When the Abbott government announced funding for a Bjorn Lomborg Consensus Centre at the University of WA it met with predictable and voluminous protest. Within weeks the University announced that it would not proceed with the proposed Centre.
"The scale of the strong and passionate emotional reaction was one that the university did not predict," UWA vice-chancellor Paul Johnson said.
The UWA Student Guild said the $4 million in "politically motivated" federal government funding should be rejected.
"While Dr Lomborg doesn't refute climate change itself, many students question why the centre's projects should be led by someone with a controversial track-record," Guild president Lizzy O'Shea said. "Students, staff and alumni alike are outraged."
Professor Johnson pointed out that Dr Lomborg was not leading the research and was not being paid as an adjunct professor.
"Lomborg is a contrarian but he is not a climate change denier… His contrary stance is around the use of economic efficiency and effectiveness of mitigation and adaptation strategies... Contrarians are, I think, useful, particularly in a university context."
The students, staff and alumni won the day, of course. The idea of even acknowledging a contrarian view of climate change is simply too threatening.
What is a contrarian? In The Death of Adam Pulitzer Prize winning author Marilynne Robinson defines the term: "In one way or another… the prevailing view of things can be assumed to be wrong, and… its opposite, being its image or shadow, can also be assumed to be wrong… there are other ways of thinking, for which better arguments can be made."
The last thing Lomborg's opponents want is a different way of thinking. You're either with them or against them, and confining the argument to whether you're for 'the science' or are a 'denier'is manageable, rewarding and profitable. To broaden the argument, to question our approach to solving the challenges of climate change is too uncomfortable, intellectually and politically difficult.
Lomborg believes that in a world where 800 million people go to bed hungry every night, where millions die every year from preventable causes, where even achieving the targets argued for by climate 'scientists' will have no immediate effect, we can think of better things to do with our money than is currently envisaged.
Arrayed against Lomborg is a formidable alliance of Greens, the 'big end of town', politicians, climate 'scientists' and academics, all with a vested interest in confining the argument to the well established 'us v them' rut in which they flourish.
The Greens have a different agenda. Their objective is to save the planet, people are the problem, expendable in pursuit of their primary objective. Lomborg's emphasis on the short term benefits to people is anathema to them.
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