To Dispute Climate Study
By Ian Sample
03 February, 2007
Scientists and economists have
been offered $10,000 each by a lobby group funded by one of the world's
largest oil companies to undermine a major climate change report due
to be published today.
Letters sent by the American
Enterprise Institute (AEI), an ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close
links to the Bush administration, offered the payments for articles
that emphasise the shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
The arctic habitat of polar bears is under threat as climate change
causes ice to melt. Photograph: Joseph Napaaqtuq Sage/AP
Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.
The UN report was written
by international experts and is widely regarded as the most comprehensive
review yet of climate change science. It will underpin international
negotiations on new emissions targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement,
the first phase of which expires in 2012. World governments were given
a draft last year and invited to comment.
The AEI has received more
than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20 of its staff have worked
as consultants to the Bush administration. Lee Raymond, a former head
of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of AEI's board of trustees.
The letters, sent to scientists
in Britain, the US and elsewhere, attack the UN's panel as "resistant
to reasonable criticism and dissent and prone to summary conclusions
that are poorly supported by the analytical work" and ask for essays
that "thoughtfully explore the limitations of climate model outputs".
Climate scientists described
the move yesterday as an attempt to cast doubt over the "overwhelming
scientific evidence" on global warming. "It's a desperate
attempt by an organisation who wants to distort science for their own
political aims," said David Viner of the Climatic Research Unit
at the University of East Anglia.
"The IPCC process is
probably the most thorough and open review undertaken in any discipline.
This undermines the confidence of the public in the scientific community
and the ability of governments to take on sound scientific advice,"
The letters were sent by
Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who confirmed that the organisation
had approached scientists, economists and policy analysts to write articles
for an independent review that would highlight the strengths and weaknesses
of the IPCC report.
"Right now, the whole
debate is polarised," he said. "One group says that anyone
with any doubts whatsoever are deniers and the other group is saying
that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don't think that
approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy."
One American scientist turned
down the offer, citing fears that the report could easily be misused
for political gain. "You wouldn't know if some of the other authors
might say nothing's going to happen, that we should ignore it, or that
it's not our fault," said Steve Schroeder, a professor at Texas
The contents of the IPCC
report have been an open secret since the Bush administration posted
its draft copy on the internet in April. It says there is a 90% chance
that human activity is warming the planet, and that global average temperatures
will rise by another 1.5 to 5.8C this century, depending on emissions.
Lord Rees of Ludlow, the
president of the Royal Society, Britain's most prestigious scientific
institute, said: "The IPCC is the world's leading authority on
climate change and its latest report will provide a comprehensive picture
of the latest scientific understanding on the issue. It is expected
to stress, more convincingly than ever before, that our planet is already
warming due to human actions, and that 'business as usual' would lead
to unacceptable risks, underscoring the urgent need for concerted international
action to reduce the worst impacts of climate change. However, yet again,
there will be a vocal minority with their own agendas who will try to
Ben Stewart of Greenpeace
said: "The AEI is more than just a thinktank, it functions as the
Bush administration's intellectual Cosa Nostra. They are White House
surrogates in the last throes of their campaign of climate change denial.
They lost on the science; they lost on the moral case for action. All
they've got left is a suitcase full of cash."
On Monday, another Exxon-funded
organisation based in Canada will launch a review in London which casts
doubt on the IPCC report. Among its authors are Tad Murty, a former
scientist who believes human activity makes no contribution to global
warming. Confirmed VIPs attending include Nigel Lawson and David Bellamy,
who believes there is no link between burning fossil fuels and global
Guardian Unlimited © Guardian News and Media Limited 2007
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