By Andrew L. Urban
Bjorn Lomborg doesn’t belong in Australian academic circles, as evidenced by the (2015) rush to refuse him a place to run an Antipodean cell of his Copenhagen research centre. Of course not: he insists on rational, evidence based research, an open mind and – most distressingly – on effective use of the world’s resources, including money, to prioritise and target the really needy. It just won’t do when you stick that sort of thinking anywhere near the heated subject of the earth’s climate. The academic temperature goes up faster than a hockey stick curve.
It is a good thing that Lomborg was refused entry to the club which he shouldn’t join. It would have been an intellectual culture clash with more time spent arguing than thinking and probing and questioning and seeking outcomes.
The episode has revealed the intellectual and academic bankruptcy of a country which has also turned from easy going, egalitarian larrikinism to puritanical, authoritarian small mindedness.
One of Lomborg’s failures is he thinks. Another one is that he expects all his fellow academics to do likewise.
Following the robust yelling match about his imminent arrival, as if it would be tantamount to the end of the climate gravy train, it is clear that most of his detractors don’t actually know what he does, what he believes is the way to solve global problems (including how to respond to the effects of warming) and what his objectives are. Or they misrepresent what the Consensus Centre was meant to do. In that sad scenario, debate is pointless. You can argue with intelligently held, well informed views, but you can’t argue with closed minds.
Lomborg was shut out of Australia for what he stands for: rigorous, genuine scientific and academic research. A typical response had nothing to do with his research or with science. “Lomborg promotes himself as the champion of cost-benefit analysis and economics, but a lot of economists I talk to think Lomborg is really the champion of Lomborg,” wrote Tristan Edis (The Australian, Business Review, May 12, 2015).
He who shouts loudest wins … the new paradigm in academe.