Controversial talks by a climate science denier have been axed by the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) after mounting pressure from members.
The IET’s London branch was set to hold two virtual talks by retired engineer Brian Catt from next Tuesday. The first webinar, entitled “What controls the climate?”, was to be followed on 20 October by “How climate has changed since records began”.
However, it soon emerged that the speaker rejects mainstream climate science, writing on his website deconfused.com that “theories” about human-caused climate change had been proven wrong over the last 20 years, and dubbing climate science a “religion, enforced by social exclusion, not by science”.
Catt has regularly shared such views from his Twitter account, including information from climate science denial campaign group, the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF).
Despite pressure on social media, the IET initially made no plans to cancel the event, tweeting on Tuesday that the events were “two of hundreds of activities organised by members”. It said that the “views of the speaker do not reflect the views of the IET”.
However, the engineering body today bowed to pressure from members who threatened to “resign in disgust”, admitting it “fell short of providing balance” and announcing it had cancelled the events.
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A spokesperson tweeted: “We believe climate change is the most significant challenge ever faced and we support the ambitions of net-zero. As a professional body we have a duty to encourage debate on challenging issues even where views do not necessarily align with those of the Institution.”
“For such issues we would always expect both views to be represented to ensure fair and balanced debate. On this occasion we fell short of providing this balance and have cancelled this event.”
They added: “We're working hard to support the move to net-zero and our recent publication outlines our views across several engineering and tech areas”.
Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics congratulated the IET on the decision, saying “it is good that the IET has belatedly decided against hosting a crank lecture on climate change.”
“Professional institutions should be vigilant against promoting this sort of misinformation and propaganda that could damage lives and livelihoods,” he said.
Earlier this year, the IET’s magazine, Engineering and Technology, published an investigation into British climate science deniers, exploring how groups including the GWPF were taking advantage of a favourable political environment to strengthen ties to international supporters.
Catt and the IET have been approached for further comment.
Photo credit: Glyn Baker/The IET/Wikimedia. Updated 11/09/20: A comment from Bob Ward was added.