Below is a blog cross-posted from Request Initiative, who support charities and non-profit organisations to use freedom of information laws. This Friday, the group will ask the Information Rights Tribunal to expose the seed funder to a climate sceptic think-tank (GWPF) with suspected links to BP, Shell and other energy companies. For the original blog post, see here. Words by Brendan Montague.
Climate scientists will call on a British judge to disclose the identity of the seed funder to Lord Lawson’s climate sceptic think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the Guardian reports today.
Professor James Hansen, adjunct professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute and one of the first scientists to warn of catastrophic climate change, is supporting a Freedom of Information request, saying the public interest will be served by ending the secrecy around the financing of Lord Lawson’s London based charity.
Scientists professor John Abraham and professor Stephen Lewandowsky have also supported the request that the Charity Commission publish the name on a bank statement, next to £50,000 handed to the GWPF by an anonymous donor, at an Information Rights Tribunal on Friday, January 27, 2012.
Professor Naomi Oreskes, the author of the book Merchants of Doubt: How a Handful of Scientists Obscured the Truth on Issues from Tobacco Smoke to Global Warming which documents how US think tanks were funded by the oil industry to smear climate science, and Clive Hamilton, a professor of public ethics and author of Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change are also supporting the request.
The tribunal hearing is taking place following an appeal by Brendan Montague, the director of the Request Initiative, of the Information Commissioner’s Office decision not to force the Charity Commission to release the name of the donor.
Mr Montague has to persuade the judge it would be “fair” under the Data Protection Act to publish the donor’s name against his wishes because the public has a legitimate interest in having the information. The donor contributed £50,000 out of a total of £500,000 raised by Lord Lawson in the first year of the foundation’s existence.
Research conducted by the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism has shown that the GWPF has been the country’s most effective climate sceptic think tank in terms of public relations, while Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change has questioned the scientific information published by the GWPF.
Mr Montague said:
“Lord Lawson’s charity is lobbying government for changes in climate and energy policy that would affect the lives of millions of people. This case is motivated by the belief that the public has a right to know who is funding this work.
“Request Initiative has been established because there is a serious lack of accountability in public life. We are asking the judge in this case to recognise the overriding public interest in transparency around climate change above the privacy of one single wealthy individual. We know this is a difficult legal balancing act but hope the judge will come down on the side of the public.”
The Global Warming Policy Foundation was founded by Lord Lawson in November 2009 ahead of the Copenhagan conference on climate change. He appeared before parliament to accuse the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia of not being transparent about its climate change science.
The foundation has received £500,000 in funding from secret donors. A photocopy of a bank statement showing the name of the seed donor was sent by Lord Lawson to the Charity Commission to prove he had the cash to run the charity. The commission has refused to release the name or the bank statement.
Lord Lawson has worked closely with the oil industry since serving as energy minister under Margaret Thatcher. He has previously been president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, which fosters links between the oil industry, government and academia and has been sponsored by BP and Shell. A Mike Smith from BP was chairman of the BIEE in 2003 during Lawson’s last year as president.
Lawson has also been chairman of, and a shareholder in, Central Europe Trust Ltd, a consultancy business dealing in assets in Eastern Europe which has boasted BP Amoco and Shell as major clients, on a salary of £76,000 per annum. Lawson no longer has a financial stake.