Controversial Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg says he is confident he will find another Australian university to host his Consensus Centre despite a fierce backlash in Western Australia.
A self-described “sceptical environmentalist”, Dr Lomborg’s planned Australian Consensus Centre was allocated $4 million in this month’s federal budget, but plans to host it at the University of Western Australia (UWA) were abandoned after protests from students and staff.
“I’m sure we’ll find somewhere in Australia to do that but I’m not sure [where] just yet,” Dr Lomborg told ABC’s 7.30.
Dr Lomborg was speaking from Nairobi, Kenya, where he is addressing an aid conference on new United Nations development goals.
Dr Lomborg declined to say which institutions he was negotiating with but said he was confident he would get the go-ahead.
“I can understand that, given what happened at the UWA, some people are going to be a bit more reluctant,” he said.
“Do they want to engage in this? But again, I think it’s a big shame in the sense of saying we work with more than 100 of the world’s top economists, seven Nobel laureates, lots of interesting people.”
Dr Lomborg accepts the science on climate change but has argued poverty and disease are more pressing problems.
He argues the UN should scale back its goals to ensure money is spent effectively.
“Basically they’re promising everything to everyone and we need to find a way to make sure we focus on the very smartest targets,” he said.
“That’s what I’m here in Kenya to talk about and that’s where we could also talk about … where Australia would spend its $5 billion to do a lot more good, potentially four times as much good.”
Dr Lomborg is frustrated his views on climate change have hijacked the debate on his new centre in Australia.
“The decision from UWA was very clearly a very emotional one,” he said.
“A lot of people got very involved and talked about, oh, this is a climate centre and Bjorn is a climate denier and all that, which is just not true.”
“I think if they had given it a chance they would’ve seen this would actually be a real opportunity for Australia.”
Climate Council hits out at ‘snake oil salesman’
Amanda McKenzie is the CEO of the Climate Council, which lost its funding in last year’s budget.
Ms McKenzie said federal funding cuts to existing scientific bodies like the CSIRO made Dr Lomborg’s centre unjustifiable.
“This is about where taxpayer dollars go to,” she said.
“I would rather see taxpayer dollars go to the Bureau of Meteorology or the CSIRO, that has really authoritative science on climate change, rather than a snake oil salesman like Bjorn Lomborg.”
Lizzy O’Shea, the president of the UWA Students Guild, which led the fight against Dr Lomborg, warned other universities to also keep their distance.
“I wouldn’t touch it,” she said.
“I think the backlash that I’ve seen hasn’t just been from UWA staff and students, its been from people in the community who don’t want to see it anywhere.”