An amazing example of collective amnesia at CSIRO

My attention was caught by this loaded and evocative headline in the Canberra Times “Plant life losing battle with emissions”, for an article introducing the latest whizz-bang new CSIRO paper, “The Australian terrestrial carbon budget”, Haverd et al 2013.
Haverd et al say – “The Australian landscape soaked up one third of the carbon emitted by fossil fuels in Australia over the past twenty years…”
Which is at odds with the 1992 CSIRO paper by R.M.Gifford which said – “The present modelled rate of net sequestration is of a similar magnitude to CO2 emissions from continental fossil fuel burning and land clearing combined.”
What amazed me though was that the current paper does not reference Gifford 1992 when eight of the ten authors are from CSIRO.
I expect to have more to say later but here are a couple of graphics.
I have been trying to find the number for the size of the Australian carbon sink, not annual changes but gross size – the only figure I can find is from the 1998 website CompleXia titled, “HOW BIG IS AUSTRALIA’S SOIL CARBON STORE?” which says, “Preliminary estimates suggest that Australia’s soil carbon sink is of the order of 48 Gt (Gifford et al. 1992).” Thats 48 gigatonnes, 48,000,000,000 or 48 billion tonnes. Just to get that number on scale compared to the figures below, that is 48,000 Tg or terragrams used in Haverd et al and also 48,000 Mt or megatonnes used by Gifford – a megatonne is 1,000,000 tonnes, one million tonnes.
Summary of the Australian territorial carbon budget, 1990–2011. from Haverd et al 2013.

and Figure 1 from Gifford 1992

Ends here

4 thoughts on “An amazing example of collective amnesia at CSIRO”

  1. A quick Google search finds refs to dozens and dozens of papers by R M Gifford CSIRO over decades – the latest I saw was 2006. He was obviously a pioneer in carbon sequestration studies. As you say amazing amnesia from so many people.

  2. I was taught that it is elementary scientific good practice when writing a report to refer to past research on the subject. That way you can avoid “re-inventing the wheel” – make sure you learn all you can from the literature – give proper credit to previous researchers – or are in a position to criticize earlier work if it has shortcomings.
    Considering that the exact words – “Australian Terrestrial Carbon Budget” are in the titles of this 2013 paper by Haverd et al and also the 1992 Gifford paper published in a CSIRO journal –
    and considering that Dr.Roger Gifford pioneered research into the Australian Terrestrial Carbon Budget –
    and considering seven of the ten authors of Haverd et al 2013 work for the CSIRO –
    I stand by my use of – “An amazing example of collective amnesia at CSIRO”.
    But look – nobody has to agree with me Kandler.

  3. Nor do they have to agree with me! Giffords paper uses a simpler model,and is presented with caveats indicating it is an early step. Twenty years on the new paper is using more complex models several generations on from Giffords,a new generation of researchers plugged into a larger global network in a larger field which has long ago assimilated early work. I haven’t checked,but it is quite likely a paper of Giffords generation is cited by some of the papers that the new work references. I’d suggest that a different kind of paper,a meta-study or historical contextual review work would directly cite Gifford [1992].

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