COP25: Climate Science Deniers Attend on Behalf of Trump-Affiliated Lobby Group

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A US thinktank with close ties to Donald Trump has obtained accreditation for a delegation of climate science deniers to the UN summit currently underway in Madrid.

Organisations accredited to attend on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which has received significant funding from oil giant ExxonMobil and the Koch family, include the UK’s Centre for Policy Studies, the Chicago-based Heartland Institute and the European Institute for Climate and Energy.

World leaders are in Madrid, Spain for this year’s two-week UN climate talks, known as COP25. A list of delegates shows the CEI had obtained accreditation for eight individuals, many of whom are known for spreading climate science denial. The list is provisional, with a final list due to be released on Friday as the conference ends.

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William Happer, a retired physics professor who left Donald Trump’s National Security Council in September after failing to persuade the US president to conduct a review of mainstream climate science, is also on the list of CEI delegates.Happer directs a global network called the CO2 Coalition, which advocates for greater greenhouse gas emissions. In 2015, he was exposed offering to write a report on the benefits of carbon dioxide for a Middle Eastern oil company in an undercover investigation by Greenpeace.

Others accredited on behalf of the CEI include Rupert Darwall, a critic of renewables who wrote a book in 2017 entitled Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex. Darwall is currently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Studies, which is part of a network of pro-Brexit, libertarian think tanks and lobby groups based in and around 55 Tufton Street in Westminster.

Anthony Watts, a former television meteorologist who founded the Watts Up With That climate science denial blog, is also listed as a CEI delegate, on behalf of the Heartland Institute, along with James Lakely, James Taylor and Keely Drukala.

Wolfgang Mueller, General Secretary of the Germany-based European Institute for Climate and Energy (EIKE), a climate science denial group that has worked closely with the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, and Samantha Mathew from the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT), are also on the CEI list. 

This is not the first time climate science deniers have attended a COP meeting as part of the CEI delegation. In 2016, Marc Morano, Communications Director at CFACT and Executive Director of the Climate Depot website, attended the COP22 Marrakech summit on a CEI badge and was kicked out after pulling a media stunt about Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.

Morano is also understood to be at the Madrid talks, where CFACT has been handing out a report with “skeptical talking points” to delegates. The “Climate Truth File 2020” document, prepared by Morano, dismisses “global warming hype and hysteria” and claims there is a “lack of connection between higher levels of CO2 and warming”.

Have a look at the rest of DeSmog's COP25 coverage.

No-one formally affiliated with the CEI, including Myron Ebell, Director of Energy and Environment at the Chicago-based free-market think tank, is accredited to attend this year’s COP.

Ebell was put in charge of Donald Trump’s transition team for the Environmental Protection Agency, helping decide who staffed the agency once the President took office. He told a press conference hosted in 2012 by the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF), the UK’s main climate science denial group, that Brexit presented an “opportunity” to get rid of unwanted EU environmental regulations.

The CEI did not respond to a request for comment.

Counter climate summit

Opponents of action on climate change gathered in Madrid for what has become an annual event organised by the Heartland Institute, a US thinktank known for spreading climate science denial.

On the second day of the COP, Heartland hosted a series of talks away from the official delegate area in an attempt to “rebut” what it describes as the UN’s “climate delusion”.

The afternoon included sessions on “The Renewable Power Nightmare in Europe” and “Wind and Solar Power: Expensive, Diffuse, Unreliable and Environmentally Damaging”.

Guus Berkhout, founder of the Netherlands-based Climate Intelligence Foundation (Clintel), gave a presentation about the group’s “There is no Climate Emergency” campaign, which claims that rising carbon dioxide levels are “beneficial for nature” and that climate change “has not increased natural disasters”.

Since launching the initiative in September, Clintel has organised events across Europe, including one hosted last month by the UK Conservative Party’s political grouping in the European Parliament.

Christopher Monckton, a former adviser to Margaret Thatcher who often falsely styles himself as a Lord and was banned from the official climate talks in 2012 for impersonating a Burmese delegate, also spoke at the Heartland event.

Updated 12/12/2019 to include CFACT report being handed out at COP.

Photo credit: UNclimatechange/Flickr/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

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