DEALING IN DOUBT: FULL REPORT
The climate denial industry has expanded out of its hub in the United States into the international arena over the past 20 years. It remains a largely English-speaking network, centred around the U.S., but has also spread further into key countries targeted by the deniers and think tanks.
With a massive coal and mining industry backing him, Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s government was the perfect breeding ground for climate denial. This was recognised by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) in 1996, which began strategising to develop the Australian arm of their campaign.
In November 1996 a strategy meeting was held at the CEI in Washington that would begin to cement the cross-pollination of people and ideas between Australia and the US. At the meeting, RJ Smith from the CEI argued that it was clear that “Australia if possible would be a key player in this”, so the CEI decided to hold a conference.
The CEI is a Libertarian anti-regulation “free market” think tank based in the USA. For many years it has attacked global warming science and received more than $2 million in funding from Exxon since 1998. The CEI coordinates the “Cooler Heads Coalition” and the website globalwarming.org. It is perhaps best known for its bizarre “CO2 is life” advertisements in 2006. Shortly after these ads, ExxonMobil dropped its funding, under pressure from, among others, the UK Royal Society.
Interviewed by Bob Burton in 1997 Smith said: “Early last winter, right after Tim Wirth of the US State Department announced they were going to call for mandatory controls in Kyoto, we said what do we do? How do we stop this?”
The CEI’s RJ Smith met Ray Evans of Australia’s Western Mining Corporation (WMC), and the two began planning.
They held a conference in Washington in 1997, and several key deniers were in attendance, along with the Australians. According to PR Watch it “offered blanket dismissals of the scientific evidence for climate change and predicted staggering economic costs for any policies aimed at restricting emissions.” Australian Embassy Chief of Mission Paul O’Sullivan, gave the address.
In August 1997, the CEI and the anti-regulatory organization, Frontiers of Freedom sponsored another Australian conference, this time in Canberra, along with the Australian and New Zealand Chambers of Commerce and the WMC. Ray Evans and WMC’s Managing Director Hugh Morgan played a significant role at the conference, and attendees included the Australian Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer and Environment Minister Robert Hill. Fisher claimed that tough emission reduction targets could put 90,000 jobs at risk in Australia and cost more than $150 million.
Speakers included American climate denier Patrick Michaels, climate denier politicians, Rep. John Dingell, Senator Chuck Hagel and Richard Lawson (President and Chief Executive Officer of the US National Mining Association and present at the earlier CEI meeting).
According to RJ Smith from the CEI, the purpose of the Canberra conference was to "try and buck [Prime Minister John Howard] up a little more and let him know that there is support of the American people" for his government's obstructionist stance.” Later that year, an Australian at the CEI, Hugh Morley, noted on the CEI’s website that “If Australia sticks to its gun (sic), there might not be a Kyoto treaty after all.”
2013 Australia update
Fast forward to today and Australian denial remains a major force, not least in response to the demise of Howard and moves by the Labor Government to introduce a carbon price, coupled with a massive growth in the coal sector, and a largely climate denying opposition.
A think tank that has been at the centre of Australian denial since the outset is the Institute of Public Affairs, a major sponsor to a Heartland Institute conference in Sydney in 2010. The IPA doesn’t reveal its funding, but has admitted in the past that it comes from its corporate members. A recent story in The Age revealed that the IPA’s anti-climate stance has lost it corporate membership in recent years, and the stated that the IPA has received funding through mining billionaire Gina Rinehart’s organisation, ANDEV.
Some of Australia’s key deniers enjoy international attention, not least Bob Carter, who is one of the lead authors of the Heartland Institute’s NIPCC, and has admitted that he receives money from Heartland. Carter is associated with a number of international think tanks at the heart of the denial machine. Alongside Dr Carter is Ian Plimer, a geologist who is a director of several of Gina Rinehart’s mining companies and who owns shares in a number of others.
For a detailed compendium on Australian deniers and front groups, see “Doubting Australia.”
In response to Australia moving forward on climate policy, a number of denier think tanks, blogs and organisations have sprung up, including the Galileo Movement, and the Australian Climate Science Coalition and blogs like Australian Climate Madness.
In 2009, one man, Tim Andrews, then of the Australian Liberal Students Federation went to the US to train with Grover Norquist’s American’s for Tax Reform and the Koch Foundation internship programme. He gained insights from Koch mastermind Rich Fink, and returned to Australia to set up, run or become heavily involved in, a veritable feast of think tanks and organisations, most of which aimed their wrath at the Australian Government’s climate change programme, including Menzies House, the Australian Taxpayers Alliance, (ATA – formed in 2000) the Australian Libertarian Society and StopGillardsClimateTax.com.
The Cato Institute’s Patrick Michaels is on the advisory board of the ATA and was a science advisor to Stop Gillard’s Climate Tax. The Galileo Movement lists a string of international deniers on their “independent advisory panel” including Michaels, Singer, Lindzen and Lord Monckton.
- UK denier Lord Monckton has undertaken no less than three tours of the country, in 2010, 2011 and 2013. His 2010 tour was partly funded by coal billionaire Gina Rinehart, who, with the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, also funded part of his 2011 tour. In 2011, Monckton arrived in the country having to apologise to the Government’s Climate Change advisor, Professor Ross Garnaut, for, in a US presentation, labelling him a fascist and linking his image with a swastika. Funding for his 2013 tour was channelled through the newly established Lord Monckton Foundation, which doesn’t list its funders. During the tour he launched a far right political party.
- The country has been peppered with visits by other deniers, including Czech President Vaclav Klaus, (IPA-sponsored, 2011), UK Telegraph blogger James Delingpole (promoting his book, 2012), head of UK denier organisation the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Lord Nigel Lawson, 2011 (courtesy of right wing paper, The Spectator, edited by the IPA’s Tom Switzer), and author of a book trashing the IPCC, Donna Laframboise (2012, courtesy of the IPA), the Heartland Institute’s Jay Lehr (2009, Australia Climate Science coalition) and blogger Anthony Watts (2010, Climate Sceptics party).
- Australian now has five minor political parties who include climate denial in their policy profiles: The Climate Sceptics Party, Rise Up Australia (launched with Lord Monckton in 2013, and whose leader, Daniel Nalliah, said the 2009 “Black Saturday” bushfires in Victoria were God’s retribution for that State’s abortion laws), One Nation, Democratic Labour Party (with one State Senator) and Family First.
Australia’s media landscape has played a leading role in spreading misinformation on climate change, climate science, the role of climate scientists and the impacts of policies to reduce emissions.
In the Murdoch-owned News Ltd stable, influential political writer and prolific blogger Andrew Bolt liberally spreads climate science denial on his blog and in his syndicated column. He also regularly invites climate sceptics onto his Sunday morning television show The Bolt Report, where he regularly launches attacks on climate science.
News Ltd owns the vast bulk of the popular metropolitan press in Australia. Other News Ltd columnists sceptical of human-caused climate change include Janet Albrechtsen, Miranda Devine, Tim Blair, Piers Akerman and business editor Terry McCrann (who claims to reach a bigger audience than any other Australian columnist).
News Ltd’s The Australian, the country’s only national daily newspaper, regularly runs op-eds from climate science deniers, including Lord Monckton, Lord Lawson, Matt Ridley, James Delingpole, Bjorn Lomborg and Bob Carter and prints texts lifted directly from the Global Warming Policy Foundation website.
Editor of The Australian edition of The Spectator, Tom Switzer, is an IPA fellow.
An analysis of The Australian’s climate coverage by academic Professor Robert Manne found that news stories arguing for action on climate change were outnumbered four-to-one by others rejecting action. In the opinion pages, climate sceptic writers outnumbered recognised climate science experts 10-to-one.
On radio, Sydney’s most popular shock-jock Alan Jones of 4GB dismisses the science of human-caused climate change as “witchcraft”. Jones is patron of the denial group the Galileo Movement.
NEW ZEALAND: DENIERS ATTEMPT TO SUE OVER TEMPERATURE RECORDS
New Zealand has its own set of climate deniers, tied in with Australia and a global network, thanks to the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, started in 2005. On the NZCSC board of advisors is Australia’s Bob Carter, one of the main authors of the Heartland Institute’s so-called NIPCC.
Bryan Leyland admitted he was paid by the Heartland Institute to go to the climate talks in Bali in 2007, where he joined the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow team in trying to challenge the science (they were largely ignored).
In 2010, members of the NZCSC set up the NZ Climate Science Education trust to sue the National Institute of Water and Atmosphere for their “series 7” set of temperature records, arguing along the same lines as many deniers to: that the stations where temperatures are taken were somehow not measuring temperatures accurately.
They lost their case in the High Court. The judge, Justice Venning, was vitriolic in his judgment, dismissing Dunleavy’s evidence about the climate science because he was unqualified to give such evidence:
“Section 25 could only apply if Mr Dunleavy was an expert in the particular area of the science of meteorology and/or climate. He is not. He has no applicable qualifications. His interest in the area does not sufficiently qualify him as an expert.”
Scientist teaches climate denial at Auckland University
Chris de Freitas, who was the editor at Climate Research who published the critique of Michael Mann’s Hockey Stick study, (see page) teaches a first year Geography class at Auckland University’s school of environment.
In 2011 an investigation by the New Zealand Herald found that de Freitas was teaching climate denial in his class, using graphs that had only previously been seen in presentations by Lord Christopher Monckton. The same investigation found that he had provided similarly sceptic scientific information to students at the university’s school of public health.
THE UNITED KINGDOM'S DENIAL MACHINE
Deniers in the United Kingdom have made repeated efforts over the years to undermine the scientific consensus and go after the scientists. Indeed, the whole “climategate” affair was focused on a UK university.
The links between UK and US climate denial go back to the early 90’s, with the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, the UK branch of a US front group that funnels US money into the UK and across the world. For example, Atlas has received a combined total of more than $600,000 from Donors Capital Fund and Donors Trust and more than $1 million from ExxonMobil 1998-2009.
Atlas was working to help the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), a leading UK conservative think tank. In 2001, Atlas UK changed its name to the International Policy Network, holding its first meetings at the IEA, and with its original address based at the IEA.
The IPN’s main directors were Roger Bate and Julian Morris, who ran the IEA’s environment unit for at least two years after the IPN was established. Chair of the board was Linda Whetsone who remains on the IEA board to this day.
Bate and Morris had previously campaigned in support of Genetically Engineered organisms and soon launched themselves into a “sound science” campaign and began questioning the science of global warming.
In 1994 Bate co-founded the European Science and Environment Forum. This was exactly the same time Philip Morris was setting up The Advancement of Sound Science Coalition in Europe. TASSC Europe didn’t eventuate, but ESEF was established at exactly the same time, working on the same issues. Bate was also connected with the US think tanks the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow and the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Morris has spoken at several Heartland Institute conferences and is an advisor to the International Climate Science Coalition. In the late 1990’s he was a contributor to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
In 2001 the IPN set up its North America branch, and became the direct recipient of ExxonMobil Foundation contributions ($390,000 between 2001 and 2006).
UK DENIAL TODAY
Today, the main denial organization in the UK is the Global Warming Policy Foundation. While the GWPF has always been very careful to avoid saying who its funders are, in March, 2012, The Guardian revealed one of its major funders was Australian financier, major Conservative Party funder - and trustee of the IEA, Michael Hintze.
Bloggers like James Delingpole (The Telegraph newspaper) lead UK denial, along with a handful of other media figures such as the Daily Mail’s Melanie Phillips. A new voice of denial is Matt Ridley, a columnist for The Times, who has written two books for the Institute of Economic Affairs: Down to Earth: A Contrarian View of Environmental Problems, and Down to Earth II: Combating Environmental Myths. In 1995, the IEA described Ridley as, “one of a number of environmentalists who are seeking to counter the inaccurate and misleading opinions of 'mainstream environmentalism'.”
Guardian columnist George Monbiot criticised Ridley’s economic libertarian views in a Guardian column in 2007. In particular, Monbiot contrasted Ridley’s libertarianism with his role at Northern Rock bank, which was rescued from collapse by government intervention.
Their efforts have been rejected by the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, who slammed deniers and the media who gave them a platform, in a June 2013 speech:
“But some sections of the press are giving an uncritical campaigning platform to individuals and lobby groups who reject outright the fact that climate change is a result of human activity. Some who even deny the reality of climate change itself. This is not the serious science of challenging, checking and probing.This is destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, publicity seeking contraversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness.”
However, the Environment Secretary Owen Paterson’s views remain skeptical, a reflection of a faction in the UK Conservative Party that perhaps listens to the GWPF’s Lord Lawson.
Lastly, in the UK, there is the UK Independence Party’s Lord Christopher Monckton, whose climate denial has gained him few ears in the UK. He spends some time each year taking his climate denial to the US and Australia, with a lot less focus in the UK.
IPN AND ATLAS TAKE DENIAL GLOBAL
One prominent fellow of the International Policy Network was Kendra Okonski, who previously worked at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.
Okonski set up a number of front groups across the developing world, some of which are still operating. Okonski registered the websites for the following organizations:
The Atlas Foundation for Economic Research is today still coordinating a global network of libertarian think tanks, most of who run campaigns based on “freedom.”.
But there appears to be little taste for climate denial in most developing countries, as they face the beginnings of the effects of climate change.
DENIAL IN EASTERN EUROPE
Climate denial is still alive and well in Eastern Europe, where the EU member states are fighting to protect their coal industry and are the laggards within the EU, holding it back from moving forward on climate action.
Eastern Europe’s chief denier is Czech President Vaclav Klaus, who regularly travels around the world, entertained by various front groups and is often quoted by deniers like Christopher Monckton and Anthony Watts. He has also spoken at a number of Heartland Institue climate conferences.
In 2011, Poland’s EU Budget Commissioner, Janusz Lewandowski, told a Polish newspaper: “The thesis that coal energy is the main cause of global warming is highly questionable…. Moreover, more and more, there is a question mark put over the whole 'global warming' as such."
 B. Burton (1997) “WMC’s Campaign to Scuttle Binding Targets,” Mining Monitor, Vol. 2 (4), December 1997, p. 1