The climate sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation is a “highly connected political lobbying machine” and the Charity Commission should therefore disclose the name of its seed funder, a barrister told the Information Rights Tribunal according to a report in The Times on Saturday.
The Guardian, the Brisbane Times as well as the blogs DeSmogBlog and Climate Progress also reported Friday’s Information Tribunal hearing where Brendan Montague, the director of Request Initiative, asked judge Alison McKenna to disclose the name of the seed funder of Lord Lawson’s climate sceptic charity.
Robin Hopkins, representing Brendan Montague, was quoted in the Times on Saturday describing the GWPF as a “highly connected political lobbying machine” and arguing that the identity of the donor that made the launch of the foundation possible could not be “of greater relevance or greater impact”.
Mr Montague has appealed the Information Commissioner’s decision to withhold the name of the Global Warming Policy Foundation’s seed funder. The Guardian published two letters on the day of the tribunal signed by scientists and experts supporting Mr Montague’s request, having reported on the tribunal hearing the previous Monday.
The editors in chief of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) and the Lancet signed an open letter stating: “Although Lawson and his Global Warming Policy Foundation have been discredited and attacked by numerous scientists and senior politicians, his thinktank continues to receive significant coverage, wrongfully distorting the public and policy debate over climate change.” The second letter was written by Dr Robin Russell Jones, the chair of Planetary SOS.
The Brisbane Times quoted Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at Australia’s Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, who said: “The public should know who is funding climate denial so they can properly judge the information put out by organisations like the Global Warming Policy Foundation.”
Joe Romm’s US based Climate Progress hosted a guest blog post by leading climate scientist James Hansen who warned: “Public doubt about the science is not an accident. People profiting from business-as-usual fossil fuel use are waging a campaign to discredit the science. Their campaign is effective because the profiteers have learned how to manipulate democracies for their advantage.”
The Canadian DeSmogBlog highlighted GWPF’s scale of influence, using one statement found on the thinktank’s website: “The key to the success of the GWPF is the trust and credibility that we have earned in the eyes of a growing number of policy makers, journalists and the interested public.”
The Freedom of Information request was made by Mr Montague in a personal capacity in mid-2010 before the launch of the Request Initiative, a not-for-profit community interest company which makes requests on behalf of charities, NGOs and those acting in the public interest.
He said: “A thorough understanding of the act and extensive research allowed me to keep the legal fees extremely reasonable and I am therefore able to cover them personally. Request was established with the aim of making transparency laws in the UK accessible to charities of all sizes and budgets despite the legal complexity of using the tribunals.”
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THERE IS “enormous public interest” in naming the climate sceptic Global Warming Policy Foundation’s seed donor and “a pressing need to scrutinise” any links he has with the oil and coal industry, an information tribunal judge heard today (Friday, January 27, 2012).
Brendan Montague, the co-founder and director of the Request Initiative, asked the tribunal to reveal the name of the wealthy public figure who gave £50,000 to launch Lord Lawson’s think tank, an increasingly influential charity which attacks climate science and has called for changes to climate policies.
Mr Montague’s initial Freedom of Information request was refused by the Charity Commission in 2010 and that decision was upheld by the Information Commissioner on the grounds that it would be “unfair” to release personal data without permission from the funder.
However, Mr Montague took the case to the Information Tribunal arguing there is a “legitimate public interest” in releasing the name because the cash has financed Lord Lawson’s charity while it has been calling for huge changes in government policy. The donor handed over at least £50,000 out of a total of £500,000 raised by Lord Lawson in the first year of the foundation’s existence.
The public interest argument has been supported by professor James Hansen, adjunct professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute and one of the first influential voices to warn of catastrophic climate change. Hansen has been joined by professors John Abraham and Stephen Lewandowsky in his calls for transparency on the GWPF’s funders.
Professor Naomi Oreskes, the author of the book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming, which documents how US think tanks were funded by the oil industry to smear climate science, and Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics and author of Requiem for Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change, are also supporting the request.
Dr Fiona Godlee, editor in chief of the British Medical Journal; Dr Richard Horton, editor in chief of the Lancet; Hugh Montgomery, professor of intensive care medicine; Anthony Costello, professor of international child health; Rachel Stancliffe, director of the Centre for Sustainable Healthcare; Dr Robin Stott, co-chair of the Climate and Health Council and Maya Tickell-Painter, director of the Medsin Healthy Planet Campaign, have publicly supported the Freedom of Information request, although this does not form part of the hearing.
Mr Hopkins told the judge:
“There is enormous public interest in transparency as to who that individual is. There is a pressing need to scrutinise whether or not that person has any ‘significant interest’ in the energy industry. It appears that the Charity Commission makes no attempt to address that issue – it is left entirely in the hands of the GWPF itself.
“Further, it is important that the public knows which high-profile figure has this degree of influence within GWPF. Parliament’s Science and Technology Select Committee has expressed this public interest and has pressed for transparency on the issue of GWPF’s donors. It has been stonewalled.”
Professor Hansen, whose testimony before the United States Congress in 1988 focused international attention on climate change, writes in his witness statement:
“Climate change is a moral issue of unprecedented scope, a matter of intergenerational injustice, as today’s adults obtain benefits of fossil fuel use, while consequences are felt mainly by young people and future generations…
“The fossil fuel kingpins are separated from the foot soldiers who serve as their public mouthpieces, separated by multiple layers of people, and even by corporations…the public has the right to know who is supporting the foot soldiers for business-as-usual and to learn about the web of support for the propaganda machine that serves to keep the public addicted to fossil fuels and destroys the future of their children.”
Professor John Abraham, associate professor of engineering with expertise in thermal-fluid sciences at the University of St Thomas in Australia, said:
“The GWPF has been engaged in significant obfuscation with respect to the reality of climate change and they have been engaged in unwarranted criticisms of well-respected scientists…
“It is a charade institution meant to suggest that scientists are still debating the cause of climate change. With it now apparent that the scientist-advisors of the GWPF are anything but scientists, it is clear that this organization is tailored to promote mistruths and half-truths. Consequently, the release of information regarding the funding of GWPF is in the public’s interest.”
Professor Stephen Lewandowsky, a Winthrop professor in the School of Psychology at the University of Western Australia, said:
“The GWPF has engaged in on-going obfuscation of the reality of climate change and they have been purveying unwarranted criticisms of well-respected scientists. I believe that the GPWF is an outfit dedicated to mislead the public into thinking that climate scientists are still debating the cause of climate change— when in fact the peer-reviewed literature abounds with evidence that those fundamentals were resolved long ago.”
Professor Naomi Oreskes, professor of history and science studies at the University of California, San Diego and adjunct professor of geosciences at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, said:
“The Global Warming Policy Foundation is the latest incarnation of a climate sceptic think tank that conforms to the model first devised by public relations firms working on behalf of the tobacco industry… The website of the Global Warming Policy Foundation publishes many of the claims devised and propagated by the earlier climate change deniers.
“The Global Warming Policy Foundation is practicing climate denial and effectively creating doubt about whether climate change is being caused by carbon dioxide emissions while actively campaigning for changes in government policy relating to the regulation of carbon dioxide. In doing so, it is clearly acting in the interests of the fossil fuel industry and against the general public interest.”
Professor Clive Hamilton, professor of public ethics at the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at Charles Sturt [correct] University, Canberra, said:
“The reluctance of governments around the world to act with the alacrity and seriousness warranted by the scientific warnings has in substantial measure been due to the campaign to discredit climate science by a network of well funded think tanks and related organisations.
“The Global Warming Policy Foundation advances the same arguments put forward by ‘sceptic’ organisations in the United States, and has links to some of them…when assessing the claims of the GWPF the public has a right to know who is funding it.
“Given the enormous states, the conflicting claims, and the shadowy but now well documented history of financing of sceptic organisations by politically motivated corporations and individuals connected to the fossil-fuel industries, the principle of transparency is of utmost importance, and I urge the Information Rights Tribunal to instruct the Charity Commission to make public the funding sources of the GWPF.”
Tribunal judge Alison McKenna is expected to reach a decision within four weeks. She will either decide the name must be disclosed in which case she will produce a substitute decision notice which the Information Commissioner’s Office will then communicate to the Charity Commission. It is possible the judge could ask for the name to be released within 35 days of the decision notice. If the judge rules against publishing the donor’s name, the case may be appealed to the Upper Tribunal on legal grounds.
The Global Warming Policy Foundation was founded in November 2009 ahead of the Copenhagan conference on climate change. The foundation has received £500,000 in funding from individuals and family trusts. Lord Lawson has refused to reveal the name of any of his funders.
Lord Lawson gave evidence before the Science and Technology Committee in the House of Commons in March 2010 where he accused the University of East Anglia of failing to be transparent about climate science.
“We are absolutely clean. I would be very happy to see the names of all our donors published, I can assure you, it would be very, very good.
“But if they wish to remain anonymous, for whatever reason, maybe they have other family members who take a different view and they do not want to have a row within the family, maybe they do not want a whole lot of other people asking them for money…”
A photocopy of a bank statement showing the name of the seed donor was sent by Lord Lawson to the Charity Commission to prove he had the cash to set up the charity. The commission has refused to release the name or the bank statement. The commission does not hold information about any of the other funders.
Research conducted by the Reuters Institute of the Study of Journalism has shown that the GWPF has been the country’s most effective climate sceptic organisation, while Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change has argued that information published by the charity is inaccurate.
Lord Lawson served as energy minister under Margaret Thatcher. He was later president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which fosters links between the oil industry, government and academia and has been sponsored by BP and Shell. A Mike Smith from BP was chairman of the BIEE in 2003 during Lawson’s last year as president.
Lawson is chairman of Central Europe Trust Co Ltd, a consultancy business dealing in assets in Eastern Europe for which he has earned £76,000 a year. The company, in which Lawson was previously a shareholder, boasts that BP Amoco and Shell have been major clients. The company suffered losses and Lawson no longer has a financial stake.
The Guardian’s Leo Hickman reports today on next Friday’s Information Rights Tribunal when Request Initiative will appeal for the Global Warming Policy Foundation to reveal the identity its seed funder.
The newspaper says leading climate scientists are backing the appeal, arguing that GWPF “routinely misrepresents and casts doubt on the work of climate scientists”.
The London-based climate sceptic thinktank chaired by the former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson is fighting an FoIA request by Request Initiative to the Charity Commission asking for a bank statement it holds revealing the name of GWPF’s seed donor, who contributed £50,000 for its launch in 2009.
Request’s director, Brendan Montague, submitted an FoIA request to the Charity Commission arguing that the public has a right to know if any donor is related in any way to the oil industry.
GWPF has stated in the past that it does not accept donations from the energy industry, or anyone with a “significant interest” in the energy industry.
James Hansen, the director of the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies who first warned the world about the dangers of climate change in the 1980s has also backed Request Initiative’s appeal, telling the Guardian: “If successful, the FOI request may, by exposing one link in a devious manipulation of public opinion, start a process that allows the public to be aware of what is happening, what is at stake, and where the public interest lies.”
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Climate scientists will call on a British judge to disclose the identity of the seed funder to Lord Lawson’s climate sceptic think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the Guardian reports today.
Professor James Hansen, adjunct professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute and one of the first scientists to warn of catastrophic climate change, is supporting a Freedom of Information request, saying the public interest will be served by ending the secrecy around the financing of Lord Lawson’s London based charity.
Scientists professor John Abraham and professor Stephen Lewandowsky have also supported the request that the Charity Commission publish the name on a bank statement, next to £50,000 handed to the GWPF by an anonymous donor, at an Information Rights Tribunal on Friday, January 27, 2012.
Professor Naomi Oreskes, the author of the book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming which documents how US think tanks were funded by the oil industry to smear climate science, and Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics and author of Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change are also supporting the request.
The tribunal hearing is taking place following an appeal by Brendan Montague, the director of the Request Initiative, of the Information Commissioner’s Office decision not to force the Charity Commission to release the name of the donor.
Mr Montague has to persuade the judge it would be “fair” under the Data Protection Act to publish the donor’s name against his wishes because the public has a legitimate interest in having the information. The donor contributed £50,000 out of a total of £500,000 raised by Lord Lawson in the first year of the foundation’s existence.
Research conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has shown that the GWPF has been the country’s most effective climate sceptic think tank in terms of public relations, while Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change has questioned the scientific information published by the GWPF.
Mr Montague said:
“Lord Lawson’s charity is lobbying government for changes in climate and energy policy that would affect the lives of millions of people. This case is motivated by the belief that the public has a right to know who is funding this work.
“Request Initiative has been established because there is a serious lack of accountability in public life. We are asking the judge in this case to recognise the overriding public interest in transparency around climate change above the privacy of one single wealthy individual. We know this is a difficult legal balancing act but hope the judge will come down on the side of the public.”
The Global Warming Policy Foundation was founded by Lord Lawson in November 2009 ahead of the Copenhagan conference on climate change. He appeared before parliament to accuse the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia of not being transparent about its climate change science.
The foundation has received £500,000 in funding from secret donors. A photocopy of a bank statement showing the name of the seed donor was sent by Lord Lawson to the Charity Commission to prove he had the cash to run the charity. The commission has refused to release the name or the bank statement.
Lord Lawson has worked closely with the oil industry since serving as energy minister under Margaret Thatcher. He has previously been president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which fosters links between the oil industry, government and academia and has been sponsored by BP and Shell. A Mike Smith from BP was chairman of the BIEE in 2003 during Lawson’s last year as president.
Lawson has also been chairman of, and a shareholder in, Central Europe Trust Ltd, a consultancy business dealing in assets in Eastern Europe which has boasted BP Amoco and Shell as major clients, on a salary of £76,000 per annum. Lawson no longer has a financial stake.
Despite its calls for more scientific transparency, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has been exposed as extremely secretive, The Guardian reports.
The newspaper reveals Benny Peiser, who is the director of the influential climate sceptic thinktank, has been consistently refusing Freedom of Information requests, leading to accusations of double standards and secrecy about its funding.
The GWPF, which is chaired by Lord Lawson, has also received the criticism of the Energy Secretary, Chris Huhne.
Replying to a report sent by Lawson the Secretary said: “Let me say straight away that [I] believe that you have been misinformed and that your conclusions are poorly supported by the underlying science evidence.” He goes on: “It would be perverse to ignore this well-attested and thoroughly reviewed body of evidence.”
Addressing also Lord Turnbull, a former head of the civil service and GWPF trustee, Huhne continues: “It is not true to say that UK climate change policy relies on a single source of evidence.”
Lawson’s original report questioned the belief in what sceptics refer to as “climate alarmism” and claimed “huge controversy about the relative contribution of man-made CO2 versus natural forces” indeed exists.
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, stressed GWPF’s negative impact on climate change policy-making and the need for accountability on their part.
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