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Peter Ridd and the climate science deniers – group think, anyone?

In some ways, the way the climate science denial community and the conservative echo chamber has rallied around Professor Peter Ridd is impressive.

In other ways, it is entirely predictable given the James Cook University academic is serving up two of their favourite dishes in one serving- a supposed fight for “freedom of speech” against the establishment, and a rejection of the science linking human activity to climate change and, in this case in particular, the Great Barrier Reef.

The story starts in mid-2016 when, through the pages of The Australian,  Ridd was making what I considered to dubious claims about alleged misuse of pictures of the Great Barrier Reef. JCU issued a censure against Ridd.

Since then, Ridd has continued to claim that fellow JCU scientists should not be trusted, leading to allegations of serious misconduct from JCU that Ridd had repeatedly breached their code of conduct . Ridd hit back and filed a case against them. It’s ongoing.

All the usual suspects have had a run at Ridd’s story.  The Daily Caller, FoxNews, Andrew Bolt (lots of times), The Australian’s Graham Lloyd (lots of times) James Delingpole in Breitbart, Alan Jones (loads), Rowan Dean, and so on.

Ridd’s case has had practically zero coverage outside the sizeable reach of that conservative media landscape and so, up to now, Ridd has gone pretty much without criticism.

Anyway, Ridd joined a colleague last November to publish a “viewpoint” article in a journal that put a lot of meat onto the bones of his claims that marine science isn’t undergoing sufficient quality control.

As I’ve reported on Guardian Australia, some of those scientists at the Australian Institute of Marine science and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies have responded in detail in the same Marine Pollution Bulletin journal. In short, they say Ridd’s arguments were full of “misinterpretation” and “selective use of data”.

But the back story, which I’ve covered for DeSmog, is that Ridd has been hanging around with climate science deniers for the best part of a decade.

He has been a science director at the Australian Environment Foundation (not a real environment foundation) since 2005 and he does not seem to have had any problems saying what he wants since then.

But according to the Bolters and Delingpoles, Ridd is being punished for telling the truth… for going against the global warming establishment… for simply presenting the facts.

Actually, Ridd was censured for an alleged breach of his university’s code of conduct that asks, among other things, for employees to be “collegial”, they respect the rights and reputations of other employees and don’t call their academic integrity into question. You can see this for yourself thanks to Ridd, who has uploaded a whole bunch of files related to the case onto his blog.

Whether or not you think these rules are fair, it seems clear Ridd would have a case to answer when he says things like “we can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies” – two groups with partnerships and staff at his own university.  He has accused them of lacking objectivity and being over emotional.

Ridd has also been backed by his mates at the Institute of Public Affairs (he wrote a chapter in one of their climate books alongside other ‘climate experts’ like the “king of rubberband magic Ken Ring” and the writer Clive James).

The IPA helped Ridd run a crowdfunding campaign that raised $95,000 in two days, and has been writing supportive press releases and whatnot.

Also claiming some credit for Ridd’s rapid fundraising is the climate science denial blog WUWT. The site’s founder, former TV weatherman Anthony Watts, threw Ridd $100.

Anyway.  Group think, anyone?

Author: Graham

Graham Readfearn is a Brisbane-based journalist. Go to the About page in the top navigation for more information.