Climate science denial groups from the UK, U.S., and Australia have leapt to support a controversial marine scientist who was fired from his job at an Australian university.
Dr. Peter Ridd, formerly a professor at James Cook University (JCU), was sacked for repeated breaches of his employment’s code of conduct, according to a statement from the university.
Ridd claims that the Great Barrier Reef is “in great shape” and dismisses evidence that human activities including dredging and human-caused global warming have damaged the internationally iconic marine wonder. Back-to-back coral bleaching events linked to record-breaking sea surface temperatures have killed about one third of the reef’s corals.
Climate science deniers have afforded Ridd hero status since he took his now-former employer to court over its attempts to censure him.
The university says it censured Ridd for repeated breaches of its code of conduct, which among other things asks academics to respect the reputations of colleagues, to act collegially, and maintain confidentiality about university business.
Ridd has claimed people should not “trust” the scientific research from the government-funded Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies — both of which have staff and offices at JCU.
Last year, after the university again attempted to discipline Ridd, the academic sued his employer and published a stack of confidential legal documents on his website. The documents show multiple requests and warning from the university to Ridd.
Confirming that Ridd had been fired on May 2, the university’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Ian Gordon, said in a statement that Ridd had “in numerous ways seriously and repeatedly breached the Code of Conduct” and that his “employment has been terminated on this basis.”
The statement came after Ridd had gone public over his sacking, and uploaded more legal documents onto his website.
Ridd has also re-opened a crowdfunding campaign to pay for his legal bills, estimated at $260,000. A previous run of the campaign raised $95,000.
Ridd has complained “JCU appears to be willing to spend their near unlimited legal resources fighting me,” but the university has pointed out that it was the academic that commenced the legal action.
Climate Denial Echo Chamber
Over the weekend, the echo chamber of conservative websites and think tanks that push climate science denial swung into action, urging readers to visit Ridd’s crowdfunding page.
Rather than focus on the alleged breaches of the code of conduct, Ridd and his supporters are attempting to reframe the case around academic freedom, free speech, and scientific integrity.
In the UK, the Global Warming Policy Forum — the campaigning arm of the Global Warming Policy Foundation — reposted an article from The Australian and linked to Ridd’s website.
Breitbart’s UK-based climate science denier James Delingpole wrote that Ridd had been fired for “telling the truth.”
In the U.S, the climate science denying Heartland Institute in its typically understated tone, said Ridd’s firing was “an international scandal & part of the fight for global free speech.”
U.S.-based climate science denier Anthony Watts, on his WattsUpWithThat website, claimed Ridd was fired “for having an opinion on climate they didn’t like.”
In Australia, Melbourne’s Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) — a long pusher of climate science denial — has already paid more than $6,000 towards Ridd’s legal fees while helping coordinate his funding campaign. IPA executive director John Roskam and several IPA staffers have been active on social media pushing Ridd’s case.
News Corp Australia commentator Andrew Bolt called for JCU Vice-Chancellor Sandra Harding to also be sacked.
On the conservative-leaning Sky News, Ridd was interviewed on the show Outsiders by host Rowan Dean, who also rejects the science of human-caused climate change.
Dean described Ridd as a “friend of the show” and told him: “You are a brave warrior for free speech and more importantly a scientist prepared to buck the all pervasive current zeitgeist about climate change and what we call the climate change hoax.”
Ridd, whose JCU laboratory used to consult for major coal terminal projects, claims to have checked his fellow scientists’ claims about the impacts of dredging, nutrient run-off, and climate change on the health of the Great Barrier reef, and has found it wanting.
Except that scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine Science have rubbished Ridd’s so-called critiques.
Ridd’s case against JCU has been adjourned until June 9.
Main image: Dr. Peter Ridd at an event hosted by the Institute of Public Affairs. Credit: YouTube/IPA