Censorship of Critique of Emissions Trading and Carbon-Offsets Schemes
As the Copenhagen Climate Summit Approaches, heterodox economic analysis of climate change policies needs a bigger profile. The good news is that Edward Elgar Publishing is shortly to release Keynesian and Ecological Economics: Confronting Environmental Issues edited by Ric Holt, Steve Pressman and Clive Spash. The bad news, however, is that, as things currently stand, New Political Economy won’t be publishing an important paper in this area by Clive Spash, that the journal had accepted following normal refereeing processes. The paper is entitled ‘The Brave New World of Carbon Trading’, but Clive’s employer, Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) wrote to New Political Economy demanding that it not be published.
Worse than this, as Clive says, ‘The CSIRO is currently maintaining they have the right to ban the written version of this paper from publication by myself as a representative of the organisation and by myself as a private citizen.’ A copy of the paper was leaked to The Australian this week and articles about the situation have been attracting wide interest here, along with predictable spin by the CSIRO and its Minister, Senator Kim Carr. While ABC Radio managed to track Clive down on vacation on a remote island and interview him, he received not even an email from the Senator’s office.
The row about the paper has been going on since June 2009, with Clive being advised that the paper can only be released if substantial cuts are made, removing any reference to government policies. It seems that the cuts would prune about 40 pages from the 47-page paper. To prove this, Clive would need to release internal CSIRO documents, and thus breach his employment contract. Worse still, the paper originally had a junior co-author who asked to be deleted as an author following harassment within CSIRO. The situation rather calls to mind Elliott Perlman’s 2001 novel Three Dollars (which was turned into an award-winning movie in 2005) about an environmental scientist who faces losing his job if he tells the truth.
Of course, had Clive been working in one of Australia’s top (Group of Eight) universities, rather than a government agency, he would probably have had pressure of another kind: New Political Economy is, like many heterodox journals, only on the ‘B-list’ of journals, and the pressure is to publish only in the A*- or A-listed journals.
It’s a fine paper that needs to reach a wide audience. Clive covers the theoretical problems of running carbon trading schemes in a complex world of incomplete and dispersed knowledge, the way that vested interests end up benefiting from the issue of permits, and what happens, in terms of both consumer psychology and corporate responses, when you and I sign up for ‘green electricity’ and assume that, say, forests will be planted as carbon offsets. Unfortunately, we can’t post it here without breaching the terms under which the Blog operates and putting Clive’s position further at risk.