On Global Warming, It’s Policy-Based Evidence

Liberals often claim to be proponents of evidence-based policy, but when it comes to climate change, that formula has been reversed. This is from the Science and Environmental Policy Project’s The Week That Was:

Australian Don Aitkin, former Chairman of Australia’s National Capital Authority and former Vice-Chancellor and President of the University of Canberra, comments on “The unfolding saga of Peter Ridd.” Professor Ridd is a “well-published academic whose fields of research include coastal oceanography, reef systems and peer review, has been for ten years the Head of the School of Physics at James Cook University (JCU).” He was disciplined for drawing attention to what he considered “exaggerations in the way fellow academics at his university were describing the condition of the Great Barrier Reef.” …

Aitkin writes:

But it is a problem, and a rapidly growing one, in areas of research where what is actually the case is contested vigorously by others. An eye has to be kept on the source of the money going to higher education research, which in our country is overwhelmingly the Australian Government. In 2014, not quite four billion dollars was available within the higher education system for research, all of it from the Commonwealth. In addition universities made another billion or thereabouts from consultancy and research for other funders. That is a lot of money. As the last Chairman of the Australian Research Grants Committee in 1987 I had a little over $30 million to parcel out. The engine has been most effective.

In the last forty years governments have become interested in universities’ finding academic support for what they are proposing or have in place. We are in an era of “policy-based evidence”. We are also in an era of a particular political correctness, where it is very difficult indeed to get funds for research if the purpose of the research seems antithetical to current government policy. “Curiosity-directed research” now comes with some serious barriers. Nowhere is this situation clearer than in the case of research on the Great Barrier Reef, in which Professor Ridd has been involved. A bucket-load of money has been devoted to “the Reef”, and another half-billion was forecast in the recent Budget, some of which will doubtless go the James Cook University, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority. The Reef, as is frequently said, is an Australian “icon”. An icon is a religious object. Professor Ridd is a scientist, not a priest.

But climate science is a religion. Worse, it is a religion that is also big business.

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