Brexit cheerleader Daniel Hannan has been busy since last June’s referendum set the clock ticking on his current job as a Member of the European Parliament.
His latest venture is the Institute for Free Trade, a “private, not-for-profit, non-partisan research foundation”, launched at the Foreign Office no less. The group “sees Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union as a unique opportunity to revitalise the world trading system” – a somewhat optimistic outlook that goes against the grain of what most experts expect.
The IFT’s inaugural Global Trade Summit, held in the heart of London in October, brought together prominent government ministers, lobbyists, free market idealogues, and climate science deniers from both sides of the pond.
Trans-Atlantic Denier Summit
And who better to help promote such an outfit than the self-styled “rational optimist”, infamous purveyor of climate disinformation, and former chairman of one of the banks at the forefront of the 2007 financial crash, Matt Ridley.
Ridley, an advisor to the climate science denial campaign group the Global Warming Policy Foundation and coal baron, chaired a session at the IFT summit titled ‘The Most Surprising Idea in Economics’. The panel was named after an article he wrote for The Conservative, which the IFT cross-posted to its own website.
The article celebrates the idea that “there is no such thing as a loser from free exchange”, which fits nicely with the IFT’s proposition that the best way to stop countries polluting is to make them rich.
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On Ridley’s panel was Mark J Perry, a scholar at the libertarian US think tank the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Perry later posted his comments to the AEI’s blog, congratulating Hannan and thanking him for “the opportunity to be part of the inaugural event”.
The AEI is an avid opponent of environmental regulation, and its members have repeatedly denied the science on climate change. It has received millions in funding from infamous fossil fuel magnates, the Koch brothers, over the years.
Perry previously authored an article for the AEI titled “18 examples of the spectacularly wrong predictions made around 1970 when the 'green holy day' (aka Earth Day) started”, in which he claimed the “hype, hysteria and spectacularly wrong apocalyptic predictions will continue, promoted by the 'environmental grievance hustlers'”.
Perry has also tweeted that “climate change is a lie”, and endorsed an article from former Fox News host Glen Beck’s The Blaze outlet that dubiously declared a new study “could totally dismantle the claim humans are causing global warming”.
The IFT meeting strengthens the bonds of a trans-Atlantic network of climate science deniers, previously mapped by DeSmog UK.
Web of Disinformation
The IFT is based at 57 Tufton Street, sharing an office with the anti-renewables thinktank the Centre for Policy Studies. It is located next door to many of the organisations DeSmog UK previously revealed to be at the heart of a UK climate science denial network in 55 Tufton Street, including the GWPF, for which Ridley is an ‘academic advisor’ .
Ebell and Ridley’s comments were denounced as “incredibly dangerous” by former climate minister Greg Barker, who was also speaking at the event. Former UKIP MEP and climate science denier Roger Helmer and the GWPF’s director Benny Peiser were also in attendance.
A couple of days earlier, Peiser had sat beside Ebell at a GWPF event as he told journalists in London that Brexit offered an “opportunity” for the UK, allowing it to shed European environmental regulations and follow President Trump's example in aiming to attain “dominance as an energy producer” in the oil, gas and coal markets.
Hannan has himself questioned the utility of taking action to mitigate climate change.
He told the European Parliament in 2015 that politicians should carefully consider “how much we spend on seeking very slightly to mitigate the rise in temperatures with huge sums of money versus adapting with a fractional sum of money”. The statement contrasts with the views of many economists that suggest investing to mitigate the worst impacts of climate change today will save huge sums in the future.
According to Hannan’s account of the IFT summit, the audience consisted “largely of civil servants and trade negotiators from Britain and abroad, plus a sprinkling of politicians including three cabinet ministers”.
Environment secretary Michael Gove chaired a panel at the event. And trade minister Liam Fox appears to have been present – another character known for his participation in projects that spread climate disinformation. Fox held a breakfast meeting with representatives from the AEI in his first visit to the US following this summer’s UK general election.
The IFT did not confirm whether Fox had been present at the Global Trade Summit.
When asked what its views were on the causes and seriousness of climate change, a spokesperson for the IFT told DeSmog UK that the organisation “exists to make the case for freer global trade as an instrument of poverty alleviation. It has no corporate views on other issues, and so takes no position on climate change”.
Photo: Screengrab via Twitter