Lord Lawson has taken the extraordinary decision to stand by a “distinguished” academic advisor to his charity who has become embroiled in a new scandal about climate denier groups being secretly funded by oil companies.
The former chancellor and chairman-for-life of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) has dug in his heels after a member of his Academic Advisory Council agreed to secretly channel oil money to another anti-science front group.
He discussed writing a report extolling the benefits of carbon dioxide and passing it through the GWPF’s self-styled peer reviewed process. He asked that the faux oil company donate $8,000 to the US-based CO2 Coalition.
The Charity Commission has confirmed that it would be reviewing the evidence from the Greenpeace campaign as part of an ongoing inquiry into the GWPF’s activities. DeSmog UK broke this story on Tuesday.
Lawson told the Independent newspaper that he stood by his advisor. “We have a large number of people on our advisory council,” he said. “They’re not part of the staff of the GWPF. They’re distinguished academics. Happer is a distinguished academic.”
He also claimed the GWPF had a “very thorough peer review process … in many ways better than the standard peer review system in most academic magazines.”
Happer, the American academic at the centre of the scandal, called a Greenpeace researcher “a son of a bitch” when approached immediately before a Senate hearing this week. The video of the altercation has been posted to YouTube.
He confirmed he had taken “not a dime” for his carbon dioxide advocacy but appeared to confirm that the CO2 Coalition had “taken nothing directly” from coal giant Peabody Energy but they had “taken some of my fee.”
Happer did not deny sending the emails when approached by the Independent. He said: “I considered this an opportunity to try to educate more people on what I think is the truth about CO2.”
Dr Benny Peiser, the director of the GWPF, originally told DeSmog UK that “Greenpeace has got it wrong.”
However, as events developed he performed an apparent u-turn and conceded when pressed by reporters from the national press his trustees should “review” the Greenpeace evidence and “decide how to handle advisers.”
The former senior lecturer in sports science repeated the oft-stated claim that the GWPF does not accept any funding from anyone with a “significant” interest in energy.
He told the Independent that the GWPF had “never taken a commission from outside” and had “no corporate donors or any donors to do with energy interests whatsoever”.
Moreover, he confirmed that the GWPF was “discussing with [the Charity Commission] how to handle complaints” made against the climate denying think tank.
The Charity Commission confirmed to DeSmog UK that a file had been opened into the GWPF and the Greenpeace evidence would now also be examined.
A spokesperson added in a further statement: “I should make clear that this is not a formal investigation (statutory inquiry). We are assessing potential concerns that have been identified. We have not drawn conclusions as to what, if any, regulatory role there might be for us.”
John Sauven, the executive director of Greenpeace said Lawson’s charity has “serious questions to answer”. He added: “Does it condone a member of its academic council agreeing to be secretly sponsored to write a report by a group purporting to be from a Middle Eastern oil company?”
Lawson has been mired in controversy about the funding of his climate denial think tank from the moment it was launched in November 2009 hours after the Climategate scandal broke and ahead of the 2009 Copenhagen climate conference.
The former Tory chancellor told a powerful Parliamentary committee of MPs that he would not accept donations for gifts from anyone with a “significant” interest in energy companies.
The charity has refused ever since to reveal the identity of any of its donors. However, DeSmog UK has now named several of his benefactors, at least one of whom has held shares in the oil giant BP.