Tory-Linked Think Tank Appoints ‘Brazen’ Climate Denier as Director

Michael John Cole will sit alongside Lord David Frost on the Global Warming Policy Foundation board.
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Lord David Frost cabinet
Lord David Frost (centre), who joined GWPF's board in November. Credit: Number 10 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

A think tank with ties to senior Conservative politicians has appointed a businessman who claims environmentalism is part of a “totalitarian” plan to control the public, and says there is “no causal link” between human-made carbon emissions and global warming. 

Michael John Cole, chairman of a Newcastle-based health foods distributor, joined the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s (GWPF) board of trustees on December 30, according to Companies House documents filed last week. 

The GWPF claims to provide “robust and reliable analysis of climate and energy issues”, but is in fact the UK’s main climate science denial group, and an out-and-out supporter of fossil fuels. 

Cole is the author of two books, both published in 2021 – one called Debunking the Myth of Human Made Climate Change, and another, A Virus in Society, which promotes conspiracy theories. 

He will sit on the GWPF board alongside former Brexit minister Lord David Frost, who joined as a trustee in November. Steve Baker MP stepped down as a GWPF trustee in September to join Rishi Sunak’s government as a junior minister for Northern Ireland. 

DeSmog has reported extensively on the GWPF’s ties to Conservative MPs, including the Net Zero Scrutiny Group of backbenchers. 

Wera Hobhouse MP, Liberal Democrat climate spokesperson, responding to the appointment, said: “The Global Warming Policy Foundation has long been a spreader of disinformation in the climate change discourse.

“Another brazen climate change denier being added to their board should come as no surprise.”

She added: “Their deliberate attempts to place doubt on the need to tackle the greatest threat facing the planet should be called out by all sides and their influence cast out of politics for good.” 

Michael Cole and Climate Denial

Cole, whose GWPF website profile says he has a degree in chemistry, is chairman of the Health Made Easy Group, a distributor of health and nutritional products based in Newcastle. 

Cole claims in the blurb for his climate change book: “There has been a deliberate and orchestrated approach to promote the theory of human-made climate change initiated largely by the IPCC [The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] which has created alarmist fears about climate and threats of global warming.” 

He goes on to assert that there is “no causal link” between human-made CO2 emissions and global warming. The IPCC, the United Nations climate body, has documented that the evidence that humans are causing climate change is “unequivocal”. 

Cole’s other book, A Virus in Society, claims “elitist political classes” and the media are imposing a “creeping totalitarianism”, and using “unscientific claims such as environmental issues as a flagship to brainwash the public to accept such restrictive controls”.

GWPF and Fossil Fuels

The Charity Commission is currently reviewing a complaint that calls for the GWPF to  be stripped of its charitable status. A group of cross-party MPs and lawyers lodged the objection, which accuses the think tank of funding one-sided research and non-charitable lobbying through its campaign arm Net Zero Watch

Last week DeSmog reported that GWPF founder and honorary president Nigel Lawson was retiring from the House of Lords. 

The GWPF has a consistent track record of spreading climate science denial. In September 2022, it published two papers rejecting climate science on the greenhouse effect, arguing that “changing atmospheric carbon dioxide has minimal impact on Earth’s temperature and climate”.

Earlier this month the group was accused of misrepresenting a scientific study by AAP factcheck. One co-author described Net Zero Watch’s characterisation of the research as “totally misleading” climate misinformation. 

Net Zero Watch has consistently attacked renewable energy and the UK’s climate targets while campaigning for more fossil fuel extraction. In October, they urged the government to “recommit to fossil fuels” and commission “a new fleet of coal-fired power plants”.

In March 2022, they campaigned for a plan which “aims to wind down renewables completely”. 

The think tank is famously secretive about its funding. Last year, OpenDemocracy and The Guardian revealed that the GWPF received funding from the Sarah Scaife Foundation, which has $30 million worth of shares in energy companies including Exxon and Chevron, and the DonorsTrust, which has been used to channel funding from the Koch family

Michael Cole and the GWPF did not respond when contacted for comment. 

Chris Deane headshot
Chris joined DeSmog in August 2022 as a Researcher. He previously interned with Unearthed, Greenpeace's investigative journalism unit.
Adam Barnett pic
Adam Barnett is DeSmog's UK News Reporter. He is a former Staff Writer at Left Foot Forward and BBC Local Democracy Reporter.

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