Once, it was Communists who were harassed on Western campuses. Now it’s contrarians. Specifically ‘climate contrarians’. The massive stink over Bjorn Lomborg being given Australian government funding to set up a climate-change centre at the University of Western Australia (UWA) shows that the spirit of McCarthyism lives on. Only now, its targets aren’t Reds, but anti-greens: anyone who dares to criticise either the science — sorry, The Science — or the politics of climate change.
Lomborg is the Danish-born author of the bestselling book The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001). He’s the rattler of greens across the globe with his claims that climate change is not the biggest problem facing humanity, and to the extent that it is a problem we should develop our way out of it rather than cutting back on fossil-fuel use and forcing everyone to live ‘sustainable lives’, which is only fancy code for eco-friendly poverty. So it was inevitable, given green hostility to any criticism of their creed, that Lomborg’s appointment at UWA would start a stir. But even by the standards of denier-denouncing environmentalists, the fury over Lomborg heading Down Under has been intense — and revealing.
Lomborg is being given $4million, apparently on the say so of Aussie PM Tony Abbott himself, to set up and oversee the Australia Consensus Centre. It will be the new arm of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, the US-based think-tank Lomborg runs. No sooner had it been announced that Lomborg and his centre would be setting up shop at UWA than Aussie (and international) academics were spitting blood, and the liberal media Down Under were churning out pieces asking why the hell university space and cash were being given to someone who — horror of horrors — ‘downgrades climate change’. (Not denies it, you’ll note — just ‘downgrades’ it. It seems that even saying ‘I don’t think climate change is the most pressing issue in the world’ is now a sin that will earn you stinging demonisation.)
The Australia Guardian questions the fitness of Lomborg for university life. Green-leaning writers demand the Oz government ‘pull the plug’ on the Lomborg centre, outraged that it might argue that climate change should be ‘placed well down [the] list of global priorities’. At the UWA itself, academics and students held a meeting that one described as being ‘like a Rolling Stones concert’ (it was packed and heated), at which there was ‘riotous applause’ when staff called for UWA to ‘end [its] deal with the climate-change contrarian’. Rolling Stones gig, or mob? The UWA Student Guild joined with their professors to demand that UWA refuse to ‘engage controversial climate contrarian Bjorn Lomborg’, on the basis that having him on campus would ‘harm UWA’s world-class reputation’. An online petition demands that, ‘In the name of science’, Lomborg should be rejected by UWA; it has more than 6,000 signatures.