New figures suggest there may have been a slump in the membership of the UK's main club for climate change sceptics, as it today hosts a press conference for an architect of President Donald Trump's assault on environmental regulations.
The official accounts for the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), which were quietly released last week by Companies House, reveal that its membership fees in the year ending 30 September 2016 generated just £5,409. This was the lowest annual total in the foundation’s seven-year history.
The organisation has always asked each member to pay at least £100 per year. If every member is complying with this request, the latest sums suggest that it now has fewer than 60 members.
In comparison, previous accounts show that in the year ending 31 July 2011, the income from membership fees was £14,330, showing that the total has fallen by two-thirds over the past five years.
It is not clear to what extent the fall in income reflects a drop in numbers as GWPF does not publish details of its membership.
It seems likely that its membership is predominantly male. There is only one woman among the foundation’s 10 trustees, and its “Academic Advisory Council” consists of 27 men and no women. All seven of its annual lectures have been delivered by men.
Despite its dramatic decline in popularity, the foundation still managed to secure £257,044 from secret donors during its most recent financial year.
In 2015, GWPF formed a sister company, “The American Friends of the GWPF”, in order to ensure that its funding from the United States is eligible for tax relief.
The foundation was launched as a registered educational charity in November 2009 by Lord Lawson, who often boasts of its impact on government policies.
However, it has been dogged by controversy, particularly over its failure to reveal the identities of its main funders.
In September 2014, the Charity Commission ruled that the foundation had breached its guidelines by promoting climate change denial.
The foundation responded by creating a lobbying arm, the Global Warming Policy Forum, which is not subject to the Charity Commission’s regulations. The forum continues some of the practices that caused trouble for the foundation, such as inserting fake headlines above newspaper articles reproduced on its website.
However, the foundation has also continued to distribute propaganda that misrepresents the work of climate change researchers.
For instance, the foundation hosted a lecture in October 2016 by Viscount Ridley, during which he falsely accused Professor Ranga Myneni of Boston University and his 31 co-authors of delaying publication of a paper in order to avoid it being taking into account by the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Later the same month, the foundation published a pamphlet by Peter Lilley MP, one of its trustees, which made a large number of inaccurate and misleading claims about the review in 2006 of the economics of climate change carried out by Nicholas Stern, now chair of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.
The latest accounts also show that GlWPF recorded a loss of £39,422 in the year ending 30 September 2016.
The forum is due to hold a press briefing for journalists in London on Monday for Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a lobby group in Washington that has gained notoriety for its efforts to promote climate change denial. Mr Ebell reportedly helped Donald Trump’s team to draw up plans to limit the work of the Environmental Protection Agency to tackle climate change.
While the foundation’s membership appears to be dwindling, it still enjoys a cosy relationship with some parts of the British media, particularly the Mail on Sunday. It also benefits from the activities of its affiliated parliamentarians who host events for it in the House of Commons and House of Lords.
Bob Ward is policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Sciences
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