‘Lukewarmer propaganda’: Climate change deniers’ ‘rebrand’ sparks concern

Claims that a prominent climate change denial group has rebranded as Net Zero Watch has incited concern and warnings over group’s objectives and dubious climate science messages.

Warnings made about newly formed group of climate change sceptics

Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF), a UK lobby group focused on challenging “extremely damaging and harmful policies” envisaged by governments to mitigate the human impact of global warming, has purportedly rebranded as Net Zero Watch (NZW).

The GWPF was founded in November 2009 and was headquartered at Tufton Street in London, a Westminster building home to a network of organisations, including pro-Brexit thinktanks and lobby groups.

Newly founded Net Zero Watch claims it was set up, like GWPF, to “highlight and discuss the serious implications of expensive and poorly considered climate change policies.”  

Among NZW’s board members is Lord Nigel Lawson, founder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation and Benny Peiser, director of the GWPF.

The group calls for a “balanced and open debate” on climate science and climate policies

“We are concerned that a narrow ‘groupthink’ and cancel culture is limiting the discussion and preventing important issues and concerns being scrutinised. Net Zero Watch will be campaigning for more balanced and transparent scrutiny of climate science and policy research,” the group asserts on its website.

Don’t be ‘fooled’ by the rebrand

Warnings have been made for the public not to be “fooled” by the rebrand and that it is the “latest tactic” from the “same old climate change deniers.”  

In its latest ‘executive summary’, Net Zero Watch critiques the government’s proposal to drive natural gas boilers out of the market by 2031 by replacing them with heat pumps, which use electricity. According to the group, “heat pumps simply aren’t up to the job” and that a “gas boiler ban by 2035 would be a backwards step.”

“They [heat pumps] cost about £10,000 or more to buy and install, and in many cases require significant and expensive home energy efficiency upgrades to work effectively. Even after all this expense, they may not heat homes to an acceptable standard. We should not be subsidising them,” writes Net Zero Watch.

The campaign group’s comments counter the government’s Heat and Buildings strategy that was announced on October 18. The strategy sets out plans to incentivise people to install low-carbon heating systems in what it refers to as a “simple, fair and cheap way as they come to replace their old boilers in the coming decade.”

“This will significantly reduce the UK’s dependency on fossil fuels and exposure to global price spikes, whilst supporting up to 240,000 jobs across the UK by 2035,” the government asserts.  

Group accuses government of ‘misleading’ Net Zero costs

According to Net Zero Watch, the UK business secretary is misleading on Net Zero costs. The lobbyists condemn statements about current and future energy policy costs made by the Secretary of State for Business Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), Rt Hon Kwaso Kwarteng MP, as “inaccurate and misleading.”

Calls to cancel COP26

Rejections of key green measures is not new for the Global Warming Policy Forum, which has rebuffed mainstream climate science and sustainable strategies for years.

In a particular disturbing message, the group called to suspend climate policies and cancel COP26 to “save Britain from looming energy disaster.”

In a statement issued on September 20, Net Zero Watch, reiterated a message from the GWPF, writing: “The Global Warming Policy Forum is calling on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to take swift and radical action to suspend damaging climate policies and prevent the looming energy crisis from turning into an economic and social disaster.”

Former Brexit minister endorses group on Twitter

The NZW campaign was recently promoted by Conservative MP and former Brexit minister Steve Baker on Twitter. The MP is a GWPF trustee. Baker raised a few eyebrows at the Conservative Party conference in Manchester earlier this month by claiming much climate science is “contestable.” Baker also claimed some UN climate scenarios were “implausible” and climate science is “sometimes propagandised.”

Baker took to Twitter to show his support of the campaign, tweeting:

“Great news: @NetZeroWatch has launched.

“Increasingly conversations about climate change are becoming narrow and polarised. Net Zero Watch is here to give you a clear view of the reality of climate policies and what they mean for you.”

The rebrand of the anti-climate science group GWPF has been criticised by climate change campaigners and experts.

‘Lukewarmer propaganda’

Bob Ward, policy and communications director at the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics, shared his disproval, referring to the rebrand as ‘lukewarmer propaganda’.

“Net Zero Watch is clearly just the latest tactic by the Global Warming Policy Foundation to promote lukewarmer propaganda.”

“It will continue to spread false claims about the implications of reaching net zero emissions while also denying the risks of climate change. Same old climate change deniers, same old climate change denial.”

“I hope nobody will be fooled and that journalists in particular quiz them about their secret sources of funding in this country and abroad,” said Ward.

Greenpeace UK shares similar disproval, with a spokesperson commenting: “The people who spent the last twenty years campaigning to preserve our addiction to fossil fuels are transforming themselves into a radical new campaign to prolong our use of gas and petrol. 

“Presumably in the hope that this sophisticated rebranding will fool the media into forgetting their history of being relentlessly wrong about everything climate-related. 

“It’ll be interesting to see whether there’s anyone out there with a memory short enough to fall for this ruse.”

LFF reached out to Net Zero Watch for commentary on claims they are a rebranded version of GWPF and if their criticisms over climate science may send a dangerous message about climate change that leads to more climate change denial and scepticism.

We failed to hear back from the group.

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a freelance journalist and contributing editor to Left Foot Forward.

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