Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise has been watching the climate world since 2009. What she sees isn't pretty.

About Those 160 Eco Laureates

A full-page advertisement published in the New York Times falsely claims that 160 signatories to a climate declaration are all “environmental prize winners.”

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Yesterday, 160 people attached their names to a full page ad published in the international edition of the New York Times. The ad, which was organized by the European Environment Foundation and expresses concern about global warming, declares that these people are:

  • winners of the world’s environmental prizes

In an accompanying press release, the signatories are further described as

  • the “World’s top environmentalists” (in the headline)
  • 160 leading environmentalists” (in the first sentence)
  • Environmental Laureates” (in the second sentence)
  • and as “all winners of major environmental awards” (also in the second sentence, bold added)

But these claims are bogus. While many of the signatories (see them here and here) have, indeed, received what reasonable people would consider a “major environmental award,” a significant number did not.

For example, if signatory Csaba Matyas has been honoured with a high-profile prize, the ad fails to mention it. It merely says he’s a fellow of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. (His online biography at the University of West Hungary is similarly silent in this respect.)

Signatory Florence Reed received the 2012 Sargent Shriver Award for Distinguished Humanitarian Service. But rather than being a “major environmental award,” it’s actually given to peace corps volunteers.

Signatory Patrick Duffy received the “IAIA Outstanding Service Award” in 2013. But characterizing this as a “major environmental award” is laughable. It used to be called the President’s Council Award because it recognizes service to an obscure organization called the International Association for Impact Assessment (see the website description here).

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While the IAIA does give out a Global Environment Award, Duffy has never received it. Ditto for signatory Jiri Dusik who is similarly portrayed as a “leading environmentalist” because he won the IAIA’s Individual Award in 2007.

In 2011, signatory Harish Hande received a Ramon Magsaysay Award. But this isn’t a “major environmental award,” either. Established in memory of a Filipino prime minister, its purpose is to “perpetuate his example of integrity in public service and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society.”

There is an environment category for this award (in addition to 13 other categories), but the award’s website says Hande received a generic prize instead.

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Ever heard of the Becquerel Prize? Perhaps that’s because it doesn’t meet the “major environmental award” standard. In fact, this is a narrow, technical honour that recognizes “outstanding merits in photovoltaics.” People who contribute to the world’s knowledge about solar energy may deserve recognition, but Adolf Goetzberger and Hans-Werner Schock (who received the Becquerel Prize in 1997 and 2010 respectively) cannot be considered “leading environmentalists” on this basis.

Similarly, we’re told that signatory Paul Gundel received the “Einstein Award” in 2011. That would be the SolarWorld Junior Einstein Award. The jury applauded Gundel for designing a new tool “that will help to increase the degrees of efficiency of solar cells.”

The ad further advises that David Osborne won the “Empowering People Award, 2013.” Actually, this was third place in a competition “for outstanding inventions for basic supply”. Eyeglasses costing a dollar and sustainable sanitary pads won first and second prize.

Osborne’s invention, a device that enables developing world households to cook a meal and heat water at the same time, is worth celebrating. But that doesn’t make him the recipient of a major environmental award.

And then there’s signatory Tim Smit. The ad tells us he won a Royal Society of the Arts Albert Medal in 2003. This is impressive and prestigious. But that prize – first bestowed in 1864 – is “awarded to individuals who have demonstrated social innovation in action.” It is not, and has never been, a “major environmental award.”

The European Environment Foundation says, in its press release (backed up here), that these 160 people are all recipients of major environmental awards. In the text of the ad itself, the undersigned refer to themselves as “winners of the world’s environmental prizes.”

Both of these claims are patently untrue.

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to be continued  

Part 2 here: More Dubious Eco Laureates
Part 3: Saving Civilization: 2009 vs 2015
Part 4: Who Signed the Climate Declaration?

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hat tip: the Bishop Hill blog

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