These 11 Climate Science Deniers are Attending the COP26 Climate Summit

CFACT and the Heartland Institute are hosting an alternative side event — but “these days, almost no-one cares,” says one climate expert.
These 11 Climate Science Deniers are Attending the COP26 Climate Summit
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The COP26 summit is being hosted in Glasgow, Scotland. Credit: DeSmog

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND — A total 11 climate science deniers have secured passes to the UN COP26 climate summit taking place in Glasgow, Scotland, including Myron Ebell, the head of former US President Donald Trump’s transition team at the Environmental Protection Agency.

The president of the notorious Heartland Institute, which recently held a rival conference in Las Vegas ahead of the COP26 conference, and the head of policy at the UK’s principal climate science denial group are also among those who were given badges.

The delegates have access to the official “Blue Zone” area of the conference, where negotiations — which are restricted to government delegations — and a variety of side-events are being held.

Many of them are also speaking at an alternative two-day “Climate Reality Forum”, live-streamed from an undisclosed location in the city.

The news has been met with anger from environmental groups who point to the difficulty representatives of Indigenous communities and low-income countries vulnerable to climate change have had in gaining access to the summit.

“The fact that climate deniers are allowed space at COP, while Indigenous peoples are fighting to get inside speaks to the performative functions of the COP,” said Jennifer K. Falcon from the Indigenous Environmental Network. 

“The world is on fire, sea levels are rising, food and water shortages are already hitting Black, Indigenous and frontline communities of the global majority,” she added, “and climate deniers are given direct access to world leaders to continue the status quo of killing our planet.”

Jean Su, energy justice director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said: “Granting access to climate deniers adds insult to injury when countless climate-vulnerable people have been refused entry in the politics of vaccine apartheid.”

The climate denial delegates are listed as attending COP26 on behalf of the US-based Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) and the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI), both of which have a long history of rejecting mainstream climate science and have previously taken funding from oil giant ExxonMobil.

CFACT has called carbon dioxide a “harmless trace essential gas in the atmosphere that humans exhale from their mouth”, while CEI claims that climate models “inflate greenhouse gas emissions scenarios” and boasts about defeating efforts to introduce climate legislation in the US on its website.

Myron Ebell, CEI’s director of energy and environment was selected by Trump in 2016 to lead the former US president’s transition team at the EPA, which the CEI says should not be allowed to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

CEI’s delegation includes the president of the Heartland Institute, James Taylor, and a correspondent for the conservative National Review magazine, Kevin Williamson, who has been working on a CEI project “examining the modern environmental movement, its culture, and advocacy”.

Also in attendance is CFACT’s communications director, Marc Morano, who is no stranger to controversy at UN climate summits, having been ejected from the 2016 talks in Marrakech for taking part in an unauthorised demonstration during which he ripped up a copy of the Paris Agreement.

Morano is a former aide to US Republican senator James Inhofe, who describes human-caused climate change as a “hoax”. And last week, Morano was interviewed on UK radio station talkRADIO claiming global elites are planning Covid-style “lockdowns” to tackle emissions.

The accreditations for the two organisations, however, are apparently overlapped, with two CFACT representatives — including potential relatives of Morano, Elena and Jessica — attending under CEI badges, while Travis Buck, CEI’s vice president of communications, is listed under CFACT.

CFACT’s delegation also includes Harry Wilkinson, head of policy at Net Zero Watch, the new name for the Global Warming Policy Forum, the campaign wing of the UK climate science denial charity established by former Tory chancellor Nigel Lawson.

Other CFACT delegates include its executive director Craig Rucker and senior fellow Peter Murphy.

CFACT and the Heartland Institute have been running an alternative conference in Glasgow, alongside Dutch and German climate science denial groups, CLINTEL and EIKE, the latter of which reportedly works with the far-right Alternative for Germany party.

Speakers at this event include British hereditary peer Christopher Monckton, a longtime climate denier, and the German “anti-Greta” Naomi Seibt, who spoke on Wednesday about the “Evil Motives of Climate Socialism”. 

No details were given on how to attend the event in person, but a live-stream was provided.

Responding to the news, Richard Black, an honorary research fellow at Imperial College London and author of a book on climate “contrarianism” in the UK, said: “It’s not unusual to see contrarians turning up at UN climate summits, in fact it’s pretty routine. But what is noticeable is how these days, almost no-one cares.”

Black, a former BBC environment correspondent and veteran COP attendee, said side events organised by groups like CEI would previously have drawn in journalists and generated headlines. 

“Now, it really is a side-show — an irrelevance,” he said, “given that pretty much everyone else is talking about how to tackle climate change and the benefits of doing so, rather than whether to.”

Rucker told DeSmog: “The participation of organizations such as CFACT which bring perspective grounded in individual and economic freedom and national sovereignty to the UN climate process is today more relevant than ever.”

“We refer you to the fundamental principles underlying the UNFCCC [the UN body in charge of climate summits] and the UN as a whole which guarantee the right of free expression and participation,” he added.

CEI, the UK COP26 Unit and the UNFCCC have been contacted for comment.

Updated on 09/11/2021 with response from CFACT.

These 11 Climate Science Deniers are Attending the COP26 Climate Summit
Rich Collett-White is Deputy Editor of DeSmog. He joined the organisation in December 2018 as a UK-focused investigative reporter, having previously worked in communications for the climate charity Operation Noah. He is a member of the National Union of Journalists.

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