Report of Lomborg Controversy in Australia

Presented by Robert D. Brinsmead

The University of Western Australia’s decision to reject Bjorn Lomborg’s Australian Consensus Centre is disturbing for its validation of a culture of soft censorship.
The human right of free speech is about ensuring laws don’t restrict what people can say. One of the most important arguments in favour of free speech is that it keeps debate open so bad ideas can be challenged and exposed, to continue the march of human progress.
The campaign of outrage eventually led to vice-chancellor Paul Johnson cancelling the centre because it lacked support from the academic community.

The above is part of a Letter to the Editor (The Australian) by Tim Wilson (Human Rights Commissioner)

Here is a little background on Bjorn Lomborg whom I went to hear at a public lecture at Queensland University a few years back.

  • Lomborg is a young (now late thirty something) Danish Professor of Statistics at Copenhagen University.  He was first propelled to fame (or notoriety) by the publication of The Sceptical Environmentalist in the early 2000’s.  The gist of this impressive study (which I have had in my library since it was first published) was to show that the state of the world as measured by all the credited statistics was not in a rapid state of deterioration as widely promoted, but has continued to make improvements in most areas – forests are growing in extent despite grave fears to the contrary, hunger and poverty are being eradicated, health, education, and longevity continues to improve, crime rates are dropping, the human condition continues to improve. Most environmental problems are not as bad as the doomsters make things out to be.  His book was met with massive outrage and vitriol from the “decliners” and at one big public lecture a pie was pushed into his face.  Lomborg is also a vegetarian, an environmentalist who rides to work on his bike, and is a homosexual – but these features were not the objects of the attrack.  It was just that he seemed to undermine the new plan to save the world by their radical means of anti-industrialism and anti-capitalism.  Despite the opposition, Lomborg grew in status to become listed by Time as one of the hundred most influential persons on earth.
  • Strange as it may seem, Lomborg has never questioned, much less refuted, the mainline science of climate change, global warming through rising carbon dioxide levels (the Greenhouse gases) and the human contribution to such. He is not a so-called “climate sceptic,” much less a climate change denier (which is almost worse than being called a paedophile in some circles).  What he has called into question is the $ billions spent on schemes to mitigate climate change that are almost worse than useless and end up doing a lot of environmental damage – as well as increasing the hardship of the poor.  He argues that the same amount of money spent would give everyone on the planet clean water to drink, less malaria and save millions of lives.  He also wants more money spent on research to find more affordable sources of energy to replace fossil fuel.
  • Lomborg has set up the now famous Copenhagen Consensus Centre to examine public policy and expenditure on government programs to address the major problems of the world – like malaria, contamination of water and air, climate change, forestry, fisheries etc. His Think Tank group is composed of some of the world’s leading authorities on economics, public health and includes a number of Nobel Laureates.  The Centre publishes regularly, and Lomborg frequently appears in The Australian.
  • With the help of our Federal Government ( a reported $4 million) Professor Lomborg was to set up a Consesus Centre at the WA University – its purpose was not to comment on science, including the science of climate change, but to examine and report on public policy and public expenditure. Lomborg’s big thing has always been about getting the best “bang for buck”, looking at the comparative return for this and that policy, and avoiding policies that yield a poor return for the finite resource of money.
  • Everything appeared to be fine and rosy until the academic Lefists (the Green-Labour Progressives) mounted a campaign of outrage, ad hominem attacks and feigned horror of hosting the Consensus Centre at WA University. The university has yielded to this McCarthy-like campaign of hatred and denigration of Lomborg, and has panicked this University into backing out of the deal.  It is a black day for the University and for genuine academic freedom in a university.  The Lomborg Centre is going to be set up in Australia anyway, and thanks to the Feds, they are not backing down either.
  • Because I am an optimist, I predict that the methodologies of the Consensus Centre will win out here as it won out in Copenhagen despite the same kind of bitter opposition. After Lomborg published his world-shaking book (The Sceptical Environmentalist) a government body engaged an inquisition in Denmark to accuse and censure Lomborg of “intellectual dishonesty.”   That old report is still bandied about, even though the Danish government soon after commissioned an inquiry of its own.  It not only vindicated Lomborg but charged  the first committee that examined the matter of being biased, and for dishonestly reporting the contents of Lomborg’s book.  I mention this because I see that this discredited old charge of “intellectual dishonestly” is now being levelled at Lomborg in this recent WA controversy.