Lawson’s climate denial met with ‘rapid, referenced and robust’ debunking

John Humphrys is a national treasurer who brings news of the latest world affairs to a bleary eyed nation with the BBC Today programme. Lord Lawson was once the nation’s treasurer, and today tours the newsrooms advocating climate denial and an isolationist Brexit.


The release of Al Gore’s latest film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, has put climate change firmly back on the agenda, including the fact coal, oil and gas companies have for decades paid public relations companies and front groups millions of dollars to attack the science of global warming.


Disappointing then, that a time-pressed researcher from the BBC would give the Global Warming Policy Foundation – which presents itself as a charity supported by politicians of all stripes – a call and that Lawson, its founder and chair of trustees for life would be made available for interview.


Unfortunately, Lawson is literally the last man in Britain who should be appearing on the country’s favourite source for balanced, intelligent daily news to discuss the issue of climate change. Not least, because he is precisely the kind of climate denier that Al Gore is trying to warn us about.


Lawson returned from political obscurity in the South of France to become Britain’s most effective climate denier and from there a leading proponent of a hard Brexit. This month he appointed Terence Mordaunt, owner of the Bristol Port Company and big time Leave donor, as director of his Global Warming Policy Forum (set up so Lawson could side step charity law).


Indeed, Lawson sits at the very centre of the climate-denying and Brexit-supporting web of wealthy industrialists, PR spivs and corporate sponsored think tanks operating out of the now notorious 55 Tufton Street.

 

The same old claptrap


The choice of Lawson by the Beeb has led to a Twitter storm of genuine outrage and concern. Professor Brian Cox, himself a BBC presenter and also a qualified scientist, attacked Lawson for amplifying “the same old claptrap”. He argued it was “irresponsible and highly misleading to give the impression that there is a meaningful debate about the science.”


Richard Black, the former BBC environment correspondent who was among the journalists to break the “Climategate” story, was equally scathing. He Tweeted, “tbf, opinions can be as inaccurate as you like. However, things presented as fact when they’re bollocks ought to be flagged up as so.”


The primary objection to Lawson’s appearance on the Today programme is simply that most of the claims and conjecture the former chancellor espoused are easily refuted. Black initiated a thread on Twitter with the “false statements” in the broadcast.


Lawson said Britain had “one of the the highest energy costs in the world”. Steve Smith, the head of science for Parliament’s Committee on Climate Change, provided a chart from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showing Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Austria all had higher energy costs than the UK.

 

Lawson went on to say that average global temperatures “have slightly declined” since 2007. Roz Pidcock, head of communications for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, provided a chart where NASA, UEA, NOAA, Berkeley, and raw data from temperature stations each registered a clear and deeply concerning rise in temperatures since 2000 (and indeed, since 1880).

Lawson stated “we don’t” subsidise fossil fuels, which is directly contradicted by a research paper published in the March 2017 issue of the World Development journal by David Coudy et al which found that “fossil fuel subsidies are large, amounting to 6.5 percent of global GDP in 2015.” This is $5.3 trillion. Among the more generous with subsidies is the European Union.

 

The wealthy and powerful


The online response to Lawson’s claims – especially by Carbon Brief – was rapid, referenced and robust. Black, who will have conducted hundreds of interviews broadcast by the BBC, concluded “usually this frequency of errors would bar a guest for lack of expertise”.


But the problem is the genie is already out of the bottle. Debunking climate denial myths is not as effective as we would like. It can even reinforce the false claim being made. The wealthy and powerful who benefited from Lawson’s housing boom and market deregulation are likely to trust him over a bearded, sandal-wearing climate activist.


Sarah Sands, this year appointed the new editor of Today, should never have allowed Lawson to appear on the programme in the first place. This is not about freedom of speech. This is a matter of upholding the standards BBC listeners expect and assume are in place when they trust the broadcaster.


I spent five years researching Lawson and the GWPF. I began from a place of being sceptical about what the Tory peer and architect of British neoliberalism would say about the biggest environmental issue of our times. But I was still shocked and angered by what I discovered.


Lawson was recruited to the climate denial campaign by a chap called David Henderson, an activist and advisor to the hard-line neoliberal think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs.


More intelligent that the average person


The IEA for decades accepted cash from tobacco companies while fighting the regulation of smoking, which still kills 100,000 people in Britain every year. The IEA also took money from oil while publishing the first reports to attack the science of climate change.


Lawson and Henderson travelled together to the US to meet the head of US think tanks also paid by tobacco and big oil. And then they set up the GWPF in the UK. Lawson frequently spoke alongside S Fred Singer, the US-based, oil and tobacco supported, granddaddy of climate denial. The GWPF has been represented at least one event alongside Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco, an event funded by the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.


Lawson has steadfastly refused to name the funders of the GWPF, even in defiance of his fellow Parliamentarians. His financial backers, he says, “tend to be richer than the average person and much more intelligent that the average person”.


Among the money men behind the GWPF who I managed to expose are Neil Record, a currency speculator and trustee of the oil and tobacco funded IEA; Lord Nigel Vinson, the industrialist, IEA stalwart and Brexiteer and also Lord Leach, who may or may not have shares in oil and gas. The Guardian also named Michael Hintze, who has handed millions to the Tories and donated to the Brexit campaign.


Lawson has said none of his funders have a “significant interest” in fossil fuels. However, the GWPF has benefited enormously from the non-pecuniary support of Lord Ridley, a member of its “academic advisory board” and AGM keynote speaker. Ridley enjoys an income from the two massive opencast coalmines on his family estate. As I reported for DeSmog UK, Ridley used to supply coal to a local power station until it was converted to biomass to comply with EU regulations.


A hard, right-wing, Dirty Brexit

 

Which all brings us back to Brexit. Lawson and Henderson when launching the GWPF spent considerable time networking and calling members of a particular political cohort: rich old men convinced by neoliberalism and ideologically opposed to almost all forms of regulation, and in particular environmental regulation.


These same men were the driving force behind the Vote Leave and Business for Britain campaigns. Ridley promoted BfB in the North East. He is brother-in-law to Owen Paterson, the one time Environment Secretary who set up Vision 2020 after a boozy dinner at the IEA with BP and British American Tobacco.


Graham Stringer, a right-wing Labour MP, has been a board member of Vote Leave and also a member of the board of trustees of the GWPF. Matthew Elliott is the former chief executive of Vote Leave and the founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. The TPA once had John Blundell on its advisory board, an employee of the oil baron Koch brothers who first imported climate denial to the UK when boss of the IEA.


Lawson was responsible for the Lawson boom. His economic prescription of financial deregulation arguably resulted in the 2008 economic crisis. Lord Ridley was the asleep-at-the-wheel chairman of Northern Rock, the collapse of which helped precipitated the crisis and last decade of economic hardship. Both men are now advocating a hard, right-wing, Dirty Brexit. Are they the best poeple to advise us on the risk associated with climate change?


This Author


Brendan Montague is contributing editor of The Ecologist, and tweets at @EcoMontague

 

Lawson’s climate denial met with ‘rapid, referenced and robust’ debunking

John Humphrys is a national treasurer who brings news of the latest world affairs to a bleary eyed nation with the BBC Today programme. Lord Lawson was once the nation’s treasurer, and today tours the newsrooms advocating climate denial and an isolationist Brexit.


The release of Al Gore’s latest film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, has put climate change firmly back on the agenda, including the fact coal, oil and gas companies have for decades paid public relations companies and front groups millions of dollars to attack the science of global warming.


Disappointing then, that a time-pressed researcher from the BBC would give the Global Warming Policy Foundation – which presents itself as a charity supported by politicians of all stripes – a call and that Lawson, its founder and chair of trustees for life would be made available for interview.


Unfortunately, Lawson is literally the last man in Britain who should be appearing on the country’s favourite source for balanced, intelligent daily news to discuss the issue of climate change. Not least, because he is precisely the kind of climate denier that Al Gore is trying to warn us about.


Lawson returned from political obscurity in the South of France to become Britain’s most effective climate denier and from there a leading proponent of a hard Brexit. This month he appointed Terence Mordaunt, owner of the Bristol Port Company and big time Leave donor, as director of his Global Warming Policy Forum (set up so Lawson could side step charity law).


Indeed, Lawson sits at the very centre of the climate-denying and Brexit-supporting web of wealthy industrialists, PR spivs and corporate sponsored think tanks operating out of the now notorious 55 Tufton Street.

 

The same old claptrap


The choice of Lawson by the Beeb has led to a Twitter storm of genuine outrage and concern. Professor Brian Cox, himself a BBC presenter and also a qualified scientist, attacked Lawson for amplifying “the same old claptrap”. He argued it was “irresponsible and highly misleading to give the impression that there is a meaningful debate about the science.”


Richard Black, the former BBC environment correspondent who was among the journalists to break the “Climategate” story, was equally scathing. He Tweeted, “tbf, opinions can be as inaccurate as you like. However, things presented as fact when they’re bollocks ought to be flagged up as so.”


The primary objection to Lawson’s appearance on the Today programme is simply that most of the claims and conjecture the former chancellor espoused are easily refuted. Black initiated a thread on Twitter with the “false statements” in the broadcast.


Lawson said Britain had “one of the the highest energy costs in the world”. Steve Smith, the head of science for Parliament’s Committee on Climate Change, provided a chart from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showing Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Austria all had higher energy costs than the UK.

 

Lawson went on to say that average global temperatures “have slightly declined” since 2007. Roz Pidcock, head of communications for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, provided a chart where NASA, UEA, NOAA, Berkeley, and raw data from temperature stations each registered a clear and deeply concerning rise in temperatures since 2000 (and indeed, since 1880).

Lawson stated “we don’t” subsidise fossil fuels, which is directly contradicted by a research paper published in the March 2017 issue of the World Development journal by David Coudy et al which found that “fossil fuel subsidies are large, amounting to 6.5 percent of global GDP in 2015.” This is $5.3 trillion. Among the more generous with subsidies is the European Union.

 

The wealthy and powerful


The online response to Lawson’s claims – especially by Carbon Brief – was rapid, referenced and robust. Black, who will have conducted hundreds of interviews broadcast by the BBC, concluded “usually this frequency of errors would bar a guest for lack of expertise”.


But the problem is the genie is already out of the bottle. Debunking climate denial myths is not as effective as we would like. It can even reinforce the false claim being made. The wealthy and powerful who benefited from Lawson’s housing boom and market deregulation are likely to trust him over a bearded, sandal-wearing climate activist.


Sarah Sands, this year appointed the new editor of Today, should never have allowed Lawson to appear on the programme in the first place. This is not about freedom of speech. This is a matter of upholding the standards BBC listeners expect and assume are in place when they trust the broadcaster.


I spent five years researching Lawson and the GWPF. I began from a place of being sceptical about what the Tory peer and architect of British neoliberalism would say about the biggest environmental issue of our times. But I was still shocked and angered by what I discovered.


Lawson was recruited to the climate denial campaign by a chap called David Henderson, an activist and advisor to the hard-line neoliberal think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs.


More intelligent that the average person


The IEA for decades accepted cash from tobacco companies while fighting the regulation of smoking, which still kills 100,000 people in Britain every year. The IEA also took money from oil while publishing the first reports to attack the science of climate change.


Lawson and Henderson travelled together to the US to meet the head of US think tanks also paid by tobacco and big oil. And then they set up the GWPF in the UK. Lawson frequently spoke alongside S Fred Singer, the US-based, oil and tobacco supported, granddaddy of climate denial. The GWPF has been represented at least one event alongside Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco, an event funded by the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.


Lawson has steadfastly refused to name the funders of the GWPF, even in defiance of his fellow Parliamentarians. His financial backers, he says, “tend to be richer than the average person and much more intelligent that the average person”.


Among the money men behind the GWPF who I managed to expose are Neil Record, a currency speculator and trustee of the oil and tobacco funded IEA; Lord Nigel Vinson, the industrialist, IEA stalwart and Brexiteer and also Lord Leach, who may or may not have shares in oil and gas. The Guardian also named Michael Hintze, who has handed millions to the Tories and donated to the Brexit campaign.


Lawson has said none of his funders have a “significant interest” in fossil fuels. However, the GWPF has benefited enormously from the non-pecuniary support of Lord Ridley, a member of its “academic advisory board” and AGM keynote speaker. Ridley enjoys an income from the two massive opencast coalmines on his family estate. As I reported for DeSmog UK, Ridley used to supply coal to a local power station until it was converted to biomass to comply with EU regulations.


A hard, right-wing, Dirty Brexit

 

Which all brings us back to Brexit. Lawson and Henderson when launching the GWPF spent considerable time networking and calling members of a particular political cohort: rich old men convinced by neoliberalism and ideologically opposed to almost all forms of regulation, and in particular environmental regulation.


These same men were the driving force behind the Vote Leave and Business for Britain campaigns. Ridley promoted BfB in the North East. He is brother-in-law to Owen Paterson, the one time Environment Secretary who set up Vision 2020 after a boozy dinner at the IEA with BP and British American Tobacco.


Graham Stringer, a right-wing Labour MP, has been a board member of Vote Leave and also a member of the board of trustees of the GWPF. Matthew Elliott is the former chief executive of Vote Leave and the founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. The TPA once had John Blundell on its advisory board, an employee of the oil baron Koch brothers who first imported climate denial to the UK when boss of the IEA.


Lawson was responsible for the Lawson boom. His economic prescription of financial deregulation arguably resulted in the 2008 economic crisis. Lord Ridley was the asleep-at-the-wheel chairman of Northern Rock, the collapse of which helped precipitated the crisis and last decade of economic hardship. Both men are now advocating a hard, right-wing, Dirty Brexit. Are they the best poeple to advise us on the risk associated with climate change?


This Author


Brendan Montague is contributing editor of The Ecologist, and tweets at @EcoMontague

 

Lawson’s climate denial met with ‘rapid, referenced and robust’ debunking

John Humphrys is a national treasurer who brings news of the latest world affairs to a bleary eyed nation with the BBC Today programme. Lord Lawson was once the nation’s treasurer, and today tours the newsrooms advocating climate denial and an isolationist Brexit.


The release of Al Gore’s latest film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, has put climate change firmly back on the agenda, including the fact coal, oil and gas companies have for decades paid public relations companies and front groups millions of dollars to attack the science of global warming.


Disappointing then, that a time-pressed researcher from the BBC would give the Global Warming Policy Foundation – which presents itself as a charity supported by politicians of all stripes – a call and that Lawson, its founder and chair of trustees for life would be made available for interview.


Unfortunately, Lawson is literally the last man in Britain who should be appearing on the country’s favourite source for balanced, intelligent daily news to discuss the issue of climate change. Not least, because he is precisely the kind of climate denier that Al Gore is trying to warn us about.


Lawson returned from political obscurity in the South of France to become Britain’s most effective climate denier and from there a leading proponent of a hard Brexit. This month he appointed Terence Mordaunt, owner of the Bristol Port Company and big time Leave donor, as director of his Global Warming Policy Forum (set up so Lawson could side step charity law).


Indeed, Lawson sits at the very centre of the climate-denying and Brexit-supporting web of wealthy industrialists, PR spivs and corporate sponsored think tanks operating out of the now notorious 55 Tufton Street.

 

The same old claptrap


The choice of Lawson by the Beeb has led to a Twitter storm of genuine outrage and concern. Professor Brian Cox, himself a BBC presenter and also a qualified scientist, attacked Lawson for amplifying “the same old claptrap”. He argued it was “irresponsible and highly misleading to give the impression that there is a meaningful debate about the science.”


Richard Black, the former BBC environment correspondent who was among the journalists to break the “Climategate” story, was equally scathing. He Tweeted, “tbf, opinions can be as inaccurate as you like. However, things presented as fact when they’re bollocks ought to be flagged up as so.”


The primary objection to Lawson’s appearance on the Today programme is simply that most of the claims and conjecture the former chancellor espoused are easily refuted. Black initiated a thread on Twitter with the “false statements” in the broadcast.


Lawson said Britain had “one of the the highest energy costs in the world”. Steve Smith, the head of science for Parliament’s Committee on Climate Change, provided a chart from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showing Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Austria all had higher energy costs than the UK.

 

Lawson went on to say that average global temperatures “have slightly declined” since 2007. Roz Pidcock, head of communications for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, provided a chart where NASA, UEA, NOAA, Berkeley, and raw data from temperature stations each registered a clear and deeply concerning rise in temperatures since 2000 (and indeed, since 1880).

Lawson stated “we don’t” subsidise fossil fuels, which is directly contradicted by a research paper published in the March 2017 issue of the World Development journal by David Coudy et al which found that “fossil fuel subsidies are large, amounting to 6.5 percent of global GDP in 2015.” This is $5.3 trillion. Among the more generous with subsidies is the European Union.

 

The wealthy and powerful


The online response to Lawson’s claims – especially by Carbon Brief – was rapid, referenced and robust. Black, who will have conducted hundreds of interviews broadcast by the BBC, concluded “usually this frequency of errors would bar a guest for lack of expertise”.


But the problem is the genie is already out of the bottle. Debunking climate denial myths is not as effective as we would like. It can even reinforce the false claim being made. The wealthy and powerful who benefited from Lawson’s housing boom and market deregulation are likely to trust him over a bearded, sandal-wearing climate activist.


Sarah Sands, this year appointed the new editor of Today, should never have allowed Lawson to appear on the programme in the first place. This is not about freedom of speech. This is a matter of upholding the standards BBC listeners expect and assume are in place when they trust the broadcaster.


I spent five years researching Lawson and the GWPF. I began from a place of being sceptical about what the Tory peer and architect of British neoliberalism would say about the biggest environmental issue of our times. But I was still shocked and angered by what I discovered.


Lawson was recruited to the climate denial campaign by a chap called David Henderson, an activist and advisor to the hard-line neoliberal think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs.


More intelligent that the average person


The IEA for decades accepted cash from tobacco companies while fighting the regulation of smoking, which still kills 100,000 people in Britain every year. The IEA also took money from oil while publishing the first reports to attack the science of climate change.


Lawson and Henderson travelled together to the US to meet the head of US think tanks also paid by tobacco and big oil. And then they set up the GWPF in the UK. Lawson frequently spoke alongside S Fred Singer, the US-based, oil and tobacco supported, granddaddy of climate denial. The GWPF has been represented at least one event alongside Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco, an event funded by the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.


Lawson has steadfastly refused to name the funders of the GWPF, even in defiance of his fellow Parliamentarians. His financial backers, he says, “tend to be richer than the average person and much more intelligent that the average person”.


Among the money men behind the GWPF who I managed to expose are Neil Record, a currency speculator and trustee of the oil and tobacco funded IEA; Lord Nigel Vinson, the industrialist, IEA stalwart and Brexiteer and also Lord Leach, who may or may not have shares in oil and gas. The Guardian also named Michael Hintze, who has handed millions to the Tories and donated to the Brexit campaign.


Lawson has said none of his funders have a “significant interest” in fossil fuels. However, the GWPF has benefited enormously from the non-pecuniary support of Lord Ridley, a member of its “academic advisory board” and AGM keynote speaker. Ridley enjoys an income from the two massive opencast coalmines on his family estate. As I reported for DeSmog UK, Ridley used to supply coal to a local power station until it was converted to biomass to comply with EU regulations.


A hard, right-wing, Dirty Brexit

 

Which all brings us back to Brexit. Lawson and Henderson when launching the GWPF spent considerable time networking and calling members of a particular political cohort: rich old men convinced by neoliberalism and ideologically opposed to almost all forms of regulation, and in particular environmental regulation.


These same men were the driving force behind the Vote Leave and Business for Britain campaigns. Ridley promoted BfB in the North East. He is brother-in-law to Owen Paterson, the one time Environment Secretary who set up Vision 2020 after a boozy dinner at the IEA with BP and British American Tobacco.


Graham Stringer, a right-wing Labour MP, has been a board member of Vote Leave and also a member of the board of trustees of the GWPF. Matthew Elliott is the former chief executive of Vote Leave and the founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. The TPA once had John Blundell on its advisory board, an employee of the oil baron Koch brothers who first imported climate denial to the UK when boss of the IEA.


Lawson was responsible for the Lawson boom. His economic prescription of financial deregulation arguably resulted in the 2008 economic crisis. Lord Ridley was the asleep-at-the-wheel chairman of Northern Rock, the collapse of which helped precipitated the crisis and last decade of economic hardship. Both men are now advocating a hard, right-wing, Dirty Brexit. Are they the best poeple to advise us on the risk associated with climate change?


This Author


Brendan Montague is contributing editor of The Ecologist, and tweets at @EcoMontague

 

Lawson’s climate denial met with ‘rapid, referenced and robust’ debunking

John Humphrys is a national treasurer who brings news of the latest world affairs to a bleary eyed nation with the BBC Today programme. Lord Lawson was once the nation’s treasurer, and today tours the newsrooms advocating climate denial and an isolationist Brexit.


The release of Al Gore’s latest film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, has put climate change firmly back on the agenda, including the fact coal, oil and gas companies have for decades paid public relations companies and front groups millions of dollars to attack the science of global warming.


Disappointing then, that a time-pressed researcher from the BBC would give the Global Warming Policy Foundation – which presents itself as a charity supported by politicians of all stripes – a call and that Lawson, its founder and chair of trustees for life would be made available for interview.


Unfortunately, Lawson is literally the last man in Britain who should be appearing on the country’s favourite source for balanced, intelligent daily news to discuss the issue of climate change. Not least, because he is precisely the kind of climate denier that Al Gore is trying to warn us about.


Lawson returned from political obscurity in the South of France to become Britain’s most effective climate denier and from there a leading proponent of a hard Brexit. This month he appointed Terence Mordaunt, owner of the Bristol Port Company and big time Leave donor, as director of his Global Warming Policy Forum (set up so Lawson could side step charity law).


Indeed, Lawson sits at the very centre of the climate-denying and Brexit-supporting web of wealthy industrialists, PR spivs and corporate sponsored think tanks operating out of the now notorious 55 Tufton Street.

 

The same old claptrap


The choice of Lawson by the Beeb has led to a Twitter storm of genuine outrage and concern. Professor Brian Cox, himself a BBC presenter and also a qualified scientist, attacked Lawson for amplifying “the same old claptrap”. He argued it was “irresponsible and highly misleading to give the impression that there is a meaningful debate about the science.”


Richard Black, the former BBC environment correspondent who was among the journalists to break the “Climategate” story, was equally scathing. He Tweeted, “tbf, opinions can be as inaccurate as you like. However, things presented as fact when they’re bollocks ought to be flagged up as so.”


The primary objection to Lawson’s appearance on the Today programme is simply that most of the claims and conjecture the former chancellor espoused are easily refuted. Black initiated a thread on Twitter with the “false statements” in the broadcast.


Lawson said Britain had “one of the the highest energy costs in the world”. Steve Smith, the head of science for Parliament’s Committee on Climate Change, provided a chart from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showing Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Austria all had higher energy costs than the UK.

 

Lawson went on to say that average global temperatures “have slightly declined” since 2007. Roz Pidcock, head of communications for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, provided a chart where NASA, UEA, NOAA, Berkeley, and raw data from temperature stations each registered a clear and deeply concerning rise in temperatures since 2000 (and indeed, since 1880).

Lawson stated “we don’t” subsidise fossil fuels, which is directly contradicted by a research paper published in the March 2017 issue of the World Development journal by David Coudy et al which found that “fossil fuel subsidies are large, amounting to 6.5 percent of global GDP in 2015.” This is $5.3 trillion. Among the more generous with subsidies is the European Union.

 

The wealthy and powerful


The online response to Lawson’s claims – especially by Carbon Brief – was rapid, referenced and robust. Black, who will have conducted hundreds of interviews broadcast by the BBC, concluded “usually this frequency of errors would bar a guest for lack of expertise”.


But the problem is the genie is already out of the bottle. Debunking climate denial myths is not as effective as we would like. It can even reinforce the false claim being made. The wealthy and powerful who benefited from Lawson’s housing boom and market deregulation are likely to trust him over a bearded, sandal-wearing climate activist.


Sarah Sands, this year appointed the new editor of Today, should never have allowed Lawson to appear on the programme in the first place. This is not about freedom of speech. This is a matter of upholding the standards BBC listeners expect and assume are in place when they trust the broadcaster.


I spent five years researching Lawson and the GWPF. I began from a place of being sceptical about what the Tory peer and architect of British neoliberalism would say about the biggest environmental issue of our times. But I was still shocked and angered by what I discovered.


Lawson was recruited to the climate denial campaign by a chap called David Henderson, an activist and advisor to the hard-line neoliberal think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs.


More intelligent that the average person


The IEA for decades accepted cash from tobacco companies while fighting the regulation of smoking, which still kills 100,000 people in Britain every year. The IEA also took money from oil while publishing the first reports to attack the science of climate change.


Lawson and Henderson travelled together to the US to meet the head of US think tanks also paid by tobacco and big oil. And then they set up the GWPF in the UK. Lawson frequently spoke alongside S Fred Singer, the US-based, oil and tobacco supported, granddaddy of climate denial. The GWPF has been represented at least one event alongside Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco, an event funded by the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.


Lawson has steadfastly refused to name the funders of the GWPF, even in defiance of his fellow Parliamentarians. His financial backers, he says, “tend to be richer than the average person and much more intelligent that the average person”.


Among the money men behind the GWPF who I managed to expose are Neil Record, a currency speculator and trustee of the oil and tobacco funded IEA; Lord Nigel Vinson, the industrialist, IEA stalwart and Brexiteer and also Lord Leach, who may or may not have shares in oil and gas. The Guardian also named Michael Hintze, who has handed millions to the Tories and donated to the Brexit campaign.


Lawson has said none of his funders have a “significant interest” in fossil fuels. However, the GWPF has benefited enormously from the non-pecuniary support of Lord Ridley, a member of its “academic advisory board” and AGM keynote speaker. Ridley enjoys an income from the two massive opencast coalmines on his family estate. As I reported for DeSmog UK, Ridley used to supply coal to a local power station until it was converted to biomass to comply with EU regulations.


A hard, right-wing, Dirty Brexit

 

Which all brings us back to Brexit. Lawson and Henderson when launching the GWPF spent considerable time networking and calling members of a particular political cohort: rich old men convinced by neoliberalism and ideologically opposed to almost all forms of regulation, and in particular environmental regulation.


These same men were the driving force behind the Vote Leave and Business for Britain campaigns. Ridley promoted BfB in the North East. He is brother-in-law to Owen Paterson, the one time Environment Secretary who set up Vision 2020 after a boozy dinner at the IEA with BP and British American Tobacco.


Graham Stringer, a right-wing Labour MP, has been a board member of Vote Leave and also a member of the board of trustees of the GWPF. Matthew Elliott is the former chief executive of Vote Leave and the founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. The TPA once had John Blundell on its advisory board, an employee of the oil baron Koch brothers who first imported climate denial to the UK when boss of the IEA.


Lawson was responsible for the Lawson boom. His economic prescription of financial deregulation arguably resulted in the 2008 economic crisis. Lord Ridley was the asleep-at-the-wheel chairman of Northern Rock, the collapse of which helped precipitated the crisis and last decade of economic hardship. Both men are now advocating a hard, right-wing, Dirty Brexit. Are they the best poeple to advise us on the risk associated with climate change?


This Author


Brendan Montague is contributing editor of The Ecologist, and tweets at @EcoMontague

 

Lawson’s climate denial met with ‘rapid, referenced and robust’ debunking

John Humphrys is a national treasurer who brings news of the latest world affairs to a bleary eyed nation with the BBC Today programme. Lord Lawson was once the nation’s treasurer, and today tours the newsrooms advocating climate denial and an isolationist Brexit.


The release of Al Gore’s latest film, An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, has put climate change firmly back on the agenda, including the fact coal, oil and gas companies have for decades paid public relations companies and front groups millions of dollars to attack the science of global warming.


Disappointing then, that a time-pressed researcher from the BBC would give the Global Warming Policy Foundation – which presents itself as a charity supported by politicians of all stripes – a call and that Lawson, its founder and chair of trustees for life would be made available for interview.


Unfortunately, Lawson is literally the last man in Britain who should be appearing on the country’s favourite source for balanced, intelligent daily news to discuss the issue of climate change. Not least, because he is precisely the kind of climate denier that Al Gore is trying to warn us about.


Lawson returned from political obscurity in the South of France to become Britain’s most effective climate denier and from there a leading proponent of a hard Brexit. This month he appointed Terence Mordaunt, owner of the Bristol Port Company and big time Leave donor, as director of his Global Warming Policy Forum (set up so Lawson could side step charity law).


Indeed, Lawson sits at the very centre of the climate-denying and Brexit-supporting web of wealthy industrialists, PR spivs and corporate sponsored think tanks operating out of the now notorious 55 Tufton Street.

 

The same old claptrap


The choice of Lawson by the Beeb has led to a Twitter storm of genuine outrage and concern. Professor Brian Cox, himself a BBC presenter and also a qualified scientist, attacked Lawson for amplifying “the same old claptrap”. He argued it was “irresponsible and highly misleading to give the impression that there is a meaningful debate about the science.”


Richard Black, the former BBC environment correspondent who was among the journalists to break the “Climategate” story, was equally scathing. He Tweeted, “tbf, opinions can be as inaccurate as you like. However, things presented as fact when they’re bollocks ought to be flagged up as so.”


The primary objection to Lawson’s appearance on the Today programme is simply that most of the claims and conjecture the former chancellor espoused are easily refuted. Black initiated a thread on Twitter with the “false statements” in the broadcast.


Lawson said Britain had “one of the the highest energy costs in the world”. Steve Smith, the head of science for Parliament’s Committee on Climate Change, provided a chart from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showing Denmark, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Ireland, Spain and Austria all had higher energy costs than the UK.

 

Lawson went on to say that average global temperatures “have slightly declined” since 2007. Roz Pidcock, head of communications for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, provided a chart where NASA, UEA, NOAA, Berkeley, and raw data from temperature stations each registered a clear and deeply concerning rise in temperatures since 2000 (and indeed, since 1880).

Lawson stated “we don’t” subsidise fossil fuels, which is directly contradicted by a research paper published in the March 2017 issue of the World Development journal by David Coudy et al which found that “fossil fuel subsidies are large, amounting to 6.5 percent of global GDP in 2015.” This is $5.3 trillion. Among the more generous with subsidies is the European Union.

 

The wealthy and powerful


The online response to Lawson’s claims – especially by Carbon Brief – was rapid, referenced and robust. Black, who will have conducted hundreds of interviews broadcast by the BBC, concluded “usually this frequency of errors would bar a guest for lack of expertise”.


But the problem is the genie is already out of the bottle. Debunking climate denial myths is not as effective as we would like. It can even reinforce the false claim being made. The wealthy and powerful who benefited from Lawson’s housing boom and market deregulation are likely to trust him over a bearded, sandal-wearing climate activist.


Sarah Sands, this year appointed the new editor of Today, should never have allowed Lawson to appear on the programme in the first place. This is not about freedom of speech. This is a matter of upholding the standards BBC listeners expect and assume are in place when they trust the broadcaster.


I spent five years researching Lawson and the GWPF. I began from a place of being sceptical about what the Tory peer and architect of British neoliberalism would say about the biggest environmental issue of our times. But I was still shocked and angered by what I discovered.


Lawson was recruited to the climate denial campaign by a chap called David Henderson, an activist and advisor to the hard-line neoliberal think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs.


More intelligent that the average person


The IEA for decades accepted cash from tobacco companies while fighting the regulation of smoking, which still kills 100,000 people in Britain every year. The IEA also took money from oil while publishing the first reports to attack the science of climate change.


Lawson and Henderson travelled together to the US to meet the head of US think tanks also paid by tobacco and big oil. And then they set up the GWPF in the UK. Lawson frequently spoke alongside S Fred Singer, the US-based, oil and tobacco supported, granddaddy of climate denial. The GWPF has been represented at least one event alongside Philip Morris and Imperial Tobacco, an event funded by the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation.


Lawson has steadfastly refused to name the funders of the GWPF, even in defiance of his fellow Parliamentarians. His financial backers, he says, “tend to be richer than the average person and much more intelligent that the average person”.


Among the money men behind the GWPF who I managed to expose are Neil Record, a currency speculator and trustee of the oil and tobacco funded IEA; Lord Nigel Vinson, the industrialist, IEA stalwart and Brexiteer and also Lord Leach, who may or may not have shares in oil and gas. The Guardian also named Michael Hintze, who has handed millions to the Tories and donated to the Brexit campaign.


Lawson has said none of his funders have a “significant interest” in fossil fuels. However, the GWPF has benefited enormously from the non-pecuniary support of Lord Ridley, a member of its “academic advisory board” and AGM keynote speaker. Ridley enjoys an income from the two massive opencast coalmines on his family estate. As I reported for DeSmog UK, Ridley used to supply coal to a local power station until it was converted to biomass to comply with EU regulations.


A hard, right-wing, Dirty Brexit

 

Which all brings us back to Brexit. Lawson and Henderson when launching the GWPF spent considerable time networking and calling members of a particular political cohort: rich old men convinced by neoliberalism and ideologically opposed to almost all forms of regulation, and in particular environmental regulation.


These same men were the driving force behind the Vote Leave and Business for Britain campaigns. Ridley promoted BfB in the North East. He is brother-in-law to Owen Paterson, the one time Environment Secretary who set up Vision 2020 after a boozy dinner at the IEA with BP and British American Tobacco.


Graham Stringer, a right-wing Labour MP, has been a board member of Vote Leave and also a member of the board of trustees of the GWPF. Matthew Elliott is the former chief executive of Vote Leave and the founder of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. The TPA once had John Blundell on its advisory board, an employee of the oil baron Koch brothers who first imported climate denial to the UK when boss of the IEA.


Lawson was responsible for the Lawson boom. His economic prescription of financial deregulation arguably resulted in the 2008 economic crisis. Lord Ridley was the asleep-at-the-wheel chairman of Northern Rock, the collapse of which helped precipitated the crisis and last decade of economic hardship. Both men are now advocating a hard, right-wing, Dirty Brexit. Are they the best poeple to advise us on the risk associated with climate change?


This Author


Brendan Montague is contributing editor of The Ecologist, and tweets at @EcoMontague

 

Does Game of Thrones contain a Stark warning about global warming?

Many people who care about climate change often complain that although the issue may get discussed in the inside pages of serious news publications it rarely cuts through to popular culture. For something as momentous as humans threatening the habitability of the only planet suitable for human habitation, climate change hasn’t really had the airtime one would expect.

However, scratch under the surface and we can see that one of the biggest small screen blockbusters of the last few years, Game of Thrones, is an almost perfect metaphor for the politics of the climate crisis.  

The popular adaptation of author George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic A Song of Ice and Fire has been showing its potential as a modern-day climate fable, but it really hit home last week.

In the seventh season’s third episode, The Queen’s Justice, hero Jon Snow, asks Tyrion Lannister: “How do I convince people who don’t know me that an enemy they don’t believe in is coming to kill them all?” Well quite Jon. We environmentalists feel your pain.

Winter Is Coming

Now this next bit contains a few spoilers (of the TV show, not the fate of the planet) so if you’re planning to catch up with the series you might want to stop reading here.

The threat to which Jon Snow refers are the White Walkers, the spectral horrors from beyond The Wall who command an insatiable army of the undead that are destroying all before them and are threatening the land of Westeros. 

Snow has during a foray north witnessed first-hand their destructive might and now seeks to warn his fellow humans of the danger they are in.  This peril from the icy reaches north of the wall even has a climactic warning: ‘Winter is coming’ caution the members of House Stark.

However, Snow’s desperate pleas and warnings of doom fail to move Dragon Queen Daenerys Targaryen, who has her sights set on conquering Westeros and taking the the Iron Throne from the cruel Cersei Lannister.

An allegorical climate change point

The endless infighting between the various factions of Westeros, at each other’s throats in a bid for power while ignoring the existential threat to the north, feels remarkably similar to the state of global climate politics. Some of the leaders of the great houses even deny the existence of White Walkers altogether.

This echoes the attitude to climate change we now hear from Donald Trump and the leaders in America’s House of Representatives .  As with the global climate fight, the question in Game of Thrones remains: will the Westerosi unite in time to tackle their real foe?

I don’t know if the series is deliberately making an allegorical climate change point but it raises the question about how we best communicate the problem.  

When Jon Snow asks what he can do to convince people of the danger they are in, Tyrion gives the following reply: “People’s minds aren’t made for problems that large. White walkers, the Night King, Army of the Dead, it’s almost a relief to confront a comfortable, familiar monster like my sister.”  

He says of Daenerys: “She’s not about to head north to fight an enemy she’s never seen on the word of a man she doesn’t know. After a single meeting, it’s not a reasonable thing to ask. So, do you have anything reasonable to ask?”

For many people, climate change is too big to fully grasp or feel like they can do anything about it. And like someone drowning in debt and unpaid bills, even if they did, it’s so horrible it’s simpler to try and ignore it and hope the problem goes away. 

The messenger and the message

The debate rages about the best way to communicate climate change, the latest wave most recently sparked by a striking but doom-laden article in New York Magazine.  I think there is a place for the ‘stark’ warning, but it’s important people retain a sense of agency and hope.

The two best things I’ve learned about communicating global warming were from George Marshall of Climate Outreach, who wrote the book Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains Are Wired to Ignore Climate Change.  

First, the messenger is often as important as the message.  Jon Snow’s message might be clear (the White Walkers are coming to kill you all) but it’s not likely that he’s going to convince many people who don’t already believe him to be a trustworthy source.

Likewise, anti-capitalist climate activists are unlikely to be the best messengers to convince centre-right conservatives, however much they shout about climate justice (especially not if their message involves replacing markets with a socialist revolution). 

The second thing is to communicate that acting on climate change doesn’t mean you have to become a sandal wearing hippy. Instead, acting on climate change makes them more like the person they want to be, whether that is a better Muslim, capitalist or grandparent.  

Not everyone wants to identify as an environmentalist and they don’t have to. The Lannisters don’t need to become Starks in order to fight the White Walkers, but they do both need to act.

The fate of Westeros remains up for grabs, as does the human story of climate change.  There is all to play for if we can get the message right.

This Author 

Joe Ware is a journalist and writer at Christian Aid and a New Voices contributor for The Ecologist. Follow him on twitter @wareisjoe.

 

How borrowing could become the new buying – and help save the planet

A crowd-funded project located in a shipping container in South London has ambitious plans to expand nation-wide and change the future of consumption. 

The first Library of Things was set up by three friends who spotted a ‘borrowing shop’ while on a trip to Berlin. Inspired by the idea, they set up a pilot in a library in West Norwood and when this proved a success, they moved to a permanent home in a shipping container. 

Membership is free, and potential borrowers can browse all the products and check availability on the library’s website before loaning them for a small fee, for example, typically between £1-£24 for a two-day loan, with discounts for low-income members.

Crucially, the Library of Things does not stop at lending a product, the organisers can also train borrowers on how to use it. “If you haven’t used tools before then it can boost your confidence in having someone to ask questions from and demonstrate how you use it. You don’t get that with Amazon!” said co-founder Rebecca Trevalyan.

In this way, the library is also performing a social function by saving people money they would otherwise spend on a handyman. The sense of achievement people feel once they’ve learned how to do something themselves is palpable, Trevalyan said, describing a lady who had never used a drill before as “beaming” when she returned it, having put her curtain rail up by herself.

Developing technology

One of the main challenges Trevalyan found in setting up the library was the tendency for many practical products of the type it loans to not be designed for regular use and prone to breakage.

“We’re starting to fill an internal database of go-to products,” she said, mentioning tools manufacturer Bosch, cleaning equipment manufacturer Kärcher, and outdoors companies Berghaus and Patagonia as good examples. 

After a year in operation, the library has 650 members who borrowed more than 1,000 items, with a 35% month-on-month increase in borrowing. A new Library of Things is due to open in nearby Crystal Palace, which has raised more than £8,000 of the £9,000 it needs including donations from the Mayor of London, B&Q and local businesses. Other projects are under development at the Westway in West London and in a community hub in a housing estate in Peterborough. 

Having had hundreds of requests from around the country and abroad for help setting up Libraries of Things, the West Norwood team is also developing technology to help people learn from their experience of setting up the first one, which Trevalyan admits was a “year-long slog”. 

Their ambition is for a network of libraries around the country, with products available 24-7 via lockers using smart technology that people can access on their phones.

“If we get it right, you could borrow a drill where you live, but if you visit your grandmother in another city you can borrow one there too, so it’s all linked up through one platform, you just join the library of things as you would join car share club Zipcar,” she said.  

Allowing people to borrow products in such a way will not only be more convenient for them, but will also free up limited resources of library organisers for other activities such skills sharing events, she added.

 

“That’s increasingly become our mission, to make borrowing better than buying – more affordable, more convenient and more socially rewarding,” she said.

This Author

Catherine Early is a freelance environmental journalist and the former deputy editor of the environmentalist. She can be found tweeting at @Cat_Early76.

 

Indian authorities accused of ‘drowning the homes of 40,000 families’

International support is today pouring in for the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) movement defending the interests of the people affected by several big dams in India’s Narmada valley. 

 

A letter signed by civil society organisations from 29 countries has been sent to Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, asking him to order the reopening of floodgates closed last month. If he doesn’t act, another 192 villages inhabited by some 40,000 families will be deluged between now and the end of this month. 

 

The NBA movement’s earlier actions resulted in the first ever withdrawal from a dam project by the World Bank – and a sense of some justice served for around 14,000 families. But things have taken a sour turn this summer. 

 

Local authorities not only decided to unlawfully close the dam’s floodgates in order to store more water, they also arrested hundreds of peacefully demonstrating people under what the protesters claim are false charges. 

 

The authorities issued a 31 July deadline for locals to move – thus adding around 200,000 to India’s long list of internally displaced people. 

 

Shoddy tin sheds

 

In response, twelve people began an indefinite hunger strike on July 27. On Thursday last week they were joined by hundreds of others. 

 

The vast majority of the 40,000 families who are witnessing the drowning of their homes and communities simply have nowhere to go. The few rehabilitation projects that do exist consist of shoddy tin sheds with no drinking water. 

 

Sneha Gutgutia, an activist from Kalpavriksh, and supporter of the NBA movement, wrote: “The government claims to respect the traditional and customary practices of the people but it doesn’t even have a plan for resettling the 385 religious sites that will be submerged. ‘If they cannot provide a block for our gods, what resettlement will they do for us?’ is the question villagers are asking.”

 

Medha Patkar (62), who spearheaded the NBA movement and has won several international awards for her efforts, is on hunger strike. Yesterday was her eleventh day without food and her health was clearly deteriorating. 

 

Displaced by force

 

Patkar is just one of many hunger strikers. Yogendra Yadav, Sandeep Pandey, Dr. Sunilam and Alok Agarwal are other participants who have a high profile across India. The hope of the movement is that the Indian government doesn’t want to risk a national – and maybe even international – embarrassment.

 

To understand the motivation and risk-taking of the Indian hunger strikers, it’s important to look beyond the hundreds of thousands who have been, or are about to be, displaced by force. It’s more about the lack of real rehabilitation, compensation and the massive corruption. 

 

The Supreme Court of India clearly stated that resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected families has to be complete before any forcible displacement is directed. 

 

Closing the floodgates is a de facto method of forcible eviction and therefore in contradiction with the court’s order. 

 

To make things worse, a report from the Justice Shravan Shankar Jha Commission concluded in 2016 that at least 130 to 200 million euro meant for rehabilitation ended up in the pockets of fraudulent middle-men.

 

It’s about more than a dam

 

History has shown that this struggle is about a lot more than compensation. It was the NBA movement that eventually led to the formation of the World Commission on Dams. 

 

The NBA has raised the issues of the rights of indigenous people, advocated for environmental conservation and for the protection of centuries’ old archaeological monuments from submergence.

 

The NBA has also significantly contributed to the debate around ‘development’: what kind of development do people in India want – and for whom? 

 

Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winning Indian economist, famously said that “development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency.” Forced evictions only add to the list of ‘unfreedoms’.

 

Ashish Kothari, the chairman of Greenpeace India and a long-time NBA ally, explained that the movement is not just against dams.

 

He told The Ecologist: “What the NBA stands for is an economy that ensures dignified livelihoods, social justice, and ecological sustainability, and in particular an economy that benefits the hundreds of millions of people who have been left behind or displaced by the kind of ‘development’ that the Sardar Sarovar Dam represents.” 

 

Ashish is also part of the European research project EnvJustice, which expressed its support to the hunger strikers and demands of the NBA movement.

 

The way forward

 

The NBA has led the immediate demand to re-open the floodgates. But it has also called for a comprehensive investigation so that villagers made homeless by the dam project are rehoused and compensated before the project begins. This merely implements the orders of the Supreme Court. 

 

The NBA also demands benefits be paid to farmers, in line with the Supreme Court orders. The movement has also called for the formation of a committee to assess the impact on the environment, rivers and forests by submergence, and also the impacts further downriver.

 

Noam Chomsky, the philosopher and activist, has expressed support for the NBA petition to Modi, saying action was “essential to ensure the faith of people in non-violent, democratic and constitutional governance and struggle for their rights”. 

 

Will Modi respond? With hundreds of his citizens in a nationally – and now also globally – publicised hunger strike, we will probably soon find out.

 

The Ecologist contacted the Indian High Commission in London yesterday but as yet there has been no response.

 

This Author

 

Nick Meynen is the Project Officer for Global Policies and Sustainability at the European Environmental Bureau. 

 

Indian authorities accused of ‘drowning the homes of 40,000 families’

International support is today pouring in for the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) movement defending the interests of the people affected by several big dams in India’s Narmada valley. 

 

A letter signed by civil society organisations from 29 countries has been sent to Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, asking him to order the reopening of floodgates closed last month. If he doesn’t act, another 192 villages inhabited by some 40,000 families will be deluged between now and the end of this month. 

 

The NBA movement’s earlier actions resulted in the first ever withdrawal from a dam project by the World Bank – and a sense of some justice served for around 14,000 families. But things have taken a sour turn this summer. 

 

Local authorities not only decided to unlawfully close the dam’s floodgates in order to store more water, they also arrested hundreds of peacefully demonstrating people under what the protesters claim are false charges. 

 

The authorities issued a 31 July deadline for locals to move – thus adding around 200,000 to India’s long list of internally displaced people. 

 

Shoddy tin sheds

 

In response, twelve people began an indefinite hunger strike on July 27. On Thursday last week they were joined by hundreds of others. 

 

The vast majority of the 40,000 families who are witnessing the drowning of their homes and communities simply have nowhere to go. The few rehabilitation projects that do exist consist of shoddy tin sheds with no drinking water. 

 

Sneha Gutgutia, an activist from Kalpavriksh, and supporter of the NBA movement, wrote: “The government claims to respect the traditional and customary practices of the people but it doesn’t even have a plan for resettling the 385 religious sites that will be submerged. ‘If they cannot provide a block for our gods, what resettlement will they do for us?’ is the question villagers are asking.”

 

Medha Patkar (62), who spearheaded the NBA movement and has won several international awards for her efforts, is on hunger strike. Yesterday was her eleventh day without food and her health was clearly deteriorating. 

 

Displaced by force

 

Patkar is just one of many hunger strikers. Yogendra Yadav, Sandeep Pandey, Dr. Sunilam and Alok Agarwal are other participants who have a high profile across India. The hope of the movement is that the Indian government doesn’t want to risk a national – and maybe even international – embarrassment.

 

To understand the motivation and risk-taking of the Indian hunger strikers, it’s important to look beyond the hundreds of thousands who have been, or are about to be, displaced by force. It’s more about the lack of real rehabilitation, compensation and the massive corruption. 

 

The Supreme Court of India clearly stated that resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected families has to be complete before any forcible displacement is directed. 

 

Closing the floodgates is a de facto method of forcible eviction and therefore in contradiction with the court’s order. 

 

To make things worse, a report from the Justice Shravan Shankar Jha Commission concluded in 2016 that at least 130 to 200 million euro meant for rehabilitation ended up in the pockets of fraudulent middle-men.

 

It’s about more than a dam

 

History has shown that this struggle is about a lot more than compensation. It was the NBA movement that eventually led to the formation of the World Commission on Dams. 

 

The NBA has raised the issues of the rights of indigenous people, advocated for environmental conservation and for the protection of centuries’ old archaeological monuments from submergence.

 

The NBA has also significantly contributed to the debate around ‘development’: what kind of development do people in India want – and for whom? 

 

Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winning Indian economist, famously said that “development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency.” Forced evictions only add to the list of ‘unfreedoms’.

 

Ashish Kothari, the chairman of Greenpeace India and a long-time NBA ally, explained that the movement is not just against dams.

 

He told The Ecologist: “What the NBA stands for is an economy that ensures dignified livelihoods, social justice, and ecological sustainability, and in particular an economy that benefits the hundreds of millions of people who have been left behind or displaced by the kind of ‘development’ that the Sardar Sarovar Dam represents.” 

 

Ashish is also part of the European research project EnvJustice, which expressed its support to the hunger strikers and demands of the NBA movement.

 

The way forward

 

The NBA has led the immediate demand to re-open the floodgates. But it has also called for a comprehensive investigation so that villagers made homeless by the dam project are rehoused and compensated before the project begins. This merely implements the orders of the Supreme Court. 

 

The NBA also demands benefits be paid to farmers, in line with the Supreme Court orders. The movement has also called for the formation of a committee to assess the impact on the environment, rivers and forests by submergence, and also the impacts further downriver.

 

Noam Chomsky, the philosopher and activist, has expressed support for the NBA petition to Modi, saying action was “essential to ensure the faith of people in non-violent, democratic and constitutional governance and struggle for their rights”. 

 

Will Modi respond? With hundreds of his citizens in a nationally – and now also globally – publicised hunger strike, we will probably soon find out.

 

The Ecologist contacted the Indian High Commission in London yesterday but as yet there has been no response.

 

This Author

 

Nick Meynen is the Project Officer for Global Policies and Sustainability at the European Environmental Bureau. 

 

Indian authorities accused of ‘drowning the homes of 40,000 families’

International support is today pouring in for the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) movement defending the interests of the people affected by several big dams in India’s Narmada valley. 

 

A letter signed by civil society organisations from 29 countries has been sent to Narendra Modi, India’s Prime Minister, asking him to order the reopening of floodgates closed last month. If he doesn’t act, another 192 villages inhabited by some 40,000 families will be deluged between now and the end of this month. 

 

The NBA movement’s earlier actions resulted in the first ever withdrawal from a dam project by the World Bank – and a sense of some justice served for around 14,000 families. But things have taken a sour turn this summer. 

 

Local authorities not only decided to unlawfully close the dam’s floodgates in order to store more water, they also arrested hundreds of peacefully demonstrating people under what the protesters claim are false charges. 

 

The authorities issued a 31 July deadline for locals to move – thus adding around 200,000 to India’s long list of internally displaced people. 

 

Shoddy tin sheds

 

In response, twelve people began an indefinite hunger strike on July 27. On Thursday last week they were joined by hundreds of others. 

 

The vast majority of the 40,000 families who are witnessing the drowning of their homes and communities simply have nowhere to go. The few rehabilitation projects that do exist consist of shoddy tin sheds with no drinking water. 

 

Sneha Gutgutia, an activist from Kalpavriksh, and supporter of the NBA movement, wrote: “The government claims to respect the traditional and customary practices of the people but it doesn’t even have a plan for resettling the 385 religious sites that will be submerged. ‘If they cannot provide a block for our gods, what resettlement will they do for us?’ is the question villagers are asking.”

 

Medha Patkar (62), who spearheaded the NBA movement and has won several international awards for her efforts, is on hunger strike. Yesterday was her eleventh day without food and her health was clearly deteriorating. 

 

Displaced by force

 

Patkar is just one of many hunger strikers. Yogendra Yadav, Sandeep Pandey, Dr. Sunilam and Alok Agarwal are other participants who have a high profile across India. The hope of the movement is that the Indian government doesn’t want to risk a national – and maybe even international – embarrassment.

 

To understand the motivation and risk-taking of the Indian hunger strikers, it’s important to look beyond the hundreds of thousands who have been, or are about to be, displaced by force. It’s more about the lack of real rehabilitation, compensation and the massive corruption. 

 

The Supreme Court of India clearly stated that resettlement and rehabilitation of the affected families has to be complete before any forcible displacement is directed. 

 

Closing the floodgates is a de facto method of forcible eviction and therefore in contradiction with the court’s order. 

 

To make things worse, a report from the Justice Shravan Shankar Jha Commission concluded in 2016 that at least 130 to 200 million euro meant for rehabilitation ended up in the pockets of fraudulent middle-men.

 

It’s about more than a dam

 

History has shown that this struggle is about a lot more than compensation. It was the NBA movement that eventually led to the formation of the World Commission on Dams. 

 

The NBA has raised the issues of the rights of indigenous people, advocated for environmental conservation and for the protection of centuries’ old archaeological monuments from submergence.

 

The NBA has also significantly contributed to the debate around ‘development’: what kind of development do people in India want – and for whom? 

 

Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize winning Indian economist, famously said that “development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency.” Forced evictions only add to the list of ‘unfreedoms’.

 

Ashish Kothari, the chairman of Greenpeace India and a long-time NBA ally, explained that the movement is not just against dams.

 

He told The Ecologist: “What the NBA stands for is an economy that ensures dignified livelihoods, social justice, and ecological sustainability, and in particular an economy that benefits the hundreds of millions of people who have been left behind or displaced by the kind of ‘development’ that the Sardar Sarovar Dam represents.” 

 

Ashish is also part of the European research project EnvJustice, which expressed its support to the hunger strikers and demands of the NBA movement.

 

The way forward

 

The NBA has led the immediate demand to re-open the floodgates. But it has also called for a comprehensive investigation so that villagers made homeless by the dam project are rehoused and compensated before the project begins. This merely implements the orders of the Supreme Court. 

 

The NBA also demands benefits be paid to farmers, in line with the Supreme Court orders. The movement has also called for the formation of a committee to assess the impact on the environment, rivers and forests by submergence, and also the impacts further downriver.

 

Noam Chomsky, the philosopher and activist, has expressed support for the NBA petition to Modi, saying action was “essential to ensure the faith of people in non-violent, democratic and constitutional governance and struggle for their rights”. 

 

Will Modi respond? With hundreds of his citizens in a nationally – and now also globally – publicised hunger strike, we will probably soon find out.

 

The Ecologist contacted the Indian High Commission in London yesterday but as yet there has been no response.

 

This Author

 

Nick Meynen is the Project Officer for Global Policies and Sustainability at the European Environmental Bureau.