Right-wing activists accused of undermining Copenhagen climate talks

By staff writers
3 Dec 2009

Right-wing activists and journalists seeking to revive denial of human-made climate change have faced strong criticism from a range of NGOs, academics and commentators.

They are accused of deliberately trying to derail the possibility of meaningful agreement at this month's international climate change summit in Copenhagen.

In recent days, the Daily Mail has run a number of articles suggesting that climate change is not caused by human activity, while several Conservative politicians have questioned David Cameron's environmental policies.

However, at the same time, a large number of churches, faith groups, NGOs, charities and trades unions are gearing up for a major demonstration in London on Saturday (5 December) to call for effective international agreements in Copenhagen.

While attempts to deny the reality of human-made climate change appeared to have died down in recent years, they experienced a minor revival following last month's leaking of emails from climate scientists at the University of East Anglia. Some interpreted the emails as suggesting that the scientists have been trying to exclude research that does not fit with their own views.

But Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that there is “virtually no possibility” that a few scientists could distort the international advice given to governments.

Several commentators have suggested that the reappearance of denial is more to do with attempts to undermine Copenhagen and to avoid the likely economic effects of a strong international climate agreement.

Writing in the Guardian today (3 December), Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, based at the London School of Economics, said that pressure was coming from a small number of individuals, many on the far right.

“It is denial rather than scepticism because they reject all of the evidence they don't like and embrace any alternative theory no matter how flaky” he insisted.

He accused the “denial lobby” of “confusing the public and perhaps reducing public pressure on politicians to reach a strong and effective agreement at Copenhagen”.

The British National Party leader, Nick Griffin, this week labelled climate change “a left-wing conspiracy”, while the United Kingdom Independence Party backed the notion of “climate change fraud”. The Conservative leader, David Cameron, faced pressure to water down his policies on climate change from leading Tory politicians including David Davis, John Redwood and the former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.

However, the economist Nicholas Stern said that the level of disagreement amongst “real scientists” is very small.

He said, “I think it is very important that those with any kind of views on the science or economics have their say,” but added, “That does not mean that unscientific muddle also has the right to be recognised as searing insight."

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