The UK’s principal climate science denial group the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has appointed an Oxford University professor with ties to the fossil fuel industry to its board of trustees.
Professor Peter Edwards is Professor of Inorganic Chemistry and former Head of Inorganic Chemistry at the university, as well as a Fellow of St Catherine’s College, Oxford. One of Edwards’ primary areas of research is on developing “technology for fossil fuel decarbonisation to mitigate climate change”, according to his Oxford University profile.
He is co-founder of the King Abdulaziz City of Science and Technology–Oxford Centre for Petrochemical Research (KOPRC), a centre co-run by Oxford University and a Saudi Arabian research centre.
The centre conducts research on behalf of the fossil fuel industry including into oil refining, and was highlighted in a report from students last week detailing Oxford University’s ties to the fossil fuel industry.
Edwards defended the institute, which he states was “designated as a centre of excellence in petrochemicals by Saudi Arabia”, in response to the report, citing KOPRC’s research into low-carbon technologies.
During his time at the University of Birmingham, Edwards was founder of the UK Sustainable Hydrogen Energy Consortium. As well as his work on hydrogen technologies such as fuel cells he has also made leading contributions in the field of so-called carbon dioxide utilisation technologies, which allow carbon dioxide emissions to be recycled and reused, and is a technology promoted by oil and gas producers as a way to mitigate climate change.
‘Conflict of interest’
Campaigners with the Oxford University Climate Justice Campaign, which comprises students, academics and alumni, said the appointment showed how closely associated the university remained with those that had an interest in perpetuating the high-carbon status quo.
“Humanity has lost precious decades in the fight against climate change due to the obfuscations of climate denying thinktanks. We are saddened to see Oxford academics helping to undermine legitimate scientific research and enable the further ecological destruction brought about by the fossil fuel industry”, a spokesperson for the group said.
“The fact that an Oxford professor has joined the UK’s principal climate denial think-tank clearly demonstrates that Oxford’s institutional ties to the fossil fuel industry create a clear conflict of interest. Oxford receives money from the fossil fuel industry, incentivising the academics who receive this money to defend the petrochemical industry. This industry, which creates unprecedented ecological damage and perpetuates human right abuses, thereby benefits from the endorsement of Oxford’s academics. Oxford must cut all ties to the fossil fuel industry immediately.”
Responding to the campaigners’ concerns, Edwards told DeSmog he had “spent over three decades helping look for future energy solutions for humankind.” He said he accepted the invitation to join the GWPF’s board because he “was attracted by their stance that they encourage open debate” and its claim to embrace scientists who hold a “broad range of views”.
“My main concern is that some of the so-called ‘climate solutions’, for example renewables and the like, simply won’t cut it in terms of humankind’s future energy needs,” he said. “I believe that the GWPF can be an ideal forum to encourage careful scrutiny and debate about these important issues.”
The GWPF states on its website that “in order to make clear its complete independence, it does not accept gifts from either energy companies or anyone with a significant interest in an energy company.”