Climate-denying Malcolm Roberts has a history of harassing academics

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Harassment of scientists and academics working on climate change points to the kind of activities Roberts’ might get up to as a Senator.

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Desmosblog

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Malcolm Roberts is a former Australian mining consultant who thinks the United Nations is using the “scam” of human-caused climate change as a cover story while it builds an all-powerful world government.

He’s also just been elected as an Australian Senator.

Roberts will sit in Australia’s upper house as a member of the far-right One Nation party that wants to ban Muslim immigration and investigate climate scientists for “fraud and corruption”.

Since his election, Roberts has been given blanket coverage in the Australian media, with high profile interviews on flagship shows on the publicly funded ABC.

Even the BBC has written about Roberts, with a headline: “Australia senator Malcolm Roberts calls climate change a UN conspiracy.”

At every opportunity, Roberts, a former coal face miner, has claimed there is “no empirical evidence” to show that carbon dioxide from burning the coal that he used to dig up affects the climate.

As climate science denial goes, Roberts’ position is as far to the fringe as you can go, mixing conspiracy theories with outright rejection of the conclusions of science academies and institutions across the world that humans are causing climate change.

Australian Nobel science winner Professor Peter Doherty told me that despite Roberts’ apparent confidence that he is right and the world’s learned academies are wrong, the Senator has “no understanding of how science works”.

Harassment of Climate Scientists

Much of the media coverage has concentrated on Roberts’ UN conspiracy theories and his views on international banking families, hinting at anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.

Much time, too, was given by the media to an odd letter sent by Roberts to former Australian Primer Minister Julie Gillard. The letter was written in the distinct style of  a “sovereign citizen” – the radical movement of anti-government extremists.

Roberts has denied by a “sovereign man” and dismissed the letter as a mistake. He has strongly denied any promotion of anti-Semitic conspiracies.

But in any case, Roberts’ arrival on the national scene has been irresistible in a media environment driven by clickbait and conflict.

Roberts is set to appear on popular ABC panel show Q&A on Monday evening, alongside the wildly popular British physicist Professor Brian Cox.

Roberts has spent the last seven or eight years working as the project manager of the Galileo Movement — a climate science denial group launched in 2011.

But over that period, as well as developing his talking points and writing verbose reports, he has been writing complaint letters and emails to journalists, politicians and the institutions where climate scientists work.

His unrelenting harassment of climate scientists and academics working on climate change over several years (he would call it doing due diligence) is worth documenting because it points to the kind of activities Roberts’ might get up to now that he has been elected.

Roberts has written letter after letter — email after email — to the bosses of some of Australia’s best known scientists, often copying in long lists of politicians, fellow denialists and journalists. Roberts has posted all his correspondence on his website.

In 2015, Roberts sent formal complaints to the Vice-Chancellor’s office of the University of Queensland over the “serious corruption of science” he alleged at the hands of marine biologist Professor Ove Hoegh-Guldberg and John Cook, the climate change communications fellow at Hoegh-Guldberg’s Global Change Institute.

Roberts had sent the university’s VC, Professor Peter Høj, a 2300-word complaint letter, with several follow-up complaints.

The complaint centred on the production of a free online course to help the public understand the rejection of climate science, which saw more than 10,000 people enroll when it was first launched last year.

Roberts also tried to engage then education secretary Christopher Pyne, who is now defence minister, with a letter demanding his department investigate Cook and Hoegh-Guldberg.

In a response to Roberts’ complaint about Hoegh-Guldberg and Cook, the university’s then acting VC Professor Max Lu wrote:

UQ has also thoroughly investigated your claims of misconduct, lack of integrity, conflicts of interest and other matters in relation to Mr Cook and Professor Hoegh-Guldberg, and have found them to be baseless.

Roberts’ also complained to the university about Hoegh-Guldberg in November 2010, requesting a “formal investigation” after the scientist had appeared on ABC regional television program, Stateline.

The university convened a panel to look at the complaint, but found “no justification for further action”.

Engineering complaint

In arguably Roberts’ greatest display of overreach, in October last year he filed a formal complaint to the Board of Professional Engineers of Queensland — a government agency charged with regulating the engineering industry in the state.

Roberts targeted three people who had given expert evidence in a court case opposing the development of the giant Adani Carmichael coal mine in Queensland.

Roberts attempted to argue that because the experts had commented on how carbon dioxide causes global warming, this constituted engineering advice the trio were not qualified to give, and so contravened the state’s Professional Engineers Act (essentially, Roberts was reclassifying the world’s climate scientists as engineers in order to complain about them).

Again, Hoegh-Guldberg was targeted, alongside University of Melbourne climate scientist Dr Malte Meinshausen and environmental scientist Dr Chris Taylor, who works in private industry.

In a cover letter, Roberts said he hoped the board’s “finding and action will significantly contribute to safeguarding the engineering profession relying on empirical evidence and the integrity of all professions at large for the protection and benefit of our state and all Queenslanders.”

How did Roberts’ complaint fly? DeSmog understands that after consulting the scientists, the board decided to take no action.

In January 2011, Roberts sent a rambling 5200-word email to University of Melbourne climate scientist Dr David Karoly, “Copied to University of Melbourne Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor”, accusing Karoly of spreading “falsities”.

The same month, Professor Will Steffen, of the Australian National Univerisity, was sent a mercifully shorter missive from Roberts, who accused the climate scientist of making “unfounded false statements” about climate change.

Climate scientists Professor Matt England and Professor Andy Pitman, both at the University of New South Wales, have also been targeted by Roberts.

In one response, Pitman wrote: “If you have already made up your mind that the climate scientists, physicists, oceanographers, most geologists, biologists, hydrologists have just made this all up, then I do not think I can help.”

In February 2013, Roberts sent one of his reports to a list of academics at universities across Australia, as well as directors at the Bureau of Meteorology and science agency CSIRO.

Roberts demanded that unless; “by March 1st” they provided a list of “specific and scientifically or factually justifiable” reasons why they disagreed with his findings, that he would presume they agreed with it.

In a “lawful notice”, Roberts also demanded scientists and others should then withdraw all of their past claims linking carbon dioxide to climate change.

He made similar demands to journalists, who also received “lawful notices”.

Roberts has also demanded that several MPs “resign immediately” unless they could prove to him that human-caused climate change was real.

“Campaign of intimidation”

One of the academics on the receiving end of Roberts complaints, John Cook, of the University of Queensland, told DeSmog:

Beneath the public attacks on climate science, scientists are also subject to a more insidious campaign of intimidation, otherwise known as the subterranean war on science. This takes the form of complaints to universities to get scientists fired, complaints to journals to get papers retracted and FOI requests to pick through scientists’ emails.

Malcolm Roberts was prolific in emailing complaints to The University of Queensland about my research and our course on climate science denial. As a researcher studying denialist attacks on science, I used the experience as a teachable moment – recording a video about the nature of attacks on science as well as interviewing the world’s leading scientists who described their own experiences of harassment which were eerily similar to my own experiences.

It’s crucially important that we shine daylight on this kind of behaviour. The public, universities and academic journals need to understand the techniques denialists employ to impinge on scientists’ academic freedom, in order to reduce their damaging impact on science.

Source: Desmosblog. Reproduced with permission.

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28 Comments
  1. Tomfoolery 3 years ago

    This is really scary. It makes you wonder if he is on the fossil fuel industry’s payroll, if he needs psychological help, or both.

    • Brunel 3 years ago

      But then he is anti-immigration. The whole ONP is.

      Anti-immigration is the raison d’être for the ONP, UKIP, Le Pen, and Geert.

      Would not the pollution industry want more people in AUS to have more polluting power stations. .

      • Wayne Crowley 2 years ago

        “but then he is anti immigration” has no logical connection to a debate on climate change impacts. if only PC people would stop harping for long enough to accept valid discomfort with immigration rates greater than an ability to accept and assimiliate into the local culture. We are in the position to offer additional immigration and address the losses in regional population by linking welfare support to a minimum of 5 years in a regional location. Also by dispersing immigrants across a large number of regional locations. Allowing immigrants to group together in suburban pockets slows the assimilation, and increases the burden on overtaxed city infrastructure.

  2. Miles Harding 3 years ago

    Malcolm Roberts would have to be the ideal One nation representative, possessing both prejudice and ignorance in truly fantastic quantities.

    The sad part is that the rational scientific community is going to be dragged into many ridiculous and unwinnable arguments by this noisy troll. The scientists lose from the beginning because they are bound by truth and ethics against an opponent that is free to employ all manner of outrageous nonsense.

  3. Radbug 3 years ago

    One ray of sunlight. In 2019, one of the Queensland One Nation senators will have to face re-election (and gain a 14% quota). Pauline will certainly not be that senator.

  4. david_fta 3 years ago

    The Good News is that Roberts has now got the oxygen and light of publicity that he has craved – and oxygen and light are among the best anti-bacterials available.

  5. howardpatr 3 years ago

    Hopefully Labor’s leader in the Senate will ask Roberts to table all the “empirical evidence” he has in his possesion that proves anthropgenic climate change is a hoax resulting from an international conspiracy.

  6. Chris Fraser 3 years ago

    They should do a psychiatric study on why people take on beliefs that are shared by like, nobody, and somehow this makes them believe they’re socially desirable.

    • Farnqwo 3 years ago

      who’s “they”?

      mmmm…

  7. Ken Dyer 3 years ago

    I demand that Malcolm Roberts resign immediately as an Australian Senator, unless he can prove to me that human induced climate change is not real.
    Oh, that’s right, that’s his argument in reverse, duh.

    • Wayne Crowley 2 years ago

      Therefore you agree that Climate Agreers and Climate Deniers both lack the data to scientifically state that Humans are inducing climate change or are the predominate cause of climate change. If we can stop throwing stones for long enough to assess is climate change occuring? If so, is the change statistically significant against past history or best available scientific knowledge? What are the implications for climate change?
      Is it reversible? What if it is not man made?

      My concern is that climate change is probably not predominantly human caused and we are progressing through another warming period in earths cycle. We are blinded by focusing on human cause, whilst already showing humans are not going to change global behaviour of man made contributions other than at the margins. Therefore what is the end game and implications for humanity in terms of ensuring our survival?

      None of the above precludes us from focussing our energies on alternative sustainable energy sources and sustainable living. Both are a logical step forward for improving our lives and ecosystems.

      • Ken Dyer 2 years ago

        Wayne, Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree:
        Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due
        to human activities. In addition, most of the leading scientific
        organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this
        position.
        https://climate.nasa.gov/scientific-consensus/

        But of course I am quoting from the NASA site that Roberts has declared is cooking the books, with no empirical evidence displayed.

        I believe the 97%.

        And yes, renewable energy is a logical step forward however, when fools like Roberts and his ilk are still carrying on about coal fired power stations, we are all being collectively held back.

  8. trackdaze 3 years ago

    So this bloke is that far right he doesn’t believe in thermometers?!

  9. Goldie444 3 years ago

    Thanks for this story. I am going to look into doing John Cook’s course at the U of Qld.
    I did not know about before. About the only benefit I could get from a Malcolm Roberts’s rant.

  10. Les Johnston 3 years ago

    Thanks for assembling the evidence on Malcolm. It appears that the scientific method would be appropriate to assess the evidence he presents in his numerous documents. I would expect that Malcolm’s evidence would be by peer reviewed articles. Without peer reviewed articles supporting his assertions, I am not really interested in hearing of his beliefs. Where is the evidence?

  11. Ian McLeod 3 years ago

    every now and then we need to give the one nation party a soapbox so they can remind us what fruitloops they are – but rarely do we get such a ridiculous imbecile as malcolm roberts – he raises the whole spectacle to high farce…
    .
    one nation – the gift that keeps on giving…

  12. Geoff 3 years ago

    I don’t even have to read this article because I saw the interview and can safely say that this roberts clown does not know any other words apart from ’empirical evidence’. he has a whooping 8-9 years experience working in this field which pretty much makes him an expert. yep those academic scientists with masters and Phd’s with combined knowledge of hundreds of years, if not thousands, know nothing. Good work Emma on shutting this dick head down. he’s just a stupid little yelping chihuahua that needs a good kicking!

    • Bob Mack 3 years ago

      That’s nice, you just gave me a mental image of a defenceless Chihuahua getting a kicking. Did you pull the wings off flies when you were young? Or recently?

      • Geoff 3 years ago

        nope

  13. lin 3 years ago

    This oxygen thief is a fool to himself and a burden to others.
    On the up-side, he may be the best weapon yet against climate science denial. This loon will have other climate change denialists seeking to distance themselves from his brand of crazy, and fence-sitters asking themselves WTF.

  14. Don McMillan 3 years ago

    We reward people who “miss-behave” as per media attention. Debating Climate Change is a digression from what should be our focus Lowering emissions and reducing our impact on the environment.
    If the media just ignored these people…. but of course they have to sell …..

  15. john 3 years ago

    To get an understanding of the new senator watch Q and A in which he espouses his ideas.
    http://iview.abc.net.au/programs/qanda/NC1603H029S00

    The looks on the students faces tells it all really

  16. Robert Comerford 3 years ago

    I question the wisdom of giving this climate change denialist air on the public broadcaster. All views are not valid and worthy of comparison. He has no valid qualifications in this area. Might as well have had me on the other side of the Q&A panel!
    If you can’t find a scientist with proven data that refutes human induced climate change then why waste time in such a debate?
    He is so good at just chanting the same irrelevant and incorrect spiel that I would say he got more fans last night.

    • jmac 3 years ago

      Well said.

  17. Bart_R 3 years ago

    The answer to Senator Malcolm Roberts’ question, other than shame on everyone who voted for a dolt like you, goes roughly thus:

    We must begin with something Senator Roberts apparently does not know anything about: the standard of proof by empirical evidence which has stood with only one substantive amendment (by Albert Einstein) for over three hundred years, since it was reasoned out by Isaac Newton in his Principia:

    “Do everything in your power to avoid believing what is true, false or what is false, true.” – Neil deGrasse Tyson.

    Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica:

    [I] Do not feign hypotheses. For whatever is not deduced from the phenomena must be called a hypothesis; and hypotheses, whether metaphysical or physical, or based on occult qualities, or mechanical, have no place in experimental philosophy. In this experimental philosophy, propositions are deduced from the phenomena and are made general by induction.”

    Hold exact claims inferred from all we note assuming least, excepting least and linking by logic like parts of like things most possible (but no further than possible*) until new note need amended or new claim — paraphrasing Isaac Newton, Philosophia 1714, *amended Albert Einstein 1914.

    Or, in longer styling: Newton’s ‘Rules of Reasoning’ (Regulae philosophandi):

    1. “We are to admit no more causes of natural things than such as are both true and sufficient to explain their appearances.”

    2. “To the same natural effects we must, as far as possible, assign the same causes.”

    3. “Qualities … found to belong to all bodies within the reach of our experiments are to be esteemed the universal qualities of all bodies whatsoever.”

    4. “We are to look upon propositions collected by general induction from phenomena as exact or very nearly true … till such time as other phenomena occur by which they may either be made more exact, or liable to exceptions.”

    Once Senator Roberts grasps this precept, we can turn to answering his question in earnest.

    We’ve had the empirical evidence Senator Roberts denies for sixty years, since H. H. Lamb proved climate changes (which was not until that time confirmed) by first proving that climate forcings cause climate effects, and then demonstrating that such climate forcings not only existed, but were reliably followed by observed climate effects throughout the instrumental and proxy records.

    Thus we understand there can be no climate change without cause, and among the causes H. H. Lamb enumerated, as validated by Gilbert Plass’ research for the US Navy, built on the researches of Hogbom and Arrhenius, were fossil waste GHGs dumped into the atmosphere.

    We further know that, due the way ice cores show 10% of CO2 rise or fall following temperature rise or fall, but 90% of CO2 rise or fall preceding temperature rise or fall, matching the energy budget of Milankovitch Cycles being only enough to account for 10% of the intensity of temperature changes but spectroscopy of GHGs showing the positive feedbacks of CO2 and other GHGs would explain ten times that change, that only CO2 can be considered the dominant control knob of temperature.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1b524b04fab17d098320fdcaa82bcec56394f84da9877116b5b71eccf668403f.jpg

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/cef9b82a739c9b84ca660bd405b13f8863f8d4f17a592f79c3868f591e6ccbea.png

    Further, we know from isotopes that only CO2 from fossil can be the cause of the rise in CO2 concentrations.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/86552a853bb2a046dab8a4e8365419b69856b5cea65cbbe9ad048c63203a6c43.jpg

    More to the point, Senator Roberts, every tenant retailer in the world charges overhead for the use of scarce storefront, warehouse and office space, held in trust until the Market rent comes due to the property owner. Everyone with lungs is inalienably the manifest property owner of the air as equal shareholder, and it is the air’s scarce property that returns fossil carbon waste to fossil form on a scale measured in thousands and thousands of years.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/67e254042bb74f6cd59af9a668ef9165443dc8292e41a410974195bdbafe2b56.jpg

    As such, it is your government’s duty to ensure every retailer collects Market (ie set by the Law of Supply and Demand so high as the consumer will bear before net revenues fall) rents on fossil destined for dumping by burning or clinkering, and restores those fees to every citizen each pay period.

    Why do you fail your duty as government?

    • Robert 3 years ago

      Well said! And worthy of many upvotes!

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