Home > economics of climate change, economics profession, energy > Censorship of Critique of Emissions Trading and Carbon-Offsets Schemes

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Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) wrote to New Political Economy demanding that it not be published.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.

  1. Dave Taylor
    November 7, 2009 at 3:01 pm

    Sounds like an Australian version of Britain’s nutty problem (Minister Alan Johnson sacking his advisor Prof Nutt for publicly disagreeing with government policy). Has the dominance of scientific Humeanism really earned science too the general lack of respect so manifestly due to politicians economical with the truth?

    Bravo and best wishes to Peter and Clive, whose contributions were much appreciated when I met them in CR contexts.

  2. November 15, 2009 at 12:02 pm

    For those interested in this story, as it has so far played out in the media, I am compiling a list to be posted on my website which will have direct links.

    Meanwhile the latest development was a promise to publish by the head of CSIRO with only “tiny” changes, a few words or phrases to be altered. Unfortunately the docmuent I was handed back a few days ago had 11% of the text cut, 33 comments, text added changing meaning and half the conclusions deleted.

  3. jim burke
    November 27, 2009 at 2:10 am

    I would like to read your report (un-altered version). Until I do I can’t form an oppinion.
    My background is that I was born in Nazi germany 66 years ago and I’m hyper-sensative to any unnecessary restriction on info flow. People who don’t want you to have all the available information often have their own agenda that indeed may have extreme delitarious effects to may others and to society in general.
    This situation of your report is in some ways not dis-similar to the Nazis burning books they didn’t like.
    Help to keep Australia an open and informed society is an aim I cherish.
    Where can I read the un-altered version (ie) web site? or email address?
    Where can I read the altered version (ie) web site? or email address? so to compare !

  4. Tersoo 'Kabir
    December 2, 2009 at 8:39 am

    I am part of a global movement for building evidence for change. I commend the real efforts of Clive to raise public awareness of the causes of poverty and encourage ordinarily people to take action for a fairer world. I cannot wait to read the un-altered version of your paper to enable me speak with authority on this criminality. Bless u!

  1. December 7, 2009 at 10:06 am
  2. December 15, 2009 at 12:26 pm

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