Ministers lavished millions on climate change stunts

A disastrous series of failed climate change publicity stunts cost taxpayers £ 9million, it emerged yesterday.

The projects paid for by the Government’s Climate Challenge Fund did next to nothing to change public opinion, a Whitehall report found.

It said the initiatives were almost entirely preaching to the converted and that trying to drum up interest through sensationalism only put people off.

Schemes included a £40,000 DVD in which schoolchildren explained that in ten years everyone will have to wear sunglasses all the time, because the sun will be shining more.

A tent set up in shopping centres and labelled an ‘experiential climate dome’ was subsidised by Whitehall to the tune of nearly £400,000; a computer game cost £47 every time it was played; and a series of ‘ challenging pub quizzes’ about climate change cost more than £85,000.

Large grants went to councils, schools and youth groups for ‘ attitude modification’ programmes and to assure the public that man-made global warming is an established scientific fact.

And £200,000 went to Oxford University to ‘take climate change into the community’.

Details of the projects and the report for Ed Miliband’s Department of Energy and Climate Change – which was never published – were unearthed by the TaxPayers’ Alliance through Freedom of Information requests.

Matthew Sinclair, the group’s research director, said: ‘The Government has clearly crossed the line from public information to propaganda on climate change.

‘Many of the Climate Challenge Fund projects are utterly bonkers and misleading, and come with a huge price tag.

‘Despite a fortune having been spent on these projects, the fund has failed even on its own spuripeopleous terms. It is infuriating for taxpayers to see their money squandered on attempts to scare and indoctrinate the public.’

The report by consultants Brook Lyndhurst said the projects largely failed to produce any changes in the opinions among their target audiences. It judged that ‘the aggregate picture is one of neutral or very modest positive shifts’.

Future programmes should ‘avoid sensationalist or shocking imagery in climate change messages, since respondents are likely to find this off-putting’, it said.

The report added that those attracted to the projects were ‘already interested in climate change’. It suggested that in many cases organisations viewed the funding as ‘a way to secure additional resources’, and said the running the projects often did not have ‘necessary skills’.

The money was paid to public organisations and voluntary groups between 2006 and 2008.

Details emerged after several other high-profile climate change failures in recent months.

The Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, which received £16,000 from the Climate Challenge Fund, has come under fire over leaked emails which show scientists attempted to hide data from sceptics.

And the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has been found to have made exaggerated and ill-informed claims, for example over the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are melting. Its chief, Rajendra Pachauri, has faced calls to resign.
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