A think tank linked to Japanese tech giant Canon is under pressure to remove several articles by a research director who describes the climate crisis as “fake news” and compares activist Greta Thunberg to a communist.
An Australian-based international fellow at the Canon Institute for Global Studies (CIGS), Professor Jeffrey Braithwaite, told the Guardian that claims about climate science by research director Dr Taishi Sugiyama were ‘not defensible’ .
Campaign group Action Speaks Louder, which produced a report documenting Sugiyama’s claims, says the institute “promotes dangerous climate delay and denial” and calls on Canon to withdraw its support until the articles , which include a book for school-aged children, be removed. .
In articles on the institute’s website and in other media, Sugiyama, using his CIGS affiliation, asserts that there is no climate crisis and dismisses evidence of an increase in extreme temperatures and more intense precipitation.
At the Glasgow climate talks in November, Sugiyama, who has helped write several major UN climate reports, said a speech by young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg showed she had “gone from ‘ecologist to communist’.
Sugiyama is also the author of a book, published this year, encouraging Japanese school children to question the science of climate change. His work is often published on the conservative Daily Will newspaper and then republished on the CIGS website.
Braithwaite, an internationally renowned health expert who is a CIGS fellow, told the Guardian he found Sugiyama’s content on the CIGS website “deeply disconcerting”.
Braithwaite said he raised his concerns with the institute last week. The institute saw its role, he said, as “attempting to improve the world” and, like a university, granted its researchers a level of freedom.
“But it’s so out of the norm and not evidence-based,” he said. “This clearly runs counter to the evidence gathered on global warming and climate change and its effects. It’s not defensible. »
Braithwaite is a leading international health expert. He said: ‘It doesn’t sit well with someone like me who is actively trying to acknowledge and promote the science of global warming and consider its effects on human health. We have to follow the science.
Braithwaite said he would discuss his relationship with the institute at a meeting of the board of directors of the International Society for Quality in Health Care, of which he is president.
Critique of the IPCC report
Dr Seita Emori, a climatologist at Japan’s National Institute for Environmental Studies, questioned Sugiyama’s reliability as a source on climate change, saying his interpretations of the data contradicted the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. the evolution of the climate.
“I found his arguments use strategies typical of climate skeptics – if not mavericks – everywhere,” he said.
On another think tank’s site, Sugiyama recommended several reports translated into Japanese by the UK-based Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) – a group founded by former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer Lord Nigel Lawson. and known for his antagonism towards climate science. , the IPCC, renewable energy and government policies to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
A GWPF report promoted by Sugiyama criticized an IPCC special report that examined the benefits of keeping global warming to 1.5°C.
Sugiyama was a lead author on a chapter in this report examining the global response to reducing emissions. He is currently a lead author of a chapter in a major IPCC report, due next month, on ways to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.
In a 2021 article reproduced on the institute’s website, Sugiyama said there were “no signs of disaster” and claims of a climate crisis and emergency were “fake news.” ” and that “such things do not exist anywhere”.
Sugiyama asked why CO2 needed to be reduced, saying the intense heat was “not due to global warming”, but to the urban heat island effect – a known and well-studied phenomenon where temperatures in cities may be even higher due to heat radiated from concrete and constructions and a lack of green space. In December, Sugiyama attempted to argue that sea ice at the poles was not shrinking.
According to a leaflet on the CIGS website, the institute was launched in 2008 to commemorate Canon’s 70th anniversary.
Canon’s chief executive, Fujio Mitarai, is the institute’s president and said he “carries out various research activities in accordance with Canon’s corporate philosophy of kyosei – living and working together for the common good – in purpose of contributing to global prosperity and well-being”. -being of humanity”.
James Lorenz, executive director of Action Speaks Louder, a campaign group that publishes a report on CIGS-promoted material, said the Canon brand “is being exploited as a platform to promote dangerous climate denial for children. and conduct high-level political advocacy”. in favor of fossil fuels.
He said Canon must withdraw its support for the institute until publications questioning climate change, including Sugiyama’s children’s book which is on sale at the institute, are removed from its website. .
Dylan Tanner, executive director of InfluenceMap, a think tank that analyzes corporate action on climate change, told the Guardian: “While it could be said that a diversity of viewpoints is useful in debating , the papers emanating from Sugiyama on climate change are so far removed from the IPCC consensus that they are likely to be seen as deliberately propagating climate denial.
Any CIGS oversight should have raised questions about the content, he said. “The risk is that it could thus be considered as climate positions tolerated by the CIGS and its leaders.”
He said Canon, one of Japan’s most successful companies, faced “real reputational risk” given its own stances on environmental sustainability.
The Guardian asked Canon whether it supports CIGS financially and whether the company believes Sugiyama’s views are in line with its corporate philosophy of contributing to global welfare.
In a statement, the company said CIGS was a private, nonprofit think tank that operated independently and was not part of its business.
The statement read: “Therefore, we are unable to comment on the activities of the institute or the individual research.”
CIGS did not respond to questions about how it was funded or whether it reviewed materials placed on its website prior to publication.
A statement said, “As Dr. Sugiyama studies energy and environmental issues on his own knowledge and responsibility, we are not going to answer each of your questions.”
The Guardian emailed Sugiyama questions twice, but received no response.