Carbon the copycat

homer.jpgThe Sunday Star Times recently carried an article by Keisha Castle-Hughes about her trip to the Cook Islands and the dangers of climate change. Terry Dunleavy, one of the prime movers in New Zealand’s Climate “Science” Coalition, duly rushed to offer the paper an alternate view. But they (wisely) turned him down… Hell hath no fury like a crank scorned, so Terry has published his riposte at crank central [Word .doc here], and naturally I couldn’t resist taking a look. It begins:

Last week’s article by Keisha Castle-Hughes entitled “Pacific Poison”, following her Geenpeace-hosted visit to the Cook Islands, is so chock full of misleading and scientifically unjustifiable propaganda that it demands earliest possible rebuttal.

As is usual with crank articles, the reverse is actually true — Terry provides an object lesson in misleading and scientifically unjustifiable propaganda. But he goes one further, and reproduces a chunk of a Wikipedia article without attribution. Yes, Terry is exposed as an intellectual magpie, a thief of other people’s words, a plagiarist.

We’ll skip over his lengthy (and misleading) fulminations about sea level rise, temperatures and ocean acidification (except to note this scientifically unjustifiable statement: Rising atmospheric CO2 levels, whether human caused or otherwise, will not impact on ocean acidity and marine life), and get to the section on coral bleaching. Here’s what Terry “writes”:

Coral bleaching is the loss of colour of corals, due to stress-induced expulsion of symbiotic unicellular algae or due to the loss of pigmentation within the algae. The corals that form the structure of the great reef ecosystems of tropical seas depend on a symbiotic relationship with photosynthesizing unicellular algae called zooxanthellae that live within their tissues and give coral its particular colouration. Under stress, corals may expel their zooxantheallae, which leads to a lighter or completely white appearance, hence the term “bleached”. Coral bleaching is a vivid sign of corals responding to stress which can be induced by any of:

  • increased or reduced water temperatures
  • increased solar irradiance • changes in water chemistry (in particular ocean acidification)
  • starvation caused by a decline in zooplankton levels as a result of overfishing
  • increased sedimentation (can be contributed to silt runoff)
  • pathogen infections
  • changes in salinity

This passage bears a striking resemblance to the opening section of the Wikipedia page on coral bleaching. In fact, it’s identical — barring one or two small edits (he removed a reference to global warming from the first bullet point, for instance). There is no attribution to source, no quote marks around the paragraphs. Try this little test. Visit the Plagiarism Checker, and paste Terry’s words into the the box. Back will come a warning… If Terry was a school student, his little essay would be marked a fail and he would get a stiff lecture about ripping off other peoples work without proper attribution. So what on earth persuaded him that he could get away with it in a national newspaper?

I do not know if the SST realised that the article being offered for publication included a key passage copied from Wikipedia. They probably just thought it was crap (they were right). But if it had been published, and the link spotted, there would have been a lot of egg on a lot of faces — not least Terry’s. I somehow doubt the Sunday Star Times will be rushing to publish his “work” in future…

The final irony? These are his closing sentences:

My sources for this article have been qualified climate scientists. For the truth about climate, listen to science not celebrities.

No Terry, your sources look to have been Google, Wikipedia and your crank mates. Not much sign of “qualified climate scientist” input. But I will certainly continue to listen to science, secure in the knowledge that you do not provide it.

[Mister Laurence]

3 thoughts on “Carbon the copycat”

  1. All politics aside, that is frankly appalling and unacceptable. How can you be expected to be taken seriously by anyone, when you basically lie about your work. Mr Dunleavy should be appropriately embarrassed.

    As for his article, is is complete crank nonsense, nothing of which hasn’t been rebutted before.
    He does make one correct statement, “For the truth about climate, listen to science not celebrities.”
    The science is pretty clear Mr Dunleavy, perhaps you should listen a little harder!

  2. I recall when Terry was calling for a boycott of Mobil because “This uses market forces to tell Mobil we won’t stand for the emissions which cause the global warming which looms as a climatic threat to the country we enjoy living in..”

    I suggest that, as well as being a wine grower (and we all know what they are like), Terry is also a coral bleaching expert and in fact wrote the Wiki page he copied.

    Or maybe he wrote it in one of his many scientific papers and somebody else ripped it off and posted it at wiki.

    Or maybe Al Gore was spying on Terry and saw what he was writing to the SST and quickly posted that bit at Wiki as part of a conspiracy to make Terry look ignorant and immoral. (All those movie types cover up for each other).

    Or maybe… hmm I dunno, does anyone have any other ideas?

    BTW, Gareth, did you drop the SST a line to let them know?

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