Doomed Planet

Festival of Intolerance

The Alfred Deakin Lectures  – sold out or a "sell out"?

In my article, “Wheeler Centre’s big fix”, I discussed the lectures being sponsored by the Victorian Government at the newly established Wheeler Centre being run by well-known left-wing journalist Eric Beecher, who as Chairman would reap the benefit from the $13.6 million provided by the government to refurbish premises that were part of the Melbourne Public Library. These lectures, which will occur from 6-12 June, were promoted as “the most concentrated dissection of the climate challenge presented in our country in recent times” and as being moderated by Nick Rowley, former adviser to Tony Blair, Bob Carr and the strategic director of the Copenhagen Climate Council. I concluded that the lectures reflect the continuing fight back by the many politicians and governments, bureaucrats and academics who have locked themselves into the belief that the earth faces a dangerous period of warming unless governments act to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. In effect the Wheeler Centre has been established with taxpayers’ funds as a centre to promote left wing views. 

The centre has now issued a “Talking Point” referring to Quadrant Online’s publication of an article by Andrew Glikson, who is a believer in the dangerous warming thesis, and to the point made in my article that none of the listed speakers are sceptics. The response by the Talking Point is that “we think they’ve missed the point. The Deakin Lecture series … is not about debating climate science [but] taking on board one of the pressing issues of our time and considering the impact that discussion is having on different spheres of modern life, from business and industry to our cities and farms…” (the reference to the Deakin Lecture series is not, incidentally, to the highly regarded lectures run by the long established Alfred Deakin Trust: the Victorian Government presumably also used the name for status reasons). 

This Talking Points reaction seems, to use Treasury Secretary Ken Henry’s description of one of the many criticisms of the Resource Super Profits Tax, curious. If the climate challenge is one of the pressing issues of our time, there ought surely to be some discussion of the scientific and economic basis of that challenge. Indeed, both the lecture titles, which include “Emissions Trading” and “Future Energy Solutions”, and the list of presenters suggest that will be the case. 

Professor Tim Flannery, who is “lead” curator and will give the opening keynote address, is well-known for his use of scientific (sic) analysis to back such predictions as that sea levels threaten to rise by 80 metres and has now said he will no longer vote Labor because Prime Minister Rudd has postponed the introduction of the emissions trading scheme he promised to start in his first term (one wonders whether the Victorian Labor Government will now continue its financial support of the lectures). Another listed speaker is Martin Parkinson, former Treasury Deputy and now head of the Department of Climate Change, and his public support of government policy indicates that his lecture will certainly present views on the potential economic impacts of the climate challenge. 

Apart from the obvious partisanship, the failure of the Wheeler Centre to include any speakers who are sceptics runs against the tide of opinion. Noteworthy are the recent survey by the BBC showing that less than 30 per cent believe warming is due to human activity and the rejection by the Oxford Union Society (135 to 110 votes), the world’s premier debating society, of the notion that global warming is or could become a global crisis. Some members of Britain’s Royal Society have also forced the board to review its pamphlet “Climate Change Controversies” on the ground that it fails adequately to identify the uncertainties in the science. Particularly since the revelations emerging from Climategate, there is no doubt that the tide of opinion has turned against the believers. The Wheeler Centre is doing itself a disservice by running a series of lectures in which the speakers will effectively be talking to themselves. 

See also "Melbourne’s Closed Minds" here…

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