The Top 12 DeSmog UK Investigative News Stories of 2016


From Exxon’s anti-EV lobbying to the web of Brexit climate deniers, 2016 has been dominated by behind the scenes influencing from industry and ideologues alike in attempt to weaken Britain’s efforts to tackle climate change and move towards cleaner forms of energy.

DeSmog UK remains dedicated to investigating the individuals and organisations that have helped to delay and distract the public and our elected leaders from taking needed action to reduce greenhouse gas pollution and fight global warming (though sometimes those are our elected leaders).

We also work hard to uncovering the misinformation – and disinformation – clouding the national conversation on climate change. From those using renowned scientific institutions to bolster misleading claims about climate science to groups producing false reports about the cause of global warming, we help shine a light on what’s false.

But we also seek to reveal what’s true: the growing links between US and UK climate science denial organisations and their influence on both American and British policymakers, and the decreasing number of people working on climate change within local and national government.

Here are our 12 most important and influential stories covering these issues from the last year.

1. UK Coal Industry Admits ‘Crisis’, Tells Government Coal Can Help Transition to Renewable Energy

Coal companies in February told key members of the UK Government that its industry is “currently in crisis” and that a policy that puts a rising price on carbon pollution was already forcing closures in its industry. According to the minutes of the UK Coal Forum’s annual meeting, we reported how the industry lobbied then Energy Minister Andrea Leadsom (now Environment Secretary), stating that “coal could be helpful in the transition to decarbonisation.”

2. GWPF Report Predicts No Global Warming By Ignoring Main Cause of Global Warming

Towards the end of February, the GWPF attempted to confuse the public and politicians about climate change by arguing it isn’t happening. However, the non-peer reviewed report failed to take into account assumptions about the rate of warming caused by rising greenhouse gas emissions (something which the IPCC climate change forecasts do). Needless to say, the report was swiftly debunked and widely mocked online by top climate scientists.

3. Climate Science Denier Patrick Moore Paid by Coal Lobbyists EURACOAL to Speak to EU Officials and Members of Parliament

Europe’s coal lobby association EURACOAL paid for Canadian climate science denier Patrick Moore to speak to members of the European Parliament and EU officials at an intimate dinner-debate, DeSmog UK revealed in March. Moore was invited as the main speaker at the dinner hosted by EURACOAL in Strasbourg entitled “Climate Demons or Climate Gods: Coal Industry Stakes Its Future.”

4. UK Climate Denial Think Tank Global Warming Policy Foundation Sets Up US Fundraising Arm

In May, DeSmog UK revealed how the GWPF had quietly launched an American fundraising subsidiary. According to the climate science denial group’s latest accounts, the think tank registered the American Friends of the GWPF in April 2015 so as to “enable supporters in the USA to enjoy tax relief donations.”

5. Mapped: The Cosy Climate-Euro Sceptic Bubble Pushing for Brexit and Less Climate Action

In June, ahead of the EU referendum, we revealed the deep-rooted connections between UK climate science deniers and those who campaigned for Brexit. Tying together this close-knit network of Brexit climate deniers revealed how organisations residing behind the doors of Westminster’s 55 Tufton Street share many of the same members of donors.

Following Theresa May being appointed as Britain’s next Prime Minister we updated this map to show how the network expanded to include top cabinet members within the new government as well as several government special advisers.

6. Monckon’s Independent Committee on Geoethics’ Climate Science Denial Conference ‘Will Not Take Place at UCL

The controversial fringe climate science denial group, the Independent Committee on Geoethics attempted in July to associate itself with the University College London despite having no venue for its conference at the university. As DeSmog UK revealed, the event booking was made through a visiting professor. However, as soon as they were made aware of the content of the conference by their head of department, they cancelled the booking as they did not want to be associated with the ICG’s climate science denial and decided that it would be inappropriate for the conference to be hosted at UCL.

7. Exclusive: Councils Across England Have Slashed Climate Change Staff After Funding Cuts, Analysis Reveals

Data from Freedom of Information requests revealed in August how local governments across England have drastically cut climate change staff, calling into question their ability to prepare for the effects of global warming, and to deliver progress and reporting for the UK’s carbon budget. As DeSmog UK’s analysis found, come councils are struggling to comply with current obligations while others have scrapped or radically scaled-back climate programs.

Then in November, we reported on further cuts to climate staff from the Foreign Office: UK Climate Diplomacy Staff Cut Again

8. Exclusive: Emails Reveal University of Glasgow’s Attempt to ‘Silence’ Emeritus Prof Smythe Over His Views on Fracking

Emails seen by DeSmog UK in August showed how bosses at the University of Glasgow were motivated to remove the email account and online privileges of emeritus professor of geophysics David Smythe because of his anti-fracking views. The internatl emails, which date back to July 2014, reveal how in one instance, some of the university’s “various industrial research partners” were not happy about Smythe’s anti-fracking comments.

9. Revealed: Exxon’s Lobbying Against Electric Vehicles in the UK

Documents obtained by DeSmog UK revealed in September how ExxonMobil has been lobbying the UK Department for Transport since the start of the year against greener transport policies. The oil giant – which is currently being investigated in the US about whether it had deceived the public and its investors by lying about its knowledge of the risks of climate change – delivered three separate presentations to the UK government. According to the presentation slides, Exxon argued: “Switching transportation from petroleum to renewable or alternative fuels is not the most cost-effective way to reduce GHG emissions.”

10. Exclusive: Royal Society Under Internal Pressure to Cancel Venue Booking From Global Warming Policy Foundation

DeSmog UK revealed in October how the Royal Society came under strong internal pressure to cancel a booking on its premises made by climate science denial group, the GWPF. As sources told DeSmog UK, several fellows and associates of the society – the world’s oldest scientific academy – expressed anger over the society’s agreement to hire its premises to the GWPF for its annual lecture delivered this year by Matt Ridley.

Despite internal disagreement, the society went ahead with the event. Scientists later denounced Ridley’s speech which, instead of focusing on policy as was advertised to the Royal Society, was full of junk science.

11. Revealed: Liam Fox’s Post-Brexit Trade Talks with US Business Lobby and Climate Denying Think Tank the Heritage Foundation

Details of International Trade Secretary Liam Fox’s post-Brexit three-day tour of America in July came to light in November following a DeSmog UK Freedom of Information request. Documents revealed how, less than two weeks after being appointed to the new position, Fox took the opportunity to meet with the climate science denying neoconservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation.

It seems the Heritage Foundation, along with other Koch and Exxon funded US climate denying think tanks, have long been courting Brexit climate deniers. They also made an appearance at this year’s Conservative Party Conference.

12. Meet the US Investors Linked to Koch and Tobacco Making a Play for UK Fracking Firm IGas

Also in November, DeSmog UK revealed the Koch and tobacco ties to the company behind the recent bid to buy fracking firm IGas. As we reported, the famously aggressive US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts not only shot to fame for buying-out food and tobacco company RJR Nabisco in the late 1980s, but it also holds assets in the oil and gas sector, including a share in an Alabama pipeline which recently exploded and which counts Shell and Koch Industries amongst its major owners.

Photo: Garon S via Flickr | CC 2.0

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Kyla is a freelance writer and editor with work appearing in the New York Times, National Geographic, HuffPost, Mother Jones, and Outside. She is also a member of the Society for Environmental Journalists.

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