10 Mar 2010
Economist sacked for challenging carbon trade con
Carbon trading schemes have become the most favoured government strategy to deal with climate change, including in Australia. But as economics professor Clive Spash found out, government employees who question whether such schemes can actually deliver emissions reductions can find themselves under huge pressure to be silent.
Spash wrote a paper critical of emissions trading schemes called The Brave New World of Carbon Trading in 2009. The paper aimed to “point out some of the pitfalls [of carbon trading] which seem too often brushed aside”.
His then employer, the Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation (CSIRO), reacted to this implicit criticism of government policy by trying to brush his entire paper aside.
CSIRO management refused Spash permission to publish the essay. Later, the New Political Economy journal agreed to publish it, with a disclaimer saying no association existed between the paper and the CSIRO. The CSIRO then pressured Spash to make changes to his paper so it could formally release it. When he refused, the organisation released it but stressed that it was not linked to the CSIRO.
The essay may never have been published at all if Spash hadn’t decided to speak out against the censorship. In December 2009, he resigned from the CSIRO to ensure The Brave New World of Carbon Trading could no longer be suppressed.