Does Lord Lawson's think tank 'cast doubt' on the science of climate change?
- 26 Jul 2011, 15:39
- Christian Hunt
Does Lord Lawson's think tank 'cast doubt' on the science of
The BBC Trust report into the corporation's science coverage
noted last week [PDF p.69]
"Science can inform the debate, but
policy implications of global warming remain a legitimate part of
the news agenda. In its submission to this Report, the Global Warming
Policy Foundation (active in casting doubt on the truth of
man‐made climate change) told me that they are producing a review
with a focus on climate science and science policy."
It is clear that the BBC Trust report as a whole is also
critical of the amount of coverage which a few prominent climate
skeptics - including Lord
Lawson, founder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation - have
got over the last few years. The report also says
"The impression of active debate is
promoted by prominent individuals such as Lord Monckton and Lord
Lawson. The BBC still gives space to them to make statements that
are not supported by the facts"
GWPF hit back, labelling the report an "explicit attack on the
Global Warming Policy Foundation" and stating that
"The report by Professor Jones makes
statements about the GWPF that are evidently inaccurate on at least
two counts. He claims that
i) the Global Warming Policy Foundation
is "active in casting doubt on the truth of man-made climate
ii) the GWPF made a submission to his
Both of these claims are false."
The climate skeptic think-tank also states that it
"... does not have an official or shared
view about the science of global warming - although we are of
course aware that this issue is not yet settled. However, we have
publicly and repeatedly made clear in no uncertain terms that the
GWPF does not question the basics of climate science."
And says that it has written to Lord Patten requesting that the
BBC Trust put out a statement acknowledging that the review
contains statements about the GWPF "that are wholly without
The GWPF is regularly quoted in the media, particularly in the
Mail and the Telegraph. Its main spokespeople Lord Lawson, Benny Peiser and David Whitehouse
have also made statements in the House of Lords, at public events,
in broadcast media and on the GWPF's own website, which is
updated daily. It has also released reports which offer their
perspective on climate science - for example a report by
Lord Turnbull last month, which was
covered prominently in the Mail and which we
But does that mean that they are "active in casting doubt on
man-made climate change" or in "question[ing] the basics of climate
science"? The foundation spend a significant amount of their time
making statements about climate policy, politics, and the behaviour
of scientists. But they do also talk about scientific issues.
Scientific uncertainty is certainly a recurring theme for the
foundation, but how do they discuss it?
We have copied below some quotes from GWPF spokespeople on the
uncertainties around the science of climate change.
Whether it [CO2] is a major contribution
or a minor contribution to what is in any case a very small degree
of [global] warming is extremely uncertain, and the scientists
don't really know…
Lord Lawson, GWPF Founder, March 2010, The Jeremy Vine Show
All true scientists in this field … say
there is enormous doubt, enormous uncertainty ... there was a
slight warming in the last quarter of the 20th Century but there
has been no further warming at all so far this century; these are
official Met Office figures.
Lord Lawson, March 2010, The Jeremy Vine Show
On the science, I think that you are
clearly right that the science is far from certain, it is very
uncertain, and the more you look at it the clearer that is the
case. It is certainly the case that carbon dioxide concentrations
in the atmosphere have been increasing rapidly, that carbon dioxide
is a greenhouse gas - not the most important one but it is a
greenhouse gas - and that prima facia you would expect it to have
some warming effect.
Lord Lawson, June 2010, GWPF Event - Debating the Future of British
Clearly carbon dioxide is a greenhouse
gas - not the most important greenhouse gas - clearly it's a
greenhouse gas, and clearly, other things being equal, it will have
a warming effect, and we all know emissions are rising fast and
therefore concentrations are rising fast - that's clear, no dispute
about that. But there is considerable uncertainty about whether
other things are equal, and there's a lot of climate science on
that at the moment. There's also uncertainty as to how big the
warming effect is - to use the technical term, how great the
climate sensitivity of carbon is. And there's a lot of dispute
about that. It depends for example on the science of clouds,
whether they are a positive feedback to amplify warming or whether
they're not, and the climate science community are divided on
Lord Lawson, November 2010, Policy Exchange Debate with Anthony
The first [problem] as more and more
eminent scientists are finding the courage to point out … is that
it is far from clear that there is a serious problem - let alone a
catastrophic one - of global warming at all.
Lord Lawson, June 2011, Daily Mail
The data on 2010 confirms that since
1998 there has been no overall warming. Some scientists, such as
Professor Phil Jones of the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia,
go further, claiming that there has been no statistically
significant global temperature rise since 1995. Climate theory is
at a loss to explain this. Simulations carried out by the Met
Office using climate models suggest that a 10-year hiatus is very
rare but not impossible. A hiatus of 15 years, however, is
incompatible with current understanding.
Dr Benny Peiser, 26 December 2010, Letter to the Telegraph
… no-one really knows what the
[temperature] trajectory will be within the next 100 years, whether
the warming trend will be pronounced, whether it will be moderate,
whether it will be smaller, no-one knows...
Benny Peiser, GWPF Director, June 2011, BBC Radio 4 'PM'
Not only is much of the science behind
the idea of global warming now being disputed but, at a time of
such widespread economic hardship, we simply cannot afford to
misdirect scarce economic resources on such a massive scale.
Dr Benny Peiser, Daily Mail, June 2011
It does seem that the sea ice is
returning to 'average' after the record lows of 2007 and 2008.
There has been a definite recovery trend since then so far from
being a progression towards ice free summers it seems that it was a
temporary dip. The recent observations do make the 2007 projections
that the region would be ice free by 2013 look very unrealistic.
Given what is happening only the foolish would look many years into
the future and predict ice free summers now.
Dr David Whitehouse, GWPF Science Editor, 1 April 2010, Quoted in
[t]here is huge controversy about the
relative contribution of man-made CO2 versus natural forces
Lord Turnbull, GPWF report "The really inconvenient truth", May