A board member of a new MP-backed ‘Net Zero Watch’ campaign group has said today that “global warming is not a problem”, defended burning fossil fuels, and said carbon dioxide’s “principal effect” is the growth of plants.
Net Zero Watch (NZW), which launched last month, presents itself as a reasonable campaign to scrutinise the impact and cost of the UK government’s net zero policies. The group has been quoted in the media and retweeted by prominent anti-net zero MPs Steve Baker and Craig Mackinlay.
However, NZW board member Lord Nigel Lawson, a long-term organiser of UK climate science denial, has written an article for this week’s Spectator magazine denying climate science and rejecting the need to cut carbon emissions. It comes during the COP26 UN climate summit in Glasgow.
Experts said the article’s “prehistoric arguments” prove that Net Zero Watch is really “a front for tired old climate change denial”.
‘CO2 is the Stuff of Life’
Lord Lawson, who was chancellor of the exchequer under Margaret Thatcher, founded the climate science denying Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) ahead of the UN Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009. Net Zero Watch launched in October and is run by the GWPF’s campaigning wing, or Forum, and shares its staff and rebranded social media accounts. Experts have dubbed it the “latest tactic” from the “same old climate change deniers”.
Lawson has stepped back from public interventions in recent years, with GWPF director Benny Peiser taking the lead on media appearances. However, in Lawson’s article – which is currently the most popular on the Spectator website – he writes that “so far from carbon dioxide being pollution, it is the stuff of life”, and that “the principal effect of increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is to stimulate plant growth”.
Lawson said more CO2 emissions have only served to “warm the planet slightly”, adding: “This is no bad thing: many more people die each year from cold-related illnesses than from heat-related ones.”
He cited the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) – whose latest report was “unequivocal” that burning fossil fuels was causing the climate crisis – to argue that the planet is warming at “a barely perceptible amount”.
Lawson’s article also defends fossil fuels as “the cheapest source of large-scale reliable energy”, saying the “economic cost of abandoning fossil fuels” would be “massive”, and adding: “Decarbonisation, in short, would be an unparalleled economic calamity.”
Lawson, who was chancellor of the exchequer under Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, also suggested that “the current climate scare is a quasi-religious hysteria” and that “climate catastrophism” has taken the place of Christianity in the western world.
‘Inaccurate and Irrelevant’
Climate scientist Dr Ella Gilbert said: “The fact that the science of climate change is being ‘debated’ and that prominent climate deniers are being given column inches to do so is utterly ridiculous. The science is settled. To quote the IPCC, as Lord Lawson does, ‘human influence is unequivocal’ and, according to a 2021 study, more than 99 percent of scientists agree.
“The ‘eye-wateringly expensive’ costs of net-zero plans will pale in comparison to the costs of not mitigating climate change. Both in terms of economic damages, but more importantly in terms of lives lost and livelihoods ruined.”
She added: “These claims – and the climate-denying rhetoric of organisations like the GWPF – are wildly inaccurate and completely irrelevant.
“Society has moved on and the vast majority of people believe that climate change is a pressing issue. Meanwhile, Lawson is still trotting out prehistoric arguments about climate change that belong in the past with fossil fuels.”
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, said: “This daft article exposes the fact that Net Zero Watch is really just a front for tired old climate change denial.
“The argument put forward, that carbon dioxide is mainly plant food, has been thoroughly slain many times over. In short, Net Zero Watch, and their cheerleaders at the Spectator are just dinosaurs who are recycling zombie talking points.
“I feel sorry for the poor old MPs who have decided to tether themselves to such a laughable outfit.”
Net Zero Watch and the Global Warming Policy Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.