Death Threats for Australian Climate Scientists

Oklahoma Senator James Inhofe<a href= "http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:US_Navy_050210-N-2383B-253_Senator_James_Inhofe_%28R-OK%29_questions_top_ranking_leaders_of_the_U.S._Armed_Forces,_during_the_Defense_Authorization_Request_for_Fiscal_Year_2006_and_the_Future_Years_Defense_Program.jpg"> Johnny Bivera</a>/Wikimedia Commons

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Australian climate scientists are paying a steep price for their work, as opponents of Australia’s proposed tax on carbon emissions have embraced an attack the messenger strategy. More than 30 researchers told the Canberra Times that they have received emails “threatening violence, sexual assault, public smear campaigns and attacks on family members.” In response, several universities are reported to have moved targeted researchers into more secure buildings.

American scientists are all too familiar with this type of intimidation. As Mother Jones’ Kate Sheppard noted in April, leading climate change experts have been subjected to a constant barrage of threats and abuse. Michael Mann, Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State, has been labeled a “terrorist” and “killer,” among other epithets. The vitriol climaxed in the months after the so-called “Climategate” scandal broke in late 2009. Emails to scientists, later obtained by the Guardian, suggested that they “go gargle razor blades” and repeatedly referred to them as Nazis.

The media and even elected officials have vigorously fanned the flames, portraying mainstream climate scientists as conniving frauds and potential criminals. A report released in February 2010 by the minority staff of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, led by notorious climate change denier James Inhofe, claimed that the emails exchanged among the scientists at the heart of Climategate “display unethical, and possibly illegal, behavior” by those involved. Even though Climategate turned out to be much ado about nothing, a number of the scientists profiled unsurprisingly found themselves on the receiving end of the most virulent hate mail.

In response to the latest developments in Australia, Professor Margaret Sheil, CEO of the Australian Research Council, warned that the harassment of scientists threatens to have a chilling effect on continuing climate research: “It may prevent or reduce the involvement of key scientists in the public debate to which they are making a vital contribution. In the longer term, it may affect the choices made by post-docs and research students in pursuing climate change science.” Carbon taxes or not, surely that’s something our warming planet can’t afford.    

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate