Energy and Environment

IEA declines the Guardian’s invitation to delete books

On 2 October 2019, the Guardian wrote to the IEA accusing us of having “a long history of climate denial”, setting out a small number of historic publications, going back to 1994, which the reporter implied supported this claim, and proposed we might wish to “retract” them.

This in the context of an article the Guardian intends to publish in a series about the “climate crisis”, accusing us of having an “unbalanced slant”.

We have declined the Guardian’s invitation to delete books, reject their polemical assertions, and are publishing this piece in response. We regard their inquiry and improper suggestion as both an attempt to mislead their readers, and as strong evidence of a growing and dangerous trend in public discourse on climate change to stifle debate, delegitimise dissent, and wilfully confuse matters of science with matters of policy, by denying uncertainty and trade-offs.

We find their approach ideological, and entirely unworthy of the paper’s proud history of inquiry and fair treatment of opponents.

IEA staff and authors hold a range of views on climate issues, but the organisation itself does not have a corporate position. We do, however, collectively regard freedom of expression as an institution of our free society worth defending. Not just for ourselves, but for newspapers like the Guardian to assert contrary views, however much we might disagree.

That ‘battle of ideas’ is hugely important to improving public policy, which includes educating the public and decision makers about alternative points of view. It is vital that we challenge the kind of wooly thinking that can lead to adverse outcomes.

In respect of the specific allegation of ‘climate denial’, a polemical expression intended to equate disagreement on these matters with ‘holocaust denial’, or making excuses for Nazism, the Guardian appears confused as to what ‘thought crimes’ it believes IEA authors to have committed. Their heavily spun short summaries of our back catalogue do not suggest that any of their journalists have actually read the work, and it is mindlessly offensive to invoke Godwin’s law over matters no more sinister than thinking cheap holidays are nice and airport expansion is not evil.

In respect of the science, the impact of increasing concentrations of CO2 on atmospheric gases and then applying sunlight can be trivially demonstrated in a laboratory – temperature rises. Dissent on that point is unusual, and at any rate is not the business of the IEA, which looks at how market mechanisms can be used to address the challenges that follow.

Scientific disagreement on exactly how (and how fast) increases in emissions of CO2 impact global temperatures remains a reality that the Guardian seems keen to dispute. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports are not theological texts – they indeed refer to areas of ongoing debate between scientists, for example describing an ocean sensitivity as “hotly contested” only last year.

Again that is not the primary interest and expertise of the IEA. We simply note that to frame the debate as ‘settled’ and the certain outcome as a ‘climate crisis’ or ‘climate emergency’ is a political view, not science.

If we turn instead to matters of policy, which is our remit, there are a huge range of views on how governments should address climate change, if indeed they should, and this applies as much within the free market school of thought as is does within other points of view.

It is not a matter of ‘climate denial’ to point out that Hinkley Point is likely to be a very expensive way of generating low carbon power, or that Governments are generally bad at picking winners in this field, as much as any other.

It is not a matter of ‘climate denial’ to highlight that if the worst-case climate science scenarios are correct, adaptation is more likely to preserve life and living standards than mitigation or attempting to shut down all economic activity still dependent on fossil fuels.

It is not a matter of ‘climate denial’ to be concerned about the opportunity costs or consequences of heavy-handed interventions on liberty and living standards. Or to question the motives of those making such calls, whether for reasons of corporate rent-seeking, or ideological opportunism.

In short, the Guardian would benefit from engaging with our authors as serious, sensible, and thoughtful contributors to addressing this global challenge, rather than demanding we delete thought. That is a position with which no serious proponent of the free press should be flirting, however much they believe their own assertions about a crisis.

For the IEA, which over the past year fended off a smear campaign from a militant green group, had a book banned (and then unbanned), and seems to feature regularly in spider chart diagrams on conspiracy theory websites, these ‘no platform’ attacks are regrettably familiar. But we deal with them, and will continue to publish thoughtful, well researched pieces on free market solutions to environmental challenges.

On that note we feel the best response to the Guardian’s call to retract papers, books and thought is to invite more contributions to this blog on that theme. So if you have 500-1,000 words you’d like to see published, that meet our standards, please do submit to us.

We’re calling our own series ‘climate solutions’. It’s not as catchy, but we recognise that these complex issues can’t be addressed just by screaming ‘crisis’ and ‘denial’ at anyone who disagrees with us.


Andy Mayer is Chief Operating Officer, Company Secretary and Energy Analyst at the IEA. Andy is responsible for developing our people, all operations, and managing the reputation of the IEA, including for example over-turning the Charity Commission’s unlawful attempt to ban one of the IEA’s publications, and dealing with failed attempt to smear the organisation by activists at the same time. When not leading operations, Andy writes and comments on free market issues around energy and climate change, and occasionally general commentary. He was previously the Head of UK public affairs for the world’s largest chemical company and green energy advisor to the UK’s largest company. He has over 25 years of experience in strategic communications and the operations that support them in the business and think tank worlds.

8 thoughts on “IEA declines the Guardian’s invitation to delete books”

  1. Posted 07/10/2019 at 13:25 | Permalink

    Perfectly put.

  2. Posted 07/10/2019 at 14:05 | Permalink

    Andy. The Guardian has long ceased to be a serious, balanced investigative newspaper. Perhaps you afford them too much credit. The weight of output from this outlet is presented as political activism rather than balanced journalism. It is well known that they have faced financial challenges over the years, so I imagine they are deeply engaged in developing a ‘revenue via click-bait’ business model. This may or may not be successful – many online publications have adopted this approach, but not all have been financial successful.

    Keep up the good work. I am particularly looking forward to seeing how your new senior hire (Syed Kamall) impacts your organisation’s output. He is able to present compelling arguments for free market capitalism in a way that engages the audience.

  3. Posted 07/10/2019 at 15:54 | Permalink

    Could you please publish The Guardian’s letter?

  4. Posted 08/10/2019 at 13:05 | Permalink

    Very well stated. There a two researchers in Ireland (father and son) who have an empirical study based upon millions of pieces of data on atmospheric temperatures that are struggling to get their results out into the public sphere due not being given a platform as the results do not follow the accepted ‘message’. Maybe you should find out who they are and check and publish their work if it meets your standards.

  5. Posted 10/10/2019 at 16:57 | Permalink

    Pdh, I’ve heard of them but forgot what they are called. Can you link to their findings? Ta.

  6. Posted 11/10/2019 at 16:50 | Permalink

    Mark W, I think he may be referring to this family in Ireland:

  7. Posted 13/10/2019 at 05:44 | Permalink

    Thank you, Mr Mayer, for your cogent and calm piece. Would that the Grauniad were as much, but that would be a forlorn hope in these intersectional/identitarian days.

  8. Posted 13/10/2019 at 19:41 | Permalink

    Thank you, an excellent piece. Unfortunately, the Guardian’s sinister attack on freedom of thought and expression is not confined just to that ‘newspaper’, nor to the subject of climate change.

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