In praise of the Global Warming Policy Foundation
By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.
In the last few years, many conservatives have sensed a tendency within the media to give scientists, analysts and commentators who believe in global warming theories a free run. In many cases, those pro-global warming voices were unchallenged, and no balance was provided in the programmes on which they appeared.
The Global Warming Policy Foundation is a think-tank founded in November 2009, directed by Dr Benny Peiser (pictured right), and chaired by Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Chancellor. The GWPF describes itself as "open-minded on the contested science of global warming", but "deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated".
The GWPF is a registered educational charity as well as a think-tank, and it boasts cross-party support: its Board of Trustees includes crossbench, Liberal Democrat, and Labour peers, as well as the Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster. The Academic Advisory Council features leading scientists including Professor Freeman Dyson and Dr Matt Ridley.
The GWPF is one of the most important think-tanks in Britain today, because it is helping to provide the balance that has been so sorely lacking in the mainstream of our economic and environmental policy debate for much of the last decade. The GWPF offers reports, lectures and scientific analysis.
Its website includes a section called The Observatory, edited by Dr David Whitehouse, which provides analysis of recent developments. It also includes an opinion section, UK, international, energy and science news sections, and a "best of the blogs" roundup.
Dr David Whitehouse analyses new findings by the Best global temperature initiative: "Indeed Best seems to have worked hard to obscure it. They present data covering more. Almost 200 years is presented with a short x-axis and a stretched y-axis to accentuate the increase. The data is then smoothed using a ten year average which is ideally suited to removing the past five years of the past decade and mix the earlier standstill years with years when there was an increase. This is an ideal formula for suppressing the past decade’s data. When examined more objectively Best data confirms the global temperature standstill of the past decade."
Dr Whitehouse predicts 2012 will be a cold year - current prediction models are "unable to explain what is going on": "Under the current hypothesis the annual average global temperature must start increasing. One can invoke natural decade cycles to hold it back for so long, but they must eventually give way to greenhouse gas forcing. Eventually the temperature must increase at a faster rate than it would have done to make up for its temporary suppression. The problem is, of course, the data. We are at the stage where theory is becoming unable to explain what is going on. We have had no global temperature increase since the 1998 super El Nino, and now have the prospect of 2011 and 2012 being significantly cooler than the temperature plateau of the past decade."
Andrew McKillop analyses the failure of Silicon Valley's green fuel industry: "The big difference, of course, is that oil & gas spending produces energy. Failed Silicon Valley start ups and the Cleantech hedge funds that go with them do not, time after time. Mortality rates in Cleantech were and are extremely high, but Myrhvold shrugs this aside as venture-capital investing being inherently high-risk. More spectacular examples, like the collapse of Solyndra LLC the solar-cell company and its fallout reaching right up to the White House are reminiscent of the dotcom-telecom crash at the turn of the century, for Myrhvold. For others, they are yet another proof that Silicon Valley-type investing in green energy is the wrong model: incompetently analysed, badly programmed, sloppily managed and born to fail."
For the GWPF's annual lecture, Cardinal George Pell provided highlighted the ever-changing phrases to describe climate change (pdf): "In the 1990s we were warned of the “greenhouse effect”, but in the first decade of the new millennium “global warming” stopped. The next retreat was to the concept of “anthropogenic global warming” or AGW; then we were called to cope with the challenge of “climate change”. Then it became apparent that the climate is changing no more now than it has in the past. Seamlessly, the claim shifted to “anthropogenic climate disruption”. These redefinitions have captured the discourse. Who would want to be denounced and caricatured as a “denier”?"
In a report last month, "The Myth of Green Jobs" (pdf), Professor Gordon Hughes showed how the rise of "green jobs" will ultimately benefit China's manufacturing industry: "It is argued that green energy policies will promote innovation and the development of new industries. Almost every country in the world wants to claim the same benefit, so the numbers do not add up. Total employment in manufacturing wind turbines, solar cells, etc is small when compared with employment in the manufacture of conventional equipment for power generation and transmission. Some small countries – Denmark or Israel – have gained an initial advantage but this is rapidly disappearing as factors such as skills, transport costs, local demand and existing patterns of specialisation reassert themselves. For the longer term, there is little doubt that the primary beneficiary will be China. That is already apparent from the way the market is developing."
In an essay published in August, "The Truth About Greenhouse Gases" (pdf), Professor William Happer writes that the IPCC "re-wrote" history, by introducing its "hockey stick" theory: "The existence of the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period was an embarrassment to the global-warming establishment because it showed that the current warming is almost indistinguishable from previous warmings and coolings that had nothing to do with burning of fossil fuels. The organization charged with producing scientific support for the climate crusade, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), finally found a solution. They rewrote the climate history of the past 1000 years with the celebrated “hockey stick” temperature record. The first IPCC report, issued in 1990, showed both the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age very clearly. In the IPCC’s 2001 report was a graph that purported to show the earth’s mean temperature since the year 1000. A yet more extreme version of the hockey stick graph made the cover of the 50th Anniversary Report of the United Nation’s World Meteorological Organization. To the surprise of everyone who knew about the strong evidence for the Little Ice Age and the Medieval Warm Period, the graph showed a nearly constant temperature from the year 1000 until about 150 years ago, when the temperature began to rise abruptly like the blade of a hockey stick."
As testament to the GWPF's impact on the media this year, Bob Ward of the Guardian's environmental section wrote earlier this month:
"Many parts of the media now feel obliged to include the views of Lawson and other representatives of the foundation in reports about climate change issues in order to "balance" the statements made by mainstream researchers and policymakers."
You can visit the Global Warming Policy Foundation's website here.