Story from the Guardian
Australia’s education department paid Bjørn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus Centre $640,000 to help produce a report that claimed limiting world temperature increases to 2C was a “poor” use of money.
The $640,000 cost, incurred before the CCC’s controversial $4m Australian program was junked, is revealed in the 2016 incoming ministerial brief published under freedom of information laws.
An education department spokeswoman told Guardian Australia the $640,000 represented the Australian government contribution to the CCC for the Smarter UN Post-2015 Development Goals project.
The project concluded that for every dollar spent on keeping global temperatures to the 2C target, less than $1 of social, economic or environmental benefit resulted, which it described as a “poor” result.
Other spending with “poor” returns included cutting outdoor air pollution, increasing protected biodiversity areas, better disaster resilience for the poor and reducing child marriages.
Projects with “phenomenal” returns included reducing world trade restrictions through the Doha trade round, which it said would produce $2,011 for every dollar spent, and universal access to contraception which would return $120 on the dollar.
Some environmental projects rated as good investments, with “more energy research” rating an $11 return, and phasing out fossil fuel subsidies likely to yield $15 or more.
The education department spokeswoman said the CCC had provided a comprehensive report on 169 funding possibilities across 22 core issues, which was published as the Nobel Laureates’ Guide to the Smartest Targets for the World, 2016-2030.
The project explained its conclusions were “based on peer-reviewed analyses from 82 of the world’s top economists and 44 sector experts”.
Its brochure notes financial support was provided by the Australian government. A spokesman for the CCC said the $640,000 was for costs incurred and that the intended work of the Australian Consensus Centre, which included the development goal project, was a matter of public record.
In April 2015 Guardian Australia revealed the then Abbott government’s plan to spend $4m over four years to bring the Copenhagen Consensus Centre methodology to Australia at a new centre in the University of Western Australia’s business school.
UWA rejected the funds after a public backlash leading to a search for a new home for the Australian Consensus Centre.
The project was axed later in 2015 when Malcolm Turnbull became prime minister, which the brief explains was caused by the government’s conclusion it was “unlikely to enjoy success and that the funds could be better utilised elsewhere”.
Flinders University staff and students keep fighting Bjørn Lomborg centre
The brief notes the centre’s Australian program was to cost $4m to provide “policy information and advice on smart, cost-effective solutions to national and international challenges” before it was dropped in mid 2015.
“The department has negotiated a funding agreement which will provide a one-off payment to the CCC for a total of $640,000 to cover costs incurred in relation to the establishment of the Australian Consensus Centre prior to the decision to cancel this project,” it said.
The shadow innovation, industry, science and research minister, Kim Carr, questioned why the government had “felt the need to keep [the $640,000] secret”.
“The department of education needs to explain why in one document the secretary is told that this money was establishment costs around the centre, but now states that the $640,000 was for a specific research project,” he said.
“When government research money is in such sort supply for Australia’s best and brightest scientists and researchers, the Liberals must explain their actions here.”
Carr accused the Abbott and Turnbull governments of “using taxpayers’ money in an attempt to promote an anti-science conservative agenda”.