Lord Lawson's climate-change think tank risks being dismantled after complaint it persistently misled public

 

A A A

Lord Lawson’s climate-change think tank faces being dismantled or even
wound down after a formal complaint that it has persistently misled the public prompted the statutory regulator to probe into the group.

Since Lord Lawson launched the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) in November 2009 it has “persistently disseminated inaccurate and misleading information about climate change as part of its campaign against climate policies in the UK and overseas,” the complaint alleges.

The use of factually inaccurate material without a legitimate basis in science is an abuse of the foundation’s charitable status, which is all the more reprehensible because the public is more trusting of pronouncements made by charities, according to the complaint, filed by Bob Ward, head of policy at the Lord Stern’s Grantham Institute and a former communications director at the Royal Society.

“The foundation arrogantly ignores any challenges to the accuracy of the information it spreads, and has not been held to account for misleading the public. As I have discovered on numerous occasions, when the foundation is notified of inaccuracies, it simply refuses to admit it is wrong or to apologise,” said Mr Ward, who is a reviewer for the forthcoming International Governmental Panel on Climate Change report that will shape the action the world agrees to combat global warming. 

Regulator the Charity Commission said it is “assessing the concerns to determine whether there is any regulatory action for the Commission to take”. The commission cautioned that the assessment was at an early stage and wouldn’t necessarily lead to a full investigation, or “statutory inquiry”.

The commission is expected to seek a response from the foundation to Mr Ward’s claims as part of its assessment. If it decides that the GWPF has breached the conditions of its charitable status it will be given an opportunity to demonstrate that it has changed. If this happens and the GWPF fails to convince the commission it has changed, it could launch a full-scale investigation, potentially leading it to remove trustees such as Lord Lawson, appoint alternatives, direct their actions and freeze the group’s bank account.

Dr Benny Peiser, GWPF’s director firmly rebutted Mr Ward’s claims.

“The GWPF has never participated in any campaigning and does not promote any particular line of opinion. In fact, the GWPF does not have an official or shared view about the science or politics of global warming – although we are of course aware that these issues are not settled,” said Dr Peiser, a former senior lecturer in sports science at Liverpool John Moores University.

“Our reports, which are peer reviewed, are subjecting climate change policies to dispassionate analysis based on hard evidence and economic rigour…..Corrections are published if and when errors are discovered,” he added.

Mr Ward dismissed Dr Peiser’s response as “simply not true. A quick Google search will clearly show they make political statements”.

He points to a release the foundation put out shortly after the coalition was formed in May 2010 as being a prime example of political campaigning.

The release quotes Lord Lawson – a chancellor under Mrs Thatcher and father of celebrity chef Nigella – as saying: “At the very least, given the financial and economic state we’re in, the new Government should phase out all energy subsidies of all kinds, and suspend unilateral targets until such time as all other major nations have signed up in the same course.”

The release added that the case for greening Britain’s electricity supply would only be possible if the whole world adopted the same policy.

Dr Peiser said: “For the UK, which accounts for less than 2 per cent of global carbon emissions, to go it alone is not merely suicidal but pointless”.

The foundation, which gets tax breaks from being a charity, has refused to disclose its donors. Michael Hintze, a leading billionaire Conservative party donor who founded the £5bn CQS hedge fund, is the only known backer.

Mr Ward points out that, as a charity, the foundation is entitled to use “emotive or controversial material”, but only as long as it is “factually accurate and has a legitimate evidence base”.

'Inaccurate information': What Bob Ward alleges

1. Lawson claimed in the House of Lords that “the Treasury has estimated that the carbon floor price [tax on major carbon dioxide emitters] alone will lead to an increase in electricity prices of between 60 and 70 per cent by 2030, to the great detriment of the consumer, British industry and the British economy, which goodness-knows-is in a fragile condition as it is”.

Ward says that the regulatory impact assessment for the carbon floor price, on the Treasury’s website, indicated at the time that the average household annual electricity bill would be between 3 and 7 per cent lower in 2030 than the baseline scenario in which there is no carbon floor price.

2. In 2010, Nigel Lawson told Newsnight: “If you take their (the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) worst estimate of the warming, their worst economic scenario, they still say that all the consequence will be, is that living standards in the developing world, in a hundred years’ time, instead of being a little more than nine times as high as they are today, will only be a little more than eight times as high as they are today.”

Ward says the IPCC report Lawson mentions contains no estimate of how per-capita income in developing countries would be affected by climate change. Furthermore, he points out that the report predicts per-capita income in these countries will actually rise by a factor of about 66 over the next century, rather than nine times. But Lord Lawson persists with the claim, including in his book An Appeal to Reason, Ward says.

3. In a debate with Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, Lawson told Radio 4: “What is interesting is that in the second half of the 20th Century, when there were huge increases in carbon emissions, far from there being a greater increase in sea level, the official figures show that, if anything, there was a slightly smaller increase in sea level in the second half of the 20 Century than in the first”.

Ward says the statement is contrary to the most up-to-date results of scientific research. A group of leading researchers on sea level rise clearly demonstrated in 2009 that there was a bigger rise in sea level after 1950 than before it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
British musician Mark Ronson arrives for the UK premiere of the film 'Mortdecai'
music
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Sport
footballBrighton vs Arsenal match report
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
News
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us