A row has broken out over the apparent lack of disclosure of a conflict of interest by Tory politician John Gummer, also known as Lord Deben, who heads government scientific advisory body, the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
The Mail on Sunday fulminates: “Tory peer John Selwyn Gummer's private company has been paid more than £600,000 from 'green' businesses that stand to make millions from his advice to Ministers.” It then lists a number of alleged payments received by Gummer’s consultancy, Sancroft, by green-tinged companies. This is a huge conflict of interest, the article roars.
The issue will no doubt be investigated – and it's not up to anyone other than Gummer (who denies the allegations) to defend himself – but what’s behind this story is a climate science denial media network in action, and that’s the bigger story not being told.
As one high profile member of the climate science denier mob put it “Christmas has come unusually early this year for British climate sceptics”.
What’s behind an array of co-ordinated and similarly apoplectic editorials is not necessarily concern for public fiscal regulation and lobbying transparency but a deep hatred of environmental regulation. This is seen in the disdain shown by the reporter that broke the story, David Rose, towards the CCC’s goals.
In the Mail on Sunday, he writes: “Under Gummer, the CCC has said the country must cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 60 per cent by 2030.”
“The Committee on Climate Change, established by the 2008 Climate Change Act, is a supposedly independent quango which advises the Government on how to achieve Britain's target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.”
“Chaired by Gummer since 2012, it has urged Ministers to fund vast subsidies paid to 'renewable' energy companies.”
Gummer was also a key part of John Major's government, which led the UK's initial foray into climate leadership.
Rose’s initial blast was followed up by Dominic Lawson in the Daily Mail. “Oh look, another member of the great and the good is in the soup. And, not for the first time, it's one of those who preaches to us about our duty to 'save the planet'.”
It's worth remembering that Dominic Lawson is the son of Nigel Lawson, Chancellor of the Exchequer under Margaret Thatcher and – until very recently – chair of the UK’s principal climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
Next up was infamous climate science denier James Delingpole over at far-right website Breitbart who got very excited: “The Climate Industrial Complex is a $1.5 trillion per year scam industry of no value to mankind — or indeed the planet — whatsoever.”
But Delingpole lets slip the group's real concerns: “Barely a wind turbine would be erected, barely a shimmery solar panel allowed to disfigure the landscape, barely a palm oil plantation planted, barely a bushel of biomass burned, barely a dubious university climate science department funded, barely a first-class airfare to the next COP shindig subsidised, were it not for the government subsidies and regulation which make these fringe, non-commercial and unnecessary activities temporarily viable.”
Ridley, lest you forget, is the owner of a coal mine site and was censured by the House of Lords’ Committee for Privileges and Conduct in January 2014 for failing to declare his coal interests while speaking in debates on the Energy Bill.
This network of co-ordinated climate science denial isn’t just an oddball collection of angry Tories turning on the perceived traitordom of own of their own. This is a group of people who are regularly (and ineffectively) chastised by IPSO the media regulator, who attempt to control the steady stream of climate disinformation that this group pumps out.
David Rose has a track record of spreading erroneous information about climate science and policy, as his astonishing record of IPSO complaints attests.
There may be a case against Gummer, but for the sake of consistency and balance it’s only fair to point out that this frothing-at-the-mouth coterie gravitates around the climate science denying GWPF.
Rose’s article quotes Labour MP Graham Stringer, who is a GWPF trustee. Matt Ridley likewise is sits on the GWPF’s advisory board. Dominic Lawson is the GWPF's founder's son. Rose himself has described the GWPF as a “friend”.
It’s a tightknit group. And they’re not exactly faultless when it comes to declaring their interests.
As DeSmog UK reported recently: “The new chairman of the UK’s principal climate science denier campaign group holds investments in a number of fossil fuel companies”. He also has shareholdings that are invested in the controversial Kinder Morgan and Keystone XL pipelines.
Donoughue has repeatedly cast doubt on the importance of tackling climate change, calling efforts to reduce emissions “virtue signalling” and the climate change movement “evangelical.” He is, it's fair to say, a fan of fossil fuels.
What this controversy really shows is a network of people defending their political commitment to the fossil-fuelled status quo (and in some cases, their economic interests) through a hit job.
This is yet another example of what happens when the media is driven by an undeclared agenda, as we exposed when revealing the clandestine funding of Spiked and the LM network that spreads climate disinfomration and is backed by champion climate science deniers and fossil fuel magnates, the Koch brothers.
In this context, the howl of moral outrage accompanying the Gummer revelations is somewhat undermined by this network’s own commitment to disinformation and far from squeaky-clean declarations of interests, all with the aim of slowing or stopping efforts to avert climate catastrophe.
Image: Praseg/Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0