At the age of 52, Israeli-born Benny Peiser has become something of an institution in the combat-prone world of climate change politics. He is welcomed warmly by the skeptics and is rejected with equal fervor by the mainstream environmental movement. Peiser’s CCNet climate news service has become required reading in recent years — not least of all to find out what the skeptics are saying — with close to 8,000 subscribers, including many U.S. scientists.
A social anthropologist by training and a part-time lecturer at the School of Sport and Exercise Sciences at John Moores University in Liverpool, Peiser has been dismissed by environmentalists as a skeptic with no scientific background. He himself describes his role in somewhat different terms.
“I always thought there was a lack of balanced debate, of balanced reporting,” he told E&E. “I never took any strong position myself, on the science, definitely not. On the policies, I have always been skeptical that the conventional approach would work. It is now becoming obvious that it is not working.”
As proof of his assertions, he points to the near collapse of last month’s U.N. climate talks in Denmark and the resulting weak Copenhagen Accord instead of the legally binding, ambitious and all-inclusive agreement the previous two years of talks had been expected to achieve.
“There is a deadlock. All of the policies over the last 10 to 15 years have basically come to a standstill, and there is no chance of this international stalemate being overcome,” he said. “The reason that it is not going to happen is that people underestimate the costs and the economic implications of the idea of decarbonization.”
Adaptation, not mitigation, moves to the front
Now, Peiser has a new vehicle — the Global Warming Policy Foundation — a body set up last November by former U.K. finance minister Nigel Lawson. Lawson is a staunch critic of man-made climate change who has argued strongly that adaptation to the effects of climate change matters far more that attempting to mitigate its causes.
It is a theme Peiser as the foundation’s director adheres to with vigor as he dismisses what he calls the alarmist nature of the warnings of imminent climate catastrophe coming from many scientists and politicians