Professor Bob Carter (1941 – 2016)

  • Date: 20/01/16
  • Jo Nova

Bob Carter, a founding member of the GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council, died on 19 January following a heart attack.

One of the best things about being a skeptic are the people I’ve got to know, and Bob Carter was one of the best of them, sadly taken far too soon. He was outstanding, a true gem, a good soul, and an implacably rational thinker. A softly spoken man of conscience and good humour.

So it is dreadful news that he suffered a heart attack last week in Townsville. For the last few days I have been hoping that he would return to us, but alas, tonight he passed away peacefully, surrounded by family.

We shall miss you Bob.

Professor Bob Carter (74) has been a key figure in the Global Warming debate, doing exactly what good professors ought to do — challenging paradigms, speaking internationally, writing books, newspaper articles, and being invited to give special briefings with Ministers in Parliament. He started work at James Cook University in 1981, served as Head of the Geology Department until 1998, and sometime after that he retired. Since then he’d been an honorary Adjunct Professor.

He was a man who followed the scientific path, no matter where it took him, and even if it cost him, career-wise, every last bell and whistle that the industry of science bestowed, right down to his very email address. After decades of excellent work, he continued on as an emeritus professor, speaking out in a calm and good natured way against poor reasoning and bad science. But the high road is the hard road and the university management tired of dealing with the awkward questions and the flack that comes with speaking truths that upset the gravy train. First James Cook University (JCU) took away his office, then they took his title. In protest at that, another professor hired Bob immediately for an hour a week so Bob could continue supervising students and keep his library access. But that was blocked as well, even the library pass and his email account were taken away, though they cost the University almost nothing.

It says a lot about the man that, despite the obstacles, he didn’t seem bitter and rarely complained. He dealt with it all with calm equanimity. Somehow he didn’t carry the bad treatment as excess baggage.

Probably the saddest aspect of the whole petty saga of the Blackballing of Bob Carter was that JCU felt it was fine to explain that Bob’s mistake was that he had come to an inconvenient conclusion on climate change. It wasn’t that he got the facts wrong, instead his “views on climate change did not fit well within the School’s own teaching and research activities.” So much for academic freedom. Apparently it took up too much time to defend Carter against outside complaints about his public writings and lectures on climate change.

Such is the state of intellectual rigor in Australian universities. As I said at the time:

… every person in the chain of command tacitly, or in at least one case, actively endorsed the blackballing. Each one failed to stand for free speech and rigorous debate.

The only one in that chain at JCU who would always put science before politics was Professor Robert Carter. He was a rare and remarkable man, and I will keenly miss his wisdom and philosophical good nature.

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