Removal of sceptic raises heat in the blogosphere

Controversy after university parts ways with a questioner of climate change. John Gill reports

February 19, 2009

Australia is sweltering through a heatwave, suffering temperatures of about 50C (122F) in recent weeks. In such a climate, it is not surprising if global-warming sceptics get short shrift.

However, the case of an academic who was apparently struck off a university's adjunct staff list after writing a newspaper article questioning the climate-change consensus has got some observers hot under the collar.

Jon Jenkins was credited as an adjunct professor of virology at Bond University in Queensland when he produced an article for The Australian newspaper last month. It knocked the theories of "warmaholics" who were "drunk on Government handouts and quasi-religious adulation from left-wing environmental organisations".

The article was also critical of a report by the Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change, parts of which Dr Jenkins said had been compiled by "scientist mates" with vested interests. The article was controversial, but the plot thickened when it emerged that Dr Jenkins had parted company with Bond University.

The case was highlighted by Jennifer Marohasy, an Australian biologist and member of the Institute of Public Affairs think-tank.

She claimed in a blog that Dr Jenkins had been reprimanded by the university - an allegation it categorically denies - and subsequently informed that his adjunct status had been revoked.

"No doubt he has contravened some rule or other at the university and no doubt this would have gone unnoticed if (Dr) Jenkins had a more popular opinion on these most politically charged subjects," she said.

In a statement, Bond University insisted that the decision to remove Dr Jenkins from its adjunct-staff list was a result of his health problems and had been taken before the newspaper article was published, but an "administrative oversight" meant that he had not been informed immediately.

"Assertions that Dr Jenkins has been reprimanded or dismissed are without foundation. We don't object to individuals having personal views about ... topics of debate in the media," it said.

Dr Jenkins, who stated in a letter to The Australian that the article was "perhaps too strongly worded and for this I apologise", could not be contacted.

However, Dr Marohasy said on her blog: "An administrative oversight resulted in Dr Jenkins not being informed of his change in status until after he published the opinion piece ... Perhaps if (it) had been more politically correct, his name could have just been added back on to the list?"

Other commentators in Australia have been less willing to conclude that Dr Jenkins is the victim of a climate-change conspiracy.

On a rival science blog, entitled Deltoid, Tim Lambert, a computer scientist at the University of New South Wales, said Dr Marohasy was presenting Dr Jenkins as "a martyr for the denialist cause".

Another contributor said: "I am still puzzled as to why the man thinks he has the expertise to contradict so many of the world's best climatologists and mathematicians."

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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