Professor Peter Ridd, a noted coral reef expert, is suing an Australian university for violating his academic freedom by censuring him for being critical of research hyping the “death” of the Great Barrier Reef.
James Cook University, where Ridd works, issued a “final censure” against the geophysicist for not acting in a “collegial” manner during an August interview with Sky News over the quality of science on the Great Barrier Reef.
Ridd has filed suit against his employer, arguing they are violating his academic freedom. Ridd said the censure “is unacceptable” and “flies in the face of my instinct for truth and honesty, and my academic freedom,” according to a GoFundMe.com page to raise money for his legal fight.
The whole controversy started in 2016 when a strong El Nino warming event pushed up ocean temperatures surrounding the Great Barrier Reef, causing a massive bleaching event that consumed much of its northern reaches.
Scientists studying the reef came out with studies warning the bleaching had affected 93 percent of the reef, and follow-up studies claimed 67 percent of northern shallow reefs had died. The news coverage only heightened the alarm, pointing the finger at man-made global warming.
ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies put out some of the more alarming studies on the reef that got the most media coverage. ARC reef expert Terry Hughes was quoted in many papers warning about the impacts of global warming.
“Climate change is not a future threat,” Hughes told The New York Times last year. “On the Great Barrier Reef, it’s been happening for 18 years.”
Ridd criticized the quality of ARC’s research in an interview with Sky News in August 2017. Ridd was invited to come on air to discuss a chapter he wrote for the book “Climate Change: The Facts 2017,” which was published by the Institute of Public Affairs, an Aussie think tank.
“The basic problem is that we can no longer trust the scientific organisations like the Australian Institute of Marine Science, even things like the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies – a lot of this is stuff is coming out, the science is coming out not properly checked, tested or replicated and this is a great shame because we really need to be able to trust our scientific institutions and the fact is I do not think we can any more,” Ridd told Sky News.