Monday, April 27, 2009

Sacking of a Weather Man

A further example of what I was referring to in the previous post is the summary dismissal of climate guru Jim Salinger from NIWA, apparently for making a few offhand comments to media on passing weather stories, without gaining prior approval.

Some of the commentary on this has emphasized the suddenness of the dismissal and speculated on the chance of a personal grievance case against NIWA for not following due process. I'm more inclined to ask how come a scientist with 27 years working for public institutions and an established international academic reputation, doesn't get to say pretty much whatever he likes about his area of expertise.

Let's assume the complaint is that Salinger's comments could have been confused with the 'official' stance of NIWA. But shouldn't he be cut some slack for having been a climate scientist for longer than NIWA has existed? The institute was only created in 1992, when in a spate of textbook-crazed 'reforms', the 'weather' bit and the 'climate' bit of the Meteorological Service were carved apart into separate, semi-commercial insitutions.

I'm oddly reminded of David Landes The Wealth and Poverty of Nations, where the author spends considerable time detailing the respective inexorable declines of Chinese, Portuguese and Spanish economic power. A common feature of these empires was that, for different reasons, all three made concerted efforts to restrict the spread of knowledge and expertise.

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