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Australian climate scientists face death threats

Posted on behalf of James Mitchell Crow.

Leading climate scientists in Australia are being subjected to an escalating campaign of death threats and abusive phone calls, as the country’s government edges closer to introducing a price on carbon.

A number of Australia’s highest profile climate scientists have been moved into secure buildings following the recent spate of threats, including at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, as well as other universities in New South Wales and Queensland. Some economists and policy experts have also been relocated after being targeted.

ANU vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young told ABC News that the situation has worsened significantly in recent weeks. “Obviously climate research is an emotive issue at the present time,” he said. "These are issues where we should have a logical public debate and it’s completely intolerable that people be subjected to this sort of abuse and to threats like this.”

Scientists targeted include Will Steffen, director of ANU’s climate change institute. Two weeks ago, the government’s Climate Commission published a report authored by Steffen entitled The Critical Decade. The report concluded that the evidence for climate change is only getting stronger, and that global sea levels could rise by as much as a metre by the end of the century.

The campaign of threats comes as Australia’s minority Labor government, in power with the support of a handful of Green and independent MPs, attempts to introduce a two-stage plan for establishing a price on carbon (see ‘Australia’s ‘rainbow coalition’ focuses on climate’) . An initial fixed price mechanism for three to five years will be followed by an emissions trading scheme, under current proposals. If the legislation is passed, the carbon price will come into force on 1 July 2012.

Since this policy was announced by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on 25 February this year, rallies have taken place around the country protesting the “carbon tax”. However, this weekend thousands took to the streets in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth in support of carbon pricing.


  1. Report this comment

    Praedor said:

    Aside from the obvious reason, this sort of thing disturbs me greatly. My concern is that such intimidation campaigns may well succeed in shutting down certain areas of science in various countries as the people doing the research decide to focus on “other areas” to avoid the threats. This is akin to the loss of women’s healthcare providers offering abortion services in the US – death threats have simply pushed all but the most dedicated and stalwart practitioners from providing the desired service.

    Aussie climate scientists please stand strong. Instead of perhaps looking into “safer” areas of research, redouble your efforts to get the reality out.

  2. Report this comment

    scientists said:

    Leading climate scientists in Australia are being subjected to an escalating campaign of death threats and abusive phone calls, as the country’s government should take an immediate action on such cases……..



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    Andre van Delft said:

    @Brian Owens, James Mitchell Crow: you should retract this story in a new blog post. See:

    BREAKING: “Death threats” against Australian climate scientists turn out to be nothing but hype and hot air

    CLAIMS that some of Australia’s leading climate change scientists were subjected to death threats as part of a vicious and unrelenting email campaign have been debunked by the Privacy Commissioner.

    Timothy Pilgrim was called in to adjudicate on a Freedom of Information application in relation to Fairfax and ABC reports last June alleging that Australian National University climate change researchers were facing the ongoing campaign and had been moved to “more secure buildings” following explicit threats.

    Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, who was the ANU’s vice-chancellor at the time, last night admitted he did not have any recollection of reading the emails before relocating the university’s researchers. “I don’t believe I did,” Professor Chubb told The Australian.

    Instead, he said he had responded “as a responsible employer”.

    “I had a bunch of concerned staff and they thought they should be moved to a more secure place so I moved them,” he said.

    “With hindsight, we can say nobody chased them down. What do you do?”

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