This post originally appeared on The Drum.
As a sort of “grand finale” to a presentation at a conference earlier this month in Los Angeles, climate “sceptic” Lord Christopher Monckton displayed on the giant conference screen a large Nazi swastika next to a quote from Adolf Hitler.
A few seconds later came another quote, next to another large swastika – an emblem still offensive to most people seven decades after the end of WWII.
The quote this time was from Australia’s climate change advisor Professor Ross Garnaut, which suggested that “on a balance of probabilities, the mainstream science is right” on human-caused climate change.
Professor Garnaut’s opinion was, according to the presiding hereditary peer, a “fascist point of view”. This paranoia sits beside Lord Monckton’s regularly expressed view that environmentalists are communists in disguise.
The conference was organised by the American Freedom Alliance, a think-tank which is currently involved in a long-running legal battle with a California science education centre. The AFA wanted to screen a documentary which featured scientists attacking Darwin’s theory of evolution in favour of intelligent design, but the education centre cancelled the screening.
One of Lord Monckton’s fellow speakers at the Los Angeles conference was Wesley J. Smith, a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute – a think-tank and major promoter of the theory of intelligent design. One of the Discovery Institute’s projects aims to support research “developing the scientific theory known as intelligent design” (Lord Monckton even shared transport with Mr Smith during the conference).
As Guardian journalist Leo Hickman pointed out, it appears that Lord Monckton and other climate change “sceptics” at the conference were happy to rub shoulders with proponents of intelligent design and Islamophobia.
Next week, speech notes in hand, Scotland-based Lord Monckton will take another international flight – this time to Australia – courtesy, in part, to an Aussie mining industry group, for a nationwide tour.
The Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, which lobbies on behalf of small and medium-sized resources companies in Australia, has granted Lord Monckton a 90-minute slot in its three-day annual convention which will be officially opened next week in Perth by Opposition Leader Tony Abbott.
Alongside other mining industry figures, speakers include independent MP Rob Oakeshott, mining boss Andrew “Twiggy” Forest and experts from government agencies CSIRO and Geoscience Australia.
So how did Lord Monckton manage to grab a spot at an Australian mining conference to present for an hour longer than any other speaker?
AMEC chief executive officer Simon Bennison told me that “a number of our members were keen to hear from him”. And who was paying for Lord Monckton’s trip?
“We will be contributing to some of his costs,” Mr Bennison said, but declined to elaborate on the amount of funding or what it would be used for.
“A number of people are financing [Lord Monckton's] trip,” he said, but it was “not anyone’s business” to know who those people were.
Independent media website Crikey has reported this week that since learning of Lord Monckton’s appearance, CSIRO has asked to be removed as a main sponsor.
After the speech at the AMEC conference, Lord Monckton will deliver an invitation-only “Lang Hancock Lecture” sponsored by Hancock Prospecting at Notre Dame University in nearby Fremantle.
Australia’s wealthiest individual, Hancock chairman Gina Rinehart, offered a donation to cover Lord Monckton’s costs during a 2010 speaking tour of Australia and made a member of her staff available to help organise the Perth leg of the tour.
Professor Chris Doepel, Dean of the university’s business school, said the cost of hosting the invitation-only event was covered by an endowment from Hancock Prospecting which was received many years ago. The lecture series had laid dormant for a few years, he said, but had been revived for Lord Monckton’s visit to Perth.
In deciding which speakers were chosen, Prof Doepel said: “It’s a matter of discussions with the donor”.
“Under the terms of the endowment the requirement for the speaker is someone who speaks on promotion of free enterprise,” he said.
“What Lord Monckton is doing is presenting a view on public policy and governments’ public policy positions on climate change. The blurb we have is that he will look at the antithesis of the freedom ideal and the authoritarian consensus that he believes grips academia and politics today.”
Some 3500 invitations were sent out to students, alumni, university supporters and sponsors, and between 200 and 300 people are expected to attend.
On leaving Perth, Lord Monckton will embark on a tour taking in venues in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle and Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
One of the tour organisers, Anthony Cox, said ticket sales were “going well” and added there was “no sponsorship” from mining companies for the east coast leg of the tour.
Earlier today, the Australian Academy of Science endorsed a new campaign calling for respect for the scientific process, and for scientists. The issue is a live one: it has recently been revealed that many climate scientists have been enduring a long-running campaign of abuse and threats.
Yet if Lord Monckton’s arrival is anything to go by, it appears that as forces are marshalled to attack climate science and attack plans to price carbon, there will be little restraint, let alone respect.