DeSmog

GB News Gives Dozens of Appearances to UK’s Main Climate Denial Group

The broadcaster’s decision to platform a “notorious” anti-science group raises major questions ahead of the general election, campaigners say.
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Global Warming Policy Foundation energy director John Constable appearing on GB News on 12 March 2024. Credit: GB News / YouTube

The UK’s leading climate science denial organisation has appeared on GB News more than 35 times over the past seven months, DeSmog can reveal. 

The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), founded in 2009 by former Conservative chancellor Nigel Lawson, produces reports that contradict established climate science, and advocates against policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions. 

The group and its sister organisation Net Zero Watch have a number of high-profile advisers and directors, including former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, Conservative peer Lord David Frost, and Tory MP Andrea Jenkyns.

DeSmog has analysed the output of GB News and found that figures involved in the GWPF and Net Zero Watch have appeared on the right-wing broadcaster on at least 36 occasions since 18 October 2023 – an average of once a week. The GWPF and Net Zero Watch representatives frequently used these appearances to downplay the climate crisis and argue that the UK’s net zero emissions targets should be scrapped. 

They claimed that the climate emergency is simply “scaremongering”, that “net zero is doing enormous damage to the economy”, and that “the lights will go out” if we divest from fossil fuels. 

The GWPF has in the past expressed the view that carbon dioxide has been mis-characterised as pollution, when in fact it is a “benefit to the planet”. 

“If you advertise on GB News, this is what you’re enabling,” said Richard Wilson, director of the campaign group Stop Funding Heat. “Since 2021, GB News has bet the farm on opposing climate action, and persuading the government that rowing back on climate commitments would win votes. Now we learn that the channel has promoted a notorious climate science denial group dozens of times in the past few months.

“With an election fast approaching, these revelations will inevitably raise new questions about the agenda of GB News, and its impact on our democracy.”

GB News has been a leading source of climate science denial since its launch in June 2021. A DeSmog investigation found that one in three GB News presenters had spread climate science denial on air in 2022, while more than half had attacked climate action.

The broadcasting regulator Ofcom recently refused to investigate GB News after one of its guests spread the conspiracy theory that achieving net zero emissions by 2050 will cause half of the world’s population to die.

GB News presenters have also used their platforms to advocate for more fossil fuel extraction, urging the UK to “drill, baby, drill” for more coal, oil and gas. GB News co-owner Paul Marshall had £1.8 billion invested in oil and gas companies as of 30 June 2023 via his hedge fund Marshall Wace.

Meanwhile, over the last year, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has overseen a row-back of several key climate pledges. In July, Sunak confirmed that his government planned to issue hundreds of new oil and gas licences, a move that Oxfam’s climate policy adviser Lyndsay Walsh said would “send a wrecking ball through the UK’s climate commitments”.

Sunak has said his government intends to “max out” the UK’s oil and gas reserves, and legislated to introduce annual North Sea licensing rounds. This is despite the International Energy Agency stating that new fossil fuel exploration is “incompatible” with the Paris Agreement target of limiting global heating to 1.5C. 

In September, the government scrapped a number of net zero pledges, including pushing back a ban on the sale of combustion engine vehicles, and weakening plans to phase out gas boilers.

GB News and the GWPF have been approached for comment. 

“Time to Scrap Net Zero”

A number of different figures from the GWPF and Net Zero Watch have been hosted on GB News since 18 October 2023. 

GWPF director and Telegraph journalist Allison Pearson has been a regular contributor in recent months, appearing on nine separate occasions since 18 April. 

Pearson, who became a director of the GWPF in May 2023, has claimed that green policies will cause “life as we know it” to “[return] to the pre-industrial age”. On announcing that she was joining the GWPF, Pearson claimed that net zero technologies are “erratic, unproven or non-existent”. 

In reality, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) reported in 2021 that two-thirds of newly installed renewable power in G20 countries had lower costs than the cheapest fossil fuel-fired option. 

The UK’s Climate Change Committee (CCC), which advises the government, has also pointed out that a decarbonised energy system would “cut our exposure to volatile international fossil fuel markets”.

During this period, GB News hosted the GWPF’s head of policy Harry Wilkinson, its energy director John Constable, and its director Benny Peiser

On 1 December 2023, Peiser used an appearance on GB News to claim that “no one is going to build a wind farm or solar farm” if the government scrapped the subsidies for their development. The UK government has given £20 billion more in support to fossil fuel producers than their renewable energy peers since 2015.

On 12 March 2024, Constable appeared on Jacob Rees-Mogg’s GB News show, during which the Conservative MP touted a new Net Zero Watch documentary on the “dangerous” switch to wind and solar energy. 

Constable claimed that the transition from fossil fuels to renewables is “likely to create constricted and poor societies.” 

The claim that net zero policies cannot be afforded, or will punish working-class people, has been regularly deployed by GWPF figures on GB News. 

Net Zero Watch director Andrew Montford claimed on GB News on 5 December that, if we phase out fossil fuels, “the lights will go out and [we] will be stuck.” On 31 March, Montford used a GB News appearance to insist that both Labour and the Conservatives are “wedded to the religious dogma that we have to decarbonise the economy”, and that they are “going to run the country into the ground unless they are forced to turn back.”

Yet, a study released in May estimated that the economic impacts of climate change will be six times what had previously been estimated, and could amount to 15 percent of GDP if the globe warms by little over 1.5C. 

The CCC has estimated that the cost of achieving net zero will be less than 1 percent of UK GDP, while the government independent spending watchdog – the Office for Budget Responsibility – has said that, “the costs of failing to get climate change under control would be much larger than those of bringing emissions down to net zero”.

The GWPF’s revenue stood at £280,000 during the year ending 30 September 2023, a drop of £110,000 from the previous year. Only 3 percent of its revenue came from ordinary members, but the group does not publish a list of its major donors.

The GWPF has attracted criticism for its relationship to Net Zero Watch. While the GWPF is a registered charity, and is in theory bound by Charity Commission rules limiting “political activity”, Net Zero Watch is a private company and is not bound by these same restrictions.

After a delay of 18 months, the Charity Commission is set to report shortly on whether the GWPF has breached charity law, following a complaint from the Good Law Project, which alleges that the GWPF funds non-charitable lobbying work by Net Zero Watch.

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Sam is DeSmog’s UK Deputy Editor. He was previously the Investigations Editor of Byline Times and an investigative journalist at the BBC. He is the author of two books: Fortress London, and Bullingdon Club Britain.

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