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Bjorn Lomborg gets funding for a new centre at UWA, howls and protests begin

UPDATE: What an extraordinary moment. UWA has announced that due to the unexpected “passion” of the staff and students they have to cancel the Lomborg Consensus Centre (May 8th 2015). They give no rational reason — this is caving in to bullies. The government needs to fund this centre as an independent unit. Academia in Australia is beyond saving.Lomborg commits the unforgivable sin of failing to feed friends of big-government.”

Bjorn Lomborg writes in The Australian reasonably often, so he is fairly well known amongst the thinking set in Australia.

The Consensus Centre is coming to UWA, my old alma mater, and former home of Steven Lewandowsky, and PhD candidate John Cook. Strange company indeed. It is promising that something rational will probably come forth from UWA for a change. It’s also promising that the Abbott government seems to recognise the need to break the monopoly in funding by a small amount. The choice of UWA might not be as outlandish as people think. It is as politically as pathetically correct as any university, but it doesn’t have a major climate gravy train. Their climate science courses page says it all — they only have a generic enviro-science major, and a bland “thesis” for postgrads. Their Climate Science page is (as wiki would say) a “stub article” in need of content. It  links to the UnskepticalScience blog, Lewandowskys nearly dead blog, and one respectable twitter account. In other words, $4m would make a huge difference in UWA-climate-land, which is a vacuum. I don’t think there was any chance of Lomborg getting help from say, Uni NSW instead (where Sherwood, England, Pitman,  “Deltoid” and the-man-who-got-stuck-in-Antarctic-ice, work.)

Punish the “contrarian” — even if he agrees with nearly everything

The news of this started doing the rounds a few weeks ago. Curiously, apart from tiny news stories, there was not much interest until The Guardian decided to expose the Abbott government “funding contrarians”, as if a government should only ever fund one opinion, and as if that crude descriptor fits Bjorn Lomborg, who agrees with the IPCC about the science, but not about how to solve the “crisis”. But just as with Roger Pielke Jnr, even borderline apostates must be punished. Such is the fear from the climate religion that their unscientific facade will crumble, they have to protest every grant outside the tribe. So Lenore Taylor, the author at The Guardian, didn’t miss the chance to discuss the potential, vague, undescribed “links” between the Consensus Centre and alleged fossil fuel funding. The Consensus Centre replied that it doesn’t accept any, and indeed, recommends “the elimination of subsidies to the fossil fuel industry and increasing investment in RD&D for green energy technologies.” So why are we even talking about imagined possible “links” with fossil fuels? Because most well trained green-journalists can’t write an article without mentioning the “fossil fuel” ad hom. It’s reflexive.

And so the howling begins

UPDATE: The Climate Council hates the idea of an economist trying to make the environmental dollar effective “it’s an insult to Australia’s scientific community”. So we know the Consensus Centre must be useful. 😉

The Education Union calls for Pyne’s resignation, because apparently an elected government can’t just fund things, especially not foreigners:

The National Tertiary Education Union (NTEU) slammed the decision and called on Pyne to resign.

NTEU national president Jeannie Rea said: “These [Australian] researchers will understandably be furious that the Minister for Education has found a spare $4 million to establish a research centre that has not been required to go through any competitive process and seems to have arisen from discussions between UWA, the government and departmental officials.

There is already a petition at Change.org saying “Lomborg’s views are dangerous.”

It’s not about finding solutions about the climate, or making enviro-dollars useful, it’s about toeing the tribal line. Poor Clodagh Guildea, the petition founder, studied science at post-modern UWA, and thinks Lomborg is “entirely out of step with scientific consensus” which shows (1) how bad she is at research, because he buys the consensus all the way, and (2) how little she knows about science. Perhaps one day UWA will teach the scientific method again, instead of training parrots to mimic authority? For UWA’s sake Clodagh, pack away your unscientific petition and stop advertising how weak the science faculty is these days.

Lomborg, half believer, half skeptic

I like Lomborg when he writes about economics. I’m not enthused about his science views. In 2010 he was using the namecalling term “denier”  and appeared to know nothing much about skeptic positions apart from what he’d been taught by Al Gore. I suspect he must have improved since then — he would have met some real skeptics — because he doesn’t seem to recite that litany with the same careless habit he did then.

As for The Consensus Centre — it’s not a good name, but Lomborg’s skill is to pick a position very close to his opponents — he presents a small target, and the choice of name reflects that. Strategically, there is a certain wisdom to it, and it appears to be his genuine position too, since he does not stray far from the path. That said, I wouldn’t use it in a science debate. But they appear to have used this name since 2004.

I wish him all the best.  I imagine he will hit the UWA cultural scene like a hot potato. But closet skeptics will feel more inclined to speak up. Hopefully, the climate-crisis-tribe will overplay their hand with outrage as per usual. The more the better. Sensible people can see how ridiculous it is. Good luck to him.

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