A University lecturer may be stretching academic freedom too far when it comes to examining climate change in his classes.
Writing for the Weekend Herald, Chris Barton reports on Associate Professor Chris de Freitas, an Auckland academic whose teachings on climate change have been labelled as unbalanced by other climate scientists. The story is covered in a two-part feature:
When a group of final year Auckland Medical School students began a week-long assignment on the impact of climate change on public health, they were given a CD of suggested reading material and a list of climate change experts they should talk to.
Chris de Freitas was on the list and the CD contained several articles disputing climate change and its effects – one written by de Freitas.
The students were bemused. “The project was on the consequence of climate change on human health – things like temperature-related illnesses and changes in disease patterns – not whether climate change was occurring or not,” said one. Professor Alistair Woodward, head of the School of Population Health, which ran the short course, agrees: “It wasn’t the best use of their time and we won’t run the course that way in the future.”
The students found the reading material puzzling, too. “I was actually surprised by these papers because there were well-documented arguments, including the presentation of scientific evidence in the forms of graphs and tables. I became convinced – temporarily – that there was strong evidence against climate change,” said the student who spent a week researching and talking to other experts before concluding the papers were problematic.