IEA Think Tank Contributes to Climate Science Denial Documentary

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Original article by Sam Bright republished from DeSmog.

The Institute of Economic Affairs has its headquarters on Lord North Street, Westminster. Credit: Des Blenkinsopp (CC BY-SA 2.0)
The Institute of Economic Affairs has its headquarters on Lord North Street, Westminster. Credit: Des Blenkinsopp (CC BY-SA 2.0)

A senior figure at the influential Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank contributed to a new documentary that spread numerous myths about climate change. 

Stephen Davies, an academic who has worked in educational outreach roles at the IEA since 2010, appeared several times in Climate The Movie: The Cold Truth – a new film directed by climate science denier Martin Durkin

In the documentary, Davies claims that climate activists want to impose an “austere” life on ordinary people. “Behind all the talk about a climate emergency, climate crisis” is “an animus and hostility towards” working-class people, “their lifestyle, their beliefs and a desire to change it by force if necessary,” he says.

According to the website Skeptical Science, which debunks climate misinformation, Climate The Movie contains more than two dozen myths about climate change. The film suggests that we shouldn’t be worried about greenhouse gas emissions, because plants need carbon dioxide. “We’re in a CO2 famine,” one interviewee claims.

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s foremost climate science body, has stated that carbon dioxide “is responsible for most of global warming” since the late 19th century, which has increased the “severity and frequency of weather and climate extremes, like heat waves, heavy rains, and drought”.

Climate The Movie producer Thomas Nelson told DeSmog that “I see the misguided fight against carbon dioxide as being as crazy as fighting against oxygen or water vapour, and I think scaring innocent children about this is deeply evil”.

The IEA said that “Steve firmly believes that climate change is happening and carbon emissions are having an impact. His view that climate policy imposes costs, particularly on working-class communities, is entirely mainstream. IEA publications and spokespeople have supported action on climate change, including carbon pricing.”

A screenshot of Stephen Davies of the Institute of Economic Affairs in Climate The Movie: The Cold Truth. Credit: Climate The Movie / YouTube
A screenshot of Stephen Davies of the Institute of Economic Affairs in Climate The Movie: The Cold Truth. Credit: Climate The Movie / YouTube

In 2018, Greenpeace’s investigative journalism unit Unearthed revealed that the IEA had received funding from oil major BP every year since 1967. In response to the story, an IEA spokeswoman said: “It is surely uncontroversial that the IEA’s principles coincide with the interests of our donors.” 

The IEA also received a £21,000 grant from U.S. oil major ExxonMobil in 2005.

The IEA has extensive influence in politics and the media. It was pivotal to Liz Truss’s short-lived premiership as prime minister, and has boasted of its access to Conservative ministers and MPs. During the year ending March 2023, the IEA appeared in the media on 5,265 occasions, a figure 43 percent higher than its previous peak in 2019.

The group has also received donations from a number of philanthropic trusts accused of channelling funds from the fossil fuel industry and helping to support climate science denial groups. The IEA is a member of the Atlas Network – an international collaboration of “extreme” free market groups that have been accused of promoting the interests of fossil fuel companies and other large corporations.

It’s not known if the IEA has received funding from BP since 2018.

The IEA is a prominent supporter of the continued and extended use of fossil fuels. The group has advocated for the ban to be lifted on fracking for shale gas, calling it the “moral and economic choice”. The IEA has also said that a ban on new North Sea oil and gas would be “madness”, has criticised the windfall tax imposed on North Sea oil and gas firms, and said that the government’s commitment to “max out” the UK’s fossil fuel reserves is a “welcome step”.

The IEA is part of the Tufton Street network – a cluster of libertarian think tanks and pressure groups that are in favour of more fossil fuel extraction and are opposed to state-led climate action. These groups are characterised by a lack of transparency over their sources of funding. The IEA does not publicly declare the names of its donors. 

“From Brexit to Trussonomics, the IEA has consistently peddled and promoted destructive and damaging policies,” Green Party MP Caroline Lucas told DeSmog. “Yet perhaps nothing will prove more dangerous long term than the stream of climate denialism and calls to delay action that have been pouring out of Tufton Street for many years.

“Clearly the IEA is now ramping up its climate culture war and the Conservative Party has been following suit. The cross-party consensus on climate action we used to have in Parliament is under strain like never before.”

The IEA and Stephen Davies were approached for comment. 

Climate The Movie

During the documentary, Davies suggests that action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is being used to limit the freedom of individuals. He claims that climate activists want to impose “a much more austere simple kind of lifestyle” on people “in which the consumption choices of the great bulk of the population are controlled or even prohibited.”

Davies adds that: “What you have here is a classic example of class hypocrisy and self-interest masquerading as public spirited concern. You could take these kinds of green socialist more seriously if they lived off grid, they cut their own consumption down to the minimum, they never flew. Instead you get constant talk about how human consumption is destroying the planet but the people making all this talk show absolutely no signs of reducing their own.”

The documentary also features an interview with Benny Peiser, the director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) – the UK’s leading climate science denial group. Peiser has previously claimed that it would be “extraordinary anyone should think there is a climate crisis”, while the GWPF has expressed the view that carbon dioxide has been mischaracterised as pollution, when in fact it is a “benefit to the planet”. 

The film was favourably reviewed by commentator Toby Young in The Spectator magazine, who described it as “a phenomenon”. Young has previously said that he’s sceptical about the idea of human-caused climate change. 

The IPCC has stated it is “unequivocal that human influence has warmed the atmosphere, ocean and land”, while scientists at NASA have found that the last 10 years were the hottest on record. Earth’s average surface temperature in 2023 was the warmest since records began in 1880. 

The IPCC has also warned that false and misleading information “undermines climate science and disregards risk and urgency” of climate action.

The documentary also features Claire Fox, a member of the House of Lords who was nominated for a peerage by former prime minister Boris Johnson in 2020. 

Fox used the documentary to claim that, by tackling climate change, people will be forced to pay more “to simply live the lives that they were leading”.

She suggests that supporters of climate action are trying to “take away what we consider to be not luxuries but necessities.”

The UK’s Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on measures to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, estimates that the combined policies will cost less than one percent of the country’s national output.

The Office for Budget Responsibility, the UK’s independent economic forecaster, has also said that “the costs of failing to get climate change under control would be much larger than those of bringing emissions down to net zero”.

Those suffering during the cost of living crisis have seen their energy bills increase by nearly £2.5 billion, in turn reducing their disposable incomes, due to successive governments failing to implement green reforms. 

Claire Fox and the GWPF were approached for comment. 

A Charitable Cause?

The IEA is a registered charity, meaning that it receives generous tax breaks. 

The group justifies this charitable status partly on the basis of its educational outreach programme, which aims to “equip tomorrow’s leaders with a deep understanding of free market economics”.

The IEA claims that: “Our aim is to change the climate of opinion in the long term and our work with students is a key part of this.”

In the year ending March 2023, the group claimed to have engaged with 3,500 students and 1,200 teachers via its seminars, internships and summer schools.

Formerly the IEA’s head of education and now a senior education fellow, Davies is a senior member of the group’s outreach programme. He is the first person listed in the IEA’s student speakers brochure, which advertises the IEA staff members who are available to speak at schools or universities. 

The brochure also lists the IEA’s chief operating officer Andy Mayer, who has said that the government should “get rid of” its target of achieving net zero emissions by 2050, which he called a “very hard left, socialist, central-planning model”.

The non-profit Good Law Project recently made a complaint to the Charity Commission about the IEA, claiming that the libertarian group had breached charity rules. Namely, the Good Law Project claims that the IEA is in breach of rules stating that charities must avoid presenting “biased and selective information in support of a preconceived point of view”.

The Charity Commission rejected this complaint, stating that: “We have assessed the concerns raised and have not identified concerns that the charity is acting outside of its objects or the Commission’s published guidance.” 

Good Law Project campaigns manager Hannah Greer told DeSmog: “It won’t be a surprise to anyone that the IEA is cementing its role as a major mouthpiece for climate change scepticism. It’s a huge scandal that the IEA is still allowed to peddle fringe views under the guise of being an ‘educational charity’ while benefiting from taxpayer subsidies.

“This has been allowed to happen because we have seen alarming and unambiguous regulatory failure from the Charity Commission – who have been presented with evidence of how the IEA is flouting charity law, but have chosen to look the other way.”

Original article by Sam Bright republished from DeSmog.

Continue ReadingIEA Think Tank Contributes to Climate Science Denial Documentary

Industry Elites Applaud Saudi Aramco CEO for Calling Oil Phaseout a ‘Fantasy’

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Original article by JAKE JOHNSON republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

Saudi Aramco CEO Amin Nasser speaks during the CERAWeek oil summit in Houston, Texas on March 18, 2024.  (Photo: Mark Felix/AFP via Getty Images)

“The fossil fuel industry has always pursued a strategy of delay when it comes to the climate crisis,” said one campaigner. “First, it was focused on casting doubt on the science. Now, it’s all about casting doubt on the solutions.”

The CEO of the world’s largest oil company said Monday that calls to phase out fossil fuels are a “fantasy” that policymakers should abandon, a remark that drew applause from energy elites gathered in Houston, Texas for a major industry conference.

“We should abandon the fantasy of phasing out oil and gas and instead invest in them adequately reflecting realistic demand assumptions,” Saudi Aramco chief executive Amin Nasser told CERAWeek attendees, dismissing the International Energy Agency’s projection that global fossil fuel demand will peak by 2030.

“Peak oil and gas is unlikely for some time to come, let alone 2030,” Nasser said, suggesting oil consumption could continue growing through 2045. That scenario would serve the interests of Saudi Aramco, which in 2022 posted the largest-ever annual profit for a fossil fuel company.

Power Shift Africa, a climate think tank, called Nasser’s comments “outrageous.”

Jamie Henn, director of Fossil Free Media, noted that “the fossil fuel industry has always pursued a strategy of delay when it comes to the climate crisis.”

“First, it was focused on casting doubt on the science,” he observed. “Now, it’s all about casting doubt on the solutions.”

“It’s clear that not only are they not committed to reducing emissions, they’ve actually come to CERAWeek to continue promoting fossil fuel production and extraction and delaying the transition to a just, clean energy future.”

Climate scientists say that a rapid, global transition away from fossil fuel production and toward renewable energy is necessary to avert the worst of the planetary emergency, which is driving increasingly destructive and deadly extreme weather events, sea-level rise, ocean warming, and other alarming phenomena.

But Nasser claimed technologies such as carbon capture—which has repeatedly proven to be ineffective and even harmful—are better at lowering emissions than “alternative energies,” Reutersreported. Nasser specifically criticized wind, solar, and electric vehicles and said that “we should phase in new energy sources and technologies when they are genuinely ready, economically competitive, and with the right infrastructure.”

Just one day after Nasser’s remarks, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released a report showing that “renewable energy generation, primarily driven by the dynamic forces of solar radiation, wind, and the water cycle, has surged to the forefront of climate action for its potential to achieve decarbonization targets.”

The WMO said Tuesday that renewable energy capacity increased nearly 50% last year compared to 2022.

But the continued production and burning of fossil fuels is wreaking global havoc, the WMO found, pushing planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions and temperatures to all-time highs.

In the face of such alarming findings, the major oil and gas industry players have rolled back their own weak emissions commitments and—in the case of ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods—blamed the public for fueling the climate crisis.

“For years we’ve demanded action, not empty words, from Big Oil,” Josh Eisenfeld, campaign manager of corporate accountability, said in a statement before the Houston conference kicked off on Monday. “If you look at their actions, it’s clear that not only are they not committed to reducing emissions, they’ve actually come to CERAWeek to continue promoting fossil fuel production and extraction and delaying the transition to a just, clean energy future.”

Original article by JAKE JOHNSON republished from Common Dreams under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).

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Continue ReadingIndustry Elites Applaud Saudi Aramco CEO for Calling Oil Phaseout a ‘Fantasy’

Court of Appeal Rules Climate Crisis A Matter of ‘Opinion’

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Original article by Tim Crosland republished from DeSmog.

When environmental defenders are tried in future they will be barred from giving evidence of climate impacts to the jury to explain their motives, writes Tim Crosland, director of climate justice charity Plan B Earth.

Environmental activist Trudi Warner is ejected from the Royal Courts of Justice on February 21. Credit: Defend Our Juries

The Court of Appeal this week delivered another blow to the rights of climate activists to defend themselves in court.

The case centred on a jury’s decision to acquit a group of activists last year after hearing evidence of the consequences of climate breakdown as part of the defence.

It was one of a number of “not guilty” verdicts in similar cases, which showed how seriously juries take such evidence – as long as they are allowed to hear it.

For the climate movement, It was a major boost to see that the public, in the form of juries, was on its side.

But on Monday, following an appeal by Attorney General Victoria Prentis, Lady Justice Carr delivered a ruling to the effect that the juries should not be allowed to hear that evidence in the future.

What this amounts to is that from now on, when environmental defenders are tried for criminal damage in the future, they will no longer be able to give climate impacts as evidence to explain their motives.

‘Show Trials’

This defence was one of the last available to activists in an increasingly hostile climate that has seen the UK, under Rishi Sunak’s administration, dish out some of the most punitive sentencing for peaceful protest in recent history.

The implications are grave. From now on, we will see jury trials turn into show trials, in which the defendants are banned from explaining to the jury their principled motivation for taking action.

Lady Justice Carr’s ruling was made even though the relevant legislation (the Criminal Damage Act of 1971) expressly provides for a jury to take into account the “circumstances” of environmentalists’ action. 

The key question here is what counts as the “circumstances” of criminal damage, which is often the crime of which peaceful protestors stand accused. That might take the form of causing damage to property with graffiti, say by spray-painting #ShellKnows onto the oil company’s headquarters.

In this example, climate activists would argue they do this in order to hold those responsible for climate breakdown – and that the message serves to highlight the company’s decades-long knowledge and obfuscation of the impacts of fossil fuels on global heating.

The legal ‘logic’ of the new ruling is that “circumstances” refers to objective matters and therefore excludes a defendant’s beliefs. In the words of Lady Justice Carr, who read out the ruling of the court:

“The circumstances would not include the political or philosophical beliefs of the person causing the damage … Evidence from the defendant about the facts or effects of climate change would be inadmissible.”

The flaw in this logic is obvious. The climate crisis is not a matter of belief. It is a terrifying and objective reality. Not just according to scientists or the British parliament, but as evidenced by the well-documented destruction and mass loss of life that is already occurring across Europe and around the world. 

Lady Justice Carr might try explaining that the climate crisis is all in their minds to the UK home-owners, whose properties are now uninsurable due to repeat flooding, or the mothers whose children’s bodies washed up on a Libyan shore after dams collapsed in the wake of heavy rains.

Sadly, this ruling, which is based on such obviously flawed reasoning, was widely predicted. 

That’s because the ruling perpetuates an antagonism within the justice British system that has become impossible to ignore. 

‘Embarrassment to the State’

On the one hand you have the juries, who represent our communities. They keep acquitting environmental defenders when they hear the full story.

And then you have some judges, paid by the state, who are taking increasingly bizarre measures to prevent the juries from giving not guilty verdicts (Judge Silas Reid has even banned the use of the words ‘climate change’ in court proceedings).

In February 2023, a jury acquitted campaigners who had splashed pink paint over Conservative and Labour Party HQs. In October, another acquitted a group who sprayed the Treasury with fake blood; and in November, yet another acquitted the HSBC 9, who broke windows to protest the bank’s £80 billion investments in fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement.

Such jury acquittals come as an embarrassment to the state. Since juries are composed of randomly selected members of the public, they expose a media-constructed fiction. The public doesn’t want the government to get tough on those taking measures against climate breakdown, they want it to take measures to stop climate breakdown. 

As long as juries are allowed to hear evidence about a) the extreme danger of the climate crisis, b) the government’s systematic failure to follow the pathways that science dictates, and c) the efficacy of nonviolent direct action, it follows that those activists who are acting on the science are acquitted.

The British legal system, however, seems increasingly determined to prevent juries hearing the full facts. Judge Silas Reid has not only banned the words, he has sent people to prison simply for saying “climate change”.

At the end of February, almost as if he’d been tipped off on the Court of Appeal’s likely ruling, he used his office to cast doubt on the objective reality of the climate crisis:

“The circumstances of the damage do not include any climate crisis which may or may not exist in the world at the moment… Whether climate change is as dangerous as each of the defendants may clearly and honestly believe or is not, is irrelevant and does not form any part of the circumstances of the damage.”

Reid then threatened the jury with criminal charges if they applied their conscience to the case. 

But such oppressive rulings are backfiring. The public, as evidenced by jury acquittals, knows that the climate crisis is real and urgent. When courts suggest otherwise the legal system loses public support, undermining the social contract and the rule of law.

Last year hundreds of people demonstrated outside Crown Courts across England and Wales in solidarity with Trudi Warner, who was arrested for holding a sign outside court that explained the right of juries to acquit a defendant as a matter of conscience. Many actively invited the Attorney General to prosecute them for contempt of court. 

In February, more than a hundred members of the public staged a ‘peaceful makeover’ of the Royal Courts of Justice, conducting a lawful assembly into the courts’ erosion of democratic freedoms, until they were forcefully ejected by court security.

For as long as judges believe they can rule away our collective desire to live and to protect those we love, the situation will only escalate.

Tim Crosland is a former government lawyer and director of the climate justice charity Plan B.Earth.

Original article by Tim Crosland republished from DeSmog.

dizzy: The climate crisis is of course a matter of established fact. 2023 is the warmest year ever, climate records are getting broken monthly, they’ll be getting broken daily again in the summer. Capitalism has destroyed the climate and intends to destroy it more, fossil fool companies are pursuing more oil and gas extraction ignoring the established fact that it’s destroying the climate – so that rich cnuts get richer. Courts are supposedly independent, impartial and separate from the state instead of clearly part of it.

7.30am Equinox update: It’s a totally irrational denial of reality mirroring Rishi Sunak UK government’s own legislating that black is white, up is down, in is out. There’s a psychological term – reaction formation – that applies. The problem is that judges are meant to make wise, considered decisions and here they are instead behaving totally irrationally.

Image of InBedWithBigOil by Not Here To Be Liked + Hex Prints from Just Stop Oil's You May Find Yourself... art auction. Featuring Rishi Sunak, Fossil Fuels and Rupert Murdoch.
Image of InBedWithBigOil by Not Here To Be Liked + Hex Prints from Just Stop Oil’s You May Find Yourself… art auction. Featuring Rishi Sunak, Fossil Fuels and Rupert Murdoch.
Continue ReadingCourt of Appeal Rules Climate Crisis A Matter of ‘Opinion’

Shell abandons 2035 emissions target and weakens 2030 goal && Shell boss got £8m pay package in first year

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Greenpeace activists display a billboard during a protest outside Shell headquarters on July 27, 2023 in London.
Greenpeace activists display a billboard during a protest outside Shell headquarters on July 27, 2023 in London. (Photo: Handout/Chris J. Ratcliffe for Greenpeace via Getty Images)

Shell has abandoned a key climate target for 2035 and weakened another goal for 2030, according to its latest “energy transition strategy”.

The oil major has “updated” its target to cut the total “net carbon intensity” of all the energy products it sells to customers – the emissions per unit of energy – by 20% between 2016 and 2030. The reduction is now set at between 15-20%.

Within Shell’s strategy, chief executive, Wael Sawan, writes that this change reflects “a strategic shift” to focus less on selling electricity, including renewable power.

Instead, the company says investment in oil and gas “will be needed” due to sustained demand for fossil fuels. It emphasises the importance of liquified natural gas (LNG) as “critical” for the energy transition and says it will grow its LNG business by up to 30% by 2030. 

This amounts to a bet against the world meeting its climate goals, with the International Energy Agency (IEA) and others concluding no new oil-and-gas investment is needed on a pathway to 1.5C – and warning against the risk of “overinvestment”.

Elsewhere in the report, Shell notes that it has “chosen to retire [its] 2035 target of a 45% reduction in net carbon intensity” due to “uncertainty in the pace of change in the energy transition”.

Both goals were intended as stepping stones on the company’s journey towards net-zero emissions by 2050, a goal set by the previous chief executive, Ben van Beurden, in 2020.

The weakening of climate goals from Shell, the world’s second-largest investor-owned oil-and-gas company, comes after BP scaled back its ambitions last year.

Shell boss got £8m pay package in first year

Shell’s new boss received a pay package of almost £8m in his first year in the role, the energy giant has revealed.

Detail of the pay emerged as Shell watered down one of its carbon reduction targets.

Wael Sawan was paid a total of £7.94m, including bonuses, although that was below the £9.7m received by his predecessor, Ben van Beurden, in 2022.

The size of the pay package came under fire from pressure groups.

Jonathan Noronha-Gant, senior fossil fuels campaigner at Global Witness, said the amount was “a bitter pill to swallow for the millions of workers living with the high costs of energy”.

Shell also announced that it planned to reduce the “net carbon intensity” of the energy it sells by 15-20% by 2030, compared with a previous target of 20%.

It also dropped its plan to reduce net carbon intensity by 45% by 2035.

Continue ReadingShell abandons 2035 emissions target and weakens 2030 goal && Shell boss got £8m pay package in first year

UK Conservatives heading to elections with a growing green policy gap

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UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak denies climate change.
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak denies climate change.

There is now a 21% share of required emissions cuts in the UK’s 2028–32 carbon budget that is not covered by policy.

Green Alliance’s Net Zero Policy Tracker analyses the gap between confirmed policy and what would be required for net zero by 2050, according to the UK’s five-yearly carbon budgets. 

At the start of 2023, there was a 13% share of required emissions cuts in the 2028–32 carbon budget that was not covered by policy. Following the government’s so-called Energy Security Day in March – which saw 2,800 pages of new energy and climate policy – the share of emissions cuts not covered by policy grew to 15%

Since Sunak’s latest speech in March, the gap has grown to 21%: a near-doubling of the gap that existed at the start of the year. 

“The Prime Minister delayed vital policies that would have lowered energy bills, increased UK energy security, and played a critical role in creating a green and growing economy,” said Chris Venables, Green Alliance’s deputy director of politics and partnerships, in a statement following Sunak’s speech. “This represents a deeply alarming pivot that has undermined business confidence, and put at serious risk the hard-won, cross-party and evidence-based approach we have had to actually reaching our legally binding net-zero targets.”

Continue ReadingUK Conservatives heading to elections with a growing green policy gap