The main group advocating climate change scepticism in the UK has seen its income from members slump by more than 60 per cent in just five years, according to figures submitted to Companies House.
The Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) – set up by former Conservative Chancellor Nigel Lawson – has persistently disputed scientific research into climate change, describing the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “alarmist” and calling for the Government to abandon targets to reduce fossil fuel emissions.
The figures, unearthed by Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in London, show that the income from membership fees in the 12 months until September 2016 was £5,409, down by 62 per cent on the figure in 2011, when the group received £14,300.
On its website, the GWPF asks “members to donate at least £100 [a year] to help” fund its activities, which suggests a paying membership of less than 55, although the foundation told The Independent it had about 300 members, of whom approximately 100 made payments of some kind.
However Mr Ward, in an article for The Independent, said that the figures show there “may have been a slump in the membership of the UK’s main club for climate change ‘sceptics’, as it... hosts a press conference for an architect of President Donald Trump’s assault on environmental regulations”.
On Monday, Myron Ebell – who led Mr Trump’s transition team at the Environment Protection Agency, and is now head of the Centre for Energy and Environment at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank which opposes “global-warming alarmism” – will hold a briefing for the press at an event held by the GWPF.
Mr Ward said that the group had been “dogged by controversy”.
“In September 2014, the Charity Commission ruled that the Foundation had breached its guidelines by promoting climate change denial,” Mr Ward said.
“The foundation has also continued to distribute propaganda that misrepresents the work of climate change researchers.”
The GWPF has recently adopted a “lukewarmist” stance towards the issue, with Lord Lawson recently admitting that greenhouse gases had caused temperatures to increase. But he also said it would be “crazy” for the UK to attempt to reduce its emissions because they account for only two per cent of the global total.
The vast majority of scientists agree there is concrete evidence that climate change has already happened. The head of the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, has compared denying this to disputing the theory of gravity.
Benny Peiser, director of the GWPF, told The Independent that the fall in membership fees did not represent a fall in actual members – mainly because they are not required to pay.
“Our membership has always been roughly between 200 and 300 and it hasn’t really changed over the last few years. It’s still roughly 300,” he said.
“We’re not as strict that if a member doesn’t pay up his full amount that we then decide he’s no longer a member.
“There hasn’t been a decline in membership, quite the opposite. It’s more a decline in individual members paying up.”
He stressed charitable donations had increased by about £50,000 last year and the GWPF’s future for at least the next two years was secure as it had total funds of more than £688,000.
“I don't know the exact number, but I estimate that we had individual donations from around 70 supporters totalling £257,044. These individual donors too are members of the GWPF,” said Mr Peiser, who was previously a social anthropologist at Liverpool John Moores University.
The last three years have set successive records for the planet’s highest average temperature since measurements began in the 1880s.
However climate sceptics have undoubtedly received a boost from the election of Mr Trump, who has described the scientific consensus as a hoax perpetrated by China.
Mr Trump has appointed known climate science deniers to key positions in his administration.
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