Morrison churlishly ignores scientific achievement

May 24, 2021

Scott Morrison’s churlishness is always on show when some Australian achieves great success in any area when Morrison’s perceived political enemies lurk. 

In October last year, when the rest of the world celebrated the ratification by 50 countries of The Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, thus allowing the historic though symbolic text to come into force after 90 days, the Australian Government refused to sign the Treaty.

Morrison also refused to congratulate Australian group The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for its campaign to get a treaty ratified.

And if he can ignore a treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons and a Nobel Peace award which would have most countries jubilantly celebrating, it’s hardly any wonder that he is also silent on the achievements of Australian scientists confronting another existential problem.

Reuters, the international news agency, recently published the Reuters Hot List of the scientists who are having the biggest impact on the climate change debate through their lives, their influences on other scientists and the public.

The Hot List ranks the most influential climate scholars on a combination of three rankings: “Those rankings are based on how many research papers scientists have published on topics related to climate change; how often those papers are cited by other scientists in similar fields of study such as biology, chemistry or physics; and, how often those papers are referenced in the lay press, social media, policy papers and other outlets.”

The List draws on an academic research portal data base, Dimensions, which contains hundreds of thousands of papers related to climate. Reuters heads its report with the words: “At the start of every disaster movie there is a scientist being ignored…” with the next image featuring James Hansen testifying to Congress in 1988 about the dangers of a warming planet.

It then ranks scientists by assigning scores to their respective papers. Two Australians ranked inside the top 10 – Joseph G. Canadell and Mario Herrero of the CSIRO.

Demonstrating the importance of the social sciences Ed Maibach of George Mason University and Anthony Leiserowitz from Yale ranked 7th and 2nd respectively. Their ongoing research has given a wide range of insights into US public attitudes to climate change as well as research-driven approaches to climate change communications.

Australians outside the top 10 are Ove Hoegh-Guldberg at the University Malte Alexander Meinshausen University of Melbourne; of Queensland; Peter Mumby University of Queensland; Hugh Possingham University of Queensland; James Watson University of Queensdland; Tom Wigley University of Adelaide; and, Philip Munday ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies Australia.

Just outside the top 100 is Julie Arblaster, a Professor in the School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment at Monash University. She was a contributing author on reports for which the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was a co-recipient of the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize.

Writing about her Hot List rating, Reuters (26 April 2021) said Professor Arblaster had co-authored a paper about a weakening Antarctic polar vortex. She knew it would combine with a worrying set of conditions that can occur in the waters surrounding her vast country.

They also reported that in a 2019 interview with Reuters, Arblaster had said: “The eastern Indian Ocean was cooler than normal, and the western Indian Ocean was warmer than normal, part of a cycle known as the Indian Ocean Dipole. When combined with an El Niño – when waters are warmer than normal over the equatorial Pacific Ocean – and a weakening of the Antarctic polar vortex, the result was often a bad fire season.

“I mean, we’re in this massive drought at the moment,” she said in her Melbourne office, pointing to a chart in the paper that explained Australia’s vulnerability to fires.

“And even though the paper analyzed conditions that predated this day in October 2019, it was clear to Arblaster that the conclusions were about to be borne out.

“Well, this is suggesting that for this October-to-January period, it’s not going to get any better.”

Professor Arblaster’s warnings were about the time Scott Morrison was planning his Hawaii holiday.

Needless to say, as with ICAN, there is no record of Morrison congratulating any of the scientists who have achieved recognition. Instead, he is directing billions of dollars of subsidies to fossil fuel production. In contrast, names on the Hot List may well end up on a Murdoch-Morrison hit list as enemies who find their funding threatened.

In the meantime, Morrison might ponder some words from his favourite book. In Matthew, the Bible quotes Jesus saying: “A prophet is not without honour except in his hometown, and in his own home.”

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