The Sydney Morning Herald, Feb. 13, 2006
Graeme Pearman said he believed there was increasing pressure in Australia on researchers whose work or professional opinions were not in line with the Federal Government’s ideology.
His view accords with that of a growing number of scientists concerned about the pursuit of “intensely political” areas of science, such as the debate over climate change, amid fears that views contrary to government policy were unwelcome.
Dr Pearman says he fell out with his CSIRO superiors after joining the Australian Climate Group, an expert lobby group convened by the Insurance Australia Group and environment body WWF in late 2003.
A core aim of the group was to encourage Australian political leaders to consider carbon trading — where industry pollution is capped and there are financial incentives to reduce emissions — and other measures including a target to reduce greenhouse gases by 60 per cent by 2050.
The Federal Government has said it will not pursue carbon trading at this stage. It accepts that global warming is real and poses a threat to the Australian environment, but does not support mandatory targets for reducing carbon emissions.
Dr Pearman, who headed the CSIRO Division of Atmospheric Research for 10 years until 2002, said he was admonished by his Canberra superiors for “making public expressions of what I believed were scientific views, on the basis that they were deemed to be political views”.
“In 33 years (with CSIRO), I don’t think I had ever felt I was political in that sense. I’ve worked with ministers and prime ministers from both parties over a long period of time, and in all cases I think I’ve tried to draw a line between fearless scientific advice about issues and actual policy development, which I think is in the realm of government,” he said.
Dr Pearman is one of three leading climate experts quoted on the ABC’s Four Corners tonight who say they have been repeatedly gagged in the public debate on greenhouse gas cuts.
Dr Barrie Pittock, who was awarded a Public Service Medal for his climate work, has told Four Corners he was instructed to remove politically sensitive material from a government publication on climate change.
And Barney Foran, a 30-year CSIRO veteran, cited a case in August when CSIRO managers told him they had fielded a call from the Prime Minister’s Department suggesting he should say nothing critical about ethanol as an alternative fuel.