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French Polar Chief slams SpiritofMawson fiasco

Posted By Joanne Nova On January 4, 2014 @ 3:11 pm In Global Warming,Media-matters | Comments Disabled

This really has been a PR debacle of amazing proportions. The ship stuck in ice has captured something larger than I would have expected. Methinks the timing must be apropos.

Good scientists are distancing themselves from the publicity hungry climate lightweights and commentators on both sides of the fence are agreeing in their criticism.

A third effect we are barely starting to see may ripple on for months — that’s when mass-media victims realize that the “Russian Tourist ship” was really a boat load of Australian and New Zealander scientists, paid for mostly by taxpayers and loaded and advised by supposedly “expert” climate scientists. This misinformation was despite the boat having BBC, and Guardian media on board, and Fairfax press in one of the rescue icebreakers. Today I see evidence of the first two effects.

From Skynews. The French chief of polar science calls the Spirit of Mawson trip “pseudo-scientific” and laments the effect it is having on real research.

The head of France’s polar science institute has voiced fury at the misadventures of a Russian ship trapped in Antarctic ice, deriding what he called a tourists’ trip that had diverted resources from real science.

In an interview with AFP, Yves Frenot, director of the French Polar Institute, said he had no issue at all with rescuing those aboard the stricken vessel.

He said the trip itself was a ‘pseudo-scientific expedition’ that, because it had run into difficulties, had drained resources from the French, Chinese and Australian scientific missions in Antarctica.

Real scientists are angry:

The trip on the Akademik Shokalskiy was aimed at emulating a 1911-1914 expedition by the Australian explorer, Sir Douglas Mawson.

‘This kind of commemorative expedition has no interest from a scientific point of view,’ said Frenot.

Because of the rescue operations, French scientists had had to scrap a two-week oceanographic campaign this month using the Astrolabe, Frenot said.

‘The Chinese have had to cancel all their scientific programme, and my counterpart in Australia is spitting tacks with anger, because their entire summer has been wiped out.’


From the Financial Times, recognition of the PR disaster. Christopher Calwell agrees with Andy Revkin, who finds some common ground with skeptics:

A cruise that will cost the climate campaign dear

Christopher Caldwell By Christopher Caldwell

“The rescue of passengers from a Russian ship is a setback for those who warn of global warming”
“Those who stood to reap the benefits of the voyage were able, when things went sour, to pass on many of the costs.”
“The episode is a setback for those making the case for what used to be called global warming – probably the largest such setback since emails stolen from the University of East Anglia in 2009 cast doubt on the scientific neutrality of several climate researchers.”
Caldwell thinks this is a setback almost on par with ClimateGate, which tells us how oddly important this farce is, but also something depressing about how commentators judge scientific credibility. The sea-ice saga of the wannabee Mawsons is a PR disaster, but even skeptics are not pretending this has much to do with climate science. ClimateGate was a scientific disaster unparalleled – we saw that the processes of science itself at the centre of the debate were corrupted, and the leading scientists were displayed at their worst. The saga of the Akademik Sholaskiy is a mere symptom of creative ways to waste money on immature, misguided self-aggrandizing adventure. Though as a PR stunt, skeptics could not possibly have come up with a better way to highlight the growing sea-ice around Antarctica that the models never predicted; nor to display the lack of pragmatic skill modern climate science has attained.
Given enough rope the poor intellectual standards, dismal ethics and lack of civic responsibility has inevitably exposed itself. But if the media had critiqued their irrational and self-serving behaviour over the last decade, a lot of public money could have been used on things that mattered.
It is a good development that sensible non-aligned commentators appreciate the enormous cost this ill-begotten mission is accruing. Perhaps they will be less likely to treat climate scientists as minor Gods in future.
One day, they might even ask them some tough questions.
(Note to Caldwell, after a long investigation there is no evidence at all, that the emails from East Anglia were stolen. Whistleblowers are protected by legislation in the UK, and the emails may well have been legally exposed, as FOIA claimed. Please write accurately…)
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