On the face of it, the climate science conference scheduled for the romantic Italian city of Rome looks like any other.
The organizers, India-based ConferenceSeries, promise their “4th World Conference on Climate Change” will attract “world class experts” from across the planet.
Anticipating “more than 500 participants,” the event claimed to have an organizing committee with representatives from the UN’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the European Space Agency, and the European Environment Agency (EEA).
But a DeSmog investigation reveals the event is being hijacked by a group of climate science deniers who have previously claimed they want to investigate climate scientists for fraud and have dismissed human-caused climate change as a hoax.
Since being contacted by DeSmog, both the WMO and the EEA have issued statements distancing themselves from the three-day conference, scheduled to start on October 19.
ConferenceSeries, also known as OMICS, promotes hundreds of meetings around the world and is behind the logistics and promotion for the Italy conference. In August 2016 the U.S. government’s Federal Trade Commission launched court action against the company, alleging deceptive marketing practices. The case is ongoing.
Two members of the Italy conference “organizing committee” — Nils-Axel Mörner and Franco Maranzana — were also organizers of a meeting for climate science deniers in London in September 2016.
Both are also founding members of a self-styled Independent Committee on Geoethics (ICG) — a group that, according to another founder Lord Christopher Monckton, was established to investigate climate scientists for fraud.
Seven presenters, including Monckton and Mörner, and one organizer of that London meeting, Maranzana, are also scheduled to speak at the Rome event.
Some scientists listed as attending — or even organizing — the Italy conference have told DeSmog their names “should not be on the program.”
After being contacted by DeSmog, OMICS said it would “investigate” the line-up for its conference and if it found “unnecessary science,” it would contact attendees to inform them “about the real faces of those who are looking to make a platform for spreading the nonsense through our forum.”
In 2016, Australia Nobel science winner Professor Peter Doherty pulled out of a conference after discovering OMICS was the organizer, saying: “I will not speak at this, or any future meeting that you organize.”
Dawn of Truth?
Mörner and Maranzana's London meeting of deniers, subtitled the “Dawn of Truth,” was forced to move venues when University College London canceled the booking after discovering who was behind the event.
ICG’s founding statement declares that “personal attacks have no place in science.” Yet outside the London conference, Lord Monckton, who has called young climate change campaigners “the Hitler youth,” described British physicist Professor Brian Cox as a “sad and contemptible figure,” “incompetent,” and a “fashionable pseudo-scientist.”
At the London conference, Mörner gave a presentation claiming a one meter (roughly one yard) rise in sea levels by the end of this century was “impossible” and that sea levels may only rise by 15 centimeters (5.9 inches).
However, many scientists now fear that a one meter rise in global sea level, which would put trillions of dollars of coastal infrastructure at risk, could be an underestimate.
But a spokesperson for Stockholm University told DeSmog that Mörner had “no affiliation of Emeritus Professor” and that Mörner had retired from the university in March 2005.
Mörner is known for dismissing the science linking rising sea levels to greenhouse gas emissions, but his methods and claims have been debunked.
Dr. John Church of the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Center told DeSmog Mörner’s work was “totally discredited” and that he had no record “of publishing high quality papers.”
Church is a world-leading expert on sea level rise, with his research appearing in the globe's top scientific journals. He has been a co-convening lead author on chapters covering sea level rise in two UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports.
Maranzana’s affiliation is given as “Stratex Djibouti” — a mining company based in the UK.
Also a speaker at the London event and scheduled to appear in Italy is Thomas Wysmuller, a member of the ICG advisory committee.
On the Italy conference program, Wysmuller’s affiliation is listed as “NASA TRCS Climate Group,” which could be easily mistaken as a legitimate group at the U.S. space agency.
In fact, the letters “TRCS” stand for The Real Climate Stuff and is a group of retired NASA employees who reject the risk of human-caused climate change.
Other speakers linked to 2016's London conference and also listed to appear in Rome are Nicola Scafetta of Italy, Albrecht Glatzle of Paraguay, Jan-Erik Solheim of Norway, and Fabio Pistella of Italy.
Mörner, Solheim, and Glatzle also attended the 2016 UN climate talks in Marrakech as a group. One climate science denial website quoted Glatzle as supporting President Donald Trump’s plans to withdraw from the UN Paris climate agreement.
That trio, plus Monckton, are also founders of a group known as Clexit, which claims: “The world must abandon this suicidal Global Warming crusade. Man does not and cannot control the climate.”
WMO “Not Involved”
Some participants listed for the Italy event this fall and contacted by DeSmog said they never confirmed their attendance despite their names and photographs being used on the conference website.
Other participants were unaware of the Federal Trade Commission case against OMICS, the conference managers.
Several people listed as participants and contacted by DeSmog were also unaware they would be sharing a platform with climate science deniers.
Dr. Alexander Baklanov is a scientific officer at the WMO and, for at least a year, was listed as a member of the upcoming Italy conference's organizing committee as well as that of the previous “3rd World Conference on Climate Change,” held in Valencia, Spain.
After being contacted by DeSmog, WMO issued a statement saying it “is not involved in any way with the so-called Fourth World Conference on Climate Change and wishes to disassociate itself from the conference organizers.”
The statement said Dr. Baklanov had once been contacted by the conference organizers and “in good faith, suggested some possible topics for it to outline.”
“The WMO scientist is not on the organizing committee of the conference as is implied by the organizers. No representative of WMO will attend the conference,” the statement added.
Dr. Baklanov’s name was removed from the conference website late last week at the request of the WMO, after DeSmog had made contact.
The Italy conference website also named an official from the European Environment Agency (EEA), Annemarie Bastrup-Birk, as a member of the organizing committee.
But Katja Rosenbohm, EEA head of communications, told DeSmog: “The EEA has no affiliation or role whatsoever with OMICS or the conference they are organizing in Rome. One of our experts' names was incorrectly posted on their organizing website and it has now been removed.
“Conference organizers did contact an EEA expert last year about potentially participating in a conference on climate change, however, the expert’s participation was never confirmed and there was never any follow-up.”
“My Name Should Not Be on the Program”
One of the highest profile individuals, still listed as a speaker for the Italy conference, is veteran climate scientist Professor Michael Schlesinger of the University of Illinois.
Schlesinger told DeSmog he had received an email invitation and had initially offered only to give a lecture by video, but he had heard nothing from the conference organizers since. He had never agreed to appear.
“My name should not be on the program,” he said.
Referring to Lord Monckton and others, Schlesinger said: “When I was invited, it did not occur to me that there was going to be these kinds of people on the program.”
The list of conference speakers suggests people will be spending money on flights from China, Canada, U.S., Japan, and Russia. Researchers are also listed as attending from Cameroon, Kenya, Azerbaijan, and Bangladesh.
Scientist Paulina Cetina Heredia of the University of New South Wales in Australia told DeSmog she had sent a scientific abstract to the conference, but had never registered and would not be attending.
Despite this, her name has appeared on several versions of the conference program, and remains there as DeSmog publishes this story.
Don Elzer, founder of the Wildcraft Forest School in British Columbia, Canada, said he had not formally registered, but had sent a conference abstract that had been accepted. His name appears on the conference program as a speaker.
He told DeSmog: “If in fact climate change deniers are hijacking this conference then a serious imbalance will occur with regards to genuine inquiry and problem solving. We are there to contribute solutions that will help to transition and restore ecosystems and we are seeking partnerships and working collaborations in the field. If there is no audience for collaboration we will not be involved with this conference. If this conference becomes a political platform for a Trump-style denial of climate change, not only will we not attend but also we will actively boycott and criticize such negligent behavior.”
In an information brochure shared on a research page of one member of the organizing committee, a promotional blurb written in broken English states the conference “anticipates more than 500 participants around the globe.”
An email invitation to the conference sent to one climate scientist, seen by DeSmog, also contains oddly strained language.
The email reads: “Climate Change 2017 is specifically premeditated with a unifying axiom providing pulpit to widen the imminent scientific creations.”
FTC Case Against OMICS
In August 2016, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission launched legal action against ConferenceSeries alleging the company was carrying out deceptive practices related to the way they promoted their conferences.
While OMICS and ConferenceSeries are physically located at an address in Hyderabad, India, the company has trading addresses in the United States, including in Nevada.
ConferenceSeries is owned by Srinubabu Gedela, who also owns the related OMICS journal publishing company that is part of the same FTC investigation.
The FTC alleges OMICS’s “open access” journals have falsely claimed to offer robust peer-review of scientific papers, that their journals were part of key scientific benchmarking tools, and their journals included particular scientists as editors.
Gregory Ashe, a senior staff attorney at the FTC’s bureau of consumer protection, told DeSmog the case against OMICS centered on alleged deceptive marketing practices.
“This case is not about the content, but is about how they are marketing their services. We are neutral on what the conferences are about,” he said.
FTC alleges that OMICS claimed scientists were involved in organizing or attending particular conferences, “when those organizers or participants did not agree to be an organizer or participant.”
On the back of the OMICS case, the FTC issued an advisory to scientists and researchers to “beware” of so-called “predatory publishers.”
Lawyers representing OMICS have filed a motion to dismiss the charges, brought in the district court of Nevada, and have rejected the allegations.
OMICS to “Investigate”
A spokesperson for OMICS wrote a long response to DeSmog, claiming “no one can hijack our congress” and that the organizing committee had 20 members “from the best institutions in the world.”
But the spokesperson said they were “completely unaware” of the discredited views on climate change pushed by several of the speakers.
“We would investigate through our panel into this and also from other websites before we can comment on this. Our congress will never encourage for those who wants to spread the unnecessary science.”
DeSmog asked if OMICS would make efforts to inform people already committed to attending about the views of many of the speakers.
The spokesperson said: “Yes, if we find from our investigation we would certainly alarm the attendees about the real faces of those who are looking to make a platform for spreading the nonsense through our forum. It is not too late to raise our voice and reach every attendee of our congress about those members through emails and phone calls.”
The spokesperson added: “The eligibility criteria to serve in our [scientific committee] board includes they should be at least in the rank of Associate Professor, willing to spend time to screen abstracts submitted, should at least have 10 publications in reputed journals and few others.”
Asked if they stood by their claim of attracting “more than 500 participants,” the spokesperson added it was “extending free participations for the local universities around Italy” and “we are sure that we would be reaching the claimed number of attendees.”
But the spokesperson added: “However as you are aware of that events industry is unpredictable, there are many factors that would affect the attendance of conference like disease outbreak, terror threat, natural disaster, flights delay, community riots hence it is too early to speak about the attendees number.”
DeSmog did not receive a response from emails sent to Mörner and Maranzana, two members of the Italy conference organizing committee.
Main image: A screenshot of Lord Monckton's presentation to a September 2016 London climate meeting, organized by the Independent Committee on Geoethics. Credit: YouTube