World’s Oldest Scientific Academy, the Royal Society, to Allow Climate Denying GWPF Lecture to Go Ahead Despite Internal Opposition

Read time: 4 mins
The Royal Society

The Royal Society will be going ahead with the controversial Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) annual lecture next week despite internal pressure to cancel the event, DeSmog UK has learned.

The decision to allow the lecture to go forward was made during the Royal Society’s governing council meeting last week where several fellows and associates of the society raised concern over the climate science denying GWPF’s 17 October event.

As DeSmog UK understands, there was a strong sense among many at the meeting that the Royal Society – the world’s oldest scientific academy, founded in 1660 – had made a mistake in accepting the booking for the GWPF’s ‘by invitation only’ lecture to be delivered by Matt Ridley.

However, there was a divergence in opinion on what should be done in response – for example, cancel it or allow it to continue.

Joanna Haigh, Royal Society fellow and council member who attended the meeting, told DeSmog UK: “The Royal Society has decided that cancelling the booking would give the event an unwarranted higher profile.”

She added that “some scientist experts will attend the meeting and keep check on the accuracy of the statements.”

According to a spokesperson for the Royal Society, a range of views were expressed during the meeting, but their position remains unchanged: “The GWPF is one of many organisations who hire space to hold its own events at the Royal Society.  There is no suggestion of endorsement by the Royal Society for the views expressed at these events.”

They continued: “The evidence shows us that the earth is warming and that recent warming is largely caused by human activities. Once that is accepted, there is scope for debate on the policy responses and that is the area that the GWPF claims to be interested in.  

If the GWPF uses this opportunity to misrepresent the scientific evidence it would undermine the legitimacy of its views on policy responses to climate change.”

The GWPF, founded by former chancellor and Conservative peer Lord Nigel Lawson, was forced to split its operations in 2014 after a Charity Commission report found its materials lacked balance and “promoted a particular position on global warming.”

And as DeSmog UK understands, it was a commonly held view by everyone who spoke up during last week’s meeting – which was the majority of those who attended – that the GWPF’s activities are reprehensible.

The fact that the climate denial think tank has a few Royal Society fellows in its ranks was also noted.

As Professor Andrew Watson, a Royal Society Fellow and Royal Society Research Professor at the University of Exeter, who is not on the council, previously told DeSmogUK: “I expect the RS agreed to this [booking] because they didn't want to be accused of censorship, but the GWPF is not just interested in hiring a lecture theatre — they are also hiring the brand.”

This isn’t the first time either that a GWPF event has been held at the Royal Society. In 2012, the group’s annual lecture was delivered at the venue by the climate science denying German electric utility executive Fritz Vahrenholt, where he dismissed the role of CO2 in climate change.

But as the Royal Society’s spokesperson said: “The Society has a strong track record of opposing those who cherry-pick or misrepresent evidence when it comes to the science of climate change and indeed we have had robust disagreements with the GWPF in the past.”

In 2013, Royal Society president, professor Sir Paul Nurse, a Nobel prize-winning biologist, accused GWPF founder Lord Lawson of cherry-picking global temperature data to argue there had been a global warming “pause”. This misleading claim was then debunked by a fellow of the Royal Society, Professor Sir Brian Hoskins of Imperial College London.

A private briefing was then held between Royal Society scientists, Lawson and other members of the GWPF to discuss the science. However, this quickly erupted into a public row over whether the GWPF had spun the meeting as a publicity coup.

Photo: A Peace of London via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

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