The ANU on Tuesday agreed to release the 11 emails which were the subject of my FOI request, redacted to maintain the privacy of the individuals concerned. LINK HERE to a ZIP file of the documents. The Australian reports on this here.
Analysis of the Documents
Seven out of the eleven documents contain no threats, and at worst contain mild abuse – these are documents 1, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10 and 11.
Document 1 discusses Svensmark and CLOUD, is generally polite, is signed “a concerned citizen” and the worst that can be said is that it says:
“Are you morally and ethically aware (awake) of your actions? ALSO please stop telling lies about sea level rises. It is so full of BS it is not funny it is insulting to anyone with enough intelligence to do simple research about sea level rises.”
Document 3 refers to Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery’s failed predictions and the government funding for climate alarmists. One paragraph refers to ANU scientists as “con men” and another reads:
“We have had enough! Sometime in the future your days of leeching off the tax payers of Australia will end and you will be looking for work in the employment office where you might find a real job and contribute to society in a positive way.”
This could be viewed as abuse, or alternatively merely strongly worded and passionate disagreement.
Document 4 refers to Will Steffen’s claim in the warmist Age that the climate debate is “infantile” and compares the certainty of climate armageddon to the certainty of gravity. ACM posted on this laughable article here. Another reader felt moved to write to ANU in generally polite terms. I see no abuse, again just strongly worded disagreement.
“It takes a tax-payer funded Professor to equate AGW to gravity. It must have taken years of education to be able to issue pronouncements like this eh? If Australian taxpayers were hoping to get a bit more than just bluster and name-calling from certain public servants, they’re bound to be asking for their money back soon.”
Document 6 is politely worded disagreement, following a Climate Commission report, and citing scientific papers that challenge the consensus. How the ANU construed this email as abuse or threats a mystery. Again, it seems as if challenging the consensus is by default “abuse” in the minds of the some.
Document 11 is an absolute PEACH and fell into the FoI because it was sent on the day after the “death threats” story broke in June 2011, and just prior to the FoI request being received. It is actually a critique on the ANU’s actions in bringing the issue to the attention of a sympathetic media rather than the proper authorities. Unfortunately, it calls out the ANU all too clearly, and, once again, passionate disagreement is therefore regarded as abuse by the ANU in determining which documents to provide.
Here is a sample of what the writer has to say:
“Death threats are intolerable and indefensible. Period.
So is the way that the ANU is thuggishly manipulating the demented expressions of a few sick people as a propaganda weapon to smear the entire sceptical community. Period.
The death threats obviously come from mentally diminished losers. That’s their excuse. Using it as an agitprop smear on rational scepticism coming from our nations most powerful university timed to incite mob outrage in this weekend’s Say Yes rally is malicious, pre-meditated and abominable abuse of authority and power. What’s ANU’s and the ABC’s excuse?
The Australian Federal Police said it had not been contacted by the university…”
Duh. Why did the ANU take this information to the ABC rather than the AFP? If the threats are credible, why didn’t someone at the university pick up the nearest phone and call for police help, ASAP. Instead of calling the AFP, the university organised a public relations campaign utilising the powers of our state-owned nation broadcaster to announce at the top of every hour for the last two days that climate skeptics in a concerted effort to stop the “release of climate data” and thwart public debate are issuing death threats to climate scientists.”
Couldn’t really put it better myself!
Document 10 is a record of a phone call in which the caller states a member of the climate science team is “uneducated, has never worked like the real people and receives handouts from all us taxpayers”. That’s it. Abuse? Perhaps, in its mildest form.
Document 9 is a one line email that states:
“Mate, that report is the biggest load of rubbish I have ever seen.”
Abuse or just disagreement? You decide.
Three (two) of the documents are crank abuse emails – the kind that our correspondent above refers to, peppered with bad spelling, swear words and offensive language. These are documents 2, 7 and 8, although documents 2 and 7 are identical in content, so I assume they are the same message.
One document contains a report of an alleged threat of violence which I discuss below. This was dated June 2010, well outside the six-month scope of the FoI request. By the way, that period was chosen because the news reports stated that the threats had been going on for six months, but had increased in the last few weeks (see later). It states (in full):
Looks like we’ve had our first serious threat of physical violence. It has come from a participant in [redacted] deliberative democracy project last weekend. One of the participants left early after he too exception to my talk about climate science. [redacted] exact words were:
“Moreover, before he left, he came to the Fri dinner and showed other participants his gun licence and explained to them how good a sniper he is. Because he didn’t attend day 2 he will not be allowed to attend the final day. I will be notifying security to be on hand in case he turns up and causes a problem.”
I think the final day is this weekend but I am not sure. Anyway, I’ve asked [redacted] to brief the VC and the head of security ASAP. The latter will determine whether this should go to the AFP or not.
But in the meantime, we should be careful about anyone we don’t know who approaches our offices.
Let’s analyse this carefully. One participant “left early” after he took exception to a talk on climate science. People are entitled to do that if they disagree. Moving on to the “threat”, this is a third hand account of the actions of that participant at an earlier dinner. This can obviously be interpreted in a number of ways. Either you can view this as a veiled threat, as if the individual in question was actually hinting that he would use his skills to cause harm, or you can interpret it as someone having had a few shandies disagreeing with the consensus and making a joke about his marksmanship. Without any evidence of the manner or demeanour of the individual concerned, or the circumstances in which it the comment was made, the hearsay report above is worthless.
Let’s reread the ABC’s story on this (my emphasis):
Several of Australia’s top climate change scientists at the Australian National University have been subjected to a campaign of death threats, forcing the university to tighten security.
Several of the scientists in Canberra have been moved to a more secure location after receiving the threats over their research.
Vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young says the scientists have received large numbers of emails, including death threats and abusive phone calls, threatening to attack the academics in the street if they continue their research.
He says it has been happening for the past six months and the situation has worsened significantly in recent weeks.
In fact, it appears that the six most senior and well-known climate scientists at ANU received NO death threats in that six month period. Of the “large number” of emails allegedly received, the university only provided 11, only 2 contained anything other than mild abuse. The one “threat” was received over a year prior to the story, and its authenticity would vary substantially depending on the circumstances – an answer to that question we will never know. The remainder were innocuous and were expressing little more than passionate disagreement. And apparently there are no transcripts or records of the abusive phone calls referred to above, since the only phone message disclosed is relatively tame. Politicians will receive far worse every day, of that we can be sure.
ACM unreservedly condemns the sending of threats and abuse, particularly in the febrile atmosphere of the climate debate. However, we believe that high profile organisations, such as ANU, operating in that environment, should be very wary of making claims that may act to emotionalise the issue yet further. To claim that the above constitutes a “campaign of death threats” is stretching credibility.
Note: various bloggers have criticised (a) the fact that it took me 2 whole days to comment on this, and (b) nothing changes except that I am now part of the problem. As to (a), I have many other things in my life besides climate blogging, and it takes a back seat sometimes – there is nothing more to it than that, despite your fertile imaginations trying to think otherwise. As to (b), I believe that when claims such as these are made, organisations should be prepared to back it up with evidence. I am glad that the public can read these emails and can make up their own minds about the contents.