Welcome to my Snippet Blog — January 5, 2020
How Kennewick Man has impaled Meldrum’s Heartland Scam — October 20, 2020

How Kennewick Man has impaled Meldrum’s Heartland Scam

Introduction

In July 1996, the skeleton of an ancient Native American washed out of the banks of the Columbia River in Kennewick Washington. Radiocarbon dating of a finger bone revealed the remains, now known as Kennewick Man or the Ancient One, were at least 8,000 years old. When Kennewick Man’s genome was published in 2015, it was revealed he carried a version of the mitochondrial X2a lineage from which all modern Native American X2a lineages descend.

Rodney Meldrum is the founder of the Heartland group, a collection of pseudoscientists who believe the events of the Book of Mormon took place in the heartland of North America. For the last 15 years Meldrum has been peddling the fallacy that the mitochondrial X2a lineage found in some indigenous tribes of North America was brought to the New World by Lehi 2,600 years ago. Its now Heartland dogma that Kennewick Man cannot be that old because he was carrying Nephite DNA.

Critics, LDS apologists and even an LDS scientist who has published research on the X2a lineage (Ugo Perego), have all pointed out Meldrum’s mistakes to him personally. But he has steadfastly refused to budge. He is a perfect example of the dangers of starting out your research with a fixed conclusion. Meldrum views scientific research as a cherry-picking exercise. Just as a defence attorney builds a case for his client, he doesn’t look at evidence that challenges his fixed opinion.

The continual misrepresentation of the X2a science by Heartland apologists has now escalated to bald-faced “Lying for the Lord”. Digital Legends, the major publisher of Heartland books and videos, is now selling a book that grossly distorts the research on Kennewick Man in order to force it to fit with Heartland ideas (Figure 1). In Face of a Nephite, patent attorney David Read, misrepresents critical aspects of the scientific research on Kennewick Man in order to defend Meldrum’s X lineage claims. He even continued these lies after his mistakes were pointed out to him by the scientist who did the work. In Face of a Nephite, David Read claims the scientists who studied Kennewick Man made a series of blunders and that he has figured out the real secrets in the bones.

Figure 1. Clay reconstruction of the face of Kennewick Man on the cover of Face of a Nephite, published by Digital Legends Press. Scientists who created the clay model were disappointed it appears on the cover of David Read’s book but were unable to prevent its use because of Smithsonian Institute policy.

The shamelessness of David Read’s dishonesty prompted me to take a closer look at the research on Kennewick Man. His story provides a fascinating insight into the life of a stone age Native American and the implications of the research for Rodney Meldrum’s Heartland movement are more profound than I could have imagined.  

Scientific analysis of Kennewick Man

Kennewick Man not only caused trouble for Team Heartland; he sparked a national controversy from day one. Soon after his discovery, considerable tension arose between scientists, eager to learn more about the past by studying his well-preserved skeleton, and indigenous groups who felt his bones should be reburied to show proper respect for their ancestors. After a protracted legal battle, scientists were eventually permitted to study the skeleton and a team of highly skilled scientists was assembled. Led by Douglas Owsley, head of anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, this team carried out a detailed forensic analysis of the remains[1]

Because Kennewick Man’s bones had been washed out of the soil profile, painstaking forensic analysis was required to determine the context of his burial. The study included detailed analysis of carbon, nitrogen and oxygen isotopes in the bones, examination of skeletal morphology, matching the soil attached to the bones with the nearby soil profile, and eventually the sequencing of Kennewick Man’s genome. Most of this research was published in the book Kennewick Man, but recent studies have shed further lightBelow is a brief summary of the astonishing details we now know about Kennewick Man’s life and burial.

Kennewick Man lived about 9,000 years ago. This date is an average of the twelve most reliable radiocarbon dates on bone collagen (the gold standard) purified from his well-preserved bones (Figure 2). Kennewick Man’s age includes a correction to account for the impact of his marine diet on the amount of radiocarbon deposited in his bones while he was living.

Figure 2. Radiocarbon age of collagen and carbonates from Kennewick Man (Figure 3.12 from Owsley and Jantz 2014)

Analysis of stable nitrogen and carbon isotopes in Kennewick Man’s bones revealed that he obtained most of his dietary protein from marine animals. Initially it was thought he was a seal hunter, but closer analysis revealed he ate a diet rich in salmon. However, Kennewick Man’s isotope profile was different to all other more recent Pacific Northwest populations. It suggested he experienced frequent, probably annual, shortages of protein in his diet, most likely caused by the changing seasonal availability of salmon [2]. Its probable Kennewick Man lived before indigenous groups developed techniques for storage of salmon, which accompanied the rise of large human settlements in the Pacific Northwest roughly 5,000 years ago[3]. In other words he was a true hunter-gatherer.  

While superficially Kennewick Man’s skull looked European, it was later found to resemble many of the earliest Native American skulls. He was wide-bodied and strong, taller than average at 5 feet 7 inches tall, and he used his right hand to throw an atlatl. Kennewick Man had two small depression fractures in his skull, most likely self-inflicted by stones that slipped out of a bola he swirled over his head to capture birds. He had fractured his scapula and experienced blunt force trauma to his chest which broke numerous ribs, some of which did not reunite during recovery; however, he had never broken his major limbs.

Most significantly, when he was a young man, Kennewick Man was struck by a spear, leaving a stone point embedded in his pelvis, where it remained until his death many years later. The stone point is a classic Cascade point, found in coastal Washington before 7,600 years ago[2]. This indicates that Kennewick Man was most likely wounded by someone from west of the Cascade Range early in his life. He was probably aged about 40 when he died and was buried by other people in a shallow grave in the alluvial soil on the banks of the Columbia River. He had been laid on his back with his hands palm down at his side, parallel with the river, and his head most likely downstream[2]

About 850 years after his burial, Mt Mazama (now Crater Lake, Oregon) erupted, blanketing eastern Oregon and Washington and parts of Canada with a thick layer of volcanic ash (Figure 3). Several inches of ash settled over the burial site at Kennewick. Over the next 7,700 years wind-blown (aeolian) soil built up over Kennewick Man’s grave to a depth of about a metre. Several thousand years after his burial, rainwater, carrying weak carbonic acid, percolated down through the soil profile, forming a distinct layer of solid calcium carbonate in the soil at the same depth as the skeleton. Some of these carbonates formed within and on the underside of Kennewick Man’s bones. Carbon-dating of these carbonates suggested they were deposited roughly 2,500 years ago (See Figure 1). As rainwater passed through the Mazama ash layer it also washed fine particles of allophane (clay) from the ash layer and deposited it in the carbonate layer and on Kennewick Man’s bones. 

Figure 3. Distribution of volcanic ash from the Mt Mazama eruption 7,700 years ago.

In 2015 the genome of Kennewick Man was sequenced from DNA isolated from his hand bone. It revealed he was more closely related to Native Americans than any other population on earth. He was most closely related to the local Coleville indigenous tribe. Sequencing also revealed that Kennewick Man carried an X2a mitochondrial DNA lineage which was ancestral to all X2a lineages found in modern Native Americans.

The study of Kennewick Man is the most comprehensive forensic analysis of an ancient skeleton in American history. Inadvertently, this research has provided conclusive evidence that the Book of Mormon Heartland movement is based on falsehoods. Clearly, Kennewick Man lived well over 8,000 years ago. This research provides irrefutable evidence the X2a lineage was not brought to the Americas by Hebrew sailors in 600BC. It was brought into the Americas at the same time as the A, B, C and D lineages arrived, over 16,000 years ago by the original founders. To understand why Rodney Meldrum is still refusing to acknowledge his X2a mistake, we need to go back and look at how it all started.

Rodney Meldrum’s Heartland Movement

In 2007, Rodney Meldrum, a salesman with no scientific training, encountered DNA evidence that revealed Indigenous Americans were largely descended from Asians. This discovery deeply challenged Meldrum’s belief in the historicity of the Book of Mormon. But he was in for a far greater shock. He soon became aware that Mormon scholars at BYU had accepted the DNA findings; that virtually all Native American DNA arrived in the Americas over 15,000 year ago. Meldrum knew this could not be true and he decided to find evidence that supported his beliefs.

Soon after setting out on his quest, Meldrum received a blessing from Hartman Rector Jr, an Emeritus General Authority of the Church. From that moment on, Rodney Meldrum has been convinced God wants him to save the Book of Mormon from the assault of DNA. With his conclusions already set in stone, Meldrum went on a hunt for DNA evidence that looked like it supported the Book of Mormon. It wasn’t long before he fixated on the mitochondrial X lineage and he has remained firmly wedded to it ever since.

Mitochondrial DNA is maternally inherited and relatively simple to study. Until about 10 years ago it was the DNA most scientists used to study human ancestry. Human mitochondrial DNAs can be grouped into different lineages that have inherited distinct mutations from their ancestors. Native Americans carry one of five different mitochondrial lineages, known by the letters A, B, C, D and X. The first four lineages have close relatives in Asia, but no direct ancestor has yet been identified in Asia for the X lineage. This is not all that surprising given the X lineage is relatively rare. The most likely explanation for the absence of an ancestral X lineage in Asia is either extinction or insufficient testing in the right population.

All five Native American mitochondrial DNA lineages emerged in the earliest human settlements in a region encompassing central Asia and the Middle East up to 50,000 years ago. About 30,000 years ago the A, B, C and D lineages became more common in eastern Asia. The X lineage, however, became more common in Europe and the Middle East. Native American X lineages, which belong to the sub-group X2a, are distantly related to all other X lineages from the Middle East, sharing a common ancestor over 20,000 years ago. All scientists, including LDS scientist Ugo Perego, believe the lineage entered the Americas at about the same time as the other four ancestral lineages. 

I corresponded with Rodney Meldrum almost 15 years ago when he was starting out on his X-lineage inspired crusade. I politely pointed out the ancient links to the Middle East, the absence of the X2a lineage outside of North America and the fact that the X2a lineage family is just as old as the other four lineage families. Since then Ugo Perego has repeatedly pointed out to Meldrum the errors in his claims. If anything, this criticism has only hardened his resolve. That’s probably because Meldrum now makes a living from his false X-lineage claims. Meldrum is now surrounded by other Mormon snake oil salesmen including Wayne May, Dean Sessions, Jonathan Neville and now David Read, who are all convinced the Native American X lineage is derived from the Middle East and was brought to the Americas by Lehi.

Pretending Kennewick Man is a Nephite

The discovery of Kennewick Man has provided the latest and most compelling evidence that Rodney Meldrum’s claims cannot be trusted. You would think, faced with such comprehensive evidence, the Heartland team would withdraw its claims, but alas, the blizzard of falsehoods has escalated. In Face of a Nephite, David Read takes lying for the Heartlanders to the next level. With his conclusion locked in, Read attempts to undermine the research on Kennewick Man based on two falsehoods.

In Face of a Nephite, David Read makes the following two false claims:

  1. Mazama ash was attached to Kennewick Man’s bones and this proves he was buried after the Mazama eruption.
  • The carbonate dates (@ 2000 years ago) are the more reliable estimates of Kennewick Man’s age.

In order to understand why David Read would be making these claims I contacted the scientists whose work he had misrepresented. I was disturbed to discover that Jim Chatters, the forensic scientist who collected Kennewick Man’s remains, had already pointed out these exact same mistakes to David Read. Chatters was intimately involved in the soil analysis and collection of samples for radiocarbon analysis; however, Read chose to completely ignore Chatters’ criticism. I will respond in detail to both of Read’s claims and include relevant quotes from Jim Chatters’ emails to David Read (used with permission).

False claim 1: Mazama ash attached to bones

“No Mazama ash was found in sediment around the skeleton, and believe me it is ubiquitous in younger sediments.  Therefore, the skeleton if buried, went into a pit dug before the ash fell.” — Jim Chatters, June 10,2020  

Read is confusing Mazama ash with allophane, the weathered products of the ash which had washed down the soil profile (See Figure 4). Allophane is a clay breakdown product derived from the weathering of Mazama ash. This type of weathering happens wherever Mazama ash was deposited. It is a normal weathering process that occurs during soil formation the world over. It’s the reason why the clay content in soil goes up the deeper you dig. Allophane clay had washed down the soil profile from the Mazama layer and was found in the carbonate soil layer and some was still attached to the bones after they washed out of the riverbank. The presence of allophane attached to the skeleton, but not Mazama ash, confirms, yet again, the skeleton was buried before the Mazama eruption 7,700 years ago.

Figure 4. Profile of the soil at the site of the discovery of Kennewick Man as drawn by James Chaffey (Adapted from Figure 2.4 in Owsley and Jantz, 2014)

David Read almost certainly makes this mistake because he had already concluded Kennewick Man was a Nephite. It was essential to prove Kennewick Man and his X2a lineage were young enough to fit within the Book of Mormon time period, and that meant he could not have been buried before the Mazama eruption. Read likely knows the date of the Mazama eruption is firmly established from abundant evidence. Read was building a case, just like a biased lawyer would do, to support his prior conclusion that Kennewick Man was buried after the Mazama eruption. He also needed to find a way to eliminate the twelve devastating collagen radiocarbon dates which are clustered around 8,500 years ago.

Read also fails to deal with the obvious consequences of his Mazama ash claim. Why would the people who dug Kennewick Man’s grave dig a hole almost a metre deep? This would have been extremely difficult given they only had stone tools. All the evidence suggests he was buried in a hole about 30cm deep and covered by about 10cm of alluvial soil. Mount Mazama erupted about 850 years after his burial.

False claim 2: The carbonate dates are reliable estimates of Kennewick Man’s age.

“The ca. 2000 year dates you cling to are actually dates on soil carbonate, which deposits continuously from water percolating down from the surface.  They are not dates on the skeleton at all.” — Jim Chatters, June 10, 2020  

In a follow-up email Jim Chatters again stressed the unreliability of Kennewick Man’s carbonate dates. 

“Bottom line: The carbonate dates from K-man’s bone are not reliable.  There was really no research reason to do them…  The reliable radiocarbon age of K-man, based on both the projectile point in his pelvis and the protein in his bones is around 8400 BP.  Again, the embedded point is not of the western stemmed tradition or any exotic form.  It is a classic Cascade point of the Olcott form, which dates older than 7600 years in western Washington.” — Jim Chatters, June 12, 2020

You can appreciate why the carbonate dates would be less reliable by examining this image from Owsley and Jantz’s book (Figure 5). They are all measurements from regions of the bone most exposed to deposition of calcium carbonate from water percolating through the soil. The collagen, however, was extracted from the interior of the most well-preserved portions of the bones.

Figure 5. Locations and radiocarbon ages of collagen (bottom left) and carbonate samples in bones of Kennewick Man.  (drawn from Figure 3.8 in Owsley and Jantz, 2014)

In Face of a Nephite David Read also makes further outrageous claims about the mitochondrial X2a lineage. On page 29 Read claims:

“… as few as four DNA mutations have occurred for mitochondrial DNA haplogroup X between some of the occurrences in the New World and the Old World,”

By the time of the most recent Heartland conference in September 2020, the number of mutations had dropped even further:

“Indeed, one recent study found a variety of haplogroup X in Egypt that is just one mutation away from the type found in Native Americans, which undermines the critics’ previous claims that Native American haplotype X2a has “too many mutations” from the haplogroup X haplotypes found in the Middle East to fit a Book of Mormon timeframe for a migration from the Middle East to the Americas.”

Read does not understand the science he is writing about. The lowest number of DNA mutation differences between an Old World X lineage (X2j) and modern New World X2a lineages is 15 and the average is about 19. Figure 6 uses data taken from the Rasmussen paper on Kennewick Man’s genome. The Egyptian haplogroup X David Read is referring to is the X2j lineage found in Arabs from the el-Hayez oasis in western Egypt.

Figure 5. Family tree of Native American mitochondrial X2a lineages, including their closest relative in the Middle East, the X2j lineage. Modern X2a lineages in Native Americans are all descended from the X2a lineage possessed by Kennewick Man. Redrawn from Rasmussen et al. (2017) The ancestry and affiliations of Kennewick Man. Nature doi:10.1038/nature14625

Conclusion

There can be no doubt Kennewick Man lived about 6,000 years before the Book of Mormon period. The following evidences, independently and collectively, prove this is the case.

  1. Twelve highly precise radiocarbon dates on Kennewick Man’s well-preserved bone collagen revealed he lived at least 8,000 years ago.  
  2. Kennewick Man does not carry any recent Middle Eastern DNA in his genome. He is closely related to nearby indigenous tribes.
  3. All Native American mitochondrial X2a lineages (ancient and contemporary) are descended from the ancestral X2a lineage possessed by Kennewick Man.
  4. The Cascade spearpoint in Kennewick Man’s pelvis is over 7,600 years old.
  5. The absence of Mazama ash and presence of allophane (weathered Mazama ash) attached to his bones, proves Kennewick Man was buried before the well documented Mazama eruption 7,700 years ago. The date of the Mazama eruption has been as firmly established as the year Columbus set foot in the New World. It has been confirmed in numerous locations using many different technologies including dendrochronology, radioisotopes and thermoluminescence. It has even been observed in the annual rings of the Greenland ice core.
  6. Stable N and C isotope analysis revealed Kennewick Man was a hunter-gatherer and lived before Pacific Northwest cultures developed techniques for long term storage of salmon about 5,000 years ago.

Mormon pseudoscientists are desperately clinging to Rodney Meldrum’s Heartland X2a claims. They are now so desperate to defend his claims they are prepared to mislead by deliberately distorting aspects of the research on Kennewick Man. David Read’s Face of a Nephite, is a textbook example of cherry-picking. Read is so focussed on looking for evidence that supports his views he misinterprets the science. He also deliberately hides facts that challenges his fixed beliefs. He is doing exactly what he has been trained to do as a lawyer; building a case to defend a fixed position, rather than weighing the evidence to find the truth. This, combined with his high school level understanding of science is a perfect recipe for the disaster that is, Face of a Nephite.  


[1] In 2017, Kennewick Man’s bones were returned to local indigenous groups and buried in a secret location.

[2] Chatters, James C. (2017) Making Archaeological Sense of Kennewick Man.  Quaternary International 444:83-97.

[3] Campbell, Sarah K., and Virginia L. Butler. “Archaeological Evidence for Resilience of Pacific Northwest Salmon Populations and the Socioecological System over the Last ~7,500 Years.” Ecology and Society 15, no. 1 (2010). Accessed October 21, 2020. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26268107.

[4] Rasmussen et al. 2017. The ancestry and affiliations of Kennewick Man. Nature doi:10.1038/nature14625).

Climate change apologetics — January 17, 2020

Climate change apologetics

Living in Canberra, which lost 500 homes to bushfires in 2003, it has been a pretty sobering experience to watch the catastrophic fires in our southeastern corner. It’s a beautiful place where many Canberrans spend their holidays at this time of the year. I have old work colleagues who live near Cobargo, a town all but destroyed by the fires.

Temperatures over Australia for the past 110 years

During this national tragedy I have had a profound sense of de javu as I have watched the way people have responded to the crisis. Having just experienced our hottest and driest year on record, and the most horrific bushfires in our history, Australians are now waking up to the fact that catastrophic climate change has arrived and we have caused it. The worn out expression “the climates always changed and always will” now has a very hollow ring. It’s a lie anyway. The earth has never been this hot in the last 20,000 years and that’s twice as long as the entire history of civilisation.

In spite of the magnitude of the fires and the compelling climate science, there remains a core of people, the loudest being politicians addicted to coal lobby money, who will not budge. Rather than face facts, they have blamed the fires on arsonists and greenies and even scientists for exaggerating and twisting the science. I am also keenly aware that some people reading this post may still find it hard to accept the science of climate change. I can understand that, because I’ve been there too. Even as a scientist I have gone through phases of scepticism and agnosticism before finally reaching acceptance.

Watching the responses to the fires has reminded me of the way the LDS Church, in particular its apologists, responded to Thomas Murphy, Brent Metcalfe and myself when we drew attention to the enormously threatening DNA evidence. Mormon scholars responded with ridicule and attacked our motives, intelligence and scientific credibility. They obscured the issue by misrepresenting the science, made false claims of positive DNA evidence and twisted the Book of Mormon narrative to accommodate the science. I believe most of these people are basically good. But their fear of the terrifying conclusions the science clearly pointed to, motivated them to take extreme measures to soothe the cognitive dissonance it created.

I wanted to share some of my reflections during the bushfires. I have observed disturbing similarities between LDS apologetics and what I call climate change apologetics.

Bushfire week

No photo description available.
Radar Image, 4 Jan 2020

I recently shared this image from my mobile phone on my Facebook page. This isn’t normal rain, it’s bushfires. It’s smoke plumes from bushfires, and the rain they create, detected by radar across southeastern Australia. It’s the first time I have noticed this on our weather radars since I became addicted to watching our Book of Mormon (Bureau of Meteorology) radar about 15 years ago. It was alarming to see these plumes appear as the fires progressed on one of the worst days.

Thirteen years ago Australian scientists predicted (Garnaut Climate Change Review) that by 2020 we would start to see the effects of climate change on the length of the fire season and the intensity of bushfires. At the beginning of our fire season our state fire chiefs requested a meeting with the Prime Minister. They had seen the science-based predictions that this year would be a catastrophic fire season. Our Prime Minister didn’t think it was important enough to meet with them. He was probably planning his Hawaiian holiday and his (very well kept secret) trip to New York to attend the opening of a new Hillsong megachurch.

And it came to pass that the scientific prophecies were fulfilled with shocking accuracy during our Prime Minister’s Hawaiian holiday. He returned home in disgrace. I can’t repeat the words hurled at him as he toured the firefighter recovery centres in Cobargo and elsewhere. Australians can be colorfully blunt, but he got nothing more than he deserved. Our Prime Minister leads a party filled with people who deny the climate science his government pays for. A couple of years ago our climate denying Prime Minister mocked the opposition by waving a lump of coal at them in Parliament.

As we have coughed our way through the bushfire catastrophe, I have been peppered with questions from US exmormon friends, desperate to know if what they are hearing in the US media is true. Sadly, a former Australian, Rupert Murdoch, who is now an American citizen (our gain, your loss), has been responsible for spreading misinformation and lies about what is going on in Australia. The Murdoch press (Fox news etc.) immediately blamed the fires on arsonists and greenies, in a pathetic attempt to weaken the case for climate change. This has been deeply offensive to many Australians already feeling distressed by the carnage inflicted by the largest and most ferocious bushfires we have ever witnessed. And we still have two months of bushfire season to go.

Australian scientists and the Rural Fire Service (RFS) have looked at the evidence and it’s clear over 95% of the fires were started by dry lightning in remote regions of national parks that are locked up during fire season. Any local can see this in my phone’s radar image. Scientists simply line up the lightning strikes with the origin of each fire. Murdoch outlets have also blamed the greenies for preventing back burning. This is another lie that climate deniers drag out after every bushfire. Greenies are very aware of the value of hazard reduction burning and are frequently involved in carrying them out! The RFS has clearly articulated the real problem. As our fire season gets longer, the window of opportunity for back burning gets shorter. You can’t burn cold, damp forests. Even if you could you can’t burn them every year because you would destroy the forest.

After posting my radar image I was immediately sent links to YouTube conspiracy theory clips. In the brief segments I could stomach watching, they were claiming greenies were flying planes and dropping incendiaries to start the fires in order to scare people into believing climate change is real. Utter filth and lies. They had even created childishly ignorant maps showing the flight paths of planes flying up and down fires zones in a regular pattern. My radar image clearly shows this is absolutely false. The largely American (sorry it’s true) sewer of poisonous conspiracy lies has reached our shores, and it makes me and my friends feel physically ill. I now know how the parents of Sandy Hook and the residents of New York felt when the heartless conspiracy theories reared their ugly heads. The biggest problem with the bushfire conspiracy theories is that they make mainstream media reports about arsonists and greenies look fair and balanced. Nothing could be further from the truth.

To cap off the week I received a phone call from a TBM sibling who is clearly feeling distress due to the fires. They were not interested in an adult conversation about the root cause of the driest and hottest year on record in Australia. They were tired of the arguments about climate change, after all, contention is of the devil! Instead, I was treated to a lecture on why scientists needed to get off their butts and quickly invent solutions (as if research isn’t being done) to rapidly capture the CO2. They are obviously feeling pain and fear, but rather than honestly facing those fears, my sibling preferred to pile even more blame on the scientists for not working on a real solution. They then went on to slam our two national broadcasters that have told the truth on climate change for the last 20 years. I then changed to subject because my language was about to get colorful.

This sibling’s response to me was exactly the same as their (lack of) response to me when I raised uncomfortable questions about Book of Mormon historicity due to DNA. The issue has been out of bounds for two decades. Their unwillingness to talk about both issues is driven by fear.

My evolution from climate agnostic

You would think that someone who has worked in scientific research his entire career would have accepted global warming after looking at the evidence. It turns out I’m no different from everyone else. I was naturally suspicious of climate science research when I first heard about it, because it was outside my immediate field of expertise. I only became convinced humans were causing our climate to change after I met a unique group of people who knew a lot more about our climate than me.

In 1999 I joined the Division of Forestry at CSIRO, Australia’s national scientific research organisation. Up to that point I had not known any climate scientists, and because of that I hadn’t taken it seriously. I was essentially a climate agnostic. At CSIRO I soon found myself working alongside dozens of scientists who worked across all disciplines related to forest trees. This included ecology, bushfires, native forest management, wood science, water, soils, genetics, carbon capture, plantation management etc. Virtually all of these diverse disciplines are being directly impacted by our changing climate. It may surprise some of you to learn that all advanced forestry companies plan their naturally long term forest rotations with climate change uppermost in their minds.

Climate change predicted in a New Zealand newspaper in 1912

Because I was living, working alongside and socialising with this very capable group of people I formed very good friendships with many of them. I witnessed their curiosity, passion for truth and commitment to scientific rigour and I soon began to trust them. I knew they weren’t lying to get another grant, as they were women and men of integrity, and they were well funded anyway. That trust drove my own curiosity and I quickly became convinced that our climate was changing and that the science underpinning the forecasts by scientists was utterly compelling. The underlying physics of climate change has been well understood for over a century. There are plenty of websites that describe the science much better than me.

By the time I realised the problem, the fossil fuel industry was well ahead of me. Just like the tobacco industry, the fossil fuel industry knew the science well ahead of the general population and the threat it posed for their future profits. Most of the developed world has headed the prophets of science. The US and Australia stand out as the biggest feet draggers on this issue because of their dependence on the profits from burning fossil fuels. Our two countries are largely responsible for holding back progress on climate agreements and Australia remains the largest polluter per capita in the world. It’s a source of national shame that many of you probably also share.

Unfortunately, some things that are true are not very…pleasant. As a species we naturally avoid facing things that make us uncomfortable. Many of us have faced our fears when confronted by the terrible truth that the LDS church has lied to us our entire lives. But the sooner we face our fears, the easier it is to change and the sooner we can put all our energies into making wise choices and facing the realities of living on this remarkable, but fragile planet.

This is exactly what the European Union is doing because it is heeding the warnings of climate scientists. The EU recently announced it would be committing 1 trillion euros to ensure Europe is climate neutral by 2050. This deal will support economies that, through no fault of their own, have historically relied heavily on fossil fuels for energy.

Maybe I’m dreamin

Wouldn’t it be great if the LDS Church chipped in a lazy $100 billion to help poorer countries adapt to the biggest challenge the world is facing? Maybe if we look away the leaders can create evidence that this was why they hoarded the money in the first place. At least facing the facts can’t stop us dreaming.