The Abbott Government has handed over $4 million with regards to climate change antagonist Bjørn Lomborg in developing a consensus centre at the University of Western Australia, this after the same government struggles to adhere to spending cuts for higher education.
Christopher Pyne, spokesperson for education minister has stated that this $4 million will be spread evenly over 4 years in order to construct the Copenhagen Consensus Centre methods within the country. This centre was a bid put forward by the university as well as by Dr Lomborg’s group.
The construction of the centre was very hush-hush as even senior staff members at the business school were completely in the dark about it being set up until just before the official announcement.
Vice-chancellor of the University, Professor Paul Johnson, has admitted that the funding being offered for the centre’s establishment specifically was a part of a chance that arose within discussions between the department and the minister.” As we all know it is difficult to get federal dollars to flow across the Nullabor,” he said.
Bjørn Lomborg was within Western Australia during 2014 and visited the university, whereby separate conversations were had with the minster. Lomborg has expanded during a Freakonomics podcast in 2014 that he’s current centre lost funding by centre-left Danish government during 2012, as such he was then searching for a long-term financial funding solution. During this in-between period he’s centre then moved to the US while being funded privately on a budget of around $1 million (U.S) per annum.
Being bankrolled by the Danish government from 2004-2012, Lomborg has explained that one of many things the government didn’t appreciate was the fact that he advocated that global warming was tangible and is a real threat, though the typical manner such issues are dealt with is poor investment resources. When change of government happened, the new one defunded the centre.
When moving to the America, the centre’s budget fell from around $2 million to $1 million a year, where most of the money came from private donations.
Spokesperson for Pyne has reiterated that the $4 million is only a 1/3 of the total cost of the new Australia Consensus Centre, while the university will also contribute and commit to raising extra funds.
Johnson has stated that the university will contribute in kind, while looking for more funding through state government options or even through the private sector.
The centre will be staffed by 3-4 employees, while Lomborg has been appointed as a partner professor and co-chairing the advisory board together with Johnson.
Lomborg utilises cost-benefit analysis when advising government on what type of spending will have the best social value. He has come to the conclusion that climate change isn’t that big of a problem after all. The way the issue is dealt with and spoken about nowadays is grossly overstated, he claims that subsidies regarding alternative energy doesn’t make economic sense and that the government should spend less on foreign aid with regards to climate change programs because poorer countries still need access to fossil fuels at the end of the day.
Being one of fourteen people advising the Abbott government with regards to foreign aid within the international reference group named “Innovation Xchange”, they are working on ideas which would encourage better private sector funds when it comes to delivering aid.
Tanya Plibersek, foreign affairs spokesperson for Labor has asked about the type of message such an appointment is sending out to Pacific countries who are quite concerned about the repercussions of climate change on the whole.
During Lomborg’s podcast he explained he’s policy of accepting private donations which he claims are “no strings attached”. He says he accepts no cash from fossil fuel industry leaders and he won’t allow anyone to dictate what he has to say. He only accepts donations from private individuals and foundations that afford him the chance to do the work he wants to do.
He claims most wish to stay anonymous though a select few such as the Kaufman Foundation have no issue with him stating they have funded him. Lomborg also states that he has received funding from New Ventures Foundation, the Randolph Foundation and Rush Foundation.
The Rush Foundation is involved with new policy making regarding HIV Aids while the New Ventures Fund financed by Bill and Melinda Gates seem to support Lomborg’s views that wealthier countries mustn’t stop poorer ones from using fossil fuels to alleviate the circumstances they are in.
Kaufman and Randolph have been linked to having fossil fuel interests, though David Lessmann, communications manager for Copenhagen Consensus has denied this by stating that the foundation is the largest in the U.S when it comes to private economic foundations who is funded by pharmaceuticals, while Randolph is a charitable foundation funded by Vicks.
Lessmann also advised that it was Copenhagen Consensus Centre that recommended the withdrawal of subsidies towards the fossil fuel industry while increasing investment within research and development for green and clean energy technologies.
UWA has stated that the new Australian Consensus Centre will focus on three projects namely; advising of the best way to move towards post-2015 UN international development goals, advising which policies would work better to keep Australia on top of the game within a generations time and aid in setting up global initiatives for development aid while helping with Dfat and development agencies to produce the most for every dollar spent.
The centre will also play host to a big conference during 2016/17 regarding Indo-Pacific development aims as well as conduct a cost-benefit analysis regarding investments within agriculture which would inform the argument regarding the expansion of northern Australia.
Tony Abbott has quoted Lomborg within he’s 2009 book, Battlelines by writing: “It doesn’t make sense, though, to impose certain and substantial costs on the economy now in order to avoid unknown and perhaps even benign changes in the future. As Bjørn Lomborg has said: ‘Natural science has undeniably shown us that global warming is manmade and real. But just as undeniable is the economic science which makes it clear that a narrow focus on reducing carbon emissions could leave future generations with major costs, without major cuts to temperatures.’”
The Coalition government also utilised Copenhagen Consensus Centre findings in order to support their policy on abolishing the carbon tax that was implemented before.
Tony Abbott has found a great supporter to further he’s cause with regard to climate change denial as well as continued shut-downs when it comes to renewable energy says Labor’s environment spokesperson, Mark Butler. Labor maintains that Abbott is using limited public funds to prove his own climate scepticism.
The institute of Public Affairs has issued a “Bjørn, it’s great to have you!” response to he’s new Australian venture.