Our CSIRO is supposed to serve the people of Australia to impartially help advise them of the risks and benefits of different actions with the latest science but oopsie, the team who picked the new Chairman clean forgot. Instead of someone who speaks in sage tones about uncertainties, they pick a former banking Mergers and Acquisitions Chief who’s an avowed advocate and activist, and happy to admit he’s got a predetermined agenda science-wise.
Should the CSIRO ever (accidentally) discover that the climate models were all based on an error cascade and a guess that went wrong, Mr McKeon will jump up and down to see that those results are pursued, funded, promoted issued in press releases and put into education campaigns for kids and journalists, err… right? I mean, he’s our man isn’t he — making sure the Australian citizens he serves are not ripped off by trickster scientists who “can’t account for the lack of warming” and who “hide declines”.
What were they thinking?
The Federal Government has appointed a corporate banker as the CSIRO’s new chairman.
Simon McKeon is executive chairman of Macquarie Bank’s Melbourne office, specialising in mergers and acquisitions.
Despite admitting he has “no scientific pedigree”, Mr McKeon says he wants to see the issue of climate change elevated to the top of the political and public agenda.
“We may not have all the answers to what is occurring, we may not have certainly all the solutions to how to fix it,” he said.
“But the point is, why wouldn’t one take out very strong insurance to at least do what we can to future-proof our well-being? I think it’s a no-brainer.”
We the people who fund this institution are in no mood for watching it shamelessly, overtly turn into an arm of propaganda for government policies. Mr McKeon hasn’t even started the job and he’s using reasoning that would get him sacked as an investment banker, let alone a scientist: “it’s the insurance no-brainer” . This is a mindless black and white conversational sword used to hack to death any semblance of polite discussion about the real world shades of grey. Insurance? Sure. Sane people do a cost-benefit analysis on insurance. Should I spend $10,000 now on insurance against sea levels rising 20 or 30cm in 90 years, or should I buy health insurance, fix the car and go on a holiday to Tonga? Lemme think.
In the end, everything is risky, nothing is safe. We can’t insure against the universe. We have to pick our battles.
Let’s try the McKeon-think line-of-reasoning with other risks to appreciate just how useless a lens it is.
It’s a dead set fact that an asteroid could wipe out a continent. McKeon-think says: “…the point is, why wouldn’t one take out very strong insurance to at least do what we can to future-proof our well-being? I think it’s a no-brainer.” Sure, let’s spend $5000 a family (why not $50,000! How much do you love your children?) on a satellite tracking system and on developing anti-asteroid nukes on 24 hour alert… you’re not an asteroid-denier are you?
Whatever values people place on different risks, the wise don’t base their decisions solely on unaudited information from an unaudited organization (the AGW theory from the IPCC). So which “impartial” institution can we turn too now?
The creep of Big Government
The inherent rewards in the system mean that some elements of our society grow at the expense of others.
In an ideal world, those trained in science — with an understanding of logic reason and the natural world — would be the ones spreading out into politics, banking and business. But because money feeds on itself, and bureaucracy seeks to grow more bureaucracy, instead, the financial world and the ranks of government inevitably expand into the scientific world. Et voila.
When Banking is “successful” it creams more money into the financial industry, giving it even more power. When bureaucracy is “successful” it creates bigger government with more employees, more funding, and more influence. When science is successful, we all learn something about the world around us. The feedback loop is not quite the same.
Today the world of science shrank just a little bit more.
To really appreciate just how one-eyed McKeon might be, read The Age Feb 2008. Has he changed his mind since? It appears not.
Thanks to Linda M, Neville, Speedy, Baa Humbug and Raymond.