UK Climate Denial Group ‘Slides Further Into Obscurity’ With Latest Appointment, Say Academics

The Global Warming Policy Foundation has appointed a University College Dublin professor to its academic advisory council.
UK Climate Denial Group ‘Slides Further Into Obscurity’ With Latest Appointment, Say Academics
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University College Dublin. Credit: Leandro Neumann Ciuffo (CC BY 2.0)

The UK’s main climate science denial group is “sliding further into obscurity”, academics have claimed, following its latest appointment of a “contrarian” professor.

Professor Ray Bates, an Emeritus Professor at University College Dublin, has been appointed to the academic advisory council of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).

Bates told DeSmog that the organisation, founded by former Conservative chancellor Lord Nigel Lawson in 2009, gave him “freedom to express my scientific viewpoint, a freedom I do not otherwise enjoy”.

In May, Oxford University came under fire after engineering professor Peter Dobson joined the academic council, a move campaigners said lent “legitimacy to the lies and falsehoods” of the group.

In September, the group’s energy editor John Constable was invited to give evidence to a parliamentary inquiry at the House of Lords into the country’s energy transition and the cost of its net zero policies. 

The Sunday Telegraph recently covered a GWPF report accusing the government’s Climate Change Committee of misleading the public about the cost of electric cars, a report that was denounced as “drivel” by the CCC’s chief executive Chris Stark.

Professor Kevin Anderson, chair of energy and climate change at the University of Manchester’s School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, said Bates’s new position “only serves to further weaken the GWPF’s already tenuous grasp of the science underpinning climate change”.

The thinktank could have engaged an active climate scientist such as climatologist Gavin Schmidt, Director of the NASA institute where Professor Bates worked 25 years ago as a senior scientist, if it desired “a progressive move into the 21st Century”, Anderson said. “As it is, with this latest appointment, the GWPF slides further into scientific obscurity.”

Climate ‘Contrarian’

Bates has penned a number of articles for the GWPF, which says it is “in no sense anti-environmental” but “open-minded on the contested science of global warming”, including one in which he criticised “deficiencies” in the UN IPCC’s 2018 Special Report on 1.5 Degrees. 

Bates told DeSmog that he was unable to publish the piece elsewhere through a peer-reviewed process as it was “rejected unilaterally”.

His claims that the IPCC report should not be regarded as a “scientifically rigorous document” – despite its backing by thousands of climate scientists – have been widely dismissed.

In 2017, Bates lost a complaint against the Irish journalist John Gibbons who described him as a “contrarian” climate scientist, rejecting mainstream science, and associated him with a network of climate science deniers.

Bates told DeSmog that he fully supported the views of Steve Koonin, the under secretary for science at the US Department of Energy under Barack Obama, and the chosen speaker at GWPF’s upcoming 2021 annual guest lecture.

“I would like to let you know that I fully support the views expressed by Professor Koonin in his recent book “Unsettled: what climate science tells us, what it doesn’t and why it matters”’, Bates said.

Institutional Ties

Bates’s appointment was announced in a GWPF press release, which noted his membership of the Royal Irish Academy (RIA), an academic body promoting study in the sciences, humanities and social sciences. An Academy spokesperson said they were unable to comment on any external association of its 600 members.

The release does not reference his membership of the Irish Climate Science Forum (ICSF), a group founded in 2016 which describes itself as “a voluntary group of Irish scientists, engineers and other professionals, currently in a formative stage”. 

The group previously stated on its website that its members believe climate science is “not yet settled”, and still disputes IPCC findings correlating global temperature rise to increasing emission levels.

In a statement, ICSF chair Jim O’Brien said the organisation was “delighted to see that Prof Ray Bates has been elected to the prestigious GWPF Advisory Council”, adding that it was a “long-overdue acknowledgement of his status as one of Europe’s most eminent climate scientists”.

Bates’s role as an “expert reviewer” of the Fifth and Sixth IPCC assessment was also mentioned in the release. According to the IPCC, the aim of the review is “to get the widest possible participation and broadest possible expertise”, and everyone who registers is accepted unless they lack any relevant qualifications.

The inclusion of Bates’s involvement as a reviewer was “the ultimate red herring”, according to Peter Thorne, a climatologist and professor of physical geography at Maynooth University in County Kildare, Ireland.

Thorne said Bates was an expert in atmospheric dynamics, the study of motion in the atmosphere and its thermodynamic state, rather than climate science.

“To portray him as a climate scientist is misleading in the same way that it would be misleading to portray me as an atmospheric dynamicist,” Thorne, a lead author on the IPCC 5th Assessment report, told DeSmog.

“His joining the [GWPF] panel is hardly a surprise. But touting that appointment as being of a climate expert and resting that in part upon his having been a reviewer of IPCC reports is at very best misleading.”

Deirdre Duff, communications manager with Friends of the Earth Ireland, said that the appointment posed “serious reputational concerns” for University College Dublin.

“Letting a climate denier retain this honour in your Meteorology and Climate Centre is akin to having a doctor who denies the link between smoking and cancer in your health department,” Duff said. “It raises big questions – and concerns about how vested interest groups might be influencing the university.”

University College Dublin and the GWPF did not respond to a request for comment.

UK Climate Denial Group ‘Slides Further Into Obscurity’ With Latest Appointment, Say Academics
Phoebe is Senior Reporter at DeSmog. She previously trained as a news reporter across local titles in Essex and East London, with her work since appearing in the Independent, Evening Standard, The Sun Online, Deutsche Welle, and The Local and Prospect Magazine.

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