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April 24th 2013 print

Walter Starck

Sue a warmist

The left has long made "lawfare" one of its key weapons, deliberately seeking the courts' intervention to silence those of whom it disapproves. Given the travesties of science perpetrated in the name of climate change, isn't it time to give the most dubious practitioners a taste of their own medicine?

In almost all private-sector professional activity an obligation to prudence and due diligence is imposed. Professional practitioners have an obligation to honesty. For presumed experts to deliberately misrepresent information is an offence.

Prior to the rise of environmentalism such matters were of little concern or relevance in science. There was a very strong professional ethic that held truth and honesty to be of paramount importance. Deliberate scientific malpractice was a rare and career-ending transgression.

Then came environmentalism and researchers found that linking an application for a research grant to a possible environmental problem greatly increased the probability of funding approval. Soon it was discovered that major threats could result in generous funding earmarked for particular areas of study and a virtual bonanza for specialists in the relevant fields. In due course, Global Warming (a.k.a. Climate Change and, more lately, Extreme Weather) emerged as the mother of all eco-threats.

At the same time the development of postmodern philosophy and its accompanying notions of political correctness was becoming prevalent in academia. Environmental correctness was a natural extension of the political variety. This brought with it the dismissal of any aspirations for objective truth, the acceptance of ethical breaches in the name of perceived higher purposes, and the suppression of dissenting opinion.

In a prevailing climate of political correctness, an absence of formal explicit requirements for honesty, and with peer review subordinate to a common interest in maintaining funding, normal professional and scientific ethics have been significantly abandoned.

Such corruption has been repeatedly demonstrated in a series of revelations of serious misconduct in climate science. Despite unequivocal evidence of misrepresentations, lies, fabrications, suppression of conflicting evidence, conspiring to defy FOI requests and personal defamation of critics, the miscreants have all been cleared by blatantly sham investigations. Worse still, and indicative of the pervasive malaise, has been a widespread response of peers. Instead of condemning obvious misconduct they have sought to excuse, justify or dismiss it as unimportant.

While there may no explicit obligation for due diligence in scientific advocacy, the status of researchers as experts clearly implies it should be expected. Expert opinion without due diligence is an oxymoron, and pretending to expertise while ignoring due diligence rises to the level of fraud.

Not only do environmental researchers routinely fail to exercise due diligence in the material they present, they also frequently mislead through the evidence they ignore. Doing so clearly implies that either no conflicting information exists or that it is of such doubtful credibility it may prudently be ignored. Failing to address or even acknowledge the existence of abundant, peer-reviewed conflicting evidence while presenting their own preferred interpretation as uncontested evidence of high certainty does not deliver the expertise they have been generously funded to provide. This amounts to scientific malpractice at the very least and would appear to extend to major fraud. With losses and waste amounting to many millions of dollars, the victims are individual taxpayers and  the governments underwriting the "research".

Despite repeated and blatant examples of such malpractice nothing is being done to address the problem or even to acknowledge it exists. If brought to widespread public or government attention the typical response is only a flimsy whitewash restricted to a few carefully limited issue while the festering wasteland of untruth, which is the fuller context, goes unexplored. To add farce to sham, such “investigations” are typically conducted by the organisation or individuals responsible for overseeing the research in question. Not surprisingly, they invariable find themselves innocent, and the accused are fully cleared. Often, after a modest interval, the whitewash is given a final coat in the form of an award to the offender for outstanding achievement.

It appears that a form of diplomatic immunity has been extended to politicians, bureaucrats, NGOs, union officials and politically correct researchers. If allegations of serious misconduct by them arise, buck passing is the first response. No matter what agency or office is approached or the nature of the offence, the matter is always deemed to be the responsibility of some other department.

Even if there is prima facie evidence of the violation of a specific criminal code, it is ignored and attention deflected to some other, less serious or relevant aspect of the matter. It is painfully obvious that government is extremely reluctant to pursue misconduct within its ranks or when committed on its behalf. It is equally obvious that if the rule of law is to be maintained an independent, citizen-based effort must be established to investigate and bring charges when government  enforcement of the law is weak or absent.

There is a well-established and fundamental principle of law which recognises that a person damaged or threatened with damage by the actions of another party has a right to seek legal redress, and that such right is limited to those persons who are so threatened or damaged. There is no legal standing to seek a legal sanction against something that poses no threat or damage to oneself, but simply because one does not approve of it.

However, the kind of professional misconduct referred to above does entail very real and clearly demonstrable detrimental effects on the freedom and livelihood of many persons, as well as the availability and cost of food, energy, housing, clothing, property values and other necessities of life. By any reasonable assessment, most individuals and many specific groups should have firm grounds to bring an action that would have to be heard by a court.

If groups of similarly affected individuals were to form associations or corporations to represent their interests they should be able to bring legal actions to hold accountable for damages those who now so uncaringly afflict them with impunity. Doing this through an association or corporation should also make it possible to divide legal costs between many individuals. If done properly, it should also greatly reduce the risk of a ruinous award of legal costs to the defence in the event of an unfavourable outcome.

FOOTNOTE: A debate about the ethics and alleged deficiencies of Australian researchers is raging at the Slashdot online forum. It makes fascinating reading.