or the other. That’s where it started in 2016 and escalated from there.

Gay Alcorn linked above concludes:

    For all the university’s sensitivity about its brand and reputation, you have to wonder if it has damaged its own standing with its strident calls for “collegiality” and its repeated insistence that Ridd stay mute.

    The other way would be for academics not to complain about Ridd’s impolite turn of phrase, but to reject his arguments, loudly and with evidence. For Australia’s premier reef research institutions to keep doing good work, and keep explaining it to the public, and to treat Ridd as little more than a thorn in their side. And for the university to put up with their troublesome academic and to not be obsessed with process and its own self importance.

    As this has dragged on, that was the way that was lost.

The Murdoch press has had a field day. Support has come from Andrew Bolt, Tony Abbott and Bob Katter among others. However, support has also importantly come from the National Tertiary Education Union who say:


    It is ironic in the extreme that JCU management appear to have been trying to protect the reputation of the University and bodies like the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Given the nature of the (entirely predictable) extensive media coverage, all management have done is to feed a right-wing media narrative that universities are conformist and actively suppress heterodox views on topics such as climate change.

    A university, even a relatively young one such as JCU should have the courage of its convictions and commitment to its mission so as to allow its staff to engage in robust scientific, political and academic debates, regardless of any perceived reputational damage that critical positions might generate.

    The simple fact of the matter is that defence of the core value of genuine academic freedom is not well served by the corporate, top-down, anti-collegial and managerialist structure and culture in today’s universities, and is incompatible with managerial preoccupations with “brand” and “image”. This might explain why so many university managements (including JCU) sought to remove Academic/Intellectual Freedom clauses from our Enterprise Agreements in the current round of bargaining.

46 thoughts on “James Cook University sacks reef scientist with contrarian views”

  1. Hi Brian

    At the risk of wading into shark infested waters
    🙁
    may I just say that Prof Ridd’s expertise seems to be in the area of sediment transport, so we might expect him to study the flow of river sediments, or dredging products. Not sure if he’s well versed in chemical outflows from farms (e.g. nutrification, algal blooms) or acidification, or indeed coral growth and spawning.

    He says that some of the reef scientists are making claims not supported by the evidence they have collected. That’s a scientific statement which can be debated in scientific terms. Many science journals are willing to publish critical comments on a paper they have published, along with a rebuttal from the authors.

    There is a certain etiquette about it.
    It seems Prof Ridd may have breached etiquette.

    But “academic freedom” is supposedly broad.
    On the other hand, it’s not unknown for funders to have a quiet word….. and in Australia the ubiquity and power of University PR groups is amazing.

    (just BTW, many a media kerfuffle might have been avoided, if the PR group hadn’t oversold some “discovery” by a staff member…..)

    Gay Alcorn rightly points out that in science around the world, robust debate occurs and is expected. The standard outline (especially promoted by Karl Popper) is that any statement must be “falsifiable”, whether by argument or new data.

    The Deputy Vice Chancellor speaks of differences of interpretation of existing data. There is always room for differences of opinion in science.

    Or, there should be.

  2. Ambi, I spent half an hour crafting a comment, then lost the lot.

    In short, JCU says it’s about relationships and courtesy rather than differences in science.

    There is an issue in there about whether Ridd was speaking outside his area of expertise. The Deputy VC said they would defend his right to say whatever he likes within his area of expertise.

    I think there has likely been bad blood between Ridd and the reef scientists for some years, and they had reached the end of their patience when he started suggesting to people outside, ie a journalist, that they were knowingly presenting misleading photographs.

    It is extremely unlikely that either party was going to change their view of the other through mediation. JCU’s action may have been logical and proper, but underestimated how it was going to play out.

    And it’s not finished. If the court rules in Ridd’s favour JCU’s chosen course of action will look disastrous.

  3. Ambigulous (Re: JUNE 9, 2018 AT 8:16 AM):

    Gay Alcorn rightly points out that in science around the world, robust debate occurs and is expected.

    The “robust debate” is not about whether climate change is happening – it is – nor about whether humanity is predominantly causing it – the vast majority of scientists say the evidence is overwhelming on multiple lines of inquiry. The “robust debate” is about the rate of change and whether “tipping points” are approaching, have been reached or been exceeded.

    In the YouTube video Engineers Australia Big Conversation, from time interval 29:15 is an animated graph showing the tracking of actual CO2 levels in the atmosphere from 1979 to 2010, then using proxy data to go back to 800,000 BCE. But some deniers would have you believe the figures are “manipulated” or “distorted”. As an example, see former Senator Roberts on ABC Q&A last year remonstrating with Professor Brian Cox.

    In the YouTube video No More Bad Investments forum – Ian Dunlop, from about time interval 31:24, Ian Dunlop refers to Nicholas Stern & Ross Garnaut saying the body of literature on climate change is “systematically and grossly underestimating the risks” and there’s a “systemic bias” and scholarly reticence”.

    Prof Ridd needs to put up credible evidence of scientific impropriety, or retract his alleged accusations and apologize. He appears to have done neither, hence the dismissal. I can’t see how his former employer could have done anything else.

  4. Thanks Geoff M

    I think you’ll find Peter Ridd has been primarily interested in what affects the seas around that area, sediment loads and dispersal. As far as I know he has not commented on CO2 levels in the atmosphere.

    There are plenty of examples from the ladt several centuries of scientific publishing, remarks at conferences, vicious discussions at seminars, etc. of bad blood, insults, and more to the point here:differences of interpretation of data.

  5. Prof Ridd needs to put up credible evidence of scientific impropriety, or retract his alleged accusations and apologize. He appears to have done neither, hence the dismissal. I can’t see how his former employer could have done anything else.

    I tend to agree.

    Back in 2016 I gather that the photos put out which offended Ridd were meant to show a deterioration of the Reef in the last 30 years. Given the survey methodology there was likely to be some subjectivity. Ridd was able to claim that there was no big deal because corals liked warmth and reefs recovered quickly.

    Since then we’ve had another major bleaching event and the latest survey (Guardian report here) shows the damage is extensive, dire and most likely enduring.

    In view of the most recent information Ridd should recognise that he was always wrong, recant and apologise.

    Geoff M, Dunlop is an amazing presenter. It should be acknowledged that the material he presents was prepared in collaboration with David Spratt.

    Just after the last reference you provided Dunlop goes into the whole issue of risk, and points out that the risk is more important than the science.

    We are talking here about a risk of extermination of organised human life on the planet.

    Universities and the ABC should have a rethink about ‘free’ speech in this context. I think the time when journalists, and anyone in a senior role in institutions, business and government can say there are alternative views here, so we can all just relax and keep talking about it are past.

    And it is incumbent on sceptics to come to terms with risk also. Unless you are 99 per cent sure that AGW is bogus and can prove that scientifically it is incumbent on scientists and responsible people to deal with the issue of risk.

  6. Science is an area of endeavour and knowledge where the science is never settled.

    For the progress of science, that is how it should be.

    Open discussion, gathering data, advancing and testing hypotheses.

    “The science” is only a current best understanding.

    Around 1920 Lord Rutherford, eminent Kiwi, pronounced that talk of extracting power from “the atom” was moonshine.

    Around 1840, most technical experts would have said Newtonian physics and its applications in astronomy were “settled” and bound to be true.

    Now, wiser people than I have learnt the lessons of these experiences, and will preface their statements by

    “As far as we can tell, …..”

    “Indications are that …”

    “Our best guesses are that…”

    I recognise that JCU says they defend Prof Ridd’s right to speak in his area of expertise. Indeed.

    But in the 1960s, did any Australian Uni bring sanctions against lecturers and professors who spoke out publicly against Australia’s involvement in militarily supporting the Government of South Vietnam; though the vast majority of protesting staff had no expertise in warfare, or international relations, or international law, etc. and based their protests on what they had read in daily newspapers, magazines, or popular SE Asia history books.

    I disagree with what you are saying, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

    Good bloke.
    Love his portrait.

  7. I think the time when journalists, and anyone in a senior role in institutions, business and government can say there are alternative views here, so we can all just relax and keep talking about it are past.

    Hear, hear!
    I note that those talking about ‘alternative views’ don’t appear to extend that attitude to flat earthers, neither do they engage in discussion regarding the heliocentric theory of our solar system.

  8. Acknowledging that there are other views does not necessitate saying “we can all just relax”.

    I think the argument has gone the other way.
    1. There are people and groups who want us all to relax and take no action to reduce C emissions. This would include those who argue that atmospheric CO2 is plant food and its increasing concentration will be a boon. It includes some vested interests.

    2. In an attempt to induce relaxation and inaction on C emissions, they cast around for arguments. One of these is to question climatologists and their models.

    Many climatologists are working on global models. In seeking to improve these models, they may criticise aspects of current models. Their is no need to sack them if they do. Science advances through criticism and rebuttal, cross-checking, widening the sources of accurate data, calibrating new data against old (which calibration is always “theory laden” in this sense at least: my calibration method will depend on my understanding of how best to relate new data to historical written records, or indeed ice core samples from Antarctica.)

    None of this is easy. None if it is purely objective. Professional judgement always enters the process. Let us hope that these geezers are as accurate as they can be, using good instruments and methods.

    I agree with you on risk, Brian.
    It is incumbent on all, AGW convinced and AGW sceptical alike, to seriously consider all the risks we face.

    But I alkso reckon there is some room for common ground, e.g. someone may say, “I don’t believe global warming is likely, but we could all do with lower vehicle emissions, less smoke from smokestacks, and widespread installation of solar PV. It just makes sense to use the sunshine for more than growing veges and drying clothes on the clothesline.”

    Make a friend of that person! Help them choose their new rooftop solar PV or solar hot water. Car pool with them, and think about the electric vehicles coming soon.

    The social world is a complex place.
    Cheerio.

  9. I note that those talking about ‘alternative views’ don’t appear to extend that attitude to flat earthers,

    I note that flat Earth was the consensus view of the Worlds scientists.

  10. I not that the scientific consensus held that there was nothing smaller than an atom.
    Someone disagreed.

  11. Many professionals can have something useful to say outside of their area of expertise. In some cases it is easier to see something that the experts miss because expertise can point you in the same old direction and seeing what you expect to see. Trying to prohibit people from thinking and speaking outside their area of expertise is not good research management. (Keynes for example was a mathematician, not an economist.)I would want to know more before making a judgement in this case.

  12. I note that flat Earth was the consensus view of the Worlds scientists.

    You’ve missed the point again. (Your was is the giveaway)

  13. John D I accept that new eyes may bring a new perspective and see what people more familiar might miss. In your example, however, economics as a modern discipline seems to use mathematics as an integral part. You can’t be an economist unless you are mathematically literate.

    Seems to me physics and biology are rather different as knowledge disciplines.

    Ridd’s problem according to the university was the manner in which he made his ‘contribution’. He accused his colleagues of dishonesty. They complained about what he did. The university was obliged to investigate, and found against Ridd, so what he did was unacceptable professional conduct.

    Seems quite straightforward on that basis.

  14. Just to add to the above, I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, and my own thinking is fluid. I’m thinking that there are two issues here, which are being confused. One is human-induced climate change, whether the human involvement exists and if so whether it matters, then what position institutions of learning should take. No university would employ anti-vaccers in its medical faculty, and if other academics vocally espoused the cause the university would have concerns about their ability to think straight and draw appropriate conclusions from information.

    I suspect that in about 10 years time AGW will be so established that the dissenters will be regarded in a similar way. But we are not there yet.

    Ridd’s views on the ability of corals to handle warmth and their capacity to recover quickly (what does he think about acidification?) do give me concerns about how he handles information, but leaving climate change aside, the basic fact is that Ridd thought his fellow researchers were being dishonest.

    If he thought that to be true, the question is how should he have acted at that point? Clearly, I think, he should have assembled evidence and taken it to his superiors. What he appears to have done is communicate an unsubstantiated opinion to a journalist.

    On this basis the academic freedom issue is a red herring, surely.

  15. Brian: Keynes was the outsider who radically changed economic thinking and showed the way forward to ending the depression.
    All I know about Ridd is what I have seen in this post. To wit, he consorts with bad company, supports theories that I disagree with and has upset some of his colleagues by questioning the results they are using to support their version of what is happening to the reef.
    You say:

    Ridd’s problem according to the university was the manner in which he made his ‘contribution’. He accused his colleagues of dishonesty. They complained about what he did. The university was obliged to investigate, and found against Ridd, so what he did was unacceptable professional conduct.

    Seems quite straightforward on that basis.

    It is quite straightforward if you consider JCU as just another business that is trying to manage its business in a way that promotes its public image and maximizes it’s grant income. However, back in the bad old days
    when universities were supposed to be pursuing the disinterested search for the truth Ridd would have been just another academic arguing strongly for his point of view. Opponents who wanted to say that Ridd should be shut up because he was speaking outside of his academic territory would have been considered to be trying to protect a weak argument and be ridiculed for taking this position.
    My experience is that being challenged sometimes:
    1. Helped me refine my arguments.
    2. Often changed my mind or picked up errors.
    3. Often started more productive lines of thinking.
    What happened to Ridd reminded me of the dangers of group think and suppressing dissent. (Look no further than the banking royal commission for a text book example of what I am talking about.)

  16. John

    Keynes was the outsider who radically changed economic thinking and showed the way forward to ending the depression.

    That is totally incorrect and off topic so I refuse to peruse it on this thread.

    The rest I agree with.
    Its tribal.
    Hanson ( ʿalayhi s-salām ) has been vicious toward folk with opposing opinions and litigating frequently, but he’ll never get sacked.

    Ridd is merely saying one tiny little portion of the AGW theory may not be as catastrophically devastating as some grant seekers suggest.

  17. John, I am not saying “Ridd should be shut up because he was speaking outside of his academic territory”. I am saying that if he does so he should do so with courtesy and respect.

    I fully accept that sometimes such interventions can be productive. At the same time some interventions are grossly incompetent and break all the rules a specialist would apply in their own field.

    In this case I noted the qualification on the part of JCU that they would defend his right to speak within his own field, and I wonder why they made that qualification. As such I would not agree with it if it means that he should have nothing to say about other fields.

    Ridd did not just “upset some of his colleagues by questioning the results they are using to support their version of what is happening to the reef”. He suggested they were being intellectually dishonest, which is a huge difference.

    I’d also agree that they way universities have to fund themselves now tends to compromise academic freedom and the NTEU is right to be concerned.

  18. Jump, he’s only a whistle blower if he was right. I guess he’ll have an opportunity to demonstrate that in court.

  19. I hope the court proceedings are covered in the media.
    Guessing it won’t be though.
    Mann v Steyn was buried.

  20. A whistleblower doesn’t need to be right about everything, or to have “the full picture” as management might frame it.

    What a whistleblower needs is evidence of wrongdoing. This can be criminal behaviour, or can be an organisation lying about its behaviour.

    Example: around 1974 a gentleman in Melbourne discovered that BHP was claiming that used steel cans could be recycled, and were being recycled; but were not in fact being recycled.

    This at a time when aluminium cans were a commercial rival.

    A noisy demo by students had participants dragging rope chains of steel cans through city streets to the BHP building.

    A police whistleblower in Victoria was victimised shockingly in recent years.

    Brian, I agree that at least two issues are mixed up in the Ridd case.

    BTW Jump, please look up “peruse” in a dictionary.

  21. Jump at 8.28pm on 9th June

    Not everybody thought the Earth was flat.

    I refer you to the work of Eratosthenes (276 – 195 BC). This mathematician and astronomer is also remembered as “the founder of geography”. A bit of a multidisciplinarian.

    Anyway, he thought the Earth was spherical, and used measurements to estimate its circumference at about 44,100 km, according to Wikipedia.

    An error of about 10%.
    Bl**dy impressive for the old days….

    He also estimated the size of the Sun, but was nowhere near as accurate! Eratosthenes was a good mate of Archimedes, one of the greatest mathematicians of all time.

    Kalispera, Jump.

  22. By the way,
    If we are going to play “kick the clown” on this thread, I have a little beauty to share.

    Only a couple of years ago, a prominent Australian said “we shouldn’t be taxing the production of a gas you can’t even see!”

    I agree with him that CO2 is not visible to the human eye.
    Neither are O2 or N2.
    Harmless, eh?

    I invite the fool to enter a sealed room, and spend 15 minutes in there, breathing only the harmless, invisible gas N2.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    “Commonsense” is not a good guide to scientific truth.
    Sure, the earth near here looks flat: but if it is finite in size, and flat, it must have edges. So do the seas spill over the edge? Then why are there still any seas?

    The Sun obviously revolves around the Earth. Any turkey can see it rising, going over the top, then setting.

    Silly old Aristarchus, Copernicus and Galileo.
    eppur si muove.

  23. AMBI

    Only a couple of years ago, a prominent Australian said “we shouldn’t be taxing the production of a gas you can’t even see!”

    Maybe the prominent Australian owned natural gas shares? You cant see natural gas either until it catches fire. Putting the PA in a room full of natural gas might be worse that being sacked from JCU.

  24. I can see why JCU did what it did, but it probably wasn’t the smartest way to go. Like Gay Alcorn said.

    Ambi, whistleblowers invariably get a terrible time. Usually lose their job and are considered pretty much unemployable by others.

    I had the privilege of employing a whistleblower once. An extremely stubborn bloke, in practical terms unmanageable.

    I wasn’t directly responsible for him, thank heavens, but managing him appropriately would have been exhausting and draining.

  25. One problem in this mess is that we tend to put scientists on a pedestal. Like clergy, soldiers, financial advisors, football stars, current affairs commentators, judges, celebrities, doctors, royals and the like, scientists are just human beings; they can be just as foolish, crooked, gullible, vicious, greedy, pig-headed and dishonest as anyone else.

    Let’s just acknowledge and respect whatever expertise a scientist has in their own particular sphere – provided we correctly identify that particular sphere first! – and then value what they have to say outside that sphere at the going rate. Further, let us not be so damned timid about questioning scientists on matters inside their the sphere of expertise either: the fable about The Emperor’s New Clothes has a powerful lesson for us in the 21st Century.

    ( When reading this, an idle thought crossed my mind of the behaviour of major corporations and some willing scientists way, way back in the days of the Agent Orange scandal, though no scientists were ever sacked or publicly disgraced for being too cosy with big business).

    What surprises me is that JCU took so long to sack Prof. Ridd. Not because of his views on the Great Barrier Reef nor for his connection (tenuous or otherwise) with the I.P.A. but for his personal attacks on his fellow scientists. Let’s hope that universities never ever become places where teamwork is superior to collaborative individualism – but there have to be limits to plain bad behaviour and it looks as though Prof. Ridd went way, way past those limits; although it is fortunate that he stopped short of bashing up any of his fellow scientists..

  26. Yep

    Whistleblowers are likely cantankerous, stubborn as you say, Brian, a tad self-righteous.

    So here’s a problem for society and for organisations: how do we make sure that internal criticism, complaints, corrective actions can be handled fairly and in a timely way? How to sift out the vexatious, crank, ill-founded or malicious??

    Not easy.

    And in science, how do we make “peer review” work as best it can? Especially keeping in mind the human frailties so well recounted by Graham above. And the possibilities of better results through cross-disciplinary teams, and indeed professional criticism from non-specialists. (John, your acceptance of critique would have made you a good person to work with, I reckon.)

    Cheers

  27. Ambi: Peer review can be code for “enforcing the current orthodoxy.”
    As for being good to work with not everyone I worked with would have agreed.

  28. Yes John
    There is that danger, but I was thinking of its value in weeding out gross error, plagiarism, lack of originality etc.

    I hear you were an ideal colleague.
    🙂

  29. Brian (Re: JUNE 9, 2018 AT 4:42 PM):

    Geoff M, Dunlop is an amazing presenter.

    Yep. His credentials are ‘top notch’ as an ex-fossil fuel insider, an engineer and corporate governance expert – that’s why I think the deniers and “skeptics” tend to leave him alone because I suspect they don’t want to draw attention to him and his compelling message.

    And his message has been going and evolving for some time: See ABC RN Late Night Live on 11 Dec 2013, link here. I’m not suggesting this is his earliest public effort, but it shows the message has been reiterated for a substantial amount of time.

    And it is incumbent on sceptics to come to terms with risk also. Unless you are 99 per cent sure that AGW is bogus and can prove that scientifically it is incumbent on scientists and responsible people to deal with the issue of risk.

    It’s interesting how some of the so called scientific big “names” don’t get it. See ABC’s Science Show Has ‘denying’ won?, broadcast 24 Jun 2017, link here.

  30. Geoff M, I don’t think I heard of Ian Dunlop before about 2013.

    However, I think it’s good that he’s linked up with David Spratt, who with Philip Sutton wrote a piece called The Big Melt online in October 2007 after the big dip in arctic ice in 2007, and before James Hansen made his pronouncement that we should aim for 350ppm of CO2 in December 2007. They said we should aim for 320ppm.

    Later (2008) the piece was enlarged and published as Climate Code Red.

    I haven’t seen Spratt perform, but Dunlop does very well.

    In the Science Show link Andy Pitman does well in answering the doubting scientists. He impresses as being across the whole field of climate change.

  31. The 7.30 report had a session on the Ridd case. Didn’t go well for JCU. JCU was alleged to have gone through all of Ridd’s private emails. The academic who was attacked by Ridd thought Ridd’s sacking was inappropriate, academic freedom is important and that he was quite capable of defending his work against Ridd’s attack.
    The VC came across poorly. As a university as a business type. He claimed the sacking was about process and “respect” rather than what Ridd was saying or any suggestion of what Ridd was doing in his field of expertise was not good stuff.
    Keep in mind that I have a strong bias towards fellow citizens with beards like me who drive clapped out landrovers like I used to and have minds of their own, once again like me.

  32. Oh dear.
    That sounds like a weak appearance for JCU.

    Keep in mind that I hold free speech to be an essential element of science, of academic life; and indeed for any decent political system. There’s my bias.

    As to beards and clapped-out vehicles, I claim dispassionate neutrality, extending to tolerance.

    🙂

  33. Brian (Re: JUNE 12, 2018 AT 11:15 PM):

    I haven’t seen Spratt perform, but Dunlop does very well.

    There’s an audio podcast of the National Sustainable Living Festival’s Great Debate 2018, link here. Duration: 1:50:17

    Featuring:
    Anna Skarbek – CEO, ClimateWorks
    David Spratt – Climate Policy Analyst
    Kelly O’Shanassy – CEO, Australian Conservation Foundation
    Ian Dunlop – Former Chair of the Australian Coal Association
    Clive Hamilton – Author & Academic
    Paul Hawken – Environmentalist, Author & Activist (USA)
    Bernie Hobbs – Science Writer & Presenter ABC TV (event MC)

  34. Ambi: I started driving clapped landrovers when I was a 17 yr old trainee geo. Amazing what trainee geologists can do with a company land rover. Bought my first landrover a few years after I got married and switched to hiluxes about 35 yrs ago. (Still have one.)
    Hiluxes have got a lot of practical advantages but there is not the same romance that is associated with land rovers.
    My wife pokes fun at ageing men who get all nostalgic when they start talking about what they did when they were land rover drivers.

  35. My late, dear, sheep farming grandfather drove us as kids in his Land Rover.
    Magic!

    But then, most grandparents are.

  36. John D, on the 7.30 Report segment (transcript available) the main respondent was Professor Jon Brodie, who was a “renowned water quality researcher”. He would not have been the one who complained about Peter Ridd, but it seems that Ridd’s criticism may have been directed more to Prof Terry Hughes. We simply do not know how Hughes felt.

    I think at least one academic at JCU thought Ridd was a serial pest who should be dealt with.

    Brodie was obviously very uncomfortable about JCU trawling through Ridd’s emails on the JCU system. Academics elsewhere have been embarrassed by stuff they wrote on emails appearing on the front page, so they are responding by using alternative channels. They should be careful there too.

    However, you are right, the segment did not go well for JCU and when Peter McCutcheon asked “Have you created a martyr for the cause of climate change denialism? ” the answer was obvious.

  37. As far as can tell Ridd doesn’t deny the Global warming hypothesis, simply the modeled effects on the GBR.
    But scientific academia looks more like a club of consensus than a club of truth finding ( to hell with the group think ) types again.
    Ridd is a casted out heretic and a warning to all other applicants to not deviate from the most catastrophic norm coz funding is risked.
    It’s sad as.

  38. Jump, I said above Ridd says he still hasn’t made up his mind about AGW. That doesn’t absolve him thinking about risk.

    I can’t find too much sympathy for him. He thinks he’s right and others who disagree are not only wrong but dishonest, and appears pretty loose in what he says to whom, as he admitted to 7.30. Brodie was generous in his appreciation of what happens when you go on Sky News or Alan Jones.

    Smart people don’t plunge into the sewer and expect to come up clean.

    Any way, JCU played it badly and it will be intersted what the courts produce.

  39. I see him critical of methods that produced certain modeled outcomes and mentioning those engaged in relying on those methods.
    Methods he obviously thinks are not optimal and produce suboptimal results.

    Pretty sure Hanson has done the same and didn’t surface from the sewer with nearly as much shit attached. In his emails and publicly.

  40. Not just methods J.
    Also he suggested dishonesty.

    But I agree with you that he has focussed on the question of “damage to the Reef” as a scientific question.

    And then, if some campaigning groups use “damage to the Reef” as a proxy for “Reduce Greenhouse Emissions Now”, his views on the health of the Reef can bring him into disrepute with the campaigners. Not so much a scientific matter, as a political campaigning area.

    “The company he keeps” should not affect my assessment of his scientific work, were I competent to judge. But that “company” matters for the political stoush.

    I find it plausible that Prof Ridd may have been championed by “company” whose views on human-induced global warming he may not entirely share. You don’t always get to choose your allies. (Likewise your parents.)

  41. Did you mean Hansen,
    or has Pauline of the One Person Party, now ventured into climatology??

    🙂

  42. Jump, to my knowledge James Hansen has never had any difficulty over emails. Also in my perception he does not engage with junk media.

    But scientific academia looks more like a club of consensus than a club of truth finding ( to hell with the group think ) types again.

    I don’t think that is true at all. I think they do the best they can. When scientists and academics make public statements they tend to be careful in choosing their words so that they can’t be accused of making unsubstantiated claims. I don’t have a clear recall of what Terry Hughes has said about sediment damage on the reef. From what I remember he has said there was an effect, and of course we need to minimise it, but I don’t recall him making judgements about how bad the effect is, probably because they don’t know exactly.

    You might do some research and tell us about it rather than repeating your usual criticisms.

    My criticism is that climate scientists commonly tend to understate the seriousness of climate change impacts. David Spratt and Ian Duncan are not climate scientists, but they continually hold climate scientists to account in this regard. And I think you are indulging in group think about them.

  43. Brian (Re: JUNE 18, 2018 AT 9:34 AM);

    My criticism is that climate scientists commonly tend to understate the seriousness of climate change impacts. David Spratt and Ian Duncan are not climate scientists, but they continually hold climate scientists to account in this regard.

    I don’t wish to be picky – just clarifying. I presume you mean Ian Dunlop (not Duncan)?

    FYI, in today’s SMH there’s an article headlined ASIC warns on climate risk as heat turns on directors, link here. The article begins with:

    An ASIC commissioner has urged company directors to take seriously a leading barrister’s opinion that they could face lawsuits for failing to consider risks related to climate change.

    Lawyers have the luxury to pick away at why company directors did not seriously consider climate change risks at a point in time when more information is available.

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