NZ scientists voice concern over gagging on climate change

New Zealand scientists said Monday that government funding policies have effectively prevented them from making any serious input into the government’s climate change stance.

The New Zealand Association of Scientists (NZAS) said it had concerns about serious flaws in the government’s recent public consultation on climate change.

“Climate change will have a profound influence on New Zealanders, and there are many complex issues that need to be dealt with,” NZAS president Nicola Gaston said in a statement.

“Yet, there is a marked lack of publicly available information and analysis which would help New Zealanders decide on the best course of action.”

The government had hurried its consultation process on its a negotiating position in the United Nations Paris meeting on climate change in December last year, to a period less than four weeks.

The NZAS was concerned about the lack of publicly available information, as well as the minimal involvement of key New Zealand state-owned research institutes and universities.

The state’s Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) played a critical role in advising the government on climate change issues, and were dependent on millions of dollars in year-to-year contracts as a result.

So it made sense that the CRIs were reluctant to critically comment on government policy when the result could negatively impact government science funding decisions, said Gaston.

The concerns were widely echoed by the scientific community in a survey conducted by the NZSA last year.

The main opposition Labor Party called on Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce to launch an independent investigation into claims that scientists are being gagged.

“When 40 per cent of scientists say they are being gagged and can’t speak out on issues of public importance, it’s clear evident something is wrong,” Labor science and innovation spokesperson David Cunliffe said in a statement.

“The minister has a responsibility to ensure that scientists can contribute to public debate in New Zealand without fair of reprisal.”

The New Zealand government has come under increasing criticism in recent months for a lack of policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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