A Big Fuss About Small Change

Bob Ward is at it again. In an article for the Guardian, he writes that – shock, horror – ExxonMobil continues to fund organisations he disagrees with, even though he has told them not to.

A few weeks ago, ExxonMobil revealed that it made contributions in 2008 to lobby groups such as the National Center for Policy Analysis and the Heritage Foundation in order to “promote informed discussion”. So I have now written again to ExxonMobil to point out that these organisations publish misleading information about climate change on their websites

Ward, you might remember, started writing letters of complaint to the likes of Exxon when he was Director of Communications at the Royal Society, who supplied him with headed note-paper. He continued his crusade after taking up the post of Director of Global Science Networks at global risk insurance firm RMS. And he shows no sign of stopping now that he’s Policy and Communications Director at Professor Lord Sir Nicholas Stern’s Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the LSE.

The Guardian deems Ward’s article important enough to get its staff environment reporter to write an article about the fact that Ward has written an article:

The world’s largest oil company is continuing to fund lobby groups that question the reality of global warming, despite a public pledge to cut support for such climate change denial, a new analysis shows.

Company records show that ExxonMobil handed over hundreds of thousands of pounds to such lobby groups in 2008. These include the National Center for Policy Analysis (NCPA) in Dallas, Texas, which received $75,000 (£45,500), and the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, which received $50,000.

According to Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, at the London School of Economics, both the NCPA and the Heritage Foundation have published “misleading and inaccurate information about climate change.”

‘Hundreds of thousands of pounds’. Gosh. Compared to the sums made available for climate alarmism, even the ~$45 million paid out by Exxon over the course of a decade (according to Greenpeace’s Exxonsecrets website) is chicken feed. One only needs to compare it to the amount given by Ward’s benefactor, Jeremy Grantham, to put things into perspective. As a Sunday Times article revealed recently:

So concerned is Grantham, 70, over this issue that he has set up the Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment, endowed with £165m of his own money, to fund environmental research and campaigns. From it he is funding the LSE and Imperial donations, and other grants to American groups such as the Environmental Defense Fund.

So, just one individual has given nearly five times more in one lump to the green cause than Exxon (a petro-chemicals giant) is alleged to have given over the course of a decade. Nevermind the $billions at the disposal of the giant green NGOs such as WWF, and Greenpeace – many of which enjoy cosy relationships with governments and the EU, who go so far as paying such groups to lobby them.

According to Grantham:

Capitalism and business are going to have to remodel themselves and adapt to a rapidly changing and eventually very different world.

Says the… erm… Capitalist businessman. But whose interests will the remodelling of global capitalism and business serve?

Ward, of course, has his own interests served by elevating poorly-funded networks of ‘deniers’ to the status of global capitalist conspiracy. It gives the impression that there’s actually an organised challenge to the increasing influence of environmental ideology, giving him a role as its inquisitor. Thus, the image of the brave Ward standing against evil corporate conspiracies (with billionaires standing behind him, out of focus) gives such environmental ideology the appearance of socially-progressive radicalism.

Yet, arguably, Exxon are the ones doing the social good here, donating such sums that, if only in a small way, create the possibility of debate that has been so far dominated by the interests of the super-wealthy – the Goldsmiths, Prince Charles, the Tickells, Gore, and so on. Why should we take their word for it that their influence, and the influence of the institutions they lobby for, and fund, and direct, are operating in our interests?

Moreover, Ward’s accusations about the corrupting influence of corporate dollars can be thrown right back at him. From his HQ at the LSE, Ward’s boss Nick Stern runs both the Grantham and the Centre for Climate Change, Economics and Policy (CCCEP). While Ward’s employment is ostensibly with the Grantham, he also doubles up as PR man for the CCCEP. The CCCEP is funded jointly by the UK’s research councils and risk insurance giants Munich Re.

The close association between climate alarmists and the insurance industry is no less natural than that between ‘sceptics’ and Exxon. Just as Exxon might be expected to play down the threat of climate change when it suits them, Munich Re can be relied upon to overstate the dangers. Fear of risk is to the insurance industry what oil is to Exxon.

The difference is that Bob Ward doesn’t write letters of complaint to Munich Re insurers or articles for the Guardian when Munich Re disseminates ‘misleading and inaccurate information about climate change’ – which they surely do.

While Big Oil dishes out a few quid to a handful of pressure groups on the political fringes, Big Insurance conducts its business safely ensconced within the political, academic and scientific establishment. Its own brand of misleading and inaccurate information is acceptable simply because it does not conflict with the political goals of the environmental elite. Indeed, that same misleading and inaccurate information becomes central to the environmental cause, forming the basis of, for example, Kofi Annan’s much-publicised report ‘demonstrating’ that 300,000 people per year are dying as a result of climate change.

To take Exxon funding is to attract accusations of ‘denialism’, but to be funded by Munich Re is something to be proud of, to the extent that esteemed academic institutions such as the LSE want to tell the world about it:

New world-leading Grantham Research Institute opens for business as LSE joins forces with Munich Re on climate change

The £millions available to Ward and his colleagues have improved neither the quality of their arguments nor their popularity with the electorate. No wonder they are terrified that Exxon are still funding ‘deniers’. Grantham ought to ask for his money back. Surely, if ‘deniers’ were engaged in prostituting their intellectual resources for pure profit, the best way to ensure that the environmental message got heard would be to pay them to switch sides. After all, in spite of the $billions that have been made available to green causes, it’s only (allegedly) taken Exxon $45m to undo all that ‘good’ work.

5 thoughts on “A Big Fuss About Small Change”

  1. As a resident of North Carolina, our local news did a short report on massive increases in property insurance for coastal residents due the predictions of higher hurricane damages from increasing and more powerful storms. I’m sure Munich Re thinks their money has been well spent.

  2. I wonder what “misinformation” they mean that is supposedly being financed by big oil. Could it be the finding that there has been no heat accumulated in the oceans since 2003 or that surface temperatures haven’t risen globally since 1998? Or is it the misinformation about ice accumulating in Antarctica?
    Obviously they don’t say, because to do so would be to invite doubt about the reliability of predictions of thermageddon. So, all contrary evidence can be dismissively packaged as “disinformation”.
    There is something deliciously contradictory about big insurance whipping up alarm in order to sell insurance against a non existing threat. If climate thermageddon was real then it would be uninsurable. This is just basic common sense. You can insure your home against an unexpected event, such as a fire or a plane falling out of the sky onto it, but not against destruction caused by war or some such event that effects most of the population. I wonder how long before people catch onto the scam.

  3. Pity you didn’t mention that you were commenting on the Ward article on CiF. If I’d known that discussion had flared up again, I would have joined in. (Not that I have anything to say, but I’m quite good at attracting fire away from the main force). Comments are now closed on Ward, but I have been discussing Ward and Exxon at the Hickman article with the relatively sensible Bioluminescence and now Jezebel is trying to continue the battle. It’s here:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2009/jul/01/climate-change-denier-treason?commentpage=15
    However appalling the level of debate, however despicable the tactics of your opponents, there’s an awful lot can be learnt from commenting on these CiF threads, about the psychology of your interlocutors, and about presenting arguments. Though you clearly won the argument in any logical sense, I’m afraid the nitpicking prosecuting attorney tactics of your opponents means that the thread may come across to a casual reader as too complex to bother about. Two things I’ve learned: never use irony, unless you’re absolutely sure of dealing a mortal blow; and minimise quotes, especially quotes within quotes. Now, back to the fray.

  4. Giant Green Ngos! People dying as a result of climate change?? Big Oil dishing out a few quid!!

    Surely Exxon isn´t in it for the profit?

    “gives the impression that there’s actually an organised challenge to the increasing influence of environmental ideology,…”

    Is there? No of course not. There isn´t any serious challenge to environmental ideology. Don´t think you guys are carrying much weight in the debate; increasing influence and all that… Sarcasm should never be confused with irony.

    “Yet, arguably, Exxon are the ones doing the social good here, donating such sums that, if only in a small way, create the possibility of debate that has been so far dominated by the interests of the super-wealthy -…” that wouldn´t be anyone from Exxon would it?

    Poor Exxon!! Only 45 million (allegedly)and those nasty greens are stealing all the limelight.How terribly unfair of them, and they have more money! Gosh.

    It must be so frustrating for you to see the environmentalists gaining so much ground despite all your best efforts at “rational” argument.

    Will you be presenting those “reasoned” arguments at the Copenhagen conference in December?

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