Matt Ridley

Matthew White Ridley


  • BA (zoology), Oxford University
  • D Phil (zoology, 1984), Oxford University
  • DSc FRSL FMedSci

Source: [1], [2]


Viscount Matthew White Ridley is a Conservative hereditary peer in the British House of Lords, a science writer, journalist, and popular author. Matt Ridley has written several books on evolution and genetics including The Red Queen (1994) and Genome (1999) as well as books on economics including The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (2010). Ridley won a seat in the House of Lords in 2013, a position that he has also used to discuss climate change and advocate for the “Brexit” campaign to leave the European Union.  [3], [4]

Ridley was the chairman of Northern Rock, a UK Bank until 2007, during which time the bank experienced the country's first bank run in 140 years. Ridley resigned and the UK Government bailed out the bank, leading to the Nationalization of Northern Rock. Ridley was responsible, according to parliament's Treasury select committee, for a “high-risk, reckless business strategy” which the bank was able to pursue as the result of a “substantial failure of regulation” by the state. [5][6], [7] 

From December 2010 to August 2013, Matt Ridley wrote a regular column titled “Mind of Matter” in the Wall Street Journal where he often voiced his skepticism on the threat of climate change. He has also written for The Daily Telegraph, Sunday Telegraph, the Times, The Guardian, New Scientist, New Statesman, Time, Newsweek and The New York Times[1], [8], [9]

Ridley is an advisor to the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), a group run by climate change skeptic Nigel Lawson. The GWPF describes themselves as “deeply concerned about the costs and other implications” of policies designed to mitigate man-made climate change. [10]

Regarding income from the GWPF and other sources, Ridley says “I am on its academic advisory council, but receive no pay and make no donations. I have income indirectly from unsubsidised coal, and have refused income from subsidised solar and wind power.” (Emphasis added). [11]

Coal Interests

Matt Ridley released the following statement in 2014 regarding his interests in the Coal industry: [12]

I have a financial interest in coal mining on my family's land. The details are commercially confidential, but I have always been careful to disclose that I have this interest in my writing when it is relevant; I am proud that the coal mining on my land contributes to the local and national economy; and that my income from coal is not subsidized and not a drain on the economy through raising energy prices. I deliberately do not argue directly for the interests of the modern coal industry and I consistently champion the development of gas reserves, which is a far bigger threat to the coal-mining industry than renewable energy can ever be. So I consistently argue against my own financial interest.”

Talking with The Guardian, Friends of the Earth (FoE) campaigner Guy Shrubsole said: “We think it’s worrying that climate sceptic Viscount Ridley should be using his privileged position in the Lords to argue against renewable energy, whilst lobbying to benefit a coal industry he has a significant financial interest in. [13]

Ridley has always maintained his own coal interests are immaterial to his climate sceptic views and political activities,” Shrubshole said. “This disclosure paints a different picture – of a peer who attacks clean energy whilst seeking to extend the lifetime of the coal industry in this country.” [13]

The disclosure Shrubsole spoke of was communications between Ridley and the UK energy minister Lord Bourne where Ridley promotes a Texas-based company with “fascinating new technology, which may well interest the Department of Energy and Climate Change.” The Guardian suggests this could be seen as an example of lobbying by Ridley on behalf of he energy industry. [13]

Stance on Climate Change

January, 2015

“I am a climate lukewarmer. That means I think recent global warming is real, mostly man-made and will continue but I no longer think it is likely to be dangerous and I think its slow and erratic progress so far is what we should expect in the future. That last year was the warmest yet, in some data sets, but only by a smidgen more than 2005, is precisely in line with such lukewarm thinking.” [14]

November, 2011

“I am not a 'denier'. I fully accept that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, the climate has been warming and that man is very likely to be at least partly responsible. […] you can accept all the basic tenets of greenhouse physics and still conclude that the threat of a dangerously large warming is so improbable as to be negligible, while the threat of real harm from climate-mitigation policies is already so high as to be worrying, that the cure is proving far worse than the disease is ever likely to be.” [15]

Key Quotes

October 20, 2016

“So far, the benefits of global greening have been greater than expected, while the costs of global warming have been smaller than expected and the price of reducing carbon dioxide emissions has been higher than expected. That price is falling more heavily on poor than on rich people. The evidence suggests that this imbalance will persist for most of this century, perhaps longer. It is time for a rethink.” [65]

October, 2016

Writing in The Times, Matt Ridley complains about the slow approval process of fracking in Britain: [55]

“[Fracking] has been tested tens of thousands of times in America with very few environmental problems. In that decade, America has used this technique to smash the oil and gas price, transform its economy and cut its carbon emissions. We’ve spent the decade in a futile attempt to placate a handful of implacable green fanatics.”

April, 2016

“The GWPF [Global Warming Policy Foundation] often draws attention to the many studies ignored by greens that suggest climate change is not so dangerous, and to the economic and environmental harm done by climate policies. Remember the consensus is that global warming is 'likely' to be anything from mildly beneficial to significantly harmful (0.3-4.8C this century). And predictions of doom usually prove exaggerated: eugenic deterioration, dietary fat, population growth, sperm counts, pesticides and cancer, mad cow disease, the effect of acid rain on forests. […]

Climate policies are hitting mainly poor people while enriching mainly wealthy people. The lack of affordable electricity in poor countries is responsible for poverty and at least three million deaths a year from indoor smoke, yet western countries and international institutions largely refuse to support the cheapest source of electricity, fossil fuels. It is reasonable that journalists should occasionally report challenges to the evidence on which these policies are based.” [11]

April, 2014

“My Lords, this latest report clearly states that the impact of climate change by the latter years of the century is likely to be less than 2% of global income and will be small relative to other factors such as economic development. Given that the co-chair of that report, Chris Field, is on record as saying that the really big breakthrough in this report is the new idea of thinking about management of climate change, would my noble friend agree that the time has come to congratulate my noble friend Lord Lawson, who has been saying exactly this for eight years? I declare my energy interests as listed in the register.” [16]

March, 2014

“Obviously, the oil industry and the gas industry cause problems but hydraulic fracturing itself has not produced a single environmental problem.” [17]


“A cumulative change of less than 2°C by the end of this century will do no net harm. It will actually do net good […] rainfall will increase slightly, growing seasons will lengthen, Greenland's ice cap will melt only very slowly, and so on.” [18]


“Ocean acidification looks suspiciously like a back-up plan by the environmental pressure groups in case the climate fails to warm: another try at condemning fossil fuels. […] Even if the world warms as much as the consensus expects, the net harm still looks small alongside the real harm now being done by preventable causes; and if it does warm this much, it will be because more people are rich enough to afford to do something about it.” [19]

Key Deeds

October 17, 2016

At the Annual GWPF Lecture at The Royal Society in London, Matt Ridley 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. Video below. [56], [57]

According to Ridley's lecture:

“Myneni’s results, however, remained unpublished. I was puzzled by this. Then I realized that one of the IPCC’s periodic assessment reports was in preparation, and that probably Dr Myneni and colleagues might delay the publication of their results until after that report was published, lest 'the skeptics have a field day' with it.

That last phrase, by the way, is from one of the Climategate emails, the one on 22 September 1999 in which Dr Michael Mann approves the deletion of inconvenient data.

Sure enough, Myneni’s results were eventually published three years later in April 2016 in a paper in Nature Climate Change, with 32 authors from 24 institutions in eight countries – when the IPCC report was safely in the public domain and the great Paris climate jamboree was over.”

Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science notes that this is a serious allegation against Professor Myneni and his co-authors. However, he also notes that “Viscount Ridley misrepresented Professor Myneni’s work in order to make this claim.” [58]

Ward notes that Matt Ridley had stated in his lecture that he had first heard of Professor Myneni's work in December, 2012, by someone who directed him to a video of a lecture that was delivered on 19 July 2012. [59]

The original video Ridley referred to showed that Myneni was reporting 20.5% of the Earth’s vegetated land had ‘greened’ — Something that Ridley himself had indicated in a January 4, 2013 article in the Wall Street Journal. [60]

Ridley claimed to have reproduced two slides from that July 2012 lecture showing the main results. Ridley claimed that  Myneni had found that 31% of the Earth’s vegetated land had ‘greened’ between 1982 and 2011, and that there had been an increase in gross productivity by 14%, about half of which could be attributed to carbon dioxide fertilization.

Ward notes that, in Professor Myneni's video, this is not the case. The video clearly shows Myneni reporting 20.5% of the Earth’s vegetated land had ‘greened’ (As Ridley reported in the Wall Street Journal). In additionl, the slides Ridley reproduced were not from the July 2012 lecture, but rather from a different lecture delivered at a meeting on July 4 - 5, 2013 (PDF).  [61]

In addition, Ridley does not make it clear that Myneni had suggested that 42% of the 14% increase in annual productivity “can be attributed to relaxation of climatic constraints to plant growth,” with “57% to other ‘anthropogenic factors',” whereas the paper published in the journal ‘Nature Climate Change’ in April 2016 did not present a figure for annual productivity, instead concluding that 25% to 50% of the Earth’s vegetated area had greened, with about 70% of this trend attributable to carbon dioxide fertilization.  [58]

Ward writes:

“Crucially Viscount Ridley also failed to mention that Professor Myneni states clearly at about 42 minutes during his recorded 2012 lecture that “The attribution to fertilisation is somewhat speculative and not on very solid ground and we have to further refine this before this paper goes out to publication”.

“Hence, despite Viscount Ridley’s false claims, it is clear that Professor Myneni presented only preliminary results in July 2012, and so there is no justification for the allegation that he and his co-authors delayed publication in order to avoid its inclusion in the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Indeed, it appears that Viscount Ridley obscured the truth about Professor Myneni’s work by showing slides from his July 2013 lecture, but claiming they were part of his earlier 2012 lecture.”[58]

Ward also notes that, to be considered for contribution by the IPCC working group I to the Fifth Assessment Report, papers had to be submitted by no later than July 31, 2012 and accepted by March 15, 2015 (PDF). Professor Myneni's preliminary results were presented on July 19, 2012—just 12 days before the deadline for submission—and his July 2013 lecture was long past the cutoff date. [62]

Notably working group I's report, Published in September 2013, does explicitly address the issue of carbon fertilization (pages 501-2, Chapter 6 — PDF):

Warming (and possibly the CO2 fertilisation effect) has also been correlated with global trends in satellite greenness observations, which resulted in an estimated 6% increase of global NPP, or the accumulation of 3.4 PgC on land over the period 1982–1999 (Nemani et al., 2003).” [63]

Despite this, Ridley chooses to ignore the contribution of IPCC working group I. According to Ward, It is apparent, therefore, that the allegations Viscount Ridley made against Professor Myneni and his co-authors, and against Professor Betts, are entirely untrue and based on misrepresentations of the facts.” Myneni himself published a statement directly refuting the allegations Ridley made against him. [64]

Despite this, Ridley since published another artilce in The Spectator titled “The world is getting greener. Why does no one want to know?” based on his original GWPF lecture: [65]

“Global greening is the name given to a gradual, but large, increase in green vegetation on the planet over the past three decades. The climate change lobby is keen to ensure that if you hear about it at all, you hear that it is a minor thing, dwarfed by the dangers of global warming. Actually, it could be the other way round: greening is a bigger effect than warming,” Ridley writes.

July, 2016

Matt Ridley was accused of lobbying the UK government on behalf of the coal industry, reports The Guardian. Ridley wrote to energy minister Lord Bourne in April to tell him about a Texas-based company with “fascinating new technology, which may well interest the Department of Energy and Climate Change.” [13]

The email was released as part of a freedom of information request. It tells Bourne the company’s technology: “represents a PROFITABLE [sic] use for CO2 emissions from power stations, by turning them into cheap chemical feedstocks with a new process.” The company, said Ridley, is “interested in talking to the British government.”  [13]

The Guardian notes that Ridley financially benefits from coal mines on his ancestral land. Ridley also spoke with The Guardian: “The company offers potential for emissions reduction (which I thought FoE favoured) as a byproduct of manufacturing something useful. I have no interest in it now or in the future, because my coal interests will expire long before anything happens. The distant possibility of interest I mentioned was on behalf of Northumbrian workers who might want to keep their jobs. I have not contradicted myself in any way.”  [13]

May, 2016

After Lord John Kreps and other scientists wrote to the editor of The Times, accusing the paper of favouring climate change deniers and being influenced by the Global Warming Policy Foundation. Matt Ridley and fellow climate change denier Nigel Lawson are regular contributors to the paper. [20]

Matt Ridley responded in The Times, accusing the letter of being part of a campaign to shut down debate and an attack on free speech:  [11]

“This episode is part of a systematic campaign,” Ridley said. “When I cover this topic I am vilified as on no other subject, and many journalists now steer clear of expressing any doubts.”

Ridley also describes the Global Warming Policy Foundation as a “David” standing against the “Goliath” of the ECIU (Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit).

ABC's Radio National quotes Matt Ridley from a previous time he had appeared on the show:

“The first thing I should say is that I've lost some of my respect for those kind of consensus arguments since covering the acid rain story in particular, since covering a lot of the environmental scares, swine flu, everything,” Ridley said. “Acid rain in particular turned out to be, in terms of its effect on forests in Europe and North America…lakes and things are a different point to some extent…but forests; hugely, hugely exaggerated. And I should have taken that kind of story with a much bigger pinch of salt than I did when I was covering it in the 1980s as a science journalist. So I come to the climate debate now just a little chastened by that and saying well, okay, you say this is scary, show me the evidence. And I keep getting shown evidence that does not scare me. I keep getting shown evidence that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, yes, that we are increasing it, yes, that there will therefore be net warming, yes, but that the positive feedbacks on top of that that are being assumed, there is no evidence for. So I think we are looking at, certainly for the next few decades, just what we've had in the last few decades, which is a mild and gradual warming that will not do catastrophic harm either to human beings or to biodiversity, in fact probably the reverse.” [20]

Audio of the interview between John Krebs and Robyn Williams below: [20]

December, 2015

DesMogBlog UK reports how Matt Ridley became involved in the “dollars for denial scandal” where a Greenpeace investigation revealed a number of academics willing to accept payment for writing research for the fossil fuel industry. [21]

Ridley had written a number of articles in British and American publications, including a Wall Street Journal article titled “Your Complete Guide to the Climate Debate,” where he supported his arguments by referencing publications by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).  [22]

While Ridley claimed that the report had been “Thoroughly peer reviewed,” Times described the same report as “not peer reviewed,” (later issuing a correction that the report had not been published in a peer-reviewed journal).

The Greenpeace UK investigation revealed that the GWPF academic advisory council was willing to use the same “peer review” process for a report praising carbon dioxide which he would write on behalf of a Middle Eastern oil company. [23]

According to Indur Goklany, the author of one of the reports Ridley cited, Matt Ridley had also approached Goklany to initially write the report.  Talking with undercover Greenpeace reporters, William Happer revealed details of the GWPF's peer reviewed process. Happer explained that this process had consisted of members of the Advisory Council and other selected scientists reviewing the work, rather than presenting it to an academic journal. [23]

Sense About Science, which lists Ridley as a member of its Advisory Council, has warned against such review processes, saying: “sometimes organisations or individuals claim to have put their studies through peer review when, on inspection, they have only shown it to some colleagues. Such claims are usually made in the context of a campaign directed at the public or policy makers, as a way of trying to give scientific credibility to certain claims in the hope that a non-scientific audience will not know the difference.” [23]

November 27, 2015

Shortly before the COP21 (Conference of the Parties) climate conference in Paris, Matt Ridley and Benny Peiser co-authored a Wall Street Journal article titled “Your Complete Guide to the Climate Debate.” [24]

According to Ridley and Peiser, world temperatures have gone up “less than half as fast as the scientific consensus predicted in 1990 when the global-warming scare began in earnest.” They also mention that “the planet was significantly warmer than today several times during the past 10,000 years.” [24]

The two make a range of often-repeated claims by climate change skeptics, including that there have been “no increase in frequency or intensity of storms, floods or droughts,” that sea ice isn’t melting considerably, and that there is supposedly no scientific consensus regarding global warming.  [24]

A group of 12 scientists analyzed Ridley and Peiser's Wall Street Journal article,and found that it “contains numerous false statements, cherry-picked evidence, and misleading assertions about climate science. It attempts to surround the hard facts about climate change with clouds of uncertainty, even though these facts are agreed to by the scientific academies of every major country in the world and the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists.” [25]

Ridley and Peiser cite Richard Tol of the University of Sussex, saying his studies conclude that “warming may well bring gains, because carbon dioxide causes crops and wild ecosystems to grow greener and more drought-resistant.”

To put it bluntly, climate change and its likely impact are proving slower and less harmful than we feared, while decarbonization of the economy is proving more painful and costly than we hoped,” they write. In conclusion, “Any climate agreement should be flexible enough so that voluntary pledges can be adjusted over the next couple of decades depending on what global temperatures do.”

November, 2015

As part of a three-part documentary series called Changing Climate for BBC Radio 4, Roger Harrabin, the BBC’s environment analyst, interviewed Matt Ridley, among a number of other people. The Open University has published many of the interviews online, both as recordings and full transcripts. [26]

Carbon Brief reports that Ridley makes a wide range of claims throughout, touching on subjects from ocean acidification and climate sensitivity through to energy subsidies and the “benefits” of global warming. They sent transcript to scientists and energy policy experts for analysis. The response document (available on Scribd and embedded below) included responses from the following: [27], [28]

  • Prof Richard Allan, professor of climate science at the University of Reading
  • Prof Richard Betts, head of climate impacts in the Met Office Hadley Centre
  • Prof Piers Forster, professor of physical climate change at the University of Leeds
  • Prof Jean-Pierre Gattuso, research professor at the Université Pierre-et-Marie Curie’s Laboratoire d’Océanographie de Villefranche
  • Prof Sir Andy Haines, professor of public health and primary care at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
  • Prof Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, director of the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute
  • Dr Chris Hope, reader in policy modelling at the University of Cambridge
  • Dr Sari Kovatz, director of the National Institute for Health Research’s Health Protection Research Unit in Environmental Change and Health
  • Prof Ranga Myneni, professor at the Boston University’s department of earth and environment
  • Dr Gavin A Schmidt, director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies
  • Prof Jim Watson, professor of energy policy at Sussex University’s Science Policy Research Unit

Matt Ridley interviewed by Roger Harrabin by Carbon Brief on Scribd

June 19, 2015

Matt Ridley published an article in the Quadrant Online titled, “The Climate Wars’ Damage to Science.” Ridley writes that “the great thing about science is that it’s self-correcting,” but “now, thanks largely to climate science,” Ridley “see[s] bad ideas can persist for decades.” [29]

These huge green multinationals, with budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars, have now systematically infiltrated science, as well as industry and media, with the result that many high-profile climate scientists and the journalists who cover them have become one-sided cheerleaders for alarm, while a hit squad of increasingly vicious bloggers polices the debate to ensure that anybody who steps out of line is punished. They insist on stamping out all mention of the heresy that climate change might not be lethally dangerous.”  [29]

Ridley contends “there is no consensus that it’s [global warming] dangerous,” and that the 97 percent consensus figure “is derived from two pieces of pseudoscience that would have embarrassed a homeopath,” referring to John Cook’s, of the University of Queensland, 2013 study. [29], [30]
Ridley continues, stating the “97 per cent number … has now been comprehensively demolished by Professor Richard Tol.”  However, The Guardian’s Dana Nuccitelli published an article debunking Ridley's claim, titled “Climate contrarians accidentally confirm the 97%  global warming consensus,” writing that Richard Tol’s new paper “accidentally confirms the results” of the Cook et al. (2013) 97% global warming consensus study.  [29]

January, 2015

Matt Ridley published an article in the London Times where he outlines the reasons that he considers himself to be a “lukewarmer” on climate change. Ridley complains that “Rather than attack my arguments, my critics like to attack my motives.” [14]

The Guardian reported on Ridley's article, providing a number of examples of why Ridley is not concerned about global warming. Some of Ridley's claims, which the Guardian describe as inaccurate (using evidence from SkepticalScience), included: [31]

Ridley: “The failure of the atmosphere to warm anywhere near as rapidly as predicted was a big reason: there has been less than half a degree of global warming in four decades - and it has slowed down, not speeded up.”

The Guardian: “This is incorrect – average global surface temperatures have warmed between 0.6 and 0.7°C over the past 40 years (lower atmospheric temperatures have also likely warmed more than 0.5°C, though the record hasn’t yet existed for 40 years). “

Ridley: “Also, I soon realised that all the mathematical models predicting rapid warming assume big amplifying feedbacks in the atmosphere, mainly from water vapour”

The Guardian: “We know that water vapour (as a greenhouse gas) will amplify global warming because a warmer atmosphere can hold more of it. Observations have confirmed this is exactly what’s happening in the real world. This isn’t an assumption of models – it’s based on scientists’ understanding of basic atmospheric physics.” 

Ridley: “Sea level has risen but at a very slow rate - about a foot per century.”

The Guardian: “Given that sea level has risen faster than predicted, if you’re arguing against the dangers posed by global warming, sea level is a poor choice.”

Ridley: “My best guess would be about one degree of warming during this century, which is well within the IPCC’s range of possible outcomes.”

The Guardian: “A further 1°C global warming by 2100 is only a possibility in one of the scenarios considered by IPCC (called RCP2.6 or RCP3-PD, where ‘PD’ stands for a rapid peak and decline of carbon emissions). […]”

September 25, 2014

Ridley attends the “At the Crossroads; Energy & Climate Policy Summit” in Houston, Texas, hosted by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and The Heritage Foundation. Ridley presents the “Opening Luncheon & Keynote Address.” [32]

June 16, 2014

Ridley is a guest speaker at an ideacity Conference in Calgary, Alberta with a lecture entitled, “A New Perspective on Climate Change.” Within it, Ridley contrasts Haiti's and the Dominican Republic's respective landscapes and suggests that Haiti has “pinched nature's lunch to provide [its] energy,” through its dependence on wood for charcoal production, leading to “ecological devastation” due to reliance on renewable energy. Simultaneously, he states, the Dominican Republic imports fossil fuels so people “will not go out into the forest and cut down trees to burn”: [33]

7:35-8:24 “Haiti is brown; the Dominican Republic is green. Why? Because Haiti depends on wood—on charcoal—for nearly all of its energy. It uses charcoal not just in cooking but also in industry. And as a result, it’s almost completely deforested. It’s relying on renewable energy almost entirely and the result is ecological devastation, compared with the Dominican Republic. The Dominican Republic imports fossil fuels to use and actually subsidizes the use of propane as a cooking fuel so that people will not go out into the forest and cut down trees to burn. So let’s not forget that it’s quite a good idea to get energy out of a small hole in the ground, so we don’t have to pinch nature’s lunch to provide our energy.”

Later on in his lecture, he cites work from Craig Idso, and says that “the world is actually getting greener … because of carbon dioxide in the air”: [33]

12:36-13:30 “The world is actually getting greener. I mean that quite literally. There are satellites measuring the greenness of the planet. The data is called the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, and there are several teams analyzing this and they are all agreeing that they are picking up a steady increase in the greenness of the planet. It’s showing up in different parts of the world, but it’s showing up in the Amazon, its showing up in the Sahel region of Africa particularly, and its going at the rate of about 2-3% per decade … Why is this happening? Well, it’s happening because of carbon dioxide in the air…”

In his closing remarks, Ridley accepts that the industry is culpable for rising carbon dioxide levels, but he does not accept that “climate change is going to turn fast and dangerous … or that renewable energy is the cheap and safe solution to that problem”: [33]

16:14-17:02 “Carbon dioxide levels are rising—that is our fault—it is industry that’s doing that. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, there’s no question about that. The climate has been warming, and I accept all of that. But what I don’t accept is that it is certain that climate change is going to turn fast and dangerous in the future or that renewable energy is the cheap and safe solution to that problem. Instead I think that global warming is slow and mild and renewable energy is proving to be expensive and damaging to the environment as well as the economy. In other words, the cure may be worse than the disease; we may be taking chemotherapy for a cold.”

September 17, 2013

In a Wall Street Journal essay, Ridley argues that global warming will be good for people and the planet: [34]

”[IPCC AR5] is significant because it points to the very real possibility that, over the next several generations, the overall effect of climate change will be positive for humankind and the planet.” 

September 21, 2012

In a Wall Street Journal piece, Ridley suggests that a growth of Antarctic sea ice is a reason to doubt the existence of global warming: [35]

“Antarctic sea ice shows no sign of summer retreat, and the current winter's peak extent is well above average. The sea-dominated Southern Hemisphere is certainly warming more slowly than the land-dominated Northern Hemisphere, but it has still been warming. If warming is supposed to be “global,” shouldn't sea ice retreat at both ends of the world?” he said.

The Associated Press spoke to experts in the area who described how scientists have “long predicted that Antarctica would not respond as quickly to global warming as other places.” AP reported that “Mark Serreze, director of the snow and ice data center, says computer models have long predicted that Antarctica would not respond as quickly to global warming as other places. Since 1960, the Arctic has warmed the most of the world's regions, and Antarctica has warmed the least, according to NASA data.” [36]

September, 2012

Ridley has compared climate scientists as eugenicists because he contends that both have insisted their “tenets were beyond reasonable challenge.” He believes that climate science has more confirmation bias than other sciences because of ” a monopoly focus on a single hypothesis.” Science writer Chris Mooney who has written extensively about confirmation bias and climate science science told Media Matters for America that Ridley's argument relies on the premise that there is a “unique reason not to trust” climate scientists, yet there is no reason to think “they're acting differently than other scientists.” [37]

In an article on “the perils of confirmation bias,” published for the Global Warming Policy Foundation (a group firmly opposed to policies that counteract climate change), Ridley suggests that “governments should fund groups that intend to explore alternative hypotheses about the likely future of climate as well as those that explore the dangerous man-made climate change prediction.” He concludes that “Only then will that theory be properly tested.” [38]

Ridley also compares climate science to a “cult,” pointing to scientists who hold the theory that global warming may worsen malaria by increasing the range of mosquitos. He has previously compared those who accept climate change to conspiracy theorists in an article at the Wall Street Journal. [39]

He also compared predicting climate changes to predicting the weather (the IPCC has previously explained that comparing climate science to meteorology is invalid):

“Climate scientists and their media champions equate such scepticism with scepticism about, say, the theory of evolution. Yet evolution is an explanation of facts; dangerous man-made climate change is a prediction about the future. Theories about the future are always less reliable than theories about the past. I can have confidence that the reports that it rained last Tuesday are true, while doubting the forecast that it will rain next Tuesday.”

August 17, 2012

Ridley wrote a cover story for Wired magazine titled “Apocalypse Not: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About End Times.” Ridley asserts that “the net positive feedbacks from water vapor in the atmosphere [is] low, so that we face only 1 to 2 degrees Celsius of warming this century.” A number of climate change skeptics including Anthony Watts praised the article. [40]

This is one of a number of “misleading and inaccurate claims” according to Skeptical Science. According to environmental scientist Dana Nuccitelli, the “literature consistently shows” that water vapor has a strong positive feedback and amplifies warming. [41]

January 7, 2012

Ridley published a Wall Street Journal article that, according to some sources, misrepresented the issue of ocean acidification. Lisa Suatoni, a scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council found that Ridley's article “confuse[d]” the effects of short-term natural variation in pH with the effects of longer-term changes and “misstate[d]” the effect of higher acidity on marine species overall.

According to Suatoni, “The result [of Ridley's article] is an exercise in obfuscation.  As a scientist working on these issues for the past five years, I was struck by several gaping holes (and inaccuracies) in his piece – taking liberty to manipulate facts in order to misrepresent them.” [42]

When scientists reviewed a section of Ridley's book on the same issue, they found that it contained “misconceptions,” “cherry-picked evidence,” and “unsupported” claims. That was from an excerpt of just 3 pages of The Rational Optimist: How prosperity evolves regarding coral reefs and ocean acidification. [43]

August 6, 2011

In a Wall Street Journal column, Ridley claimed that “97% of the carbon dioxide entering the atmosphere each year is from nature,” and that cutting man-made carbon emissions could “hinder us, in adapting to” a volcanic eruption: [37]

“The possibility of another [volcanic eruption like] Katla or Laki reminds us of the need to prepare for dangerous climate change of the natural as well as the man-made variety. Abrupt climate change has been a sporadic feature of history since long before the industrial revolution, mostly in the form of cooling caused by volcanoes.”

Scott Mandia, professor of Physical Sciences, wrote the following in a letter to Media Matters:

To argue that we need to keep drastically warming the world for generations in order to “protect” us from temporary volcanic cooling is about as silly an argument I have ever heard. Recall the massive Mt. Pinatubo volcano in 1991 that caused about 0.5C cooling for a few years? Where are we now? Obviously much warmer than we were in 1991 and Pinatubo is a distant memory. […] Ridley also repeats the very misleading meme that nature emits more CO2 than humans. He fails to tell his readers that nature also absorbs about the same CO2 that it emits. [37]

April 5, 2011

Ridley compared climate change, sea level rise and Arctic ice melt to just a “nosebleed.” Ridley's “tourniquet theory” is as follows: [44]

“if you are bleeding to death from a severed limb, then a tourniquet may save your life, but if you have a nosebleed, then a tourniquet round your neck will do more harm than good. This metaphor can be applied to all sorts of scares and their remedies, but it is climate change that I have in mind. Over the past few years it has gradually become clear to me that climate change is a nosebleed, not a severed limb, and that the remedies we are subsidising are tourniquets round the neck of the economy.”

His article, published in The Times, describes rising sea levels as a “slight nosebleed” (i.e., insignificant): [44]

“Sea level is rising more slowly than expected, and the rise is slowing down rather than speeding up. Sea level rise is the greatest potential threat to civilization posed by climate change because so many of us live near the coast. Yet, at a foot a century and slowing, it is a slight nosebleed. So are most of the other symptoms of climate change, such as Arctic sea ice retreat, in terms of their impact. The rate of increase of temperature (0.6C in 50 years) is not on track to do net harm (which most experts say is 2C) by the end of this century.”

He goes on to quote fellow climate change skeptic Indur Goklany with reference to biofuel production, stating that, “policies to stimulate biofuel production, in part to reduce the alleged impacts of global warming on public health, particularly in developing countries, may actually have increased death and disease globally.” [44]

The Carbon Brief examines Ridley's claims especially with regard to sea level rise, which Ridley dismisses as a minor issue. The Carbon Brief notes that “Ridley does not however consider any other research in this area. Other research on this subject disagrees with its conclusion - a fact illustrated by comments made by oceanographer and climate scientist John Church. Church,  who is writing the chapter on sea level rise for the IPCC's 2013 update, told Australia's biannual climate science conference just earlier this week that sea levels are rising at the upper end of projections by the IPCC - meaning a rise of 60-80cm by 2100.” [45]

On the issue of Arctic ice, research published earlier this year suggested ice sheet loss has accelerated over the last 18 years. The Carbon Brief also notes that Ridley gives no supporting scientific literature regarding his statements on Arctic sea ice.

May, 2010

Ridley published his book, the Rational Optimist. According to an article in New Scientist, “Reading Ridley's book, you find that polar bears are adapting as the Arctic ice vanishes, that the predictions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are highly improbable, and that global warming will bring the bounty of extra rainfall just where the world's population needs it most.” [19]

New Scientist sent a sample of Ridley's book (pages 339-341), a section on coral reefs that suggests “Local threats are far more immediate than climate change,” to a group of senior climate researchers. These researchers responded with a number of criticisms of the science behind Ridley's assertions. The following are some examples:  [43]

“Matt appears to have ignored the majority of papers carrying out a realistic change in future ocean chemistry and picked a single 2008 study by Herfort et al (Journal of Phycology, vol 44, p 91) that is:

  • irrelevant to the chemical nature of “ocean acidification” in the future (the study was looking at physiological mechanisms and was not designed to address future ocean acidification conditions);
  • associated with almost no pH change;
  • impossible to occur in the future, and probably has not existed in the ocean for 600 million years.” – Professor Andy Ridgewell.

“Many studies - some of them more than three decades old - show that increasing CO2 has physiological effects on animals beyond those observed on skeletons. […] Many uncertainties surround the effects of continuing pH decline on marine animals, but what we do know is not cause for complacency. Rather it is a call for experiments that can shed light on the issue. Suggesting that environmental concerns are like Y2K doesn't strike me as a useful alternative.” – Andrew Knoll, Harvard Fisher Professor of Natural History and Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University.

“The man does not understand the differences in ocean carbonate chemistry controls on short and long timescales, and he compares apples and eggs.” – Jelle Bijma, professor at the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Bremerhaven, Germany.

“I think it is extremely unfortunate that Matt Ridley has missed many of the important points and concepts. In my view, he has also cherry-picked evidence to form opinions which are unsupported by the bulk of scientific evidence and understanding. This is demonstrated by the fact that he completely ignores the mainstream scientific literature. In my view, it is also clear that he has a very poor understanding of the core issues.” Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, Professor of Marine Studies and Director of the Global Change Institute, University of Queensland, Australia.

Ridley responded, saying that “After reading their critiques, I stand even more firmly behind my conclusion that the threats to coral reefs from both man-made warming and ocean acidification are unlikely to be severe, rapid or urgent.”

There have also been critiques of others sections of Ridley's book. One by The Guardian's George Monbiot discusses Ridley's claim that “11 of 13 populations” of polar bears are “growing or steady.” Recent research by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Polar Bear Specialist Group, 8 populations are declining, 3 are stable, 1 is increasing, and there is insufficient data to assess the other 7 subpopulations. [6], [46]

According to Monbiot who quotes Howard Friel, “Ridley chose to ignore the most credible studies, while relying instead on: '(a) a source that doesn't mention polar bears, (b) an oil–industry funded source, and (c) a non–peer reviewed lecture at an undisclosed location in an undisclosed month and year'.” [6]

October 31, 2011

Ridley gave the Angus Millar Lecture at the Royal Society of the Arts in Edinburgh on the subject of “Scientific Heresy.” Ridley claims that he can see “confirmation bias everywhere in the climate debate.” He also claims that “apart from the hockey stick, there is no evidence that climate is changing dangerously or faster than in the past, when it changed naturally. It was warmer in the Middle Ages and medieval climate change in Greenland was much faster.” Listen to the audio of the full lecture below.  [47], [48]

According to Ridley, the hockey stick graph was “utterly debunked by the work of Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick.” Steve McIntyre is a mining industry executive with an education background in economics, philosophy and mathematics, while Ross McKitrick is an Economist. [48]



According to a search of Google Scholar, Ridley has not published any peer-reviewed articles in the area of climate. 

Ridley's books include:

  • Warts and All; Penguin, 1989
  • The Red Queen; Penguin, 1993
  • Down to Earth; Institute of Economic Affairs, 1995
  • Down to Earth II; Institute of Economic Affairs, 1996
  • The Origins of Virtue; Penguin, 1996
  • The future of disease; Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1997
  • Genome; 4th Estate, 1999
  • Best American Science Writing (editor); Harper Collins 2002
  • Nature via Nurture; Harper Collins, 2003
  • Francis Crick; Harper Collins, 2006

Mind and Matter (WSJ)

Notable climate change articles that Ridley posted at his Wall Street Journal column include:


  1. Biography,” Archived September 20, 2016. URL

  2. Matt Ridley's C.V.” Archived May 22, 2009. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog.

  3. Viscount Ridley: Spoken Material by Date,” Archived September 19, 2016. URL

  4. Ex-Northern Rock chairman Ridley joins Lords,” BBC News, February 6, 2013. Archived September 19, 2016. URL

  5. Julia Werdigier. “Northern Rock chairman quits after criticism from lawmakers,” International Herald Tribune, October 19, 2007. Archived October 21, 2007. URL

  6. Matt Ridley's Rational Optimist is telling the rich what they want to hear,” The Guardian, June 18, 2010. URL:

  7. Select Committee on Treasury Fifth Report: Summary, September 2007. Retrieved from URL

  8. Columns,” Wall Street Journal. Archived December 13, 2010. URL

  9. Columns,” Wall Street Journal. Archived August 15, 2013. URL

  10. GWPF Launched Today!”, The Global Warming Policy Foundation, November 23, 2009. Archived January 4, 2012. URL

  11. Matt Ridley: Climate Change Lobby Wants to Kill Free Speech,” The Times, April 25, 2016. Republished at The Global Warming Policy Forum. Archived September 19, 2016. URL

  12. Coal Interest,”, December 22, 2014. Archived September 19, 2016. URL

  13. Damian Carrington. “Matt Ridley accused of lobbying UK government on behalf of coal industry,” The Guardian, July 15, 2016. URL

  14. My life as a climate change lukewarmer,” The Times, January 19, 2015. Republished at Archived September 19, 2016. URL

  15. Thank you, Matt Ridley,” Watts Up With That, November 1, 2011. URL

  16. Lords Hansard by Date: Thursday, 3 April 2014.,” Archived September 19, 2016. URL

  17. Lords Hansard by Date: 17 Mar 2014: Column GC1,” Archived September 19, 2016. URL:

  18. Matt Ridley: Cooling Down the Fears of Climate Change,” The Wall Street Journal, December 18, 2012. URL

  19. Matt Ridley: Optimism without limits,” New Scientist, June 10, 2010. URL

  20. The Times accused of biased reporting, misrepresenting climate science,” ABC News, May 7, 2016. Archived September 19, 2016. URL

  21. Brendan Montague. “Matt Ridley Caught up in Dollars-for-Denial Scandal,” DeSmog UK, December 11, 2015.

  22. Matt Ridley and Benny Peiser. “Your Complete Guide to the Climate Debate,” The Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2015. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog. URL

  23. Lawrence Carter and Maeve McClenaghan. “Exposed: Academics-for-hire agree not to disclose fossil fuel funding,” Energy Desk, December 8, 2015. URL

  24. Matt Ridley and Benny Peiser. “Your Complete Guide to the Climate Debate,” The Wall Street Journal, November 27, 2015. Archived .pdf on file at DeSmogBlog. URL

  25. “Analysis of Matt Ridley and Benny Peiser’s ‘Your Complete Guide to the Climate Debate,’” Climate Feedback, November 27, 2015. Archived December 3, 2015. URL

  26. Changing Climate: Episodes,” BBC Radio 4. URL

  27. Scientists respond to Matt Ridley’s climate change claims,” Carbon Brief, December 7, 2015. URL:

  28. Matt Ridley Interviewed by Roger Harrabin,” Scribd. Uploaded by user Carbon Brief. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog. URL

  29. Matt Ridley. “The Climate Wars' Damage to Science,” Quadrant Online, June 19, 2015. Archived July 9, 2015. URL

  30. The 97% consensus on global warming,” SkepticalScience. URL: 

  31. Dana Nuccitelli. “Matt Ridley wants to gamble the Earth’s future because he won’t learn from the past,” The Guardian, January 21, 2015. URL

  32. Matt Ridley. “Speakers,” At the Crossroads; Energy & Climate Policy Summit, Texas Public Policy Foundation, The Heritage Foundation, September 25/26, 2014. URL

  33. Matt Ridley. “A New Perspective on Climate Change,” ideacity Conference, June 16, 2014. Archived July 8, 2014.

  34. Matt Ridley. “Dialing Back the Alarm on Climate Change,” The Wall Street Journal, September 17, 2013. Archived March 19, 2015. URL

  35. What Arctic Foxes Know About Global Warming,” The Wall Street Journal, September 21, 2012. URL

  36. EXPERTS: GLOBAL WARMING MEANS MORE ANTARCTIC ICE,” Associated Press, October 10, 2012. URL

  37. Meet The Wall Street Journal Columnist Dismissing Science,” Media Matters for America, October 29, 2012. URL:

  38. Matt Ridley. THE PERILS OF CONFIRMATION BIAS” (PDF), The Global Warming Policy Foundation, Briefing Paper No 5. URL:

  39. Maybe We're All Conspiracy Theorists,” The Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2011. URL

  40. Matt Ridley. “Apocalypse Not: Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Worry About End Times,” Wired, August 17, 2012. URL

  41. Matt Ridley - Wired for Lukewarm Catastrophe,” Skeptical Science, August 29, 2012. URL

  42. Can we keep discussions about ocean acidification honest?”, Natural Resources Defense Council Staff Blog, January 12, 2012. URL

  43. Experts review a section of Matt Ridley's book,” New Scientist, June 10, 2010. URL

  44. The Tourniquet Theory,” The Rational Optimist (blog). Archived January 2, 2012. URL

  45. Matt Ridley's climate science based on weak foundations,” The Carbon Brief, April 7, 2011. URL

  46. Dynamic population information tool, IUCN/SSC PBSG. Archived September 2, 2013. (Tool no longer appears available).

  47. Matt Ridley's Rousing Defense of Climate Change Skepticism,” Hit & Run (Reason Foundation blog), November 4, 2011. URL

  48. Angus Millar Lecture 2011 - Scientific Heresy” (event description), Royal Sociity for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Archived October 3, 2013. Archived .mp3 on file at Desmog. URL:

  49. ACADEMIC ADVISORY COUNCIL,” The Global Warming Policy Foundation. Accessed September 20, 2016. URL

  50. Professor Of Economics Professor Victor Halberstadt,” Archived September 19, 2016. URL

  51. Staff and Trustees,” Archivd September 19, 2016. URL:

  52. The Governors,” Ditchley Foundation. Archived October 11, 2008. URL:

  53. Advisory council,” Sense about Science. Accessed September 20, 2016. URL

  54. About us: Advisory Council,” Archived July 4, 2008. URL

  55. Matt Ridley. “We’ve become a nation paralysed by protest,” The Times, Ocrober 17, 2016. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog.

  56. MATT RIDLEY: GLOBAL WARMING VERSUS GLOBAL GREENING,” The Global Warming Policy Foundation, October 18, 2016. Archived October 20, 2016. URL:

  57. Greening of the Earth and its drivers,” Nature Climate Change, 6, 791–795 (2016). Archived October 20, 2016. URL:

  58. False allegations by climate change 'sceptic',” Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment. URL:

  59. Ranga Myneni 2012,” YouTube Video uploaded by user NASA Earth Exchange, May 12, 2016. Archived .mp4 on file at Desmog.

  60. Matt Ridley. “How Fossil Fuels Have Greened the Planet,” The Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2013. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog. URL:

  61. “The Greening Earth: Probing Vegetation Conference From Past to Future” (PDF), July, 2013. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog.

  62. “Cut-Off Dates for literature to be considered for AR5” (PDF), Updated December 12, 2012. Archived .pdf on file at Desmog.

  63. “Carbon and Other Biogeochemical Cycles” (PDF), Archived .pdf on file at Desmog.

  64. Vegetation Remote Sensing & Climate Research,” Boston University Department of Earth and Environment. Archived October 20, 2016. URL:

  65. Matt Ridley. “The world is getting greener. Why does no one want to know?The Spectator, October 22, 2016. URL:

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