Cancel Lord Monckton’s university lecture, say academics
Academics in Australia are calling for the University of Notre Dame in Fremantle to cancel a lecture due to be given by the prominent climate sceptic Lord Monckton on Thursday.
In a letter seen by the Guardian, which is currently being circulated among academics, the undersigned say that Monckton “stands for the kind of ignorance and superstition that universities have a duty to counter” and “Notre Dame has a responsibility to avoid promoting discredited views on an issue of public risk”. Signatories already supporting the open letter include professors and lecturers across Australia, but also academics in the UK and US.
The letter, which is addressed “from the Australian academic community” to Notre Dame, a Catholic university in Western Australia, was originally drafted by Natalie Latter, a political science postgraduate student at the University of Western Australia. The letter says Monckton’s lecture is particularly unwelcome in light of recent death threats made against Australian climate scientists.
“Lord Monckton propounds widely discredited fictions about climate change and misrepresents the research of countless scientists,” says the letter. “With zero peer-reviewed publications, he has declared that the scientific enterprise is invalid and that climate science is fraudulent … Over the last month there has been a great deal of coverage in the Australian media of the death threats and abusive emails that have targeted Australian scientists working on climate change. These threats are fuelled by misinformation spread by figures like Lord Monckton and the distorted coverage that they receive in the Australian media. As academics, we expect our universities to support us against this kind of abuse. We expect our universities to foster academic standards of conduct and argument.”
The letter continues: “We all support academic freedom and the freedom to express our ideas and beliefs … [However] Notre Dame’s invitation to Lord Monckton makes a mockery of academic standards and the pursuit of evidence-based knowledge.”
Monckton, the deputy leader of the UK Independence party, apologised over the weekend for remarks he made this month during a lecture in Los Angeles in which he likened Prof Ross Garnaut, a climate change adviser to the Australian government, to a Nazi, while showing a slide of a large swastika next to one of Garnaut’s quotes. In online footage of the speech, Monckton can be heard saying in a mock German accent, “Heil Hitler, on we go” when referring to Garnaut.
The comment drew criticism from across the Australian political spectrum last week. Julia Gillard, the prime minister, condemned the comments as “offensive and grossly inappropriate”. Tony Abbott, the opposition leader who is fighting to stop the government’s proposed carbon tax and who is scheduled to attend a mining conference in Perth at which Monckton is due to speak, described the comments as “over the top”.
During a television interview on Sunday, Monckton apologised to Garnaut “for having made the point I was trying to make in such a catastrophically stupid and offensive way”. He added: “I have written to him to withdraw that unreservedly.”
It is not the first time Monckton has been criticised for making such remarks. In 2009, at the Copenhagen climate summit, he described a group of young climate activists as “Hitler youth”.
Monckton is scheduled to begin a three-week lecture tour of Australia
on Thursday when he addresses the annual conference of the Association
of Mining and Exploration Companies in Perth. The organisers have
confirmed that Monckton is still scheduled to speak, despite the
controversy over his remarks. Later that day, he will deliver the Lang
Hancock lecture at Notre Dame, a lecture series sponsored by Hancock
Prospecting, a mining company owned by Australia’s richest person,
Chris Doepel, the university’s dean of business, has confirmed some invited conference guests have also called for Monckton’s speech to be cancelled, but he insisted the event will go ahead. “The university will hold it because we have a commitment to academic freedom,” he told local media over the weekend. “I think Lord Monckton is coming into this country with a clear understanding of the boundaries around polite discussion.” Doepel added that there is no plan to censor Monckton’s presentation and that the 200-strong audience will be free to ask questions.