Dear Professor Vahrenholt,
I write to you as a conservation scientist, having spent my career working to stop the decline of nature across the world. I have read some of your work, and like you I am concerned about the potential impacts of rapid decarbonisation on the natural world, particularly if renewable energy infrastructure is rolled out without sufficient care for the conservation of biodiversity. I have written about this issue in the journal Nature Communications.
However, I am concerned by your affiliation with, and trusteeship of, the notorious climate denial organisation the Global Warming Policy Foundation. From your works that I have seen, you have a range of concerns about some specific aspects of climate science and policy, as well as the sometimes-exaggerated interpretation of the science (e.g. claims that all life will go extinct within a few years). I share some of these concerns with you and agree that some of the issues you have highlighted, such as an over-reliance on modelling results, merit serious discussion. You appear to have genuine interest in the discussion of serious scientific and public policy issues.
However, your association with the GWPF discredits and delegitimises your arguments before they are even made. The GWPF is not a serious forum for the discussion of scientific and policy issues, but a lobby group which – despite revelations of funding by US ‘dark money’ interests linked to fossil fuels – has always refused to disclose who funds it. It is shrouded in secrecy, driven by an agenda rather than evidence, and appears to serve only to muddy and obstruct serious discussions on our responses to climate change, rather than facilitate or clarify them. It is profoundly unscientific, and any association with it seriously taints the name and reputation of any scientist.
Furthermore, in an interview with Der Spiegel you have said that “renewable energy is near and dear to me, and I’ve been fighting for its expansion for more than 30 years”. You also state, on your website, that you have “no doubt that in the long run we need to move away from fossil fuels because of CO2-related warming.”
However, just today in the UK, the GWPF urged the government to “recommit to fossil fuels”, by granting “consent for a new fleet of coal fired power stations” and “vigorous support of both further exploration in the North Sea, and onshore through the hydraulic fracturing for both natural gas and oil.”
Technology evolves, and you have played an important role in the transition from dirty, polluting fossil fuels to cleaner, cheaper technologies, yet this impact is devalued by your trusteeship of an organisation that seeks to undermine that progress, rewind the clock, and ensure we remain locked in the dark ages of fossil fuel addiction.
Last year Germany suffered deadly floods as a result of climate change, and this year deadly heat. These and other climate-related disasters have cost Germany – and the German people – €6.6 Billion, on average, every year for the last 20 years. At a time when climate disasters are gripping Europe and society is beginning to revoke the social license that fossil fuels enjoy, this is no time to be siding with those who seek to prevent our transition to a fossil-free world.
Since your association with the GWPF diminishes your scientific standing and the organisation works to undermine your passion for the energy transition, I invite you to stand down from your position as trustee.
I would be happy to discuss this in person should that be of any interest
Charlie Gardner PhD, FRSA
CALL TO ACTION
We consider the GWPF to be the climate denial arm of the dark money and fossil fuel lobby network based in London’s infamous Tufton Street, whose close connections to the government make it a significant obstacle to progress in addressing the climate emergency. If you feel the same, let the GWPF know by emailing email@example.com (FAO Fritz Vahrenholt), and cc’ing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dr Charlie Gardner is a conservation scientist and activist working at the intersection of climate change and the ecological crisis. He is an Associate Senior Lecturer at the Durrell Institute for Conservation and Ecology and member of Scientist Rebellion.