'Sceptics' Hall of Shame
It has been some time since this page was originally written. However, regrettably the likes of Nigel Lawson still continue to deny anthropogenic climate change - and even get a slot on the Today Programme to do so.
Moreover, this increasingly dominant discourse of climate change denial and the rise of populism surrounding global politics, most notably the American Election of President Trump, has the potential to be harnessed in order to weaken the messages of climate science. You can read more about the shades of climate change denial throughout the Trump Administration here.
All of the above represent climate denial in different forms.
Gallery of climate sceptics
As former Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher, Nigel Lawson could be called the Grandfather of British neo-liberal economics – meaning that he holds that industry must be completely unregulated for the economy to function properly. Lawson has been a high-profile opponent of climate change mitigation action, labeling the Kyoto Protocol “wrongheaded”, criticizing the industry-restricting greenhouse gas emissions targets it sets out, and saying that the IPCC should be “shut down”. He argues that anthropogenic climate change as described by the IPCC is merely “alarmist”.
In 2009, he founded the Global Warming Policy Foundation in order to oppose climate change mitigation policies. Professor Ian Plimer (see below) is an academic advisor on the GWPF board. The group’s homepage is a hub of news, opinion and organisations opposing climate change mitigation policy and denying the effects of global warming. The organisation ordered a high-level investigation into the University of East Anglia emails linked to the “Climategate scandal”, aiming to undermine the 2009 UNFCCC talks in Copenhagen. In their March 2010 news, they stated their hopes for “an emerging international organisation” linked to “the crisis of credibility” in “climate science and climate policy”, confirming their status as the UK branch of a menacing international anti-climate science movement.
The GWPF has become a popular source of media commentary, with its director Benny Peiser frequently to be found deriding renewables and promoting shale gas. It appears to be the Daily Mail's main source of information on climate change. The paper's recent hostile campaign against green energy is alleged to have its roots in a lunch meeting between Lawson and editor Paul Dacre. A GWPF memorandum on the draft Energy Bill stresses the shale gas potential of Britain and rejects the low carbon energy goals of the Energy Bill.
Lord Lawson’s free-market vision of industry unrestricted by regulations is at the root of his denial of threatening of climate change. He does not deny the existence of the phenomenon and uses shrewd political rhetoric to make his stance seem plausible. However, in his battle against climate change mitigation action, he frequently uses the phrase “gentle and moderate” effects of climate change, seemingly referring to nothing more than anecdotal evidence from his French holiday home.
His book An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming has been soundly scientifically trashed, being described in the journal Nature by Sir John Houghton – Honorary Scientist at the Met and co-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – as “neither cool nor rational”. Lawson’s climate change denial is an example of the unwelcome intrusion of politicians – even skilled politicians – into science, his rhetoric being described by climate scientists as ignorant and dangerous.
His claims scrutinised: You can hear him and The Tyndall Centre's Kevin Anderson debating climate science on BBC Radio 2's Jeremy Vine show, download it here (32MB MP3) and make up your own mind on him. Also check out this article exposing his frequent errors and false statements (including in the Radio 2 interview).
Christopher Monckton is a principal contributor to the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI) group of climate sceptics and could be described as a career climate change denier. Greenpeace (which Monckton claimed are "about to impose a communist world government on the world") note that his views have made him the “darling of the industry-funded US based conservative think tanks such as, pro-tobacco, anti-global warming organization, the Heartland Institute”. He is also the former deputy leader of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) and an opponent of the Copenhagen agreements.
Like many climate change deniers, Monckton contradicts without scientific explanation the view – which is held by the vast majority of climate scientists and the IPCC – that CO2 will have an increasingly dangerous effect on global temperatures. This was evident in a recent paid speaking tour of Australia alongside Ian Plimer, which opposed the proposed national emissions trading scheme and promoted an anti climate-change agenda. Lord Monckton was policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher from 1982 to 1986, making him a colleague of Nigel Lawson’s and likely bolstering a neo-liberal attitude.
Apart from his flat denial of any anthropogenic climate change, his outlandish claims have included: that the Copenhagen agreement stated “that a world government is going to be created”; that this government will be communist; that he had read this agreement – before it came out; and that he is a Nobel peace laureate and a member of the House of Lords, all of which are equally fictitious. This continuing list of indefensible assertions and embarrassing episodes have led him to be described – even by anti environmentalist Spectator journalist Rod Liddle – as a “swivel-eyed maniac”.
Monckton has repeatedly claimed to be a member of the House of Lords, however this is not the case. His refusal to stop the claims led David Beamish, the Clerk of the Parliaments to write this letter to Monckton, asking him publicly to desist.
His claims scrutinised: John Abraham did an 83 minute presentation, comprehensively taking Monckton's arguments to pieces. You can view the presentation and listen to the audio here. See also https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00y5j3v/Storyville_20102011_Meet_the_Climate_Sceptics for a BBC documentary that follows Lord Monckton, and shows his claims to be unfounded.
Spectator and Telegraph journalist James Delingpole is an increasingly well-known climate change denier and proponent of the “Climategate” hype, which was designed to scupper the Copenhagen agreements.
His “libertarian conservative”, deliberately incendiary and facetious journalism got too big for its boots when he took on journalist George Monbiot in a debate about climate change on the BBC’s Daily Politics show. Delingpole suggests (at 6mins50secs) that the system of peer-review was discredited by the “Climategate” scandal. George Monbiot states that this shows “not just a total lack of knowledge about (climate) science, but also about the scientific process”.
This ignorant, pugnacious approach is characteristic of all his writing about climate change: Delingpole’s articles often amount to nothing more than unfounded scientific and political bashing, poking fun at “liberals” and “lefties”. However, his website has become a disturbingly successful voice of support for conservative climate change deniers like Nigel Lawson and Ian Plimer, and the comments on his articles read like a GWPF manifesto.
His claims scrutinised: In this interview with the BBC TV programme Horizon: Science Under Attack Delingpole admits he "doesn't do science"
His misrepresentation of climate science irked The Guardian’s George Monbiot and James Randerson; so much so that Monbiot was inspired to create a satirical competition for inaccurate climate change journalism: The Christopher Booker Prize.
His claims scrutinised: The Guardian's Philip Ball reviews his book, saying he's "talking bunk". George Monbiot has compiled a list of his "howlers", asking "How much longer can Christopher Booker go on misleading readers?"
Bjørn Lomborg is a Danish author with a background in politics and game theory. He became internationally known for his best-selling and controversial book The Skeptical Environmentalist, although he has been described as "neither sceptical nor an environmentalist".
While Lomborg does not deny that climate change is happen, he seeks to minimise its importance. He argues that action should not be taken to reduce emissions as other problems are more important, and technology will naturally emerge that will solve climate change.
Scientific American concluded that “in its purpose of describing the real state of the world, the book [The Skeptical Environmentalist] is a failure.” A review in Nature compared it to “bad term papers,” and called it heavily reliant on secondary sources and “at times…fictional.”
Lomborg went on to gather a panel of economists and ask them to consider the costs and benefits of dealing with various world problems. They concluded that dealing with malaria ranked higher than controlling carbon emissions. In 2007, Lomborg published the book "Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist's Guide to Global Warming" which has also been criticised for an abundance of factual errors and misleading arguments.
Lomborg's professed concern for the welfare of the developing world and acceptance of (some) climate science has allowed him to present himself as the 'reasonable middle ground', and neutralise some criticism. However John Mashey argues persuasively that when Lomborg says that malaria prevention is more important than climate change, malaria prevention is a red herring. The real message is "Don't do anything to prevent climate change."
His claims scrutinised: Biologist Kåre Fog has compiled a website listing the errors in Lomborg's books. Detailed analysis of a Lomborg piece "The Green Inquisition". Additionally, Jim Norton has compiled a list of links to further information.
UPDATE AUGUST 2010: Lomborg has publicly announced that the world should spend $100 billion per year on tackling climate change, calling it a "a challenge humanity must confront" (detailed article here). However, whether Lomborg really is serious about climate change or if this announcement is just self-promotion to publicise his book remains to be seen.
Australian geologist Professor Ian Plimer is the director of three Australian mining companies – listed by www.sourcewatch.org as Ivanhoe Mines, CBH Resources and Kefi Minerals – and a prominent climate-change denier in Australia and globally. With these lucrative interests, it is unsurprising that his 2009 book “Heaven and Earth” has been labeled the “denier’s bible”. Guardian journalist George Monbiot, in a highly publicized debate with Plimer, described the book as “filled with fabrication after fabrication, simple untruths, repeated again and again”.
Reputable sources say that Plimer’s science is highly controversial or simply untrue. A representative example of this is his claim in Heaven and Earth that volcanoes emit more carbon than humans. Volcanologist Dr Terence Gerlach of the U.S. Geological Survey countered this, saying that 130 times more CO2 is produced by man than by volcanoes, including underground volcanoes, which is Dr Plimer’s standard riposte. Outside of climate change, in this video (at 01h24min55secs) we see Plimer claiming that the evidence for a global flood around 7400 years ago, around the time of Noah, is “set in stone”, a point which is otherwise universally accepted by geologists as indefensible.
Plimer likens “environmentalism” to religion, particularly biblical narratives of the apocalypse. Roger Jones of Climate Scientists Australia – a group of senior scientists promoting science-based climate politics – has said Plimer is an “egotistic charlatan and a fraud”.
The geologist is part of various global networks with climate change denial agendas: The Institute of Public Affairs, an Australian conservative think tank linked to the Liberal Party of Australia, who called the IPCC report “alarmist”; the Natural Resources Stewardship Project, a Canadian anti-Kyoto advocacy group; and the UK Global Warming Policy Foundation, founded by Nigel Lawson.
His claims scrutinised: Ian Enting wrote a lengthy document detailing the inaccuracies in Plimer's book Heaven and Earth, which you can download here.
Additionally, you can watch a TV debate between Plimer and George Monbiot on YouTube.
Republican Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma is among the most prominent climate change deniers in the US Congress. As former Chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, the danger of his impact on environmental issues cannot be overstated.
Having accepted $662,506 from oil companies between 2000 and 2008 as well as $152,800 in coal contributions during the 110th Congress, Senator Inhofe is one of the biggest beneficiaries of oil money in US politics.
Senator Inhofe’s statements on climate change fly in the face of the scientific consensus. The very few scientific references he does make can invariably be shown to be false, unreliably sourced or misconstrued. To cite one of innumerable examples – provided by realclimate.org – during a speech given at the opening senate session on January 4, 2005, Inhofe said: “we are (…) in the midst of a natural warming trend that began about 1850, as we emerged from a 400 year cold spell known as the Little Ice Age”, which was a reference to the novelist Michael Crichton and contradicts all published scientific papers, including the IPCC’s 2nd Assessment Report, which states that human activities are having a significant influence on our changing climate.
Quite apart from being a damaging and unscientific climate change denier, Senator Inhofe could be described as an enemy of science and reason themselves: as columnist at The Independent and The Huffington Post's Johann Hari notes, the Senator’s statements have been "repudiated" by "even the handful of contrarian scientists Inhofe constantly cites."
His claims scrutinised: journalist Mark Johnson analysed through all 413 of the people cited in Inhofe's list of "prominent scientists" who are reported to be sceptical of man-made climate change. A summary of his findings (and a link to the full list) can be found here.
Dr Benny Peiser is director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, set up by Nigel Lawson (see more above). He has been extensively quoted in the UK media as an 'expert' on global warming, attacking renewables and promoting shale gas despite his lack of academic qualifications in either climate science or energy. In fact, his previous role was as a part-time senior lecturer in sports science at Liverpool John Moores University. Dr Peiser's peer-reviewed publications include an article on on the frequency and consequences of 'cosmic impacts', one on the effects of environmental factors on the Olympic games, and one on how human activity levels vary with the seasons.
He is also the co-editor of the journal Energy and Environment, which has been described as a "journal for climate sceptics." The standard of its peer review process has also been criticised. He is also an advisory member to the Science Alliance, an outfit set up by an aggregates magnate frustrated by “all this environmental stuff” and designed to project a view on scientific issues that would be more compatible with the interests of his and other industries.
His claims scrutinised: Peiser wrote a paper criticising Dr Naomi Oreskes' study which reviewed 928 research papers on climate change, finding they all agreed with the scientific consensus. Peiser claimed that 34 of these "reject or doubt" the scientific consensus for man-made global warming, but later retracted this, admitting that only one did.