The University of Western Australia has caved in to green activists and cancelled a planned $4 million Consensus Centre because of its associations with Skeptical Environmentalist author Bjorn Lomborg.
Blond, gay, impeccably left wing and a former member of Greenpeace, Lomborg has long infuriated environmentalists because his personal politics make it so hard for them to trot out their usual excuse that he only says the things he does because he is an evil, right-wing shill in the pay of Big Oil.
Even more frustratingly for his greenie opponents, Lomborg is not even technically a climate change sceptic. He has long accepted the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) so-called “consensus” position on global warming. Where he differs from hard-core greenies is simply in his belief that the world has more pressing environmental and social problems than are caused by the marginal influence of man-made CO2 and that these should be given higher priority than combating climate change.
This is the argument of his not-for-profit think tank, the US-based Copenhagen Consensus Center. One of its main purposes is to help argue how governments around the world can get the biggest bang for their buck on environmental spending – providing micronutrients for the world’s malnourished; giving everyone access to clean water; and so on – recognising that the amount of money available for worthy causes is not limitless and that therefore such projects should be subject to a rigorous cost benefit analysis.
Lomborg’s pro-growth approach to green issues is what drew him to the attention of Australia’s conservative Prime Minister Tony Abbott who invited him to set up a branch of his Consensus Center in Australia, with the help of a $4 million Federal government grant.
However, when word got out at the University of Western Australia (UWA), a “rowdy gathering of academics and students” in an atmosphere described by one witness as “like a Rolling Stones concert” campaigned to veto the project.
Unable to brand Lomborg a “climate change denier” – which he isn’t: he believes, or affects believe, what all the greenies do on climate change – they instead simply ‘argued’ that his “controversial track record as a climate contrarian” was more than enough reason to protect UWA’s precious students from any kind of proximity to or association with the ideas of this dangerously open-minded man.
The University of Western Australia’s Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson, citing what he called a “strong and passionate emotional reaction”, said that the proposed Consensus Centre lacked “the support needed across the university and the broader academic community to meet its contractual obligations and deliver value for money for Australian taxpayers.” With this excuse he cancelled the project.
Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, who had supported the project, tweeted: “What a sad day for academic freedom when staff at a university silence a dissenting voice rather than test their ideas in debate.”
But the U-turn will hardly be surprising to anyone familiar to Australian academe, which is it at least as badly infected with greenie dogma and lefty intolerance as any of its counterparts in Britain and the US.
As a measure of UWA’s hypocrisy, double-standards and intellectual illiteracy, consider this excuse offered by UWA Academic Staff Association Professor Stuart Bunt:
“This isn’t about censorship at all … Lomborg is not a climate [change] denier; he believes the scientific evidence which overwhelmingly shows that climate change is happening, he just debates the economics of how we should deal with it,” Mr Bunt said.
“The difficulty is he is neither a scientist or an economist, he’s a political scientist.
“Once you become attached to a university, you’re given a kind of credence by that university; people would expect an adjunct professor at UWA to be working in a professional manner and that their statements would be evidence-based.
“Lomborg would be using the name of the university, to put what are largely political opinions, rather than evidence-based statements, using the university’s name.”
Bunt’s excuse might carry more weight if UWA hadn’t until recently been the very welcoming home of Professor Steven Lewandowsky, a discredited – and deeply political – social scientist responsible for a widely ridiculed, academically threadbare paper called NASA faked the moon landing: therefore (climate) science is a hoax.
Its contributed nothing to the scientific understanding of climate change. Rather its purpose was to make out, on the flimsiest statistical basis, that climate sceptics are nutcases.
UWA isn’t the only Australian establishment to have embraced this bizarre, witch-hunt approach to any form of climate scepticism.
The course incorporates lessons in both climate science and psychology to explain the most common climate myths and to detail how to respond to them. Research has shown that myth debunking is most effective when people understand why the myth originated in the first place. For example, cherry picking (focusing on a small bit of convenient data and ignoring the rest) is one of the most common fallacies behind climate science myths.