Nell Crowden: What’s bad for the climate is bad for health

“Perverting the course of evidence-based policy on climate change adaptation and mitigation damages our health resilience, our economic prosperity, and our environmental stability.” (Transparency needed on donors to climate sceptic lobby, Guardian, 26.1.12)

Recently there was a freedom of information (FOI) hearing at the Information Rights Tribunal into whether to publicly reveal the funders behind Lord Lawson’s influential think tank, Global Warming Policy Foundation. Leading climate scientists, including NASA’s James Hansen, support the FoI request, as do medical leaders, including the BMJ, the Lancet, and the Climate and Health Council. Science is sceptical, and the science on climate change has been thoroughly interrogated and tested – as has the science around health and climate change (Intergovernmental Panel Climate Change):

“Denying the links between greenhouse gas emissions and man-made climate change is akin to denying the links between HIV/Aids and unprotected sex, smoking and lung cancer, or alcohol consumption and liver disease.”
(Guardian, 26.1.12)

Lawson and his Global Warming Policy Foundation have been discredited and attacked by numerous scientists and senior politicians including former UK energy secretary Chris Huhne, yet his think tank continues to receive significant coverage, wrongfully distorting the public and policy debate over climate change. GWPF have been accused of double standards; demanding transparency from others when they do not wish to give it themselves.

The initial request in 2010 for a FOI around GWPF funding – a bank statement showing the source of a donation for £50,000 – was made by Brendan Montague, journalist and founder of the Request Initiative. The Charity Commission declined the request because it would be “unfair” to release the data. However, Montague considers there is “legitimate public interest” to reveal the source of funding, and has brought the case to tribunal, which was heard on the 27 January. It may take up to five weeks for a decision from the judge.

For more information:

Nell Crowden is the communications and campaign manager, Climate and Health Council.

  • Richard Smith

    I full agree that the funding of all organisations should be disclosed, but ultimately we need to defeat climate sceptics with evidence. It's generally a sign of weakness to attack a person or organisation rather than their ideas, arguments, and evidence.

    Sadly the episode at the University of East Anglia did great damage to our cause, and I think that we still don't know the best way to frame our case.

    It's very worrying that the solution to our current woes is “growth,” when the wrong kind of growth will destroy us.

  • DaveAtherton20

    I do not think James Dellingpole and Lord Monckton would necessarily agree, and me for example. Prof Phil Jones was asked whether there has been any statistically significant increase in global warming since 1997 and the answer was no.

    In Roman times grapes for wine were grown as far north as South Scotland. In the 1920s while digging up Finchley Road Tube Station, the scree exposed suggested that was the furthest extent of the last ice age. The UK must have had a climate similar to north Sweden. While conversely 7 miles south at Trafalgar Square, underneath Nelson's Column the bones of lions and rhinoceros from 250,000 years ago suggesting we had a climate similar to the African savannah. Climate changes naturally.

    I am old enough to remember the BBC Radio Times front cover from I think 1976 where a new Ice Age was due upon us. The reason stated was that the smoke from coal and oil was blotting out the sun. Now it is blamed for global warming.

    I remain truly sceptical for two reasons. Most of the people who are the main protagonists are paid by the state and as Dellingpole's latest book suggests are and/or left wing “watermelons.” Green on the outside, red on the inside.  The fall of the Berlin Wall exposed the economic desperation and incompetence of socialism. The left lost the economic argument  and now wants new ways to control us and denigrate capitalism. Climate change is the perfect platform to go big business bashing. The other way is controlling our bodies.

    Smoking bans and restrictions, obesity and McDonalds bashing, and now the demonisation of alcohol and drinkers. The left know what is good for us. 

    The second reason is that my expertise is smoking. I am happy to concede that ACTIVE smoking is as bad as the anti smokers make out. However the reason for smoking bans is the supposed harm of PASSIVE smoking. It is hugely ironic that I believe the commentator below (Richard Smith) was the one Editor (then of the BMJ)  brave enough to publish a 40 year study into passive smoking which found no correlation between second hand cigarette smoke and lung cancer. This falls into line with 85% of the other papers. 

    From my experience of tobacco control they have mislead the public and governments on a Biblical scale. Dissenting scientists have been hounded out of their jobs or silenced. Quite obvious endemic publication bias approaching fraud. Ad hominem and personal attacks replace debate.  Science to me as a layman has returned to the alchemy of the medieval ages. Politics has replaced science and objectivity, grants and loans give the proponents a tidy living and media access/ego scratching.

    It is no coincidence that oil companies are tarred with using the same tactics as tobacco companies by their opponents. 

  • Nell Crowden

    Richard, Dave, I have no intention to attack anyone. Calling for organisational funding to be revealed does not do this. Sadly, there seem to be people out there who are out to attack and intimidate scientists, which isn’t very nice. 

    Sometimes, we do have to get a little personal – because it makes the abstract real. I’m probably going to be amongst the first generation worse off than our parents. So I do feel a little offended that a tiny minority of people are trying to manipulate opinions to continue the degradation of public goods. This make my future availability of resources insecure.

    Please see this article, which reflects that true sceptics would be arguing the science;

    “They are false skeptics. They’re not really interested in even-handed examination of competing ideas. They practise what’s called confirmation bias, cherry-picking evidence favourable to predisposed beliefs. They practise faith, not science…. Genuine skeptics would be poring over the documents, following the money, connecting the dots, analyzing what it meant and reaching conclusions about the relative merits of spin and the science it seeks to discredit.”

    We cannot all be experts in everything, which is why I trust my doctor to provide the right medication for my needs, my dentist with my teeth, and my (ethical) bank with my finances. Continuing that framework of trust, I’m inclined to trust the climate scientists to tell me about my climate.
    I didn’t give two hoots about climate change a few years ago – until a bunch of doctors spelled out how serious the impact on health was. Having travelled a fair bit – especially to the Himalayas, and tropical islands – this all made a lot of sense. Talks from climate scientists explained what is happening, why it is happening, and how the systems link together; joining up the dots. This makes climate change personal; this is why this is a personal subject, because it threatens the lives of our family and our friends. Depending upon where we live; that might be an outside threat, but it’s still a threat. We’d not be human if we didn’t care about that.Dave, you say you’re old enough to remember the Radio Times in 1976. I’m afraid I wasn’t born then, so I don’t remember it. UNFCCC negotiations have been going on all nearly as long as I have. I would be really, really, grateful if climate change wasn’t happening. I’d also be incredibly grateful if I hadn’t graduated from university into a global financial crisis. We all have to live on this planet, so we may as well try and look after it a bit, or it can’t look after us. Think of action on sustainability as life insurance.