Saturday, May 9, 2015

Denier reaction to cancellation of Bjorn Lomborg's post at UWA

Sou | 1:28 PM Go to the first of 15 comments. Add a comment
There’s nothing “smart” about spending $4 million of taxpayer cash on a highly questionable methodology that by design downgrades climate change.

You may have seen in the comments or news that the University of Western Australia has thought better of its decision to provide a much-needed home for the wandering Bjorn Lomborg. The Vice Chancellor, Paul Johnson, has written a convoluted article explaining his reasons, mixed up with various excuses for appointing him in the first place.

On the one hand, Professor Johnson provides his criteria for judging worthiness (see what Graham Readfearn wrote and don't forget the slamming Bjorn's first book got):
...I believe that a man who has worked with many Nobel Laureate economists, has been named one of Time Magazine’s most influential people, and has published with Cambridge University Press meets the criteria of being made an Adjunct Professor...

Then he explains his decision to not have the centre, writing:
Despite all this, there remains  strong opposition to the Centre. Whilst I respect the right of staff to express their views on this matter, as all universities should be places for open and honest sharing and discussion of ideas, in this case, it has placed the University in a difficult position.
Therefore, it is with great regret and disappointment that I have formed the view that the events of the past few weeks places the Centre in an untenable position as it lacks the support needed across the University and the broader academic community to meet its contractual obligations and deliver value for money for Australian taxpayers.
By its very nature a centre of this sort requires co-operation of a wide range of people across many fields.

Paul Johnson seems to want to have a Lomborg Consensus Centre in Australia, saying:
The work of the Australia Consensus Centre is important to Australia’s future by engaging in important discussion and economic analysis about how we ensure future generations are better off than those that came before them. Unfortunately, that work cannot happen here.

But it won't be at UWA:
I have today spoken to the Federal Government and Bjorn Lomborg advising them of the barriers that currently exist to the creation of the Centre and the University’s decision to cancel the contract and return the money to the government. 

Graham Readfearn did some digging

Thing is, the work of the Consensus Centre is not well regarded in at least some academic circles. There is criticism not just about Bjorn Lomborg misrepresenting climate science. Economists have also criticised the work of the Centre as being flawed, as Graham Readfearn explains in an article for the Guardian. He writes of criticisms by economists, who say that the Lomborg approach is a quantized either/or of policy options. In the real world, a multi-pronged approach is used, using a portfolio of different policies. A policy mix is more likely to give better results than any single policy on its own. This is particularly so for the enormous and different challenges we are facing with climate change. Graham wrote:
Dr Frank Jotzo, director of the Centre for Climate Economics and Policy at the Australian National University, was once invited to write a paper for Lomborg’s centre in 2008, which was sharply critical of how the cost of the impacts of climate change were treated.
He told me:
Within the research community, particularly within the economics community, the Bjorn Lomborg enterprise has no academic credibility. It is seen as an outreach activity that is driven by specific set of objectives in terms of bringing particular messages into the public debate and in some cases making relatively extreme positions seem more acceptable in the public debate.

Graham finished his article writing:
Lomborg’s approach is, as he (very) often states, an effort to come up with “smart solutions” to the world’s biggest problems working out what gets you the “most good” for every dollar spent.
There’s nothing “smart” about spending $4 million of taxpayer cash on a highly questionable methodology that by design downgrades climate change. 

You can read Graham's article here at the Guardian. He makes lots of interesting points.

The Government wants a contrarian

A reasonable speculation is that Bjorn needed the job at UWA, or the job title (even if only "adjunct"), going by his "about" page (archived here because it will probably change soon). He is raising money in the USA now, after the Danish government's funding ran out in 2012. His only other academic role is as "visiting professor at Copenhagen Business School". (There's an older version of his bio page here for comparison, which promotes his USA profile, not his academic links.)

Bjorn might have decided he needs some academic cred, and Christopher Pyne, our unacademic education minister wants Lomborg. I wrote most of this last night, and have just read this at the Guardian:
Australia’s education minister, Christopher Pyne, has vowed to find another university to host the Bjorn Lomborg “consensus centre” and is seeking legal advice about a decision by the University of Western Australia (UWA) to hand back $4m in federal government funding awarded for it.
UWA handed back the funding and dropped its connection with Lomborg, saying that lack of support among its academics made the centre untenable.
Lomborg said he remained committed to setting up the Australia consensus centre because his research was “far too important to let fall victim to toxic politics” and “grossly misinformed attacks”.

Dr Lomborg, there are lots of places in the world where you can expand. You don't have to traipse to the other side of the planet.

Why is Bjorn so anxious to come here? I don't see the attraction. UWA said it was an unpaid adjunct position. Has he figured a way of leveraging the role, apart from being able to claim the position on his resume?  Maybe Graham Readfearn will figure it out.

What the deniers are saying

Around the denier traps, Anthony Watts was his usual lazy self and, after "blaming" Stefan Lewandowsky by past association, copied and pasted the following from another denier blog:
If you are an academic, dissent on climate change or climate change policy will lead to a loss of your livelihood.
You have been warned.

The deniers don't even know that this wasn't a livelihood issue - or not except for the fact that Bjorn was keen to leverage the role somehow. No salary was to be paid by UWA, it was just an adjunct position. Whether Christopher Pyne offered Bjorn something more remains to be seen. Were there some contracts promised or hinted? Some lucrative consultancies? It's not been made public if there were.

 Little Jo Nova was so upset she resorted to Anthony Watts limited vocabulary using Anthony's "let's get a lynch mob going" words like "anger" and "bullies" (archived here). Her headline was: "Lomborg’s Centre cancelled: UWA caves in to bullies who use anger to silence debate". What debate was that, Jo? She wrote:
There is no saving our universities. The Lomborg Consensus Centre has been axed in response to pure emotional hysteria. The Abbott government should immediately set up the Centre anyway, make it independent from the universities, which don’t deserve another cent.
Bjorn Lomborg, who believes the IPCC science but disagrees with their economics, is too “dangerous” for UWA. Poor petals! He wants to get more environmental and human benefit from government spending – which is a disaster for the Green Gravy train.  Lomborg commits the unforgivable sin of failing to feed friends of big-government. So he had to be punished, nothing is more scary that “funding a skeptic”. (See Tim Flannery’s reaction). But ponder how they have overplayed their hand: Lomborg is not a skeptic of the science, the Consensus Centre wasn’t going to write on climate change, and yet, it was unthinkable?

Does Jo know what she wrote? She wants a centre "independent from the universities". The universities are about as independent from the government as you can get, for a government funded entity. Is she seriously asking for a centre to be run directly by the evil guvmint? What a turnaround for an extremist libertarian.

In any case, I don't think that's what Bjorn had in mind. He needs some academic credibility. A government centre running on a shoe string budget reporting directly to Christopher Pyne wouldn't suit him very well at all. He'd have to spend all his time trying to get funds - and that would mean spending a lot of time in the backblocks of Australia - because what rich American is going to pay for a centre down under? (On the other hand, he might get some sort of salary - though that might not be what he wants. It could entail a contract that limits his overall earning capacity.)

In Jo's world, free speech is not the same as freedom to express an opinion. She wrote:
If UWA taught students what free speech is, and why it is needed, the petition would have been laughed out of town. But they reap what they sow — after years of politically correct propaganda, UWA is a victim of its own intellectual shallowness. The UWA students were merely doing as they had been taught.

What a mixed up brain Jo has. All that grey matter without connecting circuits. Never mind, when it comes to dollars, Jo's brain doesn't let her down. With a link to her donation page, Jo wrote:
If this makes you angry,  please send some support to real science and real free speech so we can fight back.
There are no government grants funding this blog and we rely on people like you to help us beat the bullies.
If you can help me pay our bills, I can help get your views to reach more people.

Bjorn Lomborg's dismissal turned out to be a money-making opportunity.  A silver lining in the cloud.

Here, Jo. I'll give you a helping hand and get your readers "views to reach more people". The views are about as intelligent and informed as you'd expect from uber conspiracy theorists and the "reds under the bed" brigade. You can see where Maurice Newman gets his climate opinions:

Rob JM
May 8, 2015 at 11:03 pm · 
West Australia is a stupid place for unicorn husbandry, you need rainbows for effective unicorn fertilisation and WA is simply too dry.

May 8, 2015 at 9:11 pm · (extract)
i’ve been watching the tennis in Madrid and cannot believe i’ve returned to your website to find this news, jo.
surely today will go down as one of the most shameful in Australian academic history.
almost as shameful
8 May: ABC: Greg Hunt distances himself from Maurice Newman’s claim UN seeks global authoritarian rule 

Leonard Lane
May 9, 2015 at 4:24 am · (extract)
...We need higher education. But do we need higher education that has devolved to tyrannical leftists appendages to the socialists and Marxists? 

May 9, 2015 at 7:45 am · Reply
Nicely put Beth.
The demise of German science in the 1930′s with the departure of the intellectual and science greats for the US and the UK was Hitler’s gift to the World. German science never recovered its pre-eminent global position, conceding it to the US and the UK among others.
We appear to be witnessing an evisceration of western science by eco-marxists or those with eco-marxist leaning, the kind of folk who reflexively adulate Russell Brand and now inhabit the Universities and university departments, and who have made disagreement untenable. It guarantees a decade or two of execrable mediocrity, you know, the sort exemplified by The Conversation.
Watch the rise of Chinese and Indian science. 

Ted O'Brien.
May 9, 2015 at 8:06 am ·
eco is Marxist. The whole purpose of the eco movement is to eliminate private management of industry. 

May 9, 2015 at 12:40 am ·
Its simple. Our universities and schools have been captured by globalists pushing for the new world order agenda 21. They’ve been cultivating the “Climate Youth” for some time now using the same brainwashing techniques Hitler used to program his youth. People very easily slip into Lots of the Flies mode when they are ENCOURAGED to. [SNIP Lets not go there.]. The lemmings would follow in a second and i doubt there is a crime they wouldnt commit for their “cause”. 

a happy little debunker
May 8, 2015 at 9:38 pm ·
“The scale of the strong and passionate emotional reaction…”
Proof positive that this ‘end of the world’ cult is nothing but religious fervor.
The advent of this worldwide cult – intent on dominating all social, economic, legal and political spheres – puts the small timers like daesh, to shame.
Be proudly heretical and oppose these ‘death’ cults!

Timboss - sneaks one in:
May 8, 2015 at 9:50 pm ·
Perhaps Jo, with all your experience publishing peer-reviewed science, could take up the position instead.


  1. "Watch the rise of Chinese and Indian science. ...."

    interesting... I bet they won't go they way the commenter thinks they will.

  2. 'the kind of folk who reflexively adulate Russell Brand and now inhabit the Universities and university departments'

    Priceless! Though I think we're going to need a citation for that one...

    'Lots of the Flies' - um, are you sure you're remembering that correctly? Well it is Australia we're talking about, I suppose!

    And The Conversation if now a den of 'execrable mediocrity'? As opposed to, say, a comment thread at Jo Nova's? Talk about an alternate universe!

    1. Bill, you made me Google "Russell Brand". I'd never heard of him so that reference slipped right by me.

    2. You along with the majority of those inhabiting 'the Universities and university departments', I'd wager! But Manfred 'just knows' - the highest form of proof there is...

  3. Greg Laden has also written about this - and Victor Venema noticed something else odd about the odd press release from the Vice Chancellor.

  4. It's true that Australian universities are difficult places to be around if one is a science denier or dissembler, but there are some very fine reasons for that.

  5. i’ve been watching the first qualifying round of tennis for the WTA tournament in Rome and cannot believe i’ve returned to your website to find this news, Sou.

    1. And apparently Greg Hunt is now in favour of handing Australian sovereignty over to Christiana Figueres.

  6. Interesting that Johnston finds it important to mention that Lomborg associates with imaginary people...

    "Nobel Laureate economists"? Ain't no such thing...

    "Sveriges Riksbank laureate economists" doesn't have quite the same ring, but it has the virtue of being accurate.

    1. Frank are you being a bit picky? - That's coz I'd have called them Nobel Laureates too :)

      How about "Laurates in the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel" :D.


      I see the Nobel Prize website makes it clear it's not a "Nobel Prize":

      "Not a Nobel Prize
      The Prize in Economic Sciences is not a Nobel Prize. In 1968, Sveriges Riksbank (Sweden's central bank) instituted "The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel", and it has since been awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences according to the same principles as for the Nobel Prizes that have been awarded since 1901. The first Prize in Economic Sciences was awarded to Ragnar Frisch and Jan Tinbergen in 1969."

  7. Australia seems to have a Due Diligence Deficit.
    In Silicon Valley, people do some of that before handing money over.

    See Bjorn Lomborg's Copenhagen Consensus Center - Real Charity Or "Foreign Conduit"?

    See Andrew P. Street's delightfully-snarky View from the Street: So, is Copenhagen Consensus Centre just a US postbox?, one of the very few of many articles to have stirred Lomborg to respond.

  8. I trust we've seen Bernard Keane winning the Internet for today?


    (NOTE: Ann Bressington was a member of South Australia's Upper House, a gift to us from Nick Xenophon as she ran number 2 on his ticket, got in, and was marooned when he leveraged his incomprehensible-to-me popularity into a cross-bench seat in federal parliament. She proceeded to be most exercised over matters affecting our vital bodily fluids, such as fluoridation of the water supply. For Maurice Newman see elsewhere.)

  9. I'd forgotten all about that woman, even though I sort of remembered our Nick upping sticks and getting to Canberra.

    Jumping, clapping and generalised wild applause to Keane though. That was beautiful to read. (I used to live in Chrissie's electorate.)

  10. Bjorn Lomborg's modest reaction: "Australia consensus would have put the University of Western Australia at the forefront of global research efforts to improve the use of aid spending. It is deeply disappointing that UWA has lost this opportunity..."



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