“Environmental Correctness” (EC) is just as authoritarian and mindless as standard-issue “political correctness,” and for the same reason. Leftist orthodoxy needs to suppress dissent, or it will collapse.
The latest example of EC in action comes from Australia, where the University of Western Australia has pulled the plug on a new research center at its business school because of its connection to Bjorn Lomborg. Inside Higher Ed reports:
The University of Western Australia, in Perth, last month trumpeted the creation of the Australian Consensus Center in its business school. The center, in conjunction with the Copenhagen Consensus Center, was to focus on “applying an economic lens to proposals to achieve good for Australia, the region and the world, prioritizing those initiatives which produce the most social value per dollar spent.” The Australian government planned to provide $4 million Australian ($3.2 million U.S.) out of the total $13 million Australian total cost.
But in the weeks since the announcement, critics inside and outside the university blasted the proposed center’s links to Bjorn Lomborg, who is perhaps best known for his 2001 book The Skeptical Environmentalist. Politicians on Australia’s liberal wing, staff members at the university and academics at other Australian institutions joined the fray. More than 6,000 people signed a Change.org petition seeking to “turn away Bjorn Lomborg’s anti-climate science institute funding.”
In a statement of “deep regret” on the university’s website late last week, Western Australia’s vice chancellor, Paul Johnson, said he believed the center would deliver robust, evidence-based knowledge and advice, and that the involvement of Lomborg was appropriate.
“Despite all this, there remains strong opposition to the center. Whilst I respect the right of staff to express their views on this matter, as all universities should be places for open and honest sharing and discussion of ideas, in this case, it has placed the university in a difficult position,” he said.
“Therefore, it is with great regret and disappointment that I have formed the view that the events of the past few weeks place the center in an untenable position as it lacks the support needed across the university and the broader academic community to meet its contractual obligations and deliver value for money for Australian taxpayers.”
First of all, let’s mark down this vice chancellor as another gutless wimp in academic administration. The right response, in Aussie, would have been—“Sod off.”
Second, Lomborg’s critics can’t even get their facts straight. Lomborg doesn’t dissent at all from climate science orthodoxy. He never mentions any skeptical science. Instead, using traditional economic tools of discounting the present value of future risk (and about which something like a half-dozen Nobel Prize winners agree with him), he points out that climate change ranks far down the list of current concerns, and that a lot more lives can be saved or improved in the developing world by directing our scarce aid and resources to these other problems (like clean water and disease prevention). But if you don’t sign up for the full-strength Klimate Kool Aid, you must be suppressed.
Fortunately there is some blowback:
Tim Wilson, Australia’s human rights commissioner, said in an essay in The Australian that the dispute at Western Australia showed that the country’s “culture of open debate is increasingly sick.”
Critics of Lomborg’s views, Wilson said, were engaging in the “cancerous” tactic of “no platforming,” in which people “protest against someone being given a platform to speak, or where it has been provided, campaign to have it removed.” Wilson attributed the tactic to students in Britain who are opposed to racist or fascist views. “But it has now evolved beyond simply opposing racist or fascist views to target people who don’t fit accepted progressive groupthink, such as Lomborg,” Wilson wrote.
This, from the human rights commissioner? There may be hope for western civilization yet.