Two and a half years after being embroiled in a plagiarism scandal, Julie Bishop has again been found using material from other sources.

In a post last week on her Fairfax blog Bishop criticised the Prime Minister over her suggestion that credible scientists didn’t question climate change by reeling off several names and quotes in a climate denialist document presented to the US Senate. However, a number of commenters at Tim Lambert’s Deltoid blog recognised the material and began digging.

In her blog, Ms Bishop referred to…

…comments from legendary atmospheric scientist the late Dr Joanne Simpson, the first woman in the world to receive a PhD in meteorology and formerly of NASA, who authored more than 190 studies and described as one of the most pre-eminent scientists of the last 100 years who said: “Since I am no longer affiliated with any organisation nor receiving any funding, I can speak quite frankly . . . As a scientist I remain skeptical . . . The main basis of the claim that man’s release of greenhouse gases is the cause of the warming is based almost entirely upon climate models. We all know the frailty of models concerning the air-surface system.”

Tim Lambert investigated the quote and found an immediate problem. He dug out the original piece from Simpson to see what the ellipses in the Bishop quote hid. In a section of the original article not quoted by Bishop, Simpson says:

“What should we as a nation do? Decisions have to be made on incomplete information. In this case, we must act on the recommendations of Gore and the IPCC because if we do not reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and the climate models are right, the planet as we know it will in this century become unsustainable.”

But one of Lambert’s commenters spotted the resemblance to quotes posted on a blog by a climate denialist financial trader, where not merely was the exact quote used by Bishop posted, complete with misleading ellipses, but the exact same description of Simpson.

In fact, if you Google the text, it appears routinely on a list of quotes that has appeared on a number of climate denialist blogs, even on blogs by people who (like Ron Boswell) think we’re in danger of global cooling. Bishop also used the quotes and descriptions of scientists Kiminori Itoh and Stanley Goldenberg that appear on the list.

But as the Deltoid bloggers dug deeper, they found that Bishop’s cutting and pasting had led her into further trouble. She also quotes scientist Robert B. Laughlin as saying “Please remain calm: The Earth will heal itself — climate is beyond our power to control.” But as commenters pointed out, Laughlin never said any such thing. The quote Bishop used is actually from a review of Laughlin’s article, by Canadian Neil Reynolds. Indeed, as you can tell from phrasing, it’s actually the title of the review.

Why? The quote used by Ms Bishop appears to have been taken, again complete with ellipses, from elsewhere – a climate denialist piece written in December that makes the same mistake of attributing the review quote to Laughlin himself. Bishop’s quote is exactly the same as that of the December piece.

In fact, if Bishop had bothered to check Laughlin’s original article, she’d have read that he says:

“Carbon dioxide from the human burning of fossil fuel is building up in the atmosphere at a frightening pace, enough to double the present concentration in a century. This buildup has the potential to raise average temperatures on the earth several degrees centigrade, enough to modify the weather and accelerate melting of the polar ice sheets.”

Ms Bishop told Crikey this morning “the theme of my blog was freedom of expression and freedom of thought in this country. The quotations were from a report to the US Senate, which I referred to in the blog.”

She rejects Crikey’s “interpretation” of the Simpson statement. “I am aware that the late Dr Simpson stated that she remained sceptical,” she said.  “As to the other [Laughlin] quote, the report is on the US Senate website so I am happy to add a link to the source US Senate. The blog was not about climate change science, and I pointed out that the Coalition has a policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and reach the same targets as Labor by 2020.  It was a response to the Prime Minister’s attempts to crush any views that differ from her own.”

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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