May 23rd 2015

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY No deal in federal budget for single-income families

CANBERRA OBSERVED Mixed budget: 'Battlers' put on the backburner

SOCIETY Marriage myths do not stand up to close scrutiny

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Supreme Court argument goes to heart of marriage

POLITICS Understanding Orwell: the dangers of ideology

EDITORIAL Executive salaries: Telstra CEO bells the cat

ECONOMICS Productivity: do we understand it at all?

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS UK election: implications of Conservative victory

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Floating reasons to build our submarines here

CINEMA Best-laid plans oft end in corruption

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS New fronts in the fight against human trafficking

EDUCATION Non-government school tuition trumps SES status

CLIMATE CHANGE Bjorn again sceptics show face of intolerance

DRUGS Ice: an epidemic rages under our very noses

BOOK REVIEW The man who would not be prime minister

BOOK REVIEW The father of the green revolution

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Bjorn again sceptics show face of intolerance

by John Elsegood

News Weekly, May 23, 2015

Hell hath no fury like a climate alarmist aroused.

Bjorn Lomborg

That seems to be the message we are receiving since the Abbott Government’s decision last month to set up a climate-change centre at the University of Western Australia (UWA), courtesy of a $4 million grant.

The proposed Australian Consensus Centre has produced anything but that and the enormous stink is because controversial Danish-born author Bjorn Lomborg is the recipient of the funding.

The usual green-left suspects railed at the decision. For former Greens leader Christine Milne, it “was an
insult to every climate scientist in Australia”, while Tim Flannery said it was “an ideological attempt to deceive the Australian public”.

In addition an online petition had garnered more than 6000 signatures.

All this was enough for UWA to run up the white flag and surrender to the mob, rejecting the money, and the centre.

Nor is it the first time this has happened. Lord Monckton was similarly deemed persona non grata by UWA for his views on climate issues.

Lomborg’s “crime” is not that he is a climate-change denier but rather that he downgrades the issue by expressing the view that he does not believe climate change is the most pressing issue in the world. That alone condemns him with the new inquisitors.

Lomborg seeks to challenge people to think -- supposedly what universities are for -- yet these are the very centres that put on him the new heretic label, “climate contrarian”, and demand that he be kept off campus “in the name of science”.

Little wonder that Spiked editor Brendan O’Neill, said there was a palpable religious feel to the denunciations. “Once we had in the name of the Lord,” he wrote, but now dissenters were stilled by the “golden calf of Science”.

Clearly UWA Vice-Chancellor Paul Johnson has surrendered to academic cowards. Education Minister Christopher Pyne rightly noted: “What a sad day when staff at a university silences a dissenting voice rather than test their ideas in debate.”

One academic not impressed with the treatment handed out to Lomborg is Colorado Professor of Environmental Studies Roger Pielke jnr. Although sometimes an opponent, including on a panel debate, the American praised Lomborg’s book The Skeptical Scientist as being “incredibly useful in the classroom”.

Pielke warned that debate should never be closed down, or shut out, simply because of hostility to a particular view or person.

Bill Gates has described Lomborg as “data driven, and always worth listening to”; while The Economist magazine described the Copenhagen Consensus Centre as an “outstanding visionary idea” and deserving of global coverage.

True enough. As the Copenhagen Consensus has shown, solutions to a wide range of problems are considered after looking at what experts in the particular area have to say. These problems are evaluated by a panel of economists and subjected to budgetary constraints. A pecking order of projects is listed.

The Copenhagen Consensus 2008 listed reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions in last place (30th) on the list of major problems Therein the problem with those who cherish this cause as the most important issue facing the globe.

Unlike Lomborg, those academics at UWA are incapable of rising to the challenge.

In 2004 Time listed Lomborg as one of the 100 most influential people in the world. As journalist Andrew Bolt asked, would anyone from UWA make the top 100 Australians list?

Search for another venue

Mr Pyne will now look for another venue to host the Consensus Centre, but that may not be in Perth, thanks to the antics of the new heretics known as “climate spoilers”. He is also seeking legal advice as to whether UWA has breached its contractual responsibilities.

The Federal Member for Tangney, Dr Denis Jensen, has publicly protested, and is making representations to the University.

The government takes the position that the investment in the Consensus Centre would enable the “best economic thinkers” in the world to contribute to Australia’s policy debates.

Lomborg blamed the university’s decision on “toxic politics, ad hominem attacks and premature judgment” and said the centre had been used as a “political football”.

He said the centre would have put the university at the forefront of global research efforts to improve the use of aid spending.

“This is far too important to let fall victim to toxic politics,” he said.

John Elsegood is a Perth freelance journalist and a teacher of history and politics.

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