Doomed Planet

How Green Academics Fill Their Days

green PA hornThe Australian-German College of Climate and Energy Transitions, twinned with the Melbourne University Sustainable Society Institute (MSSI), is a hotbed of climate activism.  The college and its Potsdam patron were discussed in Part I of this two-part series.

The college’s creation fits perfectly with the third item of the university’s $100m  “Three Grand Challenges” for research to 2025. These are,

  1. Understanding our place and purpose
  2. Fostering health and well-being, and
  3. Supporting sustainability and resilience. 

Item 1 is mush; Item 2 worthily involves half of the university’s research; and Item 3 is the same Trojan horse for the green/left that has trotted through the Australian schools sector.[1]

On April 22, Sustainable Society staffer and Crikey ex-deputy editor Cathy Alexander was tweeting enthusiastically about a Melbourne Uni student demo demanding divestment of fossil-fuel company shares, re-tweeted by the Australian-German College. Trivial, sure, but it conveys the ambience. Such divestment is dear to hearts at MSSI. At a recent conference, MSSI executive committee member Professor Robyn Eckersley concluded her speech:

The climate regime is not the only show in town…The most exciting development since Copenhagen has been the rise of the divestment movement, the leave-it-in-the-ground movement, and the Lock The Gate movement … So you have to get at fossil fuels outside this agreement by other means. And that  movement is going gangbusters at the moment.

Eckersley’s other hobby-horses, apart from what she calls “weather of mass destruction”, include a coal non-proliferation treaty similar to the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. Yes, she’s serious![2]  in describing it as a “fast, direct means of slowing climate change”  and “the looming problem of climate refugees, researching what rights they should have and proposing an international fund for them… ”

Eckersley, who calls herself “a green political theorist”, is also Chair of Political Science at the university.

She likes “making the case for military intervention” to protect the environment, saying

I think it’s good to have a principled debate about the circumstances when military intervention to defend the environment might be justifiable, so when the time comes, we’ve thought it through.

Here’s my own example: Australia should invade NZ to stop our horrible Kiwi cousins slaughtering possums through trapping, cyanide and 1080.  We love possums, they’re one of our protected species.  Conceivably, the NZ possum slaughter is what Eckersley might define as ‘ecocide’, as in “crimes against nature basically involve the wilful, deliberate extermination of non-human species, which is also an irreversible act.”

Her 2012 co-edited book includes her useful tips for the Australian Defence Forces:

  • build capacity for the “growing incidence of extreme weather events” [see  note 1]
  • ‘climate-proof’ defence installations [they’re a bit busy now proofing bases against jihadists] and
  • ‘reduce  dependence on oil before prices escalate with the onset of peak oil,’ [Current oil price: USD57].[3]

When not exercising her field-marshall’s baton[4], Eckersley’s research interests include the epistemology of “vocal climate change deniers”, for which she had hopes for a large grant in 2013.

She also uses the case study of “Simian Sovereignty” where great apes should be treated like a human tribe, because they have authority structures and the right of self-determination. “This is not a fanciful idea,” she says. My thought is that those simians should also be allowed to keep a few humans in zoos.[5] She is sympathetic, she says, to a scenario where Pacific islanders get on a boat, float to Vancouver and blockade a bridge until Canada agrees to stop tar-sand mining, which pumps out CO2 and drowns the islanders’  homes. And Eckersley is full bottle on the “anthropocene”, that long geological era between 1975 and 1995 when global temperatures and CO2 emissions rose together, probably by coincidence. The Anthropocene, she observes, “prompts us to contemplate the possibility and meaning of the unthinkable: an Earth without us.”

As she wrote for The Conversation, a la the Greens’ Bob Brown, we must now consider ourselves   ‘earthlings’: 

Pundits are warning that if climate negotiations fail to hold warming below two degrees Celsius, democracy will unravel on a hot and lawless planet. Earth will be marked by extreme weather events, ecological collapse, food and resource scarcity, millions of displaced people and increasing conflict and violence…

The space-time-community co-ordinates of liberal democracies are ill-suited to serving the long-term public good of environmental protection…

Being an Earthling does not require renunciation of national citizenship. It does put citizenship and territorially based democracy in a more critical and less exclusivist light.

Eckersley has even managed the feat of attacking then-PM Julia Gillard and her carbon tax, although she did so from the left by accusing Gillard of leaving the electorate “pretty much in the dark about the nature and scale of the problem and Australia’s complicity in generating that problem”. Not that she let then Opposition Leader Tony Abbott off lightly: one of her slides shows depicts him addressing a Canberra rally in front of the sign “Juliar, Bob Brown’s Bitch”. She titles her slide: “Opposition Discourse: Hyperbolic Resistance” as though Abbott was aware of, or responsible for the sign, which was unfurled behind his back as he spoke. Her   final slide is the idiotic 2009 picture of the Maldives’ Islamist ministers in wetsuits holding a cabinet meeting underwater using air tanks and writing on special tablets – a pre-Copenhagen stunt cooked up by the Maldives PR genius Mark Lynas.

Eckersley’s latest overseas trip (that I  know of) was to the Lima climate fiasco last December. As she wrote in 2012, approvingly, “Meetings and negotiations under the UNFCCC [climate talks] are expected to become a permanent and increasingly prominent feature of international politics.”[6] She’s also written, “I normally go to these negotiations.”

Another doom-monger at the MSSI is executive committee member and frequent Eckersley co-author Peter Christoff, who teaches climate change politics. The professor is former vice-president and current board member of the Australian Conservation Foundation lobby group.

He wants Australia to spend $30-40 billion per annum for the next five years — say, $170 billion all up —  to cut emissions  by 40% on 2000 levels, which won’t, of course, reduce global temperatures one jot.  Strangely, last year he was wanting cuts by 2020  — not of 40% but “at least 48%”, partly through “buying international carbon credits” , i.e. giving our tax revenue away to foreigners.

Four days before the 2013 federal election, in the course of blasting Tony Abbott for climate ‘renegadism’, Christoff unveiled his thrilling Australian emissions target for 2030: “near zero”.  Overseas academic conferences would presumably be attended via canoes. Christoff told an interviewer in 2011 about the hypothesized 4-deg warming by 2100, saying

Economies must change radically and probably de-materialize. Whether the debate is about de-materialization and the   end of global capitalism, at the moment we must focus on de-carbonisation and worry about the other bits later…[the warming would] effectively lead to the end of agriculture as we know it…an utter transformation.

After that, the following exchange:

Interviewer: I wanted to make it a bit more graphic for the listeners, Peter…the Amazon rainforest would turn into dry scrubland…

Christoff: It is very important to go from dry statistics and facts as they are told by scientists to imagining and visualizing the consequences…

Interesting that Christoff believes 100-year climate forecasts from climate models, now officially acknowledged to exaggerate warming[7], are those same as ‘dry statistics and facts’.  Such is climate science.

Asked about geoengineering to get planetary temperatures down — cloud- and ocean-seeding, mirrors in outer space — he told the interviewer, “The more we delay the mitigation we need, the more these options must be considered very seriously…”

He edited the book last year, “Four Degrees of Global Warming, Australia in a Hot World”.[8] The book’s four-deg premise is a bit undermined by the current 18-year warming halt. He has his own chapter in the book, co-authored with Eckersley. They foresee, among other things,  between 200 million to one billion climate refugees by 2050.[9] This is an enhancement on UNEP predictions of 50m by 2010, furtively revised to ‘2020’ when 2010 came around and not a single climate refugee was visible. For her part, Eckersley in 2012 opted for 200 million climate refugees by 2050 as “the most widely quoted estimate”[10] but, within a year or two and despite no further global warming, she was talking about another 800 million of these pesky people[11].

The Christoff/Eckersley conclusion runs the line that America has itself to blame for 9/11 and Australia will have itself to blame for roasting up, because of “our sooty amalgam of domestic, economic, foreign, defence and trade policies”. (Soot? I thought CO2 was the topic).

They write

The American political scientist Chalmers Johnston called 9/11 and the continuing  War on Terror  ‘blowback’, caused by United States’ imperial foreign and defence policies from the 1950s to the start of the century. If we do realise a Four Degree World…we will have cause to call the results for Australia ‘climate’ blowback or ‘carbon’ blowback.[12]

I doubt their 9/11 analogy would go down well with New York’s bereaved, and remember, this is a 2014 book, not one written while 9/11 still involved  some confusion.

MSSI last June ran a particularly loopy conference, even by its own standards, where it rounded up a quartet of Buddhist speakers. The show was called Warming World: Engaged Buddhist Perspectives and Insights, and it  provided “a Buddhist Dharma perspective on the challenges of maintaining emotional, psychological and social resilience in the face of the rapidly accelerating probability and risks of catastrophic climate change.”

One of the four Buddhists was Carol Perry – “senior Insight Meditation teacher, environmental activist and therapist”. She is the co-founder of Dharmananda sustainable community in northern New South Wales where she has lived for 40 years. And what’s her shtick? Apart from the dharmas, sanghas and yatras, she’s a one-woman green crusade. A year ago, for example,  she was part of the seven-week blockade of gas drilling by Metgasco, which led to the Baird government cravenly cancelling Metgasco’s licence and the loss of a Nationals seat to the Greens.  The Supreme Court ruled this week in favour of Metgasco, which is now seeking $15 million compensation.

Carol Perry’s bizarre claim, however, was that  “Business and government have become one and the same thing”.  She told the seminar, “Corporations have a state-like impact on people’s lives but no accountability because they are profit motivated, there is no mechanism to orient them towards social responsibility.”Perry told her admiring audience about one indication that the fossil-fuel-company divestment strategy was working. She claimed the Minerals Council of Australia is spending “$100 million on a campaign to defend their own viability”. As usual with green claims, this one is pure fantasy. The council’s annual revenue is only $21 million. It annual budget for campaigns is under $1m. Its campaign over several years against the mining tax involved less than $20 million total. Its similar multi-year campaign against the carbon tax totalled well under $10m. Talking of lavish funding to defend one’s own viability, Australia’s top 10 green groups such as WWF and Greenpeace, get in donations totalling around $60 mllion a year.

The other three Buddhists seemed  a bit confused, trying to deliver the goods but struggling. One complained about a universal predicament: how he hated being shown friends’ photos from their high-emitting overseas trips. “I don’t want to give them a hard time, I want to keep our friendship,” he sighed. A monk spoke about “the harmonies in non-action”, which   didn’t go down well with all the MSSI activists.

On April 21 the Australian-German College and the MSSI wheeled up Tuvalu’s Ambassador for Climate Change, Ian Fry, as speaker, I assume to bang on about (non-existent) sea level/climate threats to island states. Dr Fry is famous for his pleas at a 2009 Copenhagen plenary about the doom of “my  country” Tuvalu. “I woke up this morning and I was crying, and that is not easy for a grown man  to admit. The fate of my country rests in your hands. Thank you”, Fry  told his whimpering audience, his own voice broken by emotion. Current candidate for IPCC chair Van Ypersele was there and confessed that he was among those emotionally overcome. Fry actually lives at Queanbeyan, near Canberra, 150km from the sea.

I have  barely scratched the surface of the   personalities and credos to be found in Melbourne University’s international interdisciplinary climate camp, but suspect the same syndromes could be found at dozens more Australian universities. University Senates usually include a few sensible   business people aka barons of capitalism. Perhaps one day  they will ask a few pertinent questions.

Tony Thomas blogs at No BS Here (I Hope)
















[1] The official document includes the “extreme weather” climate meme that even the IPCC has debunked: “Australia is already experiencing a greater prevalence of heat waves, fires, floods, landslides, droughts and storm surges exacerbated by warming climates.” (The university forgot to include volcanoes and earthquakes). An ‘errata’ is overdue as the latest IPCC report includes  “…there is not enough evidence at present to suggest more than low confidence in a global-scale observed trend in drought or dryness… a lack of evidence and thus low confidence regarding the sign of trend in the magnitude and/or frequency of floods on a global scale… confidence in large scale changes in the intensity of extreme extratropical cyclones since 1900 is low… Callaghan and Power (2011) find a statistically significant decrease in Eastern Australia land-falling tropical cyclones since the late 19th century” etc.


[2] Actually she thanks her colleague Peter Christoff  for creating this nutty idea

[3] Why Human Security Matters, Allen & Unwin, 2012, p203

[4] She also claims Australia’s defence forces should “acknowledge Australia’s complicity in contributing to some of the new security risks that will increasingly dominate security debates in the 21st century.” No, she’s not referring to risks of Islamic terror but C02 emissions. Why Human Security Matters, Allen & Unwin, 2012, p199

[5] A US court only last week granted two chimpanzees recognition as ‘legal persons’, with right of habeus corpus.


[6] ibid p203

[7] “An analysis of the full suite of CMIP5 historical simulations reveals that 111 out of 114 realisations show a GMST trend over 1998–2012 that is higher than the entire HadCRUT4 [actual] trend ensemble.” IPCC 5AR

[8] Routledge, Oxford, 2014.

[9] ibid, p194

[10] Why Human Security Matters, Allen & Unwin, 2012, p200

[11] op cit 9

[12]  op cit 8  p201

2 thoughts on “How Green Academics Fill Their Days

  • Tony Thomas says:

    I have just part-transcribed a Melbourne University seminar where Peter Christoff calls for legal bans and punitive fines on broadcasters and individuals for ‘climate denial’. This would be “based on the fact that unchecked climate denialism over time would cause loss of freedom and rights, the death of thousands of humans, the loss of entire cultures, effectively genocide , extinctions…
    “The legislation to be contemplated might be roughly framed around things like Holocaust Denial legislation which already exists in 17 countries, focused on the criminalisation of those who public condone, deny or trivialise crimes of genocide or crimes against humanity…
    “The [fifth] objection [to his proposal] is that this is simply unworkable, inquisitorial, having the perverse effect of increased attraction to banned ideas and their martyrs. It will depend on the application of such law. If it is selective and well focused, with substantial fines and perhaps bans on certain broadcasters and individuals whom I will not name, who stray from the dominant science without any defensible cause, it would have a disciplinary effect on public debate. There still would be plenty of room for peer reviewed scientific revisionism and public debate around it, but the trivial confusion that is being deliberately generated, would be done away with, and that is a very important thing at the moment.” from 20 minutes.
    His proposal was heard with equanimity by the panel comprising Professor Helen Sullivan, Director of the University’s Centre for Public Policy (introducer); Professor Eckersley; activist Dave Kerin and Professor of Rhetoric Marianne Constable (University California, Berkeley). The young audience showed no negative reaction.
    Such is Melbourne University.

  • Tony Thomas says:

    Professor Sullivan, summing up at 1.54.20, said Christoff’s contribution was useful as “just about how you might start to use the law and possibility of the law, to generate a sense of resistance and generate people out of a passivity. I would not want to think Peter’s contribution was off the point; it is ‘in there’ and may be part of the mix and something we need to be thinking about.”
    Such is Melbourne University.

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