The Daily Telegraph’s chief interviewer and columnist Allison Pearson has joined the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), one of the UK’s principal climate science denial groups.
This appointment adds to the influence of the GWPF in the press and potentially the amount of sway that it holds over the Conservative Party.
Pearson, who has written a number of articles criticising climate action, will be assuming a role on the board of trustees alongside former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who joined the GWPF in February and also serves as a trade adviser to the UK government.
Lord David Frost – a Conservative peer and former Cabinet Office minister who was appointed in November – is also a GWPF director, along with Terence Mordaunt, who has donated £342,500 to the Conservative Party and its MPs since 2008 via First Corporate Consultants and First Corporate Shipping. This includes £10,000 donated in March this year to Leader of the House of Commons Penny Mordaunt.
The GWPF is a member of the Tufton Street network – an interconnected hub of think tanks and pressure groups that lobby against state action, including in the realm of climate change. The GWPF has criticised both the policies adopted by governments to address climate change, and the science underpinning these policies.
The group said in 2015 that “policies to ‘stop climate change’ are based on climate models that completely failed to predict the lack of warming for the past two decades”. It has also expressed the view that carbon dioxide has been mis-characterised as pollution, when in fact it is a “benefit to the planet”.
The think tank has 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 fossil fuel funded Koch family.
The GWPF earned more than £380,000 during the 12 months to September 2021, but only 2 percent through fees from ordinary members. Despite this, the organisation does not declare its major funders.
“The climate change deniers’ club has gained a new member from the ranks of the right-wing ecosystem that so often feels indifferent to the destruction of natural ecosystems,” said Jolyon Maugham, Executive Director of the Good Law Project, which has challenged the GWPF’s charitable status. “Allison Pearson’s appointment keeps the well-oiled revolving doors spinning between the right-wing press and the Tufton Street cabal.”
‘Life-Threatening Climate Conditions’
In a statement released by the GWPF to announce her new role, Pearson said: “I have grown increasingly concerned that our country has adopted a legally binding Net Zero 2050 target which threatens to have massive downsides for ordinary Britons, causing hardships of which the majority of people are wholly unaware. This policy has received remarkably little scrutiny yet its success is dependent on the rapid development of technologies which are either erratic, unproven or non-existent.”
Pearson’s statement itself contains a number of misleading claims about green technologies and the relative costs of pursuing net zero. It plays on a common falsehood that wind and solar power are unreliable and costly. In fact in winter 2022, renewables provided more UK electricity than gas power stations: 27 percent of UK electricity was generated by wind, and wind and solar were the EU’s top power source.
In 2021, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported that two-thirds of newly installed renewable power in G20 countries had lower costs than the cheapest fossil fuel-fired option.
In the words of Bruce Usher, a professor at Columbia Business School who teaches on the intersection of financial, social and environmental issues: “The myths about renewable energy are based on prices and performance that are typically out-of-date.”
A recent Pearson column about Just Stop Oil protests included the claim that green policies will cause “life as we know it” to “[return] to the pre-industrial age”. This followed her claim in August, following Boris Johnson’s resignation as prime minister, that he should “never be forgiven for sacrificing Britain to his net zero fantasy”.
In her GWPF statement, Pearson added that: “While the pursuit of a cleaner, greener world is entirely admirable, our country cannot afford another vast act of self-harm. We desperately need the open, rational debate which the GWPF encourages.”
Pearson also hosts The Telegraph’s weekly Planet Normal podcast with Sunday Telegraph Columnist and GB News presenter Liam Halligan.
Pearson’s critiques of net zero are familiar “climate delay narratives”, which paint green action as disruptive and costly, rather than being a true reflection of plans to reach net zero set out by the UK’s independent Climate Change Committee (CCC). They also ignore the urgent need to cut emissions and transition to green energy.
The world’s leading climate science body, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), has warned that 50-75 percent of the world’s population could be exposed to periods of “life-threatening climatic conditions” due to extreme heat and humidity by 2100.
Climate change “will increasingly put pressure on food production and access, especially in vulnerable regions, undermining food security and nutrition”, the IPCC has said, and “will significantly increase ill health and premature deaths from the near- to long-term”.
These impacts are costly, with Morgan Stanley estimating that climate-related disasters cost the world $650 billion from 2016 to 2018.
The IPCC has also said that new fossil fuel projects are incompatible with the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5C, as stipulated by the 2015 Paris Agreement.
Allison Pearson, the GWPF, and The Telegraph have been approached for comment.