Abusive emails and accounts of threatening behaviour towards climate research staff have been released by the Australian National University, following a Freedom of Information request.
The Canberra-based university has decided not to appeal against a Privacy Commissioner's finding
that 11 documents unearthed through a FOI request should be released.
The FOI application, lodged by Sydney-based climate sceptic blogger Simon Turnill, requested any records of threatening or abusive correspondence sent to six named scientists between January and June 2011. ANU originally blocked the request, which came after a Canberra Times
article reported that more than 30 climate scientists at universities across Australia had been subjected to a sustained hate campaign.
The names of staff members and names of the people sending the correspondence have been blacked out by the university, which said the release of the documents risked ANU staff suffering further abuse.
Crikey revealed earlier this week
that staff at ANU’s Climate Institute were moved to more secure premises in April 2010, some eight months before the period covered by the FOI request. That decision came after two incidents where "aggressive" members of the public had entered institute premises.
Australia's chief scientist Professor Ian Chubb told Crikey
that he hoped scientists would "not be silenced" by the email attacks. Chubb, a former Vice-Chancellor at ANU who decided to move staff to more secure premises, told Crikey
: "I had anxious staff -- made anxious by some of this stuff -- and I feel I had a duty of care to them."
One email released is a report from one ANU staff member to another, describing an incident at a university-run public engagement event shortly after staff were moved.
The email recounts the words of an ANU staff member who was present at a table where a climate sceptic had become frustrated by an earlier speech given by a climate scientist. It reads:
"Moreover, before he left, he came to the Fri dinner and showed other participants his gun licence and explained to them how good a sniper he is. Because he didn't attend day 2 he will not be allowed to attend the final day. I will be notifying security to be on hand in case he turns up and causes a problem."