The University of Western Australia has cancelled the contract for a policy centre that was to be headed up by controversial academic Bjorn Lomborg after a “passionate emotional reaction” to the plan.
The Federal Government had pledged to contribute $4 million to the Consensus Centre, a think tank that was to use methods similar to those used by Dr Lomberg’s Copenhagen Centre.
Dr Lomborg has attracted controversy for suggesting that the dangers of climate change are overstated, and that society faces other more pressing challenges such as global poverty.
In a statement, UWA Vice Chancellor Paul Johnson said the creation of the centre had attracted “mixed reactions” from staff, students and the general public.
“The scale of the strong and passionate emotional reaction was one that the university did not predict,” he said.
“Over the past few weeks, I have met and talked to staff, students and members of the public to hear their views, and to explain how the centre will operate within the university, the type of economic analysis it will undertake, and to correct many mistruths and misunderstandings about the centre.
“I have stated many times that it is not a centre to study climate change, that the university was not providing any direct funding to the centre, and that that Bjorn Lomborg would not be involved in its day-to-day operations.”
But he said the strong opposition to the centre had placed the university in a difficult position, and that the lack of support meant it could not deliver “value for money for Australian taxpayers”.
“By its very nature a centre of this sort requires co-operation of a wide range of people across many fields,” Mr Johnson said.
“The work of the Australia Consensus Centre is important to Australia’s future by engaging in important discussion and economic analysis about how we ensure future generations are better off than those that came before them.
“Unfortunately, that work cannot happen here.”
Mr Johnson said he had on Friday spoken to the Federal Government and Dr Lomborg, advising them of the university’s decision to cancel the contract and return the money to the Government.