Sydney Morning Herald

Climate findings suppressed: researchers

 March 10th, 2007

Wendy Frew Environment Reporter

REFERENCES to the potential for climate change to happen faster than had been expected were watered down or removed from an international report on climate change after governments got involved, New Scientist reports.

Most of the references to positive feedback (when a change in the climate leads to additional and enhanced changes) were cut from the final version of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, released last month in Paris, the magazine says.

The story, published this week, relies heavily on a line-by-line analysis done by the British climate change analyst David Wasdell, who said he was "astounded at the alterations that were imposed by government agents during the final stage of review" of the report. "The evidence of collusional suppression of well-established and world-leading scientific material is overwhelming," he said.

The story also quotes the University of Cambridge ocean physicist Peter Wadhams, who said the public needed to know that the policymakers' summary, "presented as the united words of the IPCC, has actually been watered down in subtle but vital ways by governmental agents before the public was allowed to see it".

The Bush Administration has been accused of muzzling scientists who want to speak publicly about topics such as polar bears, the melting of sea ice and climate change. Leaked emails from the US Fish and Wildlife Service revealed that foreign travellers on US Government business were not allowed to speak on or respond to questions about these issues in any public forum, Reuters reported.

The US has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol.

Mr Wasdell's claims that political and economic interests had influenced the scientific material presented in the UN report was flatly rejected by the Australian scientists involved in writing it. The scientists who wrote and reviewed the report accepted comment from government representatives, themselves scientists, but retained an "absolute right of veto" over the final report, said Neville Nicholls, a professorial fellow at Monash University.

"I would say it is gold-standard science what we write down is what we can defend to the death," he said. "There is a big jump from being conservative science to saying that government agents are writing it. That is just baloney."

Associate Professor Nathan Bindoff at the University of Tasmania agreed. Any references to things such as the "possible acceleration of climate change" that were removed from the final report were removed for scientific reasons, he said. "The scientific view was that the observational record did not support the word acceleration. No government asked us to remove [it]. The contributions from the governments were very helpful. We were all very, very pleased with the changes that governments made."


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