Friday, April 17, 2015

Will Steffen and all of climate science vs Bjorn Lomborg and deniers - no contest! But Tony Abbott picks the loser.

Sou | 2:16 PM Go to the first of 55 comments. Add a comment
Some Australian readers will have received a copy of this letter from Tim Flannery, which, given it's wide mailout, I think is okay to share more broadly. (Bernard has already posted a copy in the comments).

Deceiving the Australian public
The Australian Government today announced they would contribute $4m for Danish climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg to establish a new “consensus centre” at the University of Western Australia.
In the face of deep cuts to the CSIRO and other scientific research organisations, it's an insult to Australia’s scientific community.
As the Climate Commission, we were abolished by the Abbott Government in 2013 on the basis that our $1.5 million annual operating costs were too expensive. We relaunched as the Climate Council after thousands of Australians chipped in to the nation’s biggest crowd-funding campaign - ​remember this video?
It seems extraordinary that the Climate Commission, which was composed of Australia’s best climate scientists, economists and energy experts, was abolished on the basis of a lack of funding and yet here we are three years later and the money has become available to import a politically-motivated think tank to work in the same space.
This is why the work of the Climate Council is so important- to counter this continuing ideological attempt at deceiving the Australian public. 
Please consider chipping in a few dollars a week to help us stay independent and continue to fight the rising tide of misinformation
Mr Lomborg’s views have no credibility in the scientific community. His message hasn’t varied at all in the last decade and he still believes we shouldn't take any steps to mitigate climate change. When someone is unwilling to adapt their view on the basis of new science or information, it's usually a sign those views are politically motivated. 
But with your support we will continue to fight back and reach millions of Australians with information that is based on the best science available. 

Thank you 
Tim Flannery
P.S We're already busy responding to misinformation in the media. We just called out The Australian for deliberately misinterpreting the science and the Prime Ministers Business Advisor Maurice Newman for getting his facts wrong

I've also previously written about Maurice Newman's wrong facts, such as here and here and here. And on several occasions about misleading articles in the Australian.

I've also been told about an article in the Guardian on the topic of Bjorn Lomborg's new creation (h/t Bert).

My reaction is the same as Tim Flannery's. One of the very first things the Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott did was to abolish the Climate Commission. Australians were outraged, and within only a few days Australian people donated $500,000 dollars to create the Climate Council. And soon doubled it. It must vie with the biggest responses of any appeal for donations.

Now Tony Abbott is reportedly funding a "denier" (as defined by rationalwiki) at around the same annual cost of the then Climate Commission. (I'll need to check the numbers.)

I don't have time to write any more about this. Feel free to express your opinions in the comments.


  1. Sou ... typo in your headline ... s/b "Lomborg".

    My first impressions of him, oh, three years ago were favourable -- out of the box thinking is how I saw it. I have come to see that he doesn't stand for correction and that most of his arguments are not at all what they appear. Pity that Abbott is giving him support at the expense of more reality-based research.

    1. Thanks - rushing and not proof-reading. Fixed now.

    2. My first reaction to his "Cool It" book was that it was full of truthy arguments, but the conclusions he drew from them often weren't founded. Then I read that in fact many of his arguments were false to start with, which pretty much kills everything. Good company for Tol, I guess.

    3. Sou: took me forever to learn how to spell it properly.

      numerobis: I watched the documentary, found myself cheering. Truthy is right, and I got suckered by it. Not a pleasant learning experience for me, but a lesson nonetheless.

  2. I understand it's the ludicrous Pyne - 'I'm a fixer. I fixed it. I want it to be a surprise.' - giving the $4 million. I wouldn't worry about sharing the Flannery letter, all of us supporters of the CC have received it. Can we get a compendium of the best Lomborg debunks / debunking sites going? Unsurprisingly this issue is very much alive on social media at the moment...

  3. https://thingsbreak.wordpress.com/2009/01/08/lomborg-long-game/

    Search desmogblog for lomborg

    See his US HQ:

    1. Fascinating stuff, John. Lomborg is definitely a _political_ operator, very slick indeed.

  4. CC letter now media-released as 'a $4 million dollar insult to the scientific community' - https://www.climatecouncil.org.au/a-4-million-dollar-insult-to-the-scientific-community

    Thanks, John!

  5. So Lomborg's back in business after being de-funded by the Danish Government-
    Bjorn again?

    While (according to the Guardian) the Consensus Centre's three main goals don't specifically mention climate, it does give Lomborg a platform from which to comment on climate issues; and the fact it is called a 'Consensus' Centre projects an aura of reasonableness, which Lomborg and his admirers in the government will use to the max. Frank Luntz would approve.

    I'd be interested to know what the UWA were thinking in taking this on. Was it just the money, or the chance to get one up on those eastern states unis? UWA had better be careful, or it may find itself in the same position as the University of Sussex has found itself with Richard Tol.

  6. The Very Reverend Jebediah HypotenuseApril 17, 2015 at 11:49 PM

    "Consensus Centre"?

    Hilarious. In a pathetic, fiddling-while-Rome-burns sort of way.

    You can't make this stuff up.

    Only problem with the name - besides the irony - is that Judith Curry will have to concoct a truthy explanation for why Lomborg's consensus is acceptable to her, while the real consensus is not.

  7. If scientists use their science to play politics, politicians will use their science budget to join the game.

    1. ...In countries with fossil fuel industry interests pulling the strings. And do you really think it is appropriate to describe something affecting the futures of billions of people as 'a game'?

    2. Scientists have science and Abbott has taxpayers' money to stake on a game, you say? What exchange rate applies? How much science per dollar?

    3. "If scientists use their science to play politics,"

      Self-awareness was never your strong point, Dr. Tol.

      My irony meter just fried -- again. You owe me another.

    4. "If scientists use their science to play politics, politicians will use their science budget to join the game."

      And science will still be science when the here today, gone tomorrow politicians will be yesterday's news.

    5. By misrepresenting the situation as an 'if ...then', you're implying that the scientists are to blame for the actions of politicians. That's rubbish. Politicians have never needed a pretext to play politics with science- or with economics.

    6. The thing is, Richard Tol, that the scientists I know (and I know a few lead authors amongst dozens of climate scientists and hundreds of biologists, chemists and various medical types) are using their science to come up with hard truth and conservative extrapolations, whilst in Australia the right-wing politicians are using politics to deny climatological and ecological science as hard as they can pedal (or peddle...)

      If you could point to which actual, real scientists use science to "play politics" rather than to put across a parsimonious message arising from the implications of their work I would be much obliged. You know, in the spirit of supplying evidence to support your hypothesis and all that sciency jazz...

    7. Richard's too busy playing politics with science to bother with evidence.

      Building strawmen is one of Richard's favourite pastimes, when he's not 'advising' the denier political lobby group, the GWPF (or being "advised" by them) or Gish galloping around blogs.

    8. Well, Richard is simply illustrating the basis of the GWPF - providing balance. Balancing information with misinformation, honesty with dishonesty, decency with rudeness, politicians playing science to counter scientists playing politics, etc. The world must remain in balance or else we may topple over into one that was actually decent and fair, and none of us wants that .... oh, hold on?

    9. Special pleading by way of demanding the bar be set at some impossibly perfect ideal. Stock response: Well, I guess you just don't care about getting it right.

      It's an unassailable position, all it takes is a distinct lack of self-awarenes, no shame, or some combination of both.

    10. So much of the mitigation skeptic rhetoric is along the lines of the (probably apocryphal) story of the man who fell from a skyscraper and was heard to shout "I'm all right" as he plummeted past an open window.

    11. Exsqueeze me? "If scientists do reality-based research and release the results, pointing out the real-world consequences, then politicians will try to game the debate by employing 'scientists' adept at magical thinking."

  8. From the Guardian article
    UWA said the Australia Consensus Centre would have “three main projects” – advising on the “smartest” post-2015 UN international development goals, advising on what policies would best “keep Australia prosperous in a generation’s time” and “setting global priorities for development aid and helping Dfat and development agencies produce the most good for every development dollar spent”.

    “It was a standard funding agreement with a series of deliverables,” Johnson said. (The University of Western Australia vice-chancellor, Prof Paul Johnson.)

    There is that word "deliverables" again. Maybe Soon will turn up downunder as well! Then all that is needed is Tol and the BS trio will be complete.

    1. It should also be added from the Guardian that Lomborg described his policy on taking private donations.

      “There’s no strings attached,” he said. “We’re very clear on saying we take no money from fossil fuels, and we do not let anyone direct what we’re going to do. So we have only taken money from private individuals and foundations that have accepted that."

      The Aussie govt funding will not cover all the bills, UWA and others will contribute, so it will be interesting to see if any of that money comes with strings as well.

    2. "We’re very clear on saying we take no money from fossil fuels"

      That would be like the GWPF then.

    3. Ah this is funny!

      “There’s no strings attached,” he said. “We’re very clear on saying we take no money from fossil fuels, and we do not let anyone direct what we’re going to do. So we have only taken money from private individuals and foundations that have accepted that."

      So the Right Wing 'Think Tank' (RWTT) rings up the 'borg and says, look, if we give you a fat wad of cash, will you keep on spinning out the same contrarian misinformation that you are so famous for? The 'borg says, yes, but you can't tell us what to do. That's okay, says the RWTT - the cheque's on its way.

    4. Oh and I should have added that the RWTT gets its funding from something called 'Donors Trust' which is a kind of piggy bank filled (anonymously) by industrial vested interests of one sort or another.

    5. "“We’re very clear on saying we take no money from fossil fuels, and we do not let anyone direct what we’re going to do. So we have only taken money from private individuals and foundations that have accepted that." "

      I also understand that Murdoch's Editors will all tell you they're under no pressure whatsoever to toe a political line. That's why all his media creations are so consistently, um, 'fair and balanced'.

  9. The Guardian story has generated quite a lot of comments, most not in favour of this development.

    And speaking of a compendium of debunks etc., many of those have turned up in comments there too. They include:

    Lomborg Errors

    The book "The Lomborg Deception", and various articles about it (see the resources below).

    Some older coverage at Deltoid.

    A bunch of resources here.

    And the Lomborg tagged articles at Skeptical Science.

    1. Some more gathered from various Lomborg posts:

      Greg Laden thoroughly fisking a recent Lomborg op-ed.

      Greg Laden taking Lomborg to task for highly irresponsible advice to Bangladesh.

      Another analysis of a Lomborg op-ed, this one from 2008.

      Some analysis (PDF) of Lomborg's Cool It book. Brings out several important points. This seems to be a journal article.

      One of the participants in Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Project, an author on the principal climate paper that came out of that workshop, wrote this newspaper article accusing him of deliberately distorting the conclusions of that paper.

      ThinkProgress articles on Lomborg's treatment of polar bears, sea level rise and warming effects and water supply issues.

  10. Sou sez:

    Feel free to express your opinions in the comments.

    Actually, perhaps I won't, but shall we just say 'FFS'?

  11. Picked up one little gem from the Reneweconomy item on this.

    UWA has just closed an honest-to-god scientific centre, the Centre for Water Research, because of funding, bean-counting issues. https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/26775063/water-centre-millions-in-red-uwa/

    I suppose publishing books doesn't count as "deliverables" for UWA. 2 books mentioned on the front page - I presume the second one mentioned will still be delivered later this year. http://www.cwr.uwa.edu.au/homepage.php

    1. Adelady, looking at the publications it does seem to have faded a lot in the last four years.


      Have the original researchers retired or almost, and not appointed any new researchers perhaps?

      These days there is an expectation that research centres will produce a lot of work *and* attract top quality academics. (And in some cases do a fair bit of contract work.)

    2. More details here - only makes it look worse.


      I love the 'creative accounting' approach to 'show' that they weren't meeting objectives. Also telling them they didn't have enough academics in the centre after changing the way they count who is and isn't involved in the centre.

      At least I've now got a couple more on my list of possible books to read (or find out more about) after looking at http://www.cwr.uwa.edu.au/homepage.php

  12. Bjorn Lomborg also has is finger in Australia's shrinking foreign aid pie as well. He was appointed in March by Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop as one of 14 on a Reference committee for an innovation hub run by DFAT for foreign aid investment.

    He is being embedded in research and foreign aid in Australia as an ideological climate contrarian thorn when the Government is tossed out of power.


    1. To paraphrase a fishy advert, Tony Abbott takes deniers that Denmark rejects.

  13. "Australians were outraged, ..." should read " a few Australians were outraged, ...".

    1. "...by Friday of the first week, in a stronger than expected response, over 20,000 people had donated amounts totalling close to $1 million."


      So how does that compare with Anthony Watt's OAS?

      "So far, they've had donations of $330 (probably excluding the startup grant) and 25 people have signed up to get emails."


      Oh dear.

  14. I was teaching in the biology/ecology department when Bjorn's first book, The Skeptical Environmentalist came out. Someone got hold of excerpts and passed them around, and the reactions went from laughter to face-palming (figuratively, although I'm sure there were probably literal ones, but face-palm was not yet on my radar then) to disbelief, and anger that someone who was supposed to be an academic could get things so badly wrong.

    We were gratified when we heard that some of our colleagues at another university were writing responses to his nonsense--the responses were published in a magazine as a special feature...I'd have to google which magazine or check my dusty old file cabinet as I photocopied all the responses....and now that I think of it, there were also little cartoons with some extinct duck (probably Labrador) lampooning some of his views by showing how wrong they were. Warm fuzzy memories. Must be getting old. :)

    1. I think I saw the same thing; SciAm perhaps? Back when it was worth reading.

      Lomborg is worth reading a little just to see how vacuous his deliverables are. He's one with the Freakonomics crew in that; what I think of as a Uri Gellar class celeb.

  15. Good article in New Matilda on Lomborg and his centre's windfall - https://newmatilda.com/2015/04/20/meet-bjorn-lomborg-abbotts-four-million-dollar-climate-contrarian

    Colour me completely surprised the the IPA would be welcoming him on a first-name basis... [/sarc]

  16. Oh, and even better - now the Dog (as in the First Dog) has sicced himself on to him! Go get 'em, Doggie! http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/apr/20/no-cranks-allowed-at-abbotts-climate-consensus-centre?CMP=soc_567

  17. Do you think he will start writing articles for The Australian first?

  18. 'Bjorn Lomborg centre: leaked documents cast doubt on Abbott government claims: It was the Abbott government's original idea for the University of Western Australia to host a think tank created by the "sceptical environmentalist" Bjorn Lomborg, according to leaked talking points.'


  19. And it turns out your headline was uncannily accurate, Sou. Seems this was, indeed, a 'captain's call'. Phil the Greek gets his gong, Lomborg get a $4 million platform...

  20. The Australian Liberal [sic] government's granting of $4 million to Bjorn Lomborg is creating a bit of a shit-storm in the scientific arena. The ABC's World Today has just broadcast a piece about the issue:


    There's quite a bit that deserves comment but education minister Christopher Pyne caught my attention when he said:

    "I don't remember them reacting that way when Labor put $7 million into the Whitlam Institute at the University of Western Sydney or the $3.5 million into the Conversation when they were in government."

    Pyne is completely ignoring that Lomborg himself is demonstrably ignoring science in order to twist policy response to the best scientific evidence and understanding. This makes Lomborg a propagandist/mouth-for-hire rather than an objective researcher, and Pyne a promoter of propaganda.

    Pyne also says that "[Lomborg] is not a climate sceptic" but does not mention that in contradiction of the best science Lomborg insists that humans can adapt, and that mitigation is essentially unnecessary. Again, Lomborg misrepresents or denies whole disciplines of science in coming to his pronouncements, and to follow Lomborg's path would mean that a small cadre of corporations and their mates would make studendous profits for several decades at the expense of the future of human civilisation and much of the planet's biodiversity.

    Greg Hunt, Minister for Destroying the Environment and the man who''s Honours thesis was about a tax to make polluters pay, says this:

    "[Lomborg] brought together a panel of Nobel economic laureates to look at the most efficient way to do it and the fascinating thing is, of 15 mechanisms, all based on the presumption of a need to act and a need to act quickly, the worst three, the least effective were all variations of the carbon tax.

    The real point, why he's criticised, is it doesn't fit the narrative of those who want to punish people with higher electricity and gas prices.

    He's saying you can reduce emissions, you just don't need a massive electricity and gas tax.

    Notice how he changes a carbon price to an electricity tax. These are different things, especially as electricity can be generated by water, wind, waves and sun, so effectively Greg Hunt is deliberately (or incompetently) misleading the Australian public in order to support the formation of Lomborg's propaganda centre.

    Note too that Hunt is referring to Lomborg's modelling and that he is ignoring the fact that whilst it was in place Australia's carbon price reduced emissions by around 7%. I'd propose that this is a very effective reduction for a first attempt at a policy response to carbon emissions, especially as its effects were also immediate and that the lower-paid people in Australia were more than completely compensated for any flow-on effect..

    I have said it before and I'll say it again - it's a pity that there is no such thing as Hell, because if there was then justice would be served when the likes of Lomborg and our conservative politicians burn there for eternity, in reflection on the burning away of the Holocene climate that they are so determined to facilitate.

    1. (I couldn't resist...)

      We are the Lomborg. Lower your standards and surrender your science. We will add your financial and reputational Australian-ness to our own. You will* adapt to climate change. Mitigation is futile.

      [*Or not…]

    2. This story continues to get more interesting.


      Good on the UWA staff and alumni. I have to say that the generally remarkably muted reaction on Australian AGW blogs (pro-science, at least. God knows what the nutters are on about! Though one could probably guess...) has surprised me. Ah, I see SkS has started to look at his citation index scores! At least as a re-post.

    3. I think I have lost my mind. There was a picture in the paper of the Queen giving Prince Phillip an Australian Knighthood while Alexander Downer looked on.
      Ah! I thought Monty Python is back on!
      It was real!
      You cannot make this parody of parodies up.

      I have not been so upset since Napoleon Crowned himself Emperor!

      Lomborg is in the same category.

      Me and me best mates are considering awarding each other Honours such as

      Indolence Award : For evading work on the building site.
      Masturbators Award : For coming when you are not wanted on site.

      I could go on but these upper class twits are not worth it.


  21. UWA has handed the money back, and is not going to host Lomborg's 'Consensus [*cough*] Centre' -


    Now Abbot can hand the cash back to the CSIRO! Or the Climate Council...


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