This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday & Wednesday.
The distress call, the icebreakers, and the other scientific research.
Chris Turney, the head of the Antarctic expedition rescued from the ice-trapped Akademik Shokalskiy, is a Professor of Climate Change. It says so in the first sentence of the biographical sketch that appears on Turney’s Amazon.com author page.
But is he an activist first and a scientist second? The Author Page biographical sketch (which was almost certainly written by Turney himself) tells us:
To do something positive about climate change, he helped set up a carbon refining company called Carbonscape (http://carbonscape.com/) which has developed technology to fix carbon from the atmosphere and make a host of green bi-products, helping reduce greenhouse gas levels.
As we all know, the climate is always changing. Twenty thousand years ago, most of Canada was covered by ice. Really thick ice. A mile deep in some places. Then the climate changed and much of that ice disappeared. Good riddance. Today, as I write this, the snow is falling, the wind is gusting, and it’s -18C (-4F) outdoors.
When we read that Professor Turney wants to do “something positive about climate change” – he’s actually talking about human-caused climate change. The two are not the same thing. And his company won’t extract carbon from the atmosphere, but carbon dioxide.
We’re supposed to be impressed by Turney’s stature as a “Scientist” with a capital S. That biographical sketch employs words such as science, scientists, and scientific seven times. But don’t serious scientists use words carefully – with due regard to their actual, real-world meaning? Is Turney more interested in conveying a political message via the word carbon (dirty, sooty, black stuff) than with scientific accuracy (colourless, odourless gas).
Should professors be activists? Is that why the University of New South Wales pays Turney a salary? Would you be pleased to hear that your son or daughter is learning “science” from this man?
Three icebreakers weren’t able to rescue this Professor of Climate Change. At least one of those icebreakers was interrupted delivering vital supplies to other scientists. Here’s what hydrologist Joe McConnell told a journalist via e-mail:
The Australian ice breaker Aurora Australis was here at Casey [Station, Antarctica] in the process of unloading the coming year’s supplies for the station, as well as a number of researchers and their science gear for this summer’s activities, when the emergency response request was issued. The Australians shut down the unloading very quickly and left within a few hours after the request arrived but only about a third of the resupply was completed and a lot of that science gear was still on board. …
The short- and long-term impacts on the Australian science program are pronounced as you can imagine and I understand it is the same for both the Chinese and French programs since their icebreakers were diverted, too. I’ll be sitting down to New Year’s Eve dinner in a few minutes with a number of Australian researchers including the director of the Australian Antarctic Division Tony Fleming – many of these guys can’t complete the research they’ve been planning for years because some or all of their science gear still is on the Aurora. [bold added]
Chris Turney is the Professor of Climate Change who got trapped by ice in high summer. He’s the professor of Climate Change whose distress call profoundly affected other people’s scientific research.