Lord Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation Mistaken On Actual Facts

Lord Lawson's Global Warming Policy Foundation Mistaken On Actual Facts
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A UK-based climate change denial think-tank has been caught making serious misrepresentations on climate policy which go against the guidelines of the UK‘s charity regulator.

The Global Warming Policy Foundation, set up as a charitable organisation by former UK Conservative finance minister Lord Nigel Lawson, has been gaining traction in some media outlets who are turning to the foundation in an apparent attempt to “balance” their stories on climate change.

But in providing balance, Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science, shows those media outlets are also helping to spread mistruths.

Writing in The Guardian, Ward looked back on public statements and media interviews given by Lord Lawson since his foundation was launched in November 2009 and found at least five examples where the public had been misled.

All of these errors may have been accidental, the result of Lord Lawson not knowing enough to recognise mistakes. However, they fit a consistent pattern of underestimating the potential risks of climate change and exaggerating the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Among the claims analysed by Ward, is a statement from Lord Lawson before the House of Lords that claimed “the Treasury has estimated that the carbon floor price alone will lead to an increase in electricity prices of between 60 per cent and 70 per cent by 2030”.
 
But Ward checks the Treasury’s impact statement for the proposal of the floor price and finds that what it actual says is that prices will fall by between three and seven per cent.
 
Lord Lawson had also claimed during a BBC radio interview that the IPCC had itself reported the impact of climate change on living standards in poorer countries would be minimal. Lord Lawson said the IPCC had calculated that living standards in the developing world would be only eight times higher by the end of the century, compared with nine per cent higher when the impact of climate change was factored in.
 
Ward writes the claim is “demonstrably false” and makes similar assessments of Lord Lawson’s statements on sea-level rise and Antarctic ice. 
 
Lord Lawson also claimed in the Daily Mail that environmental levies were raising the cost of annual energy bills by £200 a year. Ward finds that in fact, the country’s energy regulator Ofgem says carbon prices and other environmental schemes add £100 to an average annual bill of £1300.
 
As a not-for-profit charitable organisation, GWPF has to abide by the rules set out by the Charity Commission. According to the commission’s guidance on campaigning, a charity “can campaign using emotive or controversial material, where this is lawful and justifiable in the context of the campaign”, but the guidance adds “such material must be factually accurate and have a legitimate evidence base”.
 
Ward’s investigation calls into question a statement made by the foundation’s executive director, Dr Benny Peiser, who wrote in the GWPF annual report.
We regard observational evidence and understanding the present as more important and more reliable than computer modelling or predicting the future. Above all we seek to educate the media, politicians and the public, in a newsworthy way, on the subject in general and on the misinformation to which they are all too frequently being subjected at the present time.
As a charitable organisation, GWPF isn’t obliged to reveal its funders but accounts filed with the Charity Commission show that it accepted £494,625 in donations in its first operating year. A further £8186 came in from membership fees, indicating the foundation had a maximum 81 members (the minimum membership cost is £100).
 
Responding to media criticism over the foundation’s funding secrecy, Lord Lawson wrote in his annual report that few think-tanks revealed their funding sources.
It is understandable that donors do not wish to be publicly engaged in controversy. This is particularly true of GWPF, where the soil we till is highly controversial, and anyone who puts their head above the parapet has to be prepared to endure a degree of public vilification. For that reason we offer all our donors the protection of anonymity. However, in order to reassure those who might otherwise doubt our complete independence, our Protocol for the Acceptance of Gifts lays down that we do not accept donations either from the energy industry or from anyone with a significant interest in the energy industry. This was formally resolved at the first meeting of our Board of Trustees. Nor, for that matter, do we accept money from government.
This week Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, delivered the foundation’s annual lecture in London. During his speech, posted on the GWPF website, Cardinal Pell claims global warming has “stopped”, that CO2 is “not a pollutant, but part of the stuff of life” and that if CO2 in the atmosphere was doubled, then “plants would love it”.
 
Cardinal Pell’s statements put him at odds with the Vatican. In April, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences issued a statement saying
We call on all people and nations to recognise the serious and potentially irreversible impacts of global warming caused by the anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, and by changes in forests, wetlands, grasslands, and other land uses. We appeal to all nations to develop and implement, without delay, effective and fair policies to reduce the causes and impacts of climate change on communities and ecosystems, including mountain glaciers and their watersheds, aware that we all live in the same home.
In a report on Independent Catholic News, several Catholic figures accused Cardinal Pell of being out of step with the science. Tim Aldred, head of policy at Catholic charity Progressio, told ICN: “It is strange that the Cardinal calls for action only on the basis of evidence, whilst apparently dismissing the evidence-based conclusions of (amongst others) the Pontifical Academy of Sciences and NASA.”
 
In February, Cardinal Pell was criticised by the director of Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology Dr Greg Ayers during a Senate hearing.
 
Dr Ayers said the Cardinal appeared to be taking his climate change science from Heaven and Earth – a book by Australian geologist and mining company director Professor Ian Plimer, who is also on the GWPF academic advisory council.
 
Dr Ayers said the book was “misleading to all Australians”. He also noted that Cardinal Pell had previously written, incorrectly, that nitrogen was a greenhouse gas.

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