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CONCERNS FOR THE FUTURE OF CLIMATE RESEARCH - Opinion Piece, Launceston Examiner, Tuesday 20 June 2017

Not without reason, parallels are being drawn between this government’s attitude to science and the attitude of Trofim Lysenko.

Lysenko was a Stalinist pseudo-scientist and architect of “Lysenkoism” – a political campaign against genetics and science-based agriculture that set back or entirely crippled Soviet science in a host of fields.

Unfortunately, in 2017’s Australia we have seen the rise of Lysenko-Lite on the federal government benches.

There is as much certainty about the theory of climate change as there is about gravity, if not more. Climate science is only disputable because it is politically suitable – which is why the Liberal Party has been disputing it since the now Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was replaced as its then leader in 2009.

As soon as the Coalition was elected in 2013, it slashed support for science, research and innovation in successive budgets by more than $3 billion.

Like Lysenko, the Coalition didn’t like the science that government scientists were delivering. Like Lysenko, they’ve silenced them.

Almost the very first decision of then “award-winning” Environment Minister Greg Hunt was to abolish the Climate Commission, which had been established to provide public information on the effects of and potential solutions to global warming.

The Coalition government then took more than a hundred million dollars from the CSIRO, leading to the loss of 1100 jobs – many of those were world-renowned climate scientists like Dr John Church, many of them were based in Hobart.

The government took its version of Lysenkoism even further by pandering to pseudo-science frauds and interest-biased research by establishing the Wind Farm Commissioner to look into the health problems a couple of Senators claimed were caused by wind farms.

According to the Commissioner, the complaints regarding health concerns “have provided only anecdotal evidence". The Commissioner has handled only 90 complaints in the 14 months since the office was established. Sixty seven of those complaints have been closed and half of the complaints were about projects not yet in operation.

And yet, the Gillard government had previously ordered a review into the health effects of wind farms and “wind turbine syndrome” by the National Health and Medical Research Council. The review looked at 30 years of studies including two earlier NHMRC reviews. It concluded that, “there is no direct evidence that exposure to wind farm noise affects physical or mental health”.

Last year the Turnbull government rejected the emissions intensity scheme recommended by its own chief scientist. Now the Coalition has confirmed it wants the Clean Energy Finance Corporation to start wasting many millions of dollars in loans on carbon capture and storage technology.

According to Greg Hunt’s favourite reference Wikipedia, ‘The term Lysenkoism can also be used metaphorically to describe the manipulation or distortion of the scientific process as a way to reach a predetermined conclusion as dictated by an ideological bias, often related to social or political objectives.’

Our nation has lost some of the planet’s greatest scientific minds due to the short-sighted decisions of the Turnbull government to slash climate science jobs.

Their attacks on science leave us in jeopardy and have placed our future generations at risk.

A version of this opinion piece was first published in the Launceston Examiner on Tuesday, 20 June 2017. Lisa Singh is a Labor Senator for Tasmania and her website is www.lisasingh.com.au.