Figures at the heart of a cross-Atlantic climate science denier network today promoted their anti-expert agenda at a conference in Brussels.
But their views were resoundingly rejected by mainstream European conservative figures including former UK climate minister Lord Greg Barker who warned that encouraging distrust in experts “is an incredibly dangerous thing to do”.
Myron Ebell, the former head of President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) transition team and a director of the libertarian US think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), was a keynote speaker at the Blue Green Summit taking place in the heart of Brussels on Wednesday.
He was joined by Matt Ridley, who sits on the academic advisory board of the climate science denying Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF). The conference’s convenor was Brexiteer MEP Daniel Hannan. Climate denier and UKIP MEP Roger Helmer and the GWPF’s director Benny Peiser were also in attendance.
Ebell used his keynote address to argue that experts and scientists should be ignored when it comes to climate change and environmental policy. He said:
“We find time and time again the experts are being relied on in our major cities and our media, who listens to them when they talk about what they know about theoretically, but have practically no knowledge of.”
He encouraged the audience to, “whenever you hear an environmental expert, think that he is an urban eco-imperialist and say, ‘what do people who actually have some experience of the environment know’.”
These views, however, were criticised by other leading conservative figures also invited to speak at the conference.
Lord Greg Barker publicly pleaded with Ebell to “please, please stop trashing experts. It is an incredibly dangerous thing to do”.
The former UK climate minister said: “The idea that climate deniers or the extreme sceptics represent anything other than a tiny disproportionate voice at the extreme of the argument is wrong. Mainstream Conservatives are pro-climate action.”
Michael Liebrich, chairman of the advisory board of Bloomberg New Energy Finance, likewise said he was “uncomfortable” about the comments Ebell made in his speech.
In his own keynote address, Liebrich said “we don’t have to reject the arguments and say we don’t believe in experts. We absolutely believe in experts. We cannot be in the business of rejecting science”.
EU climate chief, Jos Debelke, also rejected Ebell’s anti-expert posturing.
He told the audience that the EU’s climate policy was “evidence based, and as rational as possible”.
“That’s why the evidence brought to the table by scientists is absolutely important, and we have a well-established multi-lateral context for that with the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change],” he said.
Ebell’s anti-expert rhetoric was also criticised by British conservatives earlier this week after his press conference hosted by the GWPF in London where he accused climate scientists of only pursuing their research for financial gain as part of the “climate industrial complex”.
But as Sam Hall, a researcher at think tank Bright Blue, countered: “Conservatives know that we have a responsibility to future generations to hand on our environment in at least as good a state as we inherited it. They know that long-term economic growth requires careful stewardship of our country’s natural resources.
“Despite the attempt by fringe elements to import ‘alternative facts’ from the US, mainstream conservatives in the UK support tackling climate change cost-effectively.”