Climate Science Denialist Matt Ridley Criticised By Same Scientist He Sourced On Greening Planet Claims

Matt Ridley

A scientist whose research has been used by prominent climate science denialists Lord Matt Ridley and Rupert Murdoch to claim carbon dioxide is good for the planet has hit back at the “selective presentation” of his work.

Professor Ranga Myneni, of Boston University, has been researching satellite data showing how the extra carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels is contributing to increased plant growth across the planet.

In an article published in the Murdoch-owned The Times and reproduced in Murdoch’s The Australian, Ridley said 30 years of satellite data showed plant growth had risen by 14 per cent across the world.

I asked Lord Ridley on Twitter about the source for his satellite data and he pointed me to a 2013 presentation by Professor Myneni.

Myneni told DeSmog the presentation Lord Ridley had cited had not been peer reviewed and was “work in progress” but hoped it would appear as two scientific articles, one of which was in review at the journal Nature Climate Change.

He said his analysis of satellite data covering the last 30 years did show a 13 to 14 per cent increase in vegetation growth. He said some of this could be attributed to increased levels of carbon dioxide, but changes in the way land was management was also a factor.

Myneni, in Norway for a meeting of ecologists to discuss vegetation changes in remote regions, said “in the context of being good versus bad” he was “worried about how this work is being interpreted”.

He said Ridley’s story “suffers from selective presentation of facts” and would “not survive peer-review”. 

If one were to interpret the greening of the Earth as a good or a positive development then one must also accept that the accompanying climate changes (global warming, for example) and its physical (sea level rise) and biotic impacts (polar bears) as bad or negative developments.

Again, in my opinion, this benefit of greening is not worth price of all the negative changes.

Humans are one amongst many species on Earth and we have no right conducting such experiments that affect all forms of life - it is simply indecent, deeply vulgar and inhuman (you can choose any adjective).

This is not the first time that Ridley has cited Myneni’s work. He first did so in a January 2013 column in the Wall Street Journal, prompting Murdoch himself to tell his Twitter followers that the satellite data showed the planet was “growing greener with increased carbon.”

Ridley, who earns undisclosed but likely substantial money from coal mining on his family's estate, also cited Myneni’s work in an October 2013 story in The Spectator.

Ridley’s article in The Times also promoted a report written by Dr Indur Goklany and published by the climate science denialist lobby group the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

The report, titled Carbon Dioxide: The good news, makes a number of claims about the supposed benefits of adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere while dismissing the well documented impacts, including rising temperature extremes, sea level rise and damage to ocean ecosystems.

Like Ridley, Goklany is a member of the GWPF’s academic advisory council.

Ridley claimed the report was “was thoroughly peer ­reviewed” which would usually be taken to mean that independent scientists had looked at the manuscript.

But through tweets from the official GWPF account and Professor Ross McKitrick, the chair of the GWPF’s advisory council, it appears that instead the document was sent around to other GWPF members for review.

McKitrick said Goklany’s report was “a survey of findings previously published in peer-reviewed scientific journals”. However, Goklany’s report includes references to the work of another climate science denialist, Craig Idso.

The same Idso report was cited heavily by a 2014 coal industry report that also argued that extra CO2 in the atmosphere would be good for plants and crops.

The GWPF report says Goklany has previously been an “IPCC reviewer” and is an “independent scientist”.  The report does not mention that Goklany has long associations with several conservative think tanks that have worked to promote climate science denial, including the Heartland Institute.

Leaked internal documents from Heartland listed Goklany as receiving $1000 per month for work on its “alternative” Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change reports.

Ridley’s column in The Times also promoted the views of denialist Patrick Moore, who delivered the GWF’s annual lecture earlier this monthMoore is not a climate scientist but has claimed there is “no scientific proof” that humans are causing global warming.

Photo: Matt Ridley. Image: Flickr/IAB UK