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October 22nd 2012 print

Tony Thomas

A scientist’s open mind snaps shut

Australia's chief scientist professed an open mind on climate science. It didn't take long for the academy to induct her into the ranks of those who believe slogans trump inquiry


Suzanne Cory AC, FAA, FRS, has been president of the Australian Academy of Science since 2010 and is a distinguished researcher in the molecular genetics of cancer. I interviewed her on climate change for Quadrant (May 2012) and was impressed that she was more open-minded on the controversies about catastrophic human-caused global warming (CAGW) than her authoritarian predecessor Kurt Lambeck.


As I quoted Cory:

“As a professional I’d be happy to talk about cancer but not about climate change… It is really important to allow scientists to seriously question any matter from any perspective. You discover truth by knocking down an hypothesis with new evidence. Scientific debate on climate change is the only way we will improve the science.”

“So the science is not settled?” I asked.

“Exactly,” she replied.

It was therefore disappointing to read her remarks in The Weekend Australian magazine on October 20. Her views on the climate controversies seemed unworthy of her. Maybe the reporter edited out any sensible comments. The published bits of her Good Weekend interview were:

Q: Do you find the lack of scientific literacy in the general community dispiriting?

A: Yes. We have people taking false comfort in alleged cancer remedies and others dismissing climate change research or immunization research as a matter of political opinion. Such poor understanding of current knowledge diminishes all our social debates.

Q: Has the climate change debate politicized science?

A: The media’s pursuit of balance in reporting has meant that a very small minority has been given equal weight to the huge majority. Science is not political. It is a process of observation, hypothesis, challenge and proof, and the science of anthropogenic climate change is very well established.

Cory assumes there is some solid corpus of scientific knowledge called “climate change research”, which would only be challenged by those with “a poor understanding of current knowledge”.

Similarly she refers to “the science” of anthropogenic climate change as being “very well established”. This is equivalent to her saying that “the science” of molecular genetics of cancer is “very well established”, thus skating over the molecular-genetic controversies which I am sure exist in her own discipline (or is the job done?).

Cory has merely set up a straw man to attack. Indeed AGW is well established, and most skeptics agree that human-caused CO2 emissions may well be causing some mild (maybe beneficial), warming.

If Cory were conversant with the actual climate debate, and chose to take sides, she would instead have said that (a) “the credibility of CAGW forecasts” is very well established. She would also have said (b) that “the three-fold feedback impacts on temperature asserted by the climate modellers, consequent on a doubling of atmospheric CO2” is also very well established. These are statements capable of falsification and therefore worth making, in lieu of motherhoodisms.

She taunts anti-consensus climate researchers and aligns them with quacks in other fields in a way I am sure she would not do to any researchers within her own discipline. To Cory, disagreement with her take on climate catastropharianism is “taking false comfort”, or “poor understanding” which “diminishes all our social debates”.

Her argument includes that the media should not give equal weight to “a very small minority” of skeptics, compared with “a huge majority” of warmists. Cory appears to have swallowed the finding of a student M.Sc. thesis that 97% of climate scientists believe in CAGW.[1] Anyone in her medical cancer research field who put out data of such mendacity, would be tarred and feathered by Cory and run out of town on a rail.[2]

Cory ignores the roll-call of American scientists, 31,000 to date, who have rejected the CAGW hypothesis.[3] Even allowing for the credibility issues in all such petitions, there is obviously a reputable and substantial group of her global science peers who do not subscribe to her “climate-majority” views. This formidable body of scholars, she asserts, has “poor understanding”, a la anti-vaccination nuts, and is degrading public debate.

She also seems unaware of her crushing non-sequitur. She argues that the media should respect only the views of the “huge majority” of warmists. Then without pausing for breath she says that “science is not political” but based on “observation, hypothesis, challenge and proof”.

So what is the media meant to do if it comes across scientific findings that, say, Antarctic ice is increasing (despite the globe allegedly warming strongly), that the Roman and Medieval warmings were higher than the 20th century warmings (giving our CO2 warmists an obvious question to answer), or, dare I mention it, that there has been no statistically significant warming for the past 16 years?[4][5][6] Would the President of the Australian Academy of Science prefer that such findings be suppressed by a compliant media?

Cory began her term at the AAS as an unthinking warmist, accepting the fanciful findings of the Raupachs, Karolys and Flannerys as holy writ.[7] [8]  [9]A few months ago she appeared to have become more respectful of “the science” as opposed to “the warmism”. But today she’s again a climate dogma devotee. How sad for the Academy.

Tony Thomas is a (sort of) retired journalist


[1] A survey of 10,256 with 3146 respondents was whittled down to 75 out of 77 “expert” ’active climate researchers’  to give the 97% figure, based on two simplistic questions that even the majority of sceptics might agree with. http://wattsupwiththat.com/2012/07/18/what-else-did-the-97-of-scientists-say/

[2] Incidentally, Cory fell hook line and sinker in June 2011 for the equally risible bleatings of ANU climateers, that they were being subjected to “death threats” from “snipers” et al.

[3] http://www.petitionproject.org/index.php. It was organized and circulated by Arthur B. Robinson, president of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine. Past US National Academy of Sciences president Frederick Seitz wrote a cover letter endorsing the petition. More than 9000 signatories are Ph.Ds.

[4] http://bigstory.ap.org/article/experts-global-warming-means-more-antarctic-ice

[5] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/temperatures-were-higher-2000-years-ago/story-e6frg8y6-1226499636993

[7] Raupach in 2009 wrote that “It is increasingly likely that current drought in Southern Australia is exacerbated by climate change”. Mike, go to the back of the class.

[8] A taxpayer-funded $300,000 paper this year co-authored by Karoly  received the following accolade from the American Meteorological Society’s Journal of Climate: Due to errors discovered in this paper during the publication process, it was withdrawn by the authors prior to being published in final form. http://journals.ametsoc.org/page/JCLI-D-11-00649

[9] The predictions and hypotheses of Tim Flannery FAA are too embarrassing to republish here.