CSIRO and Stock Promotions

Here’s another interesting aspect to the exchange between David Stockwell and CSIRO, which provides an interesting example of a promotional press release, that would daunt the most adventurous stock promoter, followed by mealy-mouthed and untrue excuses by the government department.

Again, let’s start with David’s request for data supporting the Australian drought report:

I am interested in obtaining the supplementary information for the Exceptional Circumstances Report. In particular, I would like to obtain the results for the individual 13 models used in the summary tables 4, 7, and 9. If possible, I would like information on the tests that were conducted to determine the statistical significance of projected increases in % area of temperature, rainfall and soil moisture, supporting such statements as follows: http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/200807/s2296263.htm

“A new report is predicting a dramatic loss of soil moisture, increased evaporation and reduced ground water levels across much of Australia’s farming regions, as temperatures begin to rise exponentially.”

CSIRO replied by blaming the media for the reports. But is this transfer of blame appropriate.

Secondly, some of the media reports have misinterpreted the findings of the report. We have little control over this.

Obviously, they could send letters notifying the media of errors. Scientists seem to have been quick enough to object to media interpretations and characterizations that they objected to. So standing idly by when the mischaracterization is on the other side is not an ethically supportable alternative. But did the media even mischaracterize the report?

The release referred to by David Stockwell is here . It says, for example:

The joint CSIRO and Bureau of Meteorology report was commissioned by the Federal Government as part of a review of national drought policy. It says droughts are likely to occur twice as often, cover twice the area and be more severe in key agricultural production areas.

Is this one of the “misinterpretations” of the report in the media? Well, here’s what the government said in its own press release:

Australia could experience drought twice as often and the events will be twice as severe within 20 to 30 years, according to a new Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO report.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Tony Burke today released the report commissioned by the Rudd Government as part of a review of national drought policy.

The news article almost exactly tracks the wording of the government press release. Yes, there are slight differences in the form of expression, but surely this cannot be the “misinterpretation” that is mentioned here.

The article referred to in David’s letter also said:

“A new report is predicting a dramatic loss of soil moisture, increased evaporation and reduced ground water levels across much of Australia’s farming regions, as temperatures begin to rise exponentially.”

Why would they think that? Well, later in the press release, they quote report coauthor, Mark Howden:

Report co-author, the CSIRO’s Dr Mark Howden, says water availability will be affected.

“Soil moisture is a function of how much rain falls, how much water is lost through runoff, evporation and through-flow into the groundwater system,” he says.

“And with increased temperatures, if everything else stays the same, there will be increased evaporation and increased loss of water through that evaporation component, which means less on average for run-off and less on average for putting into the groundwater systems.”

So when Hennessy said that

some of the media reports have misinterpreted the findings of the report

this seems extremely unjustified in relation to the article that David cited. I find it difficult to understand exactly where he thinkgs this article went astray. But if he did, as noted above, CSIRO has an obligation to write the agency and set the record straight about exactly what they think the news agency misinterpreted.

35 Comments

  1. steven mosher
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 9:29 AM | Permalink

    why even bother about australia.

    http://www.mongabay.com/igapo/world_statistics_by_area.htm

    When Hansen effed up his CONUS figures we get this excuse that
    CONUS is a small part of the globe.

    So is the artic. So is Aussieland.

    does size matter.

  2. Dave Dardinger
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 11:02 AM | Permalink

    Steve,

    The obvious key words are “could” vs “likely” in the first example and “predicting” vs “if everything else stays the same” in the second.

    Now it could rain horny-toads in downtown Melbourne but is it likely? And I predict that things will not stay the same.

    So who’s to blame? Mealy mouthed government officials or headline seeking reporters? I think there’s plenty of blame to go around.

  3. Sam Urbinto
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 12:28 PM | Permalink

    It’s likely it could rain at some point in time someplace. And when things stay the same, we can make predictions likely to come out correctly sooner or later. Unless things change.

    Although it is possible that the snow you see in this freezer actually fell someplace else, perhaps far away, and was gathered, transported, and placed there. In fact, I’d say it’s almost certain, but I hesitate to put error bars on that. Since the freezer might be outside in Antarctica and is laying face-up with no doors, in a snowstorm.

    But Hey.

  4. Jim Edwards
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 1:13 PM | Permalink

    Howden isn’t the only guy talking to the press.

    An audio CSIRO report can be found here with Kevin Hennessy. Hennessy admits that rainfall is naturally variable and that the last decade’s severe drought can’t be demonstrated to be caused by man but then details that 13 computer models were backcasted and then forecasted 30 years to predict all of this gloom and doom.

    The Agricultural Minister [CSIRO's and BOM's boss] has the transcript of an interview on his website :

    SANDY ALOISI: Minister, I’ve read a comment from you that you say that this reads more like a disaster novel than a scientific report. That’s pretty strong language.

    TONY BURKE: Well, there’s parts of it that do. I mean, because you’re predicting future climate, you end up with a range of predictions. But the more high-level projections, I mean, to think that something that’s only been happening every 20 to 25 years happening every year or two, that is frightening.

    MIKE CARLTON: So what we call a heat wave now will be the norm in a few years, is that it?

    TONY BURKE: Oh, it’s not just a heat wave. You’re talking about exceptionally hot years where you get years where the temperature range is way above where it would ordinarily be, and that actually averages for a full 12 months.

    SANDY ALOISI: And this will spread out over more of the country than currently.

    TONY BURKE: That’s right. And of the different data – they’ve gone through the temperature data, the rainfall data and soil moisture – they point to the temperature data as being the most reliable. It’s just the area where the records have always been the best kept and the data has been most reliable, whereas with the water levels with rainfall, because there’s always been droughts, that’s harder to read. But at the same time, we’ve got scenarios there that expect that what we’ve classed as droughts today would be occurring over twice the area and twice as often.

    MIKE CARLTON: How reliable and accurate do you think this is?

    TONY BURKE: Well, it’s the best scientific information available. With any projection about the future climate, you end up with a range. But every part of the range, whether it’s their most conservative projection or whether it’s the highest level projection, every part of what they can see happening in the future has the same conclusion, Mike, and that is that the droughts are going to be more regular than they’ve been in the past and they’re going to be deeper and they’re going to cover more of Australia.

  5. Daryl
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 1:28 PM | Permalink

    I agree with Steve’s earlier comment, if you do not want to be subject to the scientific process where your research is challenged, or do not want to share the research, do not publish it into the public domain.

    They could have submitted a privy report to the Government Department Responsible and requested confidentiality ( of course undermining the entire IPR process, which as far as I know is a back of the envelope check on proper citations, proper methodology and general conclusions that have relevance to the field ).

    The research would only be made public when the Government referenced it in a subsequent report or used it in a policy decision, then it would be open to FIO request or submitted in comittee records during discussions.

  6. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 1:45 PM | Permalink

    The point of the comparison to stock promotions is that you don’t have free speech in relation to stock promotions. While there may be no legal standards that are binding on scientists, expecting scientists to meet standards that are legally binding on stock promoters is not unreasonable. Climate scientists certainly hold themselves out as having higher standards than stock promoters. Whether the stock promotion standard is legally binding on CSIRO, it becomes a plausible benchmark in the court of public opinion – that’s why I use this terminology.

  7. ning
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 2:14 PM | Permalink

    This is the only part of the abc piece which appears to be inconsistent with the report the press release and other sources of information on climate change.

    “as temperatures begin to rise exponentially.”

    At least in the mid to low IPCC economic expansion scenarios temperatures do not increase exponentially.

    Why don’t you email Hennesy and ask him why he thinks it misrepresents the report or the press release? That would end the speculation.

  8. Jim Edwards
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 2:23 PM | Permalink

    Steve M.: #6

    I think you’re spot-on when you advocate stock promoter standards on organizations like CSIRO or IPCC. They are directly advocating a view point to public policy makers, the media, and the public at large.

    I think your analogy falls apart if you’re going to apply it to climate scientists, generally.

    While there may be no legal standards that are binding on scientists, expecting scientists to meet standards that are legally binding on stock promoters is not unreasonable.

    It IS unreasonable to expect individual climate scientists to meet a higher standard than other scientists. How does a guy like Graybill know his little project is going to be the cornerstone of a marketing campaign in twenty years ?

    If IPCC were held to the standard, though, it would be sufficient. The Jones, Mann, and Briffas of the climate world would have to put up or shut up if they wanted their work to be reflected in Assessment Reports, or if they wanted to be chosen as lead authors. Anybody who wanted to hold onto their “IP” could do so – but then their work could not be reflected in the IPCC reports. That would light the flame under the climate science community [and its benefactors] to replicate key work with data and methods disclosed.

  9. Craig Loehle
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 2:26 PM | Permalink

    When my child was born I measured her and pretty soon I noted that she was growing exponentially. I calculated that when she was 12 she would be 9 feet tall and 450 lbs.

  10. trevor
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 2:26 PM | Permalink

    A big thank you to David Stockwell and Stephen McIntyre for shining a light on the activities and positions of the CSIRO.

    In Australia, the CSIRO is (was?) revered as being committed to sound science. It is the fact that they have come out so strongly in support of the AGW hypothesis that has led to such widespread popular support in Australia for AGW and drastic action to deal with it. Polls show that around 75% of Australians ‘believe’ that AGW is a very serious problem, and that we must take drastic actions to support it.

    Unfortunately, it appears that the CSIRO has been taken over by the AGW ideologues in the area of Climate Science. The subjects raised by David Stockwell are evidence for this, and there have been numerous other examples over the past few years. An example is the sea level rise issue that John Daly referred to some years ago. In that, the CSIRO press releases headlined a simple average of 25 year sea level changes at 28 sea level stations around Australia when a perusal of the data showed that most of the claimed rise was due to four outliers – Port Adelaide Inner, Port Adelaide Outer (yes really!), Fremantle and Newcastle. Google shows CSIRO and other reports that describe local subsidence at Adelaide and Fremantle that is the cause of the anomalous sea level rise, but CSIRO chose not to report this accurately.

    The positions adopted by CSIRO and IPCC have led to the situation where the Australian public has become deeply concerned about AGW, and that gives the governments a serious problem. If 75% of the population insist that you take decisive action to deal with AGW, it is hard for a government to adopt a different position. Numerous of us in Australia urged the Howard Liberal government to have a good look at the underlying science, but for reasons that are not understood, they chose to adopt the position that “there is a consensus that” “the science is settled”. Their acquiescence to this position is a major factor in the current views of the Australian population.

    Those of us who follow the debate know that use of the ad hominem “denier” is the mark of an ideologue supporter of AGW. It was thus very disappointing (but revealing) for us to learn (ABC, Monday 7 July Posted 12:45pm AEST Updated Mon Jul 7, 2008 2:58pm AEST) that “Garnaut hits back at ‘denier’ Costa”

    “Professor Ross Garnaut has hit back at New South Wales Treasurer Michael Costa’s claims his draft report on climate change is “nonsensical” and contains “Chicken Little” warnings.

    Professor Garnaut has described Mr Costa as a climate change denier after he questioned the report’s recommendations.

    “The New South Wales [Treasurer] is a well known denier of the science,” he said.”

    For those in other parts of the world who may be unfamiliar with Professor Ross Garnaut, he is an economist who was commissioned to prepare a report on Climate Change and in particular to recommend to the government what they should do about Climate Change. His draft report released a week or so ago recommended that Australia move to introduce emissions trading by 2010. Professor Garnaut can be thought of as Australia’s Nicholas Stern.

    I apologise for raising political issues on CA. Sometimes it seems necessary to do so.

  11. Pompous Git
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 2:35 PM | Permalink

    TONY BURKE: Oh, it’s not just a heat wave. You’re talking about exceptionally hot years where you get years where the temperature range is way above where it would ordinarily be, and that actually averages for a full 12 months.

    Oddly enough, the world record heat wave is held by Australia. Marble Bar in Western Australia recorded temperatures of more than 37.8°C (100°F) on 161 consecutive days — 30 October 1923 to 7 April 1924. When Phil Jones was interviewed by Robyn Williams (ABC Science Show), he said that record-breaking temperatures were the sure-fire sign of global warming. So I checked as many Australian record-breaking temperatures as I could find. By far the most were in the 30s & 40s.

    Also odd is that the first 50 years of the 20th C were droughtier than the latter 50 years. Not by much, though.

    ‘Course this is only a historian’s POV, and as CSIRO’s John Hunter has instructed me, historical records are merely anecdotal and therefore not scientific.

  12. trevor
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 2:48 PM | Permalink

    Polls show that around 75% of Australians ‘believe’ that AGW is a very serious problem, and that we must take drastic actions to support it.

    Correction: Of course I meant to say that we must take drastic action to deal with it.

  13. Pat Keating
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 3:08 PM | Permalink

    14 Git

    historical records are merely anecdotal and therefore not scientific

    …., not like computer models. IOW, virtual data conquers real data — science is fast becoming fantasy (and I speak as a physicist).

  14. Ian Castles
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 3:40 PM | Permalink

    Re #4. Just for the record, Jim Edwards, the Australian Minister for Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tony Burke, is neither ‘CSIRO’s boss’nor‘BoMs boss.’ The Ministers responsible to the Parliament for CSIRO and BoM are, respectively, the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research (Senator Kim Carr); and the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and the Arts (Senator Peter Garrett). The Minister for Climate Change and Water is Senator Penny Wong. The Department of Climate Change is part of the Prime Minister and Cabinet portfolio and, under administrative arrangements promulgated on 3 December 2007, the design and implementation of Australia’s Emissions Trading Scheme was transferred from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet to the new Department. The Secretary, Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, David Borthwick, is an Ex Officio Member of the Bureau of Meteorology Advisory Board.

  15. Philip_B
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 5:10 PM | Permalink

    Treat claims of drought in Australia with scepticism.

    For example, I had recent exchange here with someone who claimed that droughts had become more frequent since the 1970s in the Western Australia Wheatbelt. When I queried that claim he was unable to produce evidence to support that claim. The records I checked showed some areas dryer, other wetter and no overall significant decrease. Not only had droughts not become more common, there wasn’t any evidence there had been any. We hear so often about drought in the media here that even I was somewhat surprised to find no evidence of drought in the rainfall record.

    I could go on at length on this topic, but suffice it to say, agriculture in Australia typically extends to the margins of areas where there is suffient water available to support whatever is being grown. Natural variability alone will mean ‘droughts’ in some years over large areas.

    BTW, I tried without success to find historical records of WA wheat production. Predictions are for another record harvest this year. IIRC the third year in a row.

  16. ianl
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 5:47 PM | Permalink

    This is my 1st post here. I’ve read CA for some considerable time now and been rewarded with what I regard as significant and objective information. I’m particularly impressed with Steve McIntyre’s due diligence abilities. Also, I’m from Aus and have been involved professionally with the Geology/Geotechnical personnel of the CSIRO.

    Trevor’s comments in post #10 are accurate. The CSIRO has been revered in Aus as “speakers of objective, scientific truth” so disagreeing with it publically breaks the 1st rule of survival: “Never pick a fight you can’t win”. This is the reason behind the now previous Govt’s refusal to confront the propaganda issue.

    First, there has been a factional war within the CSIRO over the last 10 years or so, where the physical scientists (especially within the geological branches) have been successfully targeted by the environmental scientists for access to available, Govt-supplied funds, approved projects and general direction of research. The techniques used were ruthless and included appealing to public opinion to sway Govt thinking (ie. votes are at risk) with scarey environmental headlines. These people are very bright and when they play politics it is deliberate and ferocious.

    The outcome of that war is evident. The current Govt is attempting to introduce a C-tax of some sort (cap & trade is currently preferred) and it needs some good cop-bad cop routines to convince the populace to accept the economic consequences. So once every 2 weeks or so we get a full-on media blitz “quoting” the CSIRO’s most recent scarey-bear predictions. Denying that it has control over media reporting of such releases is deliberately disingenuous – such use of public opinion is well calculated.

    Releasing details like data to back these reports will only sully this by allowing accurate due diligence to take place.

  17. Steve Moore
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 6:47 PM | Permalink

    The press reports read almost exactly like the press release, but CSIRO claims they were misinterpreted.

    That sounds like US political races, where the worst thing you can do to your opponent is tell the truth about him.

  18. VG
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 7:09 PM | Permalink

    In the end the real data will decide, or is already deciding?

    http://discover.itsc.uah.edu/amsutemps/

    400mb. [snip - comment on policy]

  19. ad
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 7:35 PM | Permalink

    VG: one data-point does not a trend make.

  20. Steve McIntyre
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 7:43 PM | Permalink

    #18,19. I agree with #19. It’s far too premature to say that the world is cooling. I’ve certainly never made such a claim and would appreciate it if people would not make categorical claims such as #18 based on narrow information – which is inconsistent with the audit and verification objectives of this site. There are nuanced comments that one can make but please don’t go a bridge too far. Also I ask people not to comment on policy.

  21. Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 8:15 PM | Permalink

    ianl:

    Thanks for coming forward. One of the benefits of these posts is that more realistic
    (IMO) perspectives of the issues in relation to climate uncertainty are being aired,
    and people can hopefully start to discriminate promotion from substance.
    Most people don’t know what goes on in Science, but its like anywhere else.
    Another realistic view I recommend comes from Don Aitkin:

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23509775-2702,00.html

    http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/view.asp?article=7639

    RESPECTED academic Don Aitkin has seen the ugly side of the climate change debate after being warned he faced demonisation if he challenged the accepted wisdom that global warming poses a danger to humanity.

    Professor Aitkin told The Australian yesterday he had been told he was “out of his mind” by some in the media after writing that the science of global warming “doesn’t seem to stack up”.

    Declaring global warming might not be such an important issue, Professor Aitkin argued in a speech to the Planning Insitute of Australia this month that counter measures such as carbon trading were likely to be unnecessary, expensive and futile without stronger evidence of a crisis.

  22. Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 8:39 PM | Permalink

    Steve, Thank you for tag-teaming review of this report. There are a number of other
    issues with it, and who knows if anyone will call them before we move on to the next
    thing. Particularly problematic is this statement:

    Under a high scenario, droughts could occur twice as often, cover twice the area and be more severe in key agricultural production areas;

    The high scenario is actually the 10% tail of spread of the 13 models, not as one would
    assume, the same models run with different scenarios. So ala Stainforth et al.

    http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn6934

    scary results are obtained by shifting the focus to outliers.

  23. Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 8:42 PM | Permalink

    RE #20

    I’m also concerned that people here and other places are making predictions about future climate which are every bit as problematical as the climate modellers mentioned here.

    The point is that nobody knows the future trajectory of climate over the next 5, 10, 50 years. No-one has a falsifiable theory of climate or any idea how to model it completely.

    The expectation that after a period of warming comes a period of cooling may be logical but does not make it a fact. What is clear is that if the temperature and carbon dioxide rise were coupled in the 1970s to 1990s then they appear to have de-coupled since.

    Another thing that is clear is that the recent falls in the global temperature index clearly show that the natural variation of climate, absent even events like major volcanic eruptions, is much greater than has been taken into account by the climate modellers.

    To be honest, my reaction to the claims that “the warming trend is still unbroken over the long term” is the same reaction to stock promoters after March-April 2000 still telling people to invest after the broader market had already begun to decline.

  24. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 8:56 PM | Permalink

    Re # 22 David Stockwell

    If you email me your address I can do what I can from Melbourne to provide data. For example Trevor Breusch has offered to supply data and code to me. Mine is sherro1@optusnet.com.au

    Thinks are crook in Tallarook!

    A wheat farmer from the Mallee phoned 3AW talkback about the long drought and low harvests. But, he said, there was some joy. His wife had just delivered a fine 7 ounce baby boy. The DJ said “You mean 7 pounds?” . “No” said the farmer, “with the drought, you’re lucky to get your seed back”.

  25. ianl
    Posted Jul 16, 2008 at 11:00 PM | Permalink

    David Stockwell

    Please let us know what Geoff Sherrington comes up with for you.

  26. Geoff Sherrington
    Posted Jul 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Permalink

    Re 25 ianl

    Happy to provide you direct, but don’t expect too much. The shutters are rapidly going up. Circle the wagons.

    Cheers Geoff.

  27. Posted Jul 17, 2008 at 1:11 AM | Permalink

    ianl: I have some ideas. Watch this space;-)

  28. Greg
    Posted Jul 17, 2008 at 2:39 AM | Permalink

    “..increased evaporation..”
    “And with increased temperatures, if everything else stays the same, there will be increased evaporation”.

    Wrong – though it seems counter-intuitive – and CSIRO knows this. There is even a name for it, the “Pan Evaporation Paradox”, and the effect is observed globally. See page 4 of this report on evaporation trends in Australia. I caught Tamino out on this one, to the usual deafening silence.

  29. Richard Steckis
    Posted Jul 17, 2008 at 9:15 AM | Permalink

    When you need the output 13 computer models to bolster your hypotheses then you know that you are walking on quicksand.

  30. Ian Castles
    Posted Jul 17, 2008 at 5:17 PM | Permalink

    David,
    Your reminder of Minister Garrett’s earlier experience with an FOI request to an agency of the Australian Government (#29) raises an interesting point. According to the cover page of the ‘lurid report on Australian drought’, four of the 11 authors are affiliated with the Bureau of Meteorology, which falls within Senator Garrett’s Environment portfolio. These scientists presumably have the model outputs that Kevin Hennessy has said that he can’t provide to you “due to restrictions on Intellectual Property.” Have you considered asking one of the BoM scientists for this information?

  31. Posted Jul 17, 2008 at 6:31 PM | Permalink

    Ian, No I did not. It wouldn’t hurt to make a polite personal request to each before escalation.

  32. Ian Castles
    Posted Jul 17, 2008 at 8:04 PM | Permalink

    David. Yes. The report carries the logo of the Bureau of Meteorology as well as that of CSIRO, so it would seem appropriate, and possibly productive, to make the same request to BoM as you’ve already made of CSIRO.

    As a foundation member of the Bureau of Meteorology Advisory Board created by the previous Government in June 2002, I attended the inaugural meeting at Parliament House on 3 December 2002 (BoM, Annual Report 2002-03, p. 308). Among the briefing documents I received at that meeting was the BoM publication “Climate Activities in Australia 2001″, which includes the following possibly relevant statement:

    “Australia is an active participant in the global system for monitoring, analysing and disseminating climate information … Considerable advances have been made in improving the extent and quality of Australia’s climate data archive and in making climate data readily accessible” (p. 48).

    Although the information that you are seeking goes beyond “climate data”, the CSIRO/BoM study presumably drew heavily on the climate data archive that is maintained by BoM.

  33. Posted Jul 22, 2008 at 11:29 AM | Permalink

    “And with increased temperatures, if everything else stays the same, there will be increased evaporation and increased loss of water through that evaporation component, which means less on average for run-off and less on average for putting into the groundwater systems.”

    But even if this is true wouldn’t the oceans evaporate more also, then possibly increase the rainfall on land at some point
    once the relative humidity is high enough.

  34. Posted Nov 17, 2008 at 3:40 AM | Permalink

    Its a very interesting and cool post about online shopping. people are using online shopping to buy any product.
    Thanks for your time to write this post.

  35. Posted Nov 25, 2008 at 11:58 PM | Permalink

    I could go on at length on this topic, but suffice it to say, agriculture in Australia typically extends to the margins of areas where there is suffient water available to support whatever is being grown. Natural variability alone will mean ‘droughts’ in some years over large areas.

2 Trackbacks

  1. By Niche Modeling » CSIRO Wars on Jul 17, 2008 at 7:14 AM

    [...] Steve McIntyre at ClimateAudit describes the saga as “a recent lurid report on Australian drought, only to be stonewalled on grounds of ‘Intellectual Property Rights’, a pretext familiar to CA readers.” In another post he finds fault with another aspect of the report, writing that CSIRO produced “an interesting example of a promotional press release, that would daunt the most adventurous stock promoter, followed by mealy-mouthed and untrue excuses by the government department.” Further afield, Agmates Rural News linked in with story headlined Scientists & Farmers Question CSIRO Scare Mongering Reports. The very readable SeaBlogger refers to it as “the Australia drought hysteria.” It doesn’t matter that paleoclimatology shows two modes for (Australian) regional climate: dry and drier. Any modern drought must be climate change caused by your SUV. Meanwhile, I have been following up on the claim made by Mr Hennessy that “I’m not able to hand over the data from the 13 models, due to restrictions on Intellectual Property”. I wanted to get a copy of the CSIRO IPR policy to see if this was true, or simply a case of an over-zealous employee. I emailed a Dr Tendulkar listed as a contact for IP on the CSIRO web site and asked for a link to a policy and if it might restrict data access in this way. I also emailed a Ms Caldwell in the Freedom of Information (FOI) Unit for information about starting an FOI request for the data. To date I have neither received a reply nor acknowledgment of my emails. Virtually no information is provided on starting an FOI request. The website states only that: FOI applications should be accompanied by the statutory A$30 application fee. There are some additional charges associated with processing requests including search, retrieval and photocopying fees. I asked what costs could potentially be involved. I was concerned because when the then opposition environment minister Peter Garrett put an (unsuccessful) FOI application to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) for documents on the effect of global warming on the Great Barrier Reef he was hit with an administration charge of more than $12,000. Part of the $12,718.80 costs included charges for 107.6 hours of search and retrieval time, 539 hours of decision-making time and photocopying of more than 3250 pages at 10 cents per page. I can’t complain about the hourly rate of less than $20 an hour, but they seem to work exceedingly slowly. Peter Garrett is now environment minister in the newly elected Rudd Labor Government. He might be sympathetic to an appeal, given his experiences with getting information out of government research organizations. Previous in series [...]

  2. [...] this post , I criticized the statement by CSIRO that “some of the media reports have misinterpreted the [...]

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