In December 2015, Australia made a commitment to the global goal “to hold average temperature increase to well below 2°C and pursue efforts to keep warming below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.”
Then in March 2016, the Turnbull government signed an agreement to make a $640,000 grant to Bjørn Lomborg to write yet another climate contrarian book saying that “limiting global temperature rises to 2C was a poor investment.”
In 2012, the Danish government stopped funding Lomberg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre. Lomborg does not have a background in climate science and has published no peer-reviewed articles on climate change – his views have been widely discredited.
So how did he end up here with his hand out?
Apparently he made a big “impression” on a rather simpering Julie Bishop.
Minister Bishop launched DFAT’s development innovation hub as innovationXchange affirming the Government’s push for the department to be more creative, entrepreneurial and innovative in its design and delivery of the Australian aid program.
The Minister also announced the creation of a 14-member International Reference Group that has brought together leading innovators who will provide strategic guidance and forge linkages with new partners and new sources of financing.
Lomberg was one of this ‘expert’ panel.
Not content with being paid to advise how our foreign aid should be spent, he was also given $4 million to set up a new version of his “Consensus Centre” at the University of Western Australia.
Such was the outcry at giving this man government funds, the university refused the money and, despite Christopher Pyne’s best efforts, he could not find any other reputable educational facility that wanted to be associated with Lomberg’s ‘research’ even if he came with Julie Bishop’s imprimatur and a truckload full of government money.
“You can be certain it will happen,” said Pyne. “Freedom of speech demands that it does.”
Immediately Andrew Bolt, Henry Ergas, Nick Cater and Tim Wilson cried foul, accusing the university of censorship. (Having that quartet on his side should be enough to raise concern for anybody.)
As far as I can see, no-one has been stifling Lomberg’s freedom of speech – he just wanted a patsy to fund it.
And that’s where we come in.
On Thursday last week, three days before Christmas, it was revealed that the Department of Education gave Lomberg the money anyway – or at least a goodly portion of it.
The Turnbull government signed an agreement to make a $640,000 grant to Bjørn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre nine months after plans to establish the centre had been abandoned.
A breakdown of costs released on Thursday shows that $482,000 of the Australian funding was spent on professional fees and services including research, “outreach” and forums.
About $146,000 was spent on travel in an ambitious global project convening seminars to discuss the UN development goals in Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, South Africa and New York.
The project formed the basis of Lomborg’s book The Nobel Laureates’ Guide to the Smartest Targets for the World, which is not widely available in Australian shops.
Lomberg’s whole body of work is about comparing the return for money invested in social outcomes. For example, he thinks that encouraging sustainable tourism or reducing child marriages or drug abuse are relatively wasteful uses of aid funds, and action to reduce GHG emissions is too expensive.
If we are talking about wasteful use of funds, could I suggest that paying Lomberg $640,000 to write another discredited book and fly around the world promoting it was an enormous waste of our education budget, and I have a very uneasy feeling that our Foreign Minister and our ex-Education Minister are susceptible to being charmed.
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