The Great Net Zero Debate—Peter Taylor: The Science of Climate

On 7 July 2023, the Mayor of Glastonbury debated her council's Net Zero carbon dioxide emissions policy with several speakers and an attentive audience at Glastonbury Town Hall. The event was chaired by Sandi Adams.


Peter Taylor

Peter Taylor MIBiol MRAI was educated at Oxford University (1967–1970; 1976–1980) and holds degrees in both Natural and Social Sciences. He left the academic environment to found and develop an independent Oxford-based research group—the Political Ecology Research Group (1977–1992), specialising in scientific and legal support for citizens’ initiatives and environmental policy in the UK and Europe.

PERG advised local, regional and national governments, the European Commission, European Parliament and the United Nations International Maritime Organisation, as well as Greenpeace International, Trade Unions and the Media. He later founded an international consultancy, Terramarès, specialising in terrestrial and marine ecosystems and pollution policy, helping to initiate and develop the Precautionary Principle and Clean Production Strategies at the UN.

In 1997, he moved to Glastonbury as a single parent and founded Ethos, a communications consultancy with Richard Fraser, specialising in computer visualisation techniques. Working with government agencies from 2000 to 2004, he researched climate change impacts and renewable energy strategies, sat on the government’s Community Renewable Advisory Group, reviewed the Royal Commission report on Energy and Climate Change, and worked with the Countryside Agency developing visioning tools for integrating renewable energy with landscape, community and biodiversity objectives. He also reviewed computer model projections of climate change for the Countryside Commission.

His expertise particularly focuses on the use of computer modelling of ocean and atmospheric systems and he has published in scientific journals, lectured at many universities, including Oxford, Cambridge, London, Birmingham, Tokyo, Leeds, Newcastle, Swansea and Keele. His review of climate change science was published as Chill: a reassessment of global warming policy, in which he argued that global warming, though real, was largely natural, that the Earth would cool, and if carbon dioxide was as effective as the models predicted, it could counter-act global cooling—but he thought its heating power was overplayed and the models ignored natural cycles. The book was reviewed by a leading paleo-climate science journal as essential reading next to the predictions of the IPCC.

After strongly negative reactions to the book from his former environmental allies, he retreated from public discourse and instigated research at the Environmental Studies Institute, California, with Professor Jackson Davis. He has published joint papers on the analysis of global cycles in ice-core data. As a result of this work, he was invited keynote speaker at the 3rd Global Warming Science Conference in Prague 2019, presenting on the limitations of model predictions. A paper on natural causes of climate change is currently under peer-review.

In addition to his critical scientific reviews of pollution and environmental policy, he was a council member of the British Association of Nature Conservationists, where he pioneered concepts of rewilding and landscape scale management—writing Beyond Conservation in 2005, Rewilding in 2011, and Spirit of Rewilding in 2017. He is a trustee of Cambrian Wildwood, a conservation charity in mid-Wales; a founder and associate of the Wildland Research Institute at Leeds University; and a founder member of the Institute for Life-based Architecture, in Germany.

As a member of the Royal Anthropological Institute, he has given seminars at the World Congress of Anthropology (British Museum, 2016) on the social aspects of renewable energy planning and on gender issues in climate science (why computer predictions do not include cycles); he has an abiding interest (and practice) in yogic science and shamanic dance.


Our thanks to Sandi Adams, Eli Everyman and Matthew Williams for their hosting and technical efforts on the night.