Former CSIRO climate science chief David Karoly accuses government of muzzling critics | Northern Beaches Review

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Despite being Australia’s leading science and research agency, the outspoken climate expert warned that CSIRO leaders had become “very nervous” about funding allocations and were reluctant to publicly criticize the federal government lest it be targeted.

The report claims that the government covered up its poor performance with misleading claims, questionable accounting and censorship.

CSIRO says its media policy is necessary to maintain the impartiality of the research agency as the government continues to defend its track record.

The Melbourne-based professor said Canberra time his last decade of climate research and advising the government on the science of climate change had been compounded by rules preventing him from speaking out.

“These agencies, which were set up to do the research, are now either crippled or forced to talk about where the rubber touches the road,” Prof Karoly said.

Climate research gutted, scientists suffocated

Professor Karoly wrote the preface to the report of the Climate Council The lost yearswhich has assessed the government’s performance on climate action since the start of the Abbott government.

The board gave the Coalition a “failing grade”, noting it for its emissions reduction targets and its “regressive” approach to international climate talks.

“The record is clear, over eight years, federal government decisions have exacerbated the climate crisis and they have tried to cover up their policy failures,” said council chief executive Amanda McKenzie.

Coming from the academic sector, where he was allowed to be critical, the leading scientist said he had tried to follow the agency’s public comment rules, which prevented him from making critical comments to the regard to government policy.

A rally held in Parliament in early 2016 to protest the job cuts at CSIRO. Photo: Jay Cronan

His role was to lead a team to better understand how rising emissions were affecting the planet.

However, he was prohibited from publicly revealing that government policies had little impact on reducing emissions.

“I had to be extremely careful of what I said and what I did,” Professor Karoly said.

CSIRO management wanted him to run the hub, but remain silent on how government policy compares to science, he said.

A spokesperson for the research agency said the rules were there to ensure CSIRO remained impartial.

“For us to remain an independent and bipartisan trusted adviser, we must remain impartial and therefore ask our people not to defend, advocate or publicly solicit the merits of government or opposition policies,” the spokesperson said. word.

Larry Marshall, CEO of CSIRO, in 2020. Photo: Karleen Minney

Larry Marshall, CEO of CSIRO, in 2020. Photo: Karleen Minney

The University of Melbourne honorary professor said he was also invited to participate in the ABC program Questions and answers while working at the agency.

But the prospect of an appearance on the national television programme, known for its heated debates, has made its bosses nervous.

“I was told I couldn’t continue,” Prof Karoly said.

He rejected the ban and said he would do it during off-hours and on leave, participating in his capacity as a university professor.

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He was eventually allowed on the show, but alleged he had to go through a two-hour media “retraining” to make sure he understood the science agency’s messages.

The CSIRO spokesperson did not reject the claims, but confirmed that media training had been offered to scientists to provide them with “the skills to translate their scientific research so that it is accessible to the community”. .

A serious overhaul of the rules was needed so that the public could be better informed directly by scientists without political influence, Prof Karoly said.

“If we want a resilient Australia, if we want to protect natural environments, infrastructure and businesses… what we need to do is tackle climate change,” he said.

“What I’m trying to do is communicate the urgency for action on climate change…to all sectors of Australian communities, governments and businesses.”

How a ‘critical decade’ was lost

The professor said he was still optimistic about the steps taken to mitigate the climate change catastrophe in 2012 – although it still needed improvement.

But that “changed dramatically” when former Prime Minister Tony Abbott was elected the following year, he said.

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2015. Photo: Jamila Toderas

Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott in 2015. Photo: Jamila Toderas

In his first weeks as Prime Minister, Mr Abbott dismantled the Climate Commission, which had been set up to provide “reliable and authoritative information” on climate change to Australians.

While on the board of the Climate Change Authority, he alleged that then-Environment Minister Greg Hunt sharply criticized its chairman, esteemed economist Bernie Fraser, over the phone and by correspondence.

Mr Hunt also reportedly told Mr Fraser that the government would ignore any critical reports released by the authority.

Mr Fraser resigned as chairman of the authority in 2015 due to the “difficulties” he faced in his role.

A spokesman for Mr Hunt said the Canberra timetables the claims were false and all of the authority’s reports had been published during his tenure in the portfolio.

The president’s resignation was followed by other board members, but Professor Karoly remained.

“The perception was that [the board’s climate experts] were wasting their time giving advice…the federal government…wasn’t interested in receiving,” he said.

The Climate Change Authority reported in 2016 which Professor Karoly and another board member criticized as offering ‘false and dangerous’ advice to the government that was not ‘solidly grounded in climate science’.

Health Minister Greg Hunt during Question Time last year.  Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

Health Minister Greg Hunt during Question Time last year. Photo: Dion Georgopoulos

It started with hearing from independent experts, he said.

“That responsibility… is partly on Australian voters, partly on the Australian media, for whom there is continued misinformation about climate change and its impacts, and partly on advisers to politicians on what they should or shouldn’t. shouldn’t do,” he said.

This story ‘Hamstrung’: Renowned scientist alleges government gag on climate
first appeared on Canberra time.
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