BREAKING: "Death threats" against Australian climate scientists turn out to be nothing but hype and hot air

Dr. Roger Pielke Jr.s handy BS button almost broke over the claims made by David Appell and others about “death threats” against climate scientists.

UPDATE:Jo Nova has a complete and detailed summary of this farce:

Pathological exaggerators caught on “death threats”: How 11 rude emails became a media blitz

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)

As did Nature, and The Guardian in full alarm mode bloviation.

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.

Watts Still Denying the Death Threats – Quark Soup by David Appell

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

============================================================

Simon writes:

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).

===========================================================

Full story here: http://www.australianclimatemadness.com/2012/05/anu-death-threat-claims-debunked-the-australian/

ADDED – Here’s Appell, calling us all demented because we aren’t alarmed:

Quarksoup

And this comment on WUWT:

David Appell

david.appell@xxxx

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:

http://davidappell.blogspot.com/2011/07/looks-like-watts-is-having-second.html

He writes:

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.

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I can’t publish what I really want to say about David Appell, lest I violate my own blog policy.

‘Nuff said…

Willis Eschenbach

Yeah, Appell is a piece of work. The whole thing about “death threats” against AGW supporters, where it has been examined, has been bogus … what a shock. And Appell got sucked in by bogus claims, and went and abused other people on that basis … bad journalist, no cookies. If he had any … oranges, he’d apologize, but I’m not holding my breath. Appell, you gonna admit your mistake? The world wonders …
w.

exisle

No doubt there will be porcine aerobatics well before the ABC, Grauniad, etc., retract their alarmism over this…

Harpo

This is part of the messiah complex that these climate activists possess. Any criticism is a direct threat to their life or credibility, however when they talk about burning houses, tattooing sceptics and suspending democracy that is just a reasonable response to the crisis. How many lives are these climate activists prepared to sacrifice in the inevitable turmoil that would follow the suspension of democracy?

Kaboom

“What else did you lie about in an effort to paint yourself and your work in a more favorable light in the public eye?”

Climate Scientists lied? What next? Is the Pope Catholic?

Lew Skannen

“Give … Appell some well deserved raspberries”
Do you realize that that pretty much qualifies as a death threat?
/sarc

Anything is possible

* I can’t publish what I really want to say about David Appell, lest I violate my own blog policy.
=====================================================
We’ll give you a pass on this one, Anthony. Go for it! (:-

John M

Oh c’mon now, you’re being unfair and expecting too much of Appell..
This all came out in an FOIA request. When have you ever heard of a “journalist” actually using FOIA to find anything out.
/sarc

Rob Crawford

Appell stopped asking questions when he got the answer he wanted.

Steve from Rockwood

Several of the scientists in Canberra have been moved to a more secure location after receiving the threats over their research.
——————————————-
That’s what you tell them when you move them into padded cells. You’ll be more safe here. Come on fellas.
And can I get one of those BS buttons at Staples? Seriously I would buy one.
Congrats to WUWT for calling these clowns out on the carpet. How many petards do they have?

As an Australian, the release of these supposed deaths threat is only something that could have been dreamed up by some gutless mongrel in a sorry attempt to garner public sympathy and support for their own cause.

Brendan

Alas its just simply more from the alarmist playbook.
Make data up
make sensational claims based on the made up data
get front page headlines from the alarmist press
potray oneself as ‘pure as driven snow’ and the target of nasty (dare I say “big oil’) bullies
Then, months afterwards, its the sceptics who track down the real data and totally debunk the original claims/ All of this is done quietly without the usual alamrist press (Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Guardian etc) having to give prominence to the claims being disproven.

Roger

OT AW I know you’ve probably had enough of this ranting of mine. Have a look at the titles and you decide whether this site should be classified as Alarmist or Lukewarm
http://www.accuweather.com/blogs/climatechange/Science
If I may say by classifying the site as lukewarm you are giving them a respect they don’t deserve as distinct to say Lucia’s Blog which is really lukewarm and is able to put up propositions that justify this classification.
[This should be posted in Tips & Notes. ~dbs, mod.]

Roger

Re Accuweather global warming centre> Probably Brett decide a long time ago that his kids are more important than any position he may have had on AGW LOL

Olen

Would that be more secure or more luxurious location?

Otter

I do believe Idiot is the correct appellation.

Mike Smith

The fact that the alarmists were a little alarmist should not come as a huge surprise.
The important thing is, they may feel somewhat less alarmed in their splendid new digs!

Joanna

Unbelievable. I mean, completely mad. Does it occur to anyone else that maybe they (the Saint, the Hat, the Gleickenspiel and now the Martyrs) are all imposters perpetrating an elaborate hoax? Any minute now they’ll all pull off their false noses and glasses and say “Ha! We were just kidding all along! CO2…CAGW…Death threats…come on! Did you believe for a minute we were SERIOUS?”
Otherwise awfully strange of them to autodestruct so thoroughly.

Dennis Kuzara

Today there is this:
ANU death threat claims debunked – The Australian Thursday, 3 May 2012
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.
About a year ago there was this:
Death threats sent to top climate scientists -ABC News June 04, 2011
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.
So who was the vice chancellor when this happened? Ian Chubb or Ian Young?

LdB

Careful I count at least 8-10 death threats above you just need to adjust the data the the death threat adjust factor

Nick Stokes

“with not a single document to back it up then”
Well, not exactly.
“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”.”

All the lies are coming back to haunt them. After years of trench warfare, they’re crumbling. You’re not supposed to enjoy being a winner nowadays, but quite frankly, I think it’s great. Enjoy these days, we’ve earnt them.

Pointman

LMAO! So, the ecowhimps lied…… again! Another commenter from Simon’s used the term whimpgate…….. I like it!

I’d like to see that “one” threat which almost maybe kinda sorta could be a threat……. prolly something like “I’m going to slap you so hard your ancestors will feel it!”

John M

Nick,
You must have averted your eyes with respect to this comment about the 11th “threat”.

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.”

Although given some of the hurdles we’ve seen for “significant” findings in climate science, I suppose this could pass the “97% consensus test” by those standards.

mfo

“Watts and his minions (microWatts?)”
And each microwatt is 1,000,000 picowatts.
Appell zum Handeln: Rio+20 UN-Klimakonferenz gestartet… :o)
[Moderator’s Note: the quick and dirty translation is Call to action: Rio +20 UN Conference on Climate Change launched… is there any way you could have been more cryptic? -REP]

pouncer

An extremely widely-read blogger, Glenn Reynolds, frequently calls upon citizens to respond to public officials engaged in outrageous behavior, such as outright lying, by “bringing back tar and feathers.”
I wonder if a chain of logic is at work here. Calling a man a liar on a blog, leads to calling for “tar and feathers” on a different blog, which, if literally and physically rather than figuratively deployed, might wind up in serious injury, perhaps even death …
Is calling a man like Appell a liar logically extensible to calling for a man like Appell to be assassinated?
Uhm….
I think not. But I’d be willing to hear argument to the contrary.
As long as the people making such an argument aren’t well-known liars, of course…

artwest

“I had a bunch of concerned staff and they thought they should be moved to a more secure place so I moved them,” he [Ian Chubb] said.
“With hindsight, we can say nobody chased them down. What do you do?”
——————
Well, you could have looked at the emails in question for a start, not least because if they really were death threats then serious protection and calling the police might be necessary.
Then, if the emails seemed to be as mild as suggested, tell your whimpering employees not to be such big girl’s blouses and there is no way you are going to spend University money on moving them.
How about that?

juanslayton

Nick Stokes :
Surely the point survives the exaggeration.

rossbrisbane

Calm down, Anthony. This is not doing your heart any good at all
You incited your own mob to spam the ABC web site in Australia. Not directly – yes – but you still got a poll corrupted meant for Australian opinion. Unethical?
You will never admit that verbal abuse and email abuse can be quite intimidating no matter how much you like to make it seem reasonable.
REPLY: Oh puhleeze. You can’t even bring yourself to address the issue at hand, instead erecting a straw man the size of Paul Bunyan to deflect the argument into something else. Sorry, but your attempt fails miserably. Don’t tell me how I should feel about abuse unless you’ve walked a mile in my shoes. And, if writing a news item about a poll that anyone is allowed to participate in is “unethical” then you are your brethen are guilty too. Bottom line, I really don’t give a damn what you think about this situation. Either stick to the topic at hand or get off the thread.- Anthony

u.k.(us)

pouncer says:
May 2, 2012 at 5:24 pm
=================
I don’t know the definition of circular logic, but it seems to me you are 83.2 % of the way there.

These guys have so little trust among the public now (although still beloved of politicians) that my favourite quote on this issue is from James Delingpole:
“Speaking for myself, if Phil Jones released a report claiming that grass is green I’d feel compelled to go outside just to double check.”

Sean McHugh

I wonder if Appell will leave his testament to stupidity on the Net.

Rick Bradford

Of course they hyped up the death threats.
Victimhood is an integral part of the mental make-up of the Green/Left, and once you have made yourself into a ‘victim’, you can easily identify and demonise the ‘oppressors’.

Leo G

Australia’s present Chief Scientist Ian Chubb, who was then the Australian National University’s vice-chancellor, had concerned staff asking for more security after claiming that they had received death threats and says he responded “as a responsible employer”- which did not include examining the evidence of the death threats nor even reporting the matter to police.

rossbrisbane says: May 2, 2012 at 5:33 pm
You incited your own mob to spam the ABC reporting on something is “inciting”, hmmmm? And of course, no right thinking Australian would have been “dismissive”, so it must have been that dastardly Watts inciting his foreign hordes of oil-funded minions…
Ross, if that stupid ABC poll was intended to be of any value they would have done the job right: Verification of codes, matching of original responses to mind-changed responses,…. The imbeciles did nothing like that because they expected, stupidly, an overwhelming response that would crush the “stupid deniers”, just like that British Museum poll two years ago. My freshman sociology students would have done a better job.
Anthony, by the way, has never suggested that abuse is reasonable. Given some of the vile stuff that the moderators here have let through, it is quite apparent that consensus supporters are not the only ones receiving abuse. They are just the ones whining about it and making absurd claims of death threats without filing police complaints or releasing the contents to show just how abusive those e-mails are.

Nick Stokes

juanslayton says: May 2, 2012 at 5:30 pm
“Surely the point survives the exaggeration.”

No, I don’t think so. The point seems to be that ANU baselessly sought security for their scientists. Well, I think even just one threat, even if possibly veiled, demands a precautionary response.
And this is an FOI application which relates only to written threats that entered ANU’s official system. We don’t know what else there may have been. The hearing was just about whether those documents could be released – not a factual finding about the totality of threats.

Skiphil

This loathsome episode cannot surprise anyone who has reviewed some of the CG1 and CG2 emails. Fervent “climate scientists” willing to wildly exaggerate and defame for “the cause.” Michael Mann recklessly smearing Steve McIntyre for merely asking questions that should have been addressed before a single article had been submitted. Phil Jones celebrating the death of critic John Daly as “cheering news.”
The “war room” mentality of climate scientist heroes (sic) made it all too easy to try to defame all critics by concocting a fake scenario of “death threats”…. and the ever supine major media couldn’t even ask for any evidence…. what a surprise.

Alex

Deat threats? Like blowing up people and kids in videos and threatening to burn down their houses. sounds serious. Who would ever do such a thing? /sarc

Nick Stokes says:
Well, I think even just one threat, even if possibly veiled, demands a precautionary response.

Good. Nick, if we ever meet, I may, just possibly, wring your neck. I think your employer should certainly take adequate precautions. Who knows, that nut in America might just fly over and do it!
Don’t you EVER get tired of being a tool?

u.k.(us)

Nick Stokes says:
May 2, 2012 at 6:08 pm
============
So, you are saying, it could have been worse if it ever happened ?

But you do have to marvel at Nick’s spin doctoring attempts. Argumentation in the face of the irrefutable.

k scott denison

Mr. Stokes,
If indeed these 11 documents don’t represent the totality of the threats, then why not release the totality of the threats and put an end to this?
What logic is therein withholding them?
Doesn’t the fact that the Vice Chancellor admits to never reading any threats raise any curiosity in you?
Or the fact that there seem to be no other witnesses to the threats who have stepped forward?
Or that your refusal to even ask for proof speaks more to a religious devotion than to a scientific inquiry?

Mike

The allegation is that the death threats and threats of physical attack were made by phone and in person. The scientists may be thinned skinned and the issue over hyped, but that does not mean there was no basis for the concern. I remember one time when you were upset that someone came to your house to confront you on your views. You were right to be concerned. So were these scientists.

ferdberple

Somewhere in Australia:
Climate Scientist #1 – Hey Nigel, how about I call you and make a death threat, then you call me and make a death threat.
Climate Scientist #2 – hey sounds great, then we can go to the dean and tell him we’ve received death threats and ask for a new, more secure lab and danger pay.
Climate Scientist #1 – and they won’t be able to refuse us because if they did and something actually happened, they’d have to pay compensation from here ’till doomsday.
Climate Scientist #2 – too true, Bruce.

Nick Stokes

Anthony Watts says: May 2, 2012 at 6:17 pm
Anthony,
The ANU received documentation of what the Commissioner said was: “In my view, the exchange as described in the email could be regarded as intimidating and at its highest perhaps alluding to a threat.”
What do you think ANU should have done? Say, “oh well, there’s a low view that says it isn’t a threat”? Or, “wait until you get a few more”?
John M says: May 2, 2012 at 5:13 pm
You must have averted your eyes with respect to this comment about the 11th “threat”.
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.”

No, you didn’t read it properly. He’s not saying the email threat wasn’t a real chance. He described exactly what he is finding:
“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.”
He is finding that release of the doc would create only a possibility. He’s not talking about the threat itself.

REPLY:
Sorry, in your interpretation of his words, rewritten from your viewpoint, I just don’t see it. Besides, you’ve missed all the other lack of death threat evidence. Plus they never even bother to do an investigation at ANU, and that speaks volumes to credibility of any threat. If they don’t take it seriously enough to lift a finger to investigate, why should we take it seriously?. Whatever it is you are smoking, you need to stop. Your reasoning and reading comprehension skills are being affected. – Anthony

Reg Nelson

Mike says:
The allegation is that the death threats and threats of physical attack were made by phone and in person.
***************************
Where is the proof of that? So they lied about the emails, but told the truth about the phone calls? Is that your argument?
Why didn’t they contact the police? It doesn’t make any sense. If they are “thin skinned”, wouldn’t that be the first thing they would do.

thingadonta

Yeah, but they get a better, greener, more sustainable office…now they just need to get their models wrong so they can get bigger computers.