UPDATE2: 5/3/12 Simon Turnill reports that there’s a new story in the Australian saying that the police were never contacted, indicating that the ANU didn’t even take the non-existent “death threats” seriously enough to even report it! David Appell looks even dumber now.
WUWT readers may recall the uproar in the alarmosphere and media over this…well, just like Peter Gleick and Fakegate, this was another “manufactured” claim against skeptics with not a single document to back it up then. An adjudicate looking at the actual documents, has ruled they “do not contain threats to kill”.
In Australia the ABC reported the “scare” this way in June 2011:
Death threats sent to top climate scientists
Several of Australia’s top climate change scientists at the Australian National University have been subjected to a campaign of death threats, forcing the university to tighten security.
Several of the scientists in Canberra have been moved to a more secure location after receiving the threats over their research.
Vice-chancellor Professor Ian Young says the scientists have received large numbers of emails, including death threats and abusive phone calls, threatening to attack the academics in the street if they continue their research.
He says it has been happening for the past six months and the situation has worsened significantly in recent weeks. (source)
I get word from Simon at Australian Climate Madness of this breaking development. It seems the “death threats” against climate scientists are nothing but hot air, and alarmist David Appell is now a confirmed idiot for taking me to task (and citing my deceased mother in his argument) over my not getting too excited about the whole trumped up story.
This claim stunk from the beginning for lack of credible evidence, as I pointed out then when I told Appell to take his concerns elsewhere* and tossed his sorry butt off WUWT for good.
Appell has this on his website:
Rule #1: You can never ask too many questions.
But apparently Appell didn’t follow his own advice in this incident and go to the length of FOIA questions that Simon did. Give Simon a round of applause and Appell some well deserved raspberries. – Anthony
Christian Kerr at The Australian reports on my ongoing efforts to obtain, from the Australian National University, copies of emails to climate scientists containing death threats, and a recent Privacy Commissioner ruling that shows that none of the documents produced contain such threats:
Climate scientists’ claims of email death threats go up in smoke
CLAIMS that some of Australia’s leading climate change scientists were subjected to death threats as part of a vicious and unrelenting email campaign have been debunked by the Privacy Commissioner.
Timothy Pilgrim was called in to adjudicate on a Freedom of Information application in relation to Fairfax and ABC reports last June alleging that Australian National University climate change researchers were facing the ongoing campaign and had been moved to “more secure buildings” following explicit threats.
In a six-page ruling made last week, Mr Pilgrim found that 10 of 11 documents, all emails, “do not contain threats to kill” and the other “could be regarded as intimidating and at its highest perhaps alluding to a threat”.
Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, who was the ANU’s vice-chancellor at the time, last night admitted he did not have any recollection of reading the emails before relocating the university’s researchers. “I don’t believe I did,” Professor Chubb told The Australian.
Instead, he said he had responded “as a responsible employer”.
“I had a bunch of concerned staff and they thought they should be moved to a more secure place so I moved them,” he said.
“With hindsight, we can say nobody chased them down. What do you do?”
The FOI application was lodged by Sydney climate blogger Simon Turnill. It requested the release of “emails, transcript of telephone calls or messages that contained abuse, threats to kill and/or threats of harm to the recipient” sent to six staff members of the ANU’s Climate Change Institute. His request resulted in the discovery of the 11 documents.
The university refused to release the documents, citing a clause in the Freedom of Information Act that exempts documents that “would, or could reasonably be expected to … endanger the life or physical safety of any person” from disclosure.
Mr Turnill appealed against the decision.
In response to the appeal, Mr Pilgrim found 10 documents did not contain threats to kill or threats of harm.
Mr Pilgrim said of the 11th, a further email offering an account of an exchange that occurred at an off-campus event sponsored by members of the Climate Change Institute and other bodies: “I consider the danger to life or physical safety in this case to be only a possibility, not a real chance.”
Finally, after a long wait, on 26 April 2012, the Privacy Commissioner ruled in my favour. The decision is available here. In respect of danger to life, the Commissioner wrote:
15. The question is how release of the documents could reasonably be expected to endanger the life or physical safety of any person. In other words, the question is whether release of the documents could be expected to create the risk, not whether the documents reflect an existing credible threat. Even if the threats were highly credible, the question would be how release of the documents would add to the expected threat.
16. In my view, there is a risk that release of the documents could lead to further insulting or offensive communication being directed at ANU personnel or expressed through social media. However, there is no evidence to suggest disclosure would, or could reasonably be expected to, endanger the life or physical safety of any person.
17. Therefore I consider that the 11 documents are not exempt under s 37(1)(c).
ADDED – Here’s Appell, calling us all demented because we aren’t alarmed:
And this comment on WUWT:
The death threats against climate scientists have been widely acknowledged by several of them and reported on by many journalists. The Guardian, in particular, has seen them. One scientist had a dead animal dumped on their doorstep, according to ABC News. Some of the threats have been reported to the FBI.
It is pernicious, obnoxious, and dangerous for people here, especially Anthony Watts, to claim that these threats exist do not exist. It is of a kind, and only a step from being complicit.
And here, he uses an ugly caricature of me to make his point:
Denying these threats as Watts and his minions (microWatts?) do is despicable, and it is dangerous. They have taken this discussion into a very dangerous place, and innocent people are being targeted simply because they are doing their jobs as best they can and have come to a scientific conclusion with implications that some people do not like. It’s craven, truly craven.
* I can’t publish what I really want to say about David Appell, lest I violate my own blog policy.