Myron Ebell, the man at the vanguard of President Trump’s efforts to dismantle US climate policy, today told a London audience that Trump’s election and the rejection of scientific experise was “not an isolated phenomenon”.
The press conference, hosted by UK climate science denying think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) and the Foreign Press Association, is the latest demonstration of how Trump’s newly-empowered network of climate science deniers is using its platform to promote the interests of the fossil fuel industry around the globe.
Ebell said Brexit offered an “opportunity” for the UK, allowing it to shed European environmental regulations and follow President Trump’s example in aiming to attain “dominance as an energy producer” in the oil, gas and coal markets.
The event was attended by around 60 journalists and some faces familiar to regular watchers of GWPF events including James Delingpole from far-right website, Breitbart London, and the director of the Energy Intensive Users Group, Jeremy Nicholson. Delingpole, a well-known climate science denier, was even namechecked by Ebell when talking about the influence of Steve Bannon , Breitbart’s founder and Donald Trump’s chief strategist, on the administration’s climate policy.
The Trump administration tasked Ebell with leading his transition team on environmental issues, producing a secretive ‘Agency Action Plan’ for the Environmental Protection Agency. The puropose of the “confidential” plan, according to Ebell, was to advise Trump on how to deliver his campaign promises.
Ebell is the director of energy and environment at the libertarian US think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). He is also chair of the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group of organizations “that question global warming alarmism and oppose energy rationing policies.”
The CEI does not disclose who funds its activities, but donors are known to include fossil fuel interests such as Marathon Petroleum, Koch Industries, American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, and American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM).
Ebell has previously said that the energy industry could only secure “victory” if public doubted the links between dangerous global warming and burning fossil fuels.
Today’s press briefing organised by the GWPF, an organisation at the centre of the UK’s climate science denier network, demonstrates the increasingly strong ties among a cross-Atlantic network of climate science deniers linked to Brexit and Trump, previously mapped by DeSmog UK.
British coal magnate Matt Ridley, for example, who sits on the GWPF’s academic advisory council, has previously written of his friendly relationship with Ebell.
Despite spending an hour speaking about Trump’s energy policy, Ebell admitted he had never actually spoken to the President. He said he was in fact recruited by Governor Chris Christie.
Nonetheless, Ebell remained adamant that Trump would keep his campaign promise of withdrawing the US from the landmark Paris Agreement. Ebell earlier told the Financial Times that Trump’s team risks splitting over the issue, with former ExxonMobil CEO and Secretary of State nominee, Rex Tillerson, possibly proving an unexpected defender of the treaty.
Under Tillerson, Exxon continued to express support for international climate action efforts, including the Paris Agreement, while continuing to explore for oil and gas in ever harder to reach locations.
Exxon has donated more than $33 million to organisations promoting climate denial. But in 2006, Exxon withdrew funding for what it considered to be “polarising” lobby groups. CEI does not disclose its funders, but it’s possible it was one of the groups to lose out.
Ebell suggested that when it came to disagreements over climate policy between the President and his secretary of state, Trump was “odds on favourite” to win given his power to appoint – and sack – his cabinet.
Ebell spent a full four minutes denying that the science of climate change was accurate, saying the US public had rejected the “expertariat” and scientists in voting for Trump “with good reason”. He disputed the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and accused climate scientists of exagerating the seriousness of climate change for financial gain.
He said he considered the “climate industrial complex”, which included everyone from climate campaigners to publicly funded scientists, as one of the “most dangerous” threats to society.
When asked where he got his information on climate change, if not from experts or scientists, Ebell said he was “very skeptical of expert opinion when it becomes group think and experts gang up against public”. He pointed to Brexit as another example of the public rejecting expert opinion. When asked what special interests he was representing, he replied “freedom”.
Ebell’s presence was a coup for the GWPF, which this year saw a 60 percent reduction in membership fees according to accounts filed with Companies House.
The GWPF’s director, Benny Peiser, told the Independent that this loss was offset by an increase in non-member donations. Charitable donations had increased by about £50,000 taking its total funds to more than £688,000 and securing its future for the next two years, he said.
The GWPF continues to have around 300 members, Peiser claimed – about the same number it had when it was founded in 2011.
Ebell is due to take the stage again on Wednesday at an event in Brussels, alongside the GWPF’s Ridley.
In a sign of the network’s increasingly insider status, also speaking at the Brussels event are former UK climate minister Lord Greg Barker and the EU’s top climate official Jos Delbeke.
While Ebell may have had the ear of the Trump administration on climate issues as part of the transition team, his official role within the administration is not entirely clear. A press release for the Brussels summit describes him as Trump’s “environment advisor”, but Ebell made it clear he only created the plans for EPA‘s dismantling and couldn’t speak for the current administration.
Updated 30/01/2017: A line about attendees was altered to include a reference to Jeremy Nicholson. A line about Ebell’s comments on Tillerson was added. A line about Ebell’s role in the Trump administration was altered.
Main image credit: DeSmog UK CC BY–SA