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Did Climate Scientists Lie About Death Threats?

‘If these people can’t get a simple conversation right, why should we trust them on complicated matters like global warming?’

Retired Canberra public servant John Coochey attended a dinner two years ago at the Australian National University during a “deliberative democracy” project on climate change.

At the dinner, Coochey – a global warming sceptic – enjoyed a friendly discussion with fellow attendees, one of whom was aware that Coochey is involved in the ACT’s annual kangaroo cull. Asked how he’d fared in a recent culling licence test, Coochey proudly presented his licence as evidence that he had passed.

Conversation then moved on to how much better kangaroo might have been compared to the ANU’s food. All very unremarkable, as was the climate change project. Coochey didn’t bother attending subsequent days.

So Coochey was more than a little surprised to discover last week that he is now accused of issuing a terrifying death threat to climate scientists.

Canberra Times environmental reporter Rosslyn Beeby got the ball rolling on May 7: “The worst threat [ANU Climate Change Institute director Professor Will Steffen] received – and we will not divulge it – was made verbally to one of his staff. It was the chilling nature of that threat – and the casual way in which it was made – that prompted the ANU to question its security arrangements.”

Former Courier-Mail journalist and climate change activist Graham Readfearn added further detail at his blog: “There was an incident at an ANU public engagement event where a climate sceptic who had been invited to attend had become frustrated. During an exchange, the individual had showed what he claimed was a gun licence to people sitting at the table, before claiming he was a ‘good shot’. The individual is understood to have left voluntarily.”

The ANU itself then released an email from a speaker at the climate event. “Looks like we’ve had our first serious threat of physical violence,” the email began, before quoting an attendee: “He came to the Fri dinner and showed other participants his gun licence and explained to them how good a sniper he is … I will be notifying security to be on hand in case he turns up and causes a problem.”

Leave it to the ABC to escalate matters. In a Friday piece, Canberra staffer Clarissa Thorpe reported: “The Australian National University has released a series of abusive emails sent to its climate change scientists …

“They include an email describing a physical threat to use a gun against an academic because the conference participant reportedly disagreed with the climate change research.”

As a bemused Coochey points out, if these people can’t get a simple conversation right, why should we trust them on complicated matters like global warming?