Australia’s former chief scientist, Professor Robin Batterham, is embroiled in a bitter dispute over climate change within one of the nation’s elite science academies.
As president of the peer-elected Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering, Professor Batterham faces demands by members to drop plans for the academy to issue a policy statement supporting climate sceptics.
Documents obtained by The Canberra Times show Professor Batterham has indicated support for a statement clarifying the academy’s position on climate change.
Professor Batterham is overseas, and could not be contacted. The academy’s deputy chief executive Bill Mackey refused to comment on the growing rift within the academy over the contentious wording of the statement.
“When we have something to say on this matter, we will say it,” he said.
A two-page draft, posted on a password-protected section of the academy’s website, said the academy “does not believe the science is settled” regarding climate change.
It said many scientists believed “climate changes are nothing unusual, based on past geological records”.
An exchange of emails shows the statement has sparked anger and alarm among members. More than 50 of Australia’s top agricultural and environmental scientists are among those objecting to the statement. A letter signed by 12 climate scientists has also been circulated to members.
An alternative policy statement, drafted by academy member and Melbourne World Climate Research program director Professor Ann Henderson-Sellers, has been emailed to members.
It says the academy will “continue to foster open and reasoned debate on all aspects of climate change” but sees “little point in promoting debate based on belief rather than evidence”.
In a recent lecture to the University of Western Australia as academy president, Professor Batterham warned of the dangers of a political over-reaction to climate change.
He said there was “still much of the science that is uncertain” and used data in an academy-badged slide presentation that claimed investment to create green jobs in Spain had resulted in the destruction of nearly 110,500 jobs, or 2.2 jobs for every “green job” created.
According to a report of the lecture published in a mining newsletter, Professor Batterham said despite scientific uncertainty, ” we need to drastically reduce CO2 or face runaway temperature rise”.