Peiser established the Cambridge Conference Network in 1997. Peiser acknowledges that he is "not a climate scientist" and has "never claimed to be one." His interest as a social anthropologist, is in "how climate change is portrayed as a potential disaster and how we respond to that."
As an outspoken climate change sceptic, Peiser became director of the newly established UK lobbying group Global Warming Policy Foundation in 2009. He serves as co-editor of the journal, Energy & Environment and is a regular contributor to Canada's National Post.
Born of German parents in Haifa, Israel, in 1957, Peiser's family soon returned to Germany. He grew up in Frankfurt and "spent the first 35 years of his life" in Germany.
Peiser studied political science, English, and sports science at Frankfurt University, receiving a doctorate in cultural studies (Kulturwissenschaften) from that institution in 1993, for an examination of the history, archaeology and natural history of Greek problems at the time of the ancient Olympic Games.
Drawn by "concerns about nuclear energy and its waste", he reportedly was involved with the German Green Party while a student.
Upon completing his doctoral degree, Peiser moved to Liverpool, England, to take up a position as lecturer at Liverpool John Moores University.
Peiser was previously employed as an historian of ancient sport at the University of Frankfurt. He listed his research interests at LJMU as the effects of environmental change and catastrophic events on contemporary thought and societal evolution; climate change and science communication; international climate policy; the risks posed by near-Earth objects and satellites and the environmental and socio-economic impacts of physical activity.
In 1997 Peiser established the Cambridge Conference Network, an email-based discussion group for a conference of the Society for Interdisciplinary Studies about Bronze Age catastrophes. Over time the network began to focus on discussion on climate change and was renamed CCNet (active from 1997 to 2006), to provide a platform for "the minority of people who are climate (change) sceptics or have doubts about the prevailing views."
Peiser acknowledges that he is "not a climate scientist" and has "never claimed to be one." His interest as a social anthropologist, is in "how climate change is portrayed as a potential disaster and how we respond to that."
Peiser argued that he is against alarmist, hysterical doomsday scenarios and catastrophic apocalyptic cult thinking but is not "a climate-change sceptic (2008)." "Most scientists do seem to accept that there is an effect of CO2 on climate; the big question is how large and dangerous it will be in future. Personally, I'm also sceptical about the doomsday scenarios."
American astrophysicist and science communicator, Neil deGrasse Tyson described (2008) the Cambridge Conference Network (CCNet) as a "widely read, UK-based Internet chat group" "moderated" by Benny Peiser with a primary interest in "open discussion of asteroids, comets, and their risk to life on Earth" but open to many other news subjects. In 2001 Neil deGrasse Tyson, director of the New York's museum's Hayden Planetarium, displayed only eight (not nine) planets with Pluto reclassified as a dwarf planet. Tyson recounted the heated on-line debate on CCNet chat group following Peiser's renewed call for reclassification of Pluto's status. Peiser's entry, in which he posted articles from the AP and Boston Globe spawned from the New York Times's article entitled 'Pluto's Not a Planet? Only in New York'. Tyson's decision resulted in large amounts of hate mail, much of it from children.
In 11–13 July 1997, Benny Peiser and co-editors introduced the Second Society for Interdisciplinary Studies Cambridge Conference held at Fitzwilliam College, by outlining the background of neo-catastrophism by examining the astronomical and meteoritic background for catastrophic thinking, for example near-earth objects, cometary catastrophes and ecological disasters. The presentations by historians, classicists -researchers in areas such as Chinese studies, mythology, art, religion, literature and ancient civilisations – met with geologists, astrophysics, and a science correspondent for London's Sunday Telegraph, were later compiled in a publication entitled Natural Catastrophes during Bronze Age Civilisations.
During a debate at the Oxford Union in 2005, Peiser stated, "The lack of a balanced approach to the issue of global warming has led to an extremely one-sided and alarmist perception of risk.... Climate alarmists habitually ignore the potential economic and health benefits of warming temperatures. While magnifying the probable risks to health and mortality as a result of warmer temperatures, many underrate or simply discount the possible health benefits of moderate warming."
In an interview in Local Transport Today in 2006, Peiser argued that environmental concerns in general and concern about global warming in particular had reached a level of "near hysteria" and was "poisonous for rational policy making".
Physicist Laurence I. Gould from the University of Hartford, in his editorial entitled 'Global Warming from a Critical Perspective' (2007) included Benny Peiser's argument in favour of the Oxford Union debate proposition entitled "This House believes that alarmism has replaced science in the global warming debate."
In 2009, in response to a prediction by James E. Hansen from NASA that sea levels could rise by 60 cm, he said, "The predictions come in thick and fast, but we take them all with a pinch of salt. We look out of the window and it's very cold, it doesn't seem to be warming."
In May 2013 Benny Peiser spoke to a group of 200 at the 10th annual Calgary, Alberta Friends of Science, a Canadian non-profit advocacy organisation who dispute the value of the Kyoto Protocol and believe "the Sun is the main direct and indirect driver of climate change", rather than human activity. Peiser compared the apocalyptic statements surrounding the Keystone XL pipeline and oil sands climate change debate, to centuries of catastrophic, apocalyptic cult thinking in the Bronze Age for example. Peiser argued that the European Union's climate policies have failed. Licia Corbella, columnist and editorial page editor, with the Calgary Herald and a (former) longtime editor/columnist with the Sun Media organisation, described him as a social anthropologist, a visiting fellow at the University of Buckingham, and a "British climate policy expert" director of the non-partisan, not for profit Global Warming Policy Foundation.
Benny Peiser is director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) and has described the climate change debate as being "near hysteria". The GWPF, headquartered in a room rented from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, was created in part in response to the 2009 Climatic Research Unit email controversy, a series of emails from the University of East Anglia (UEA).
Bob Ward who has served as policy and communications director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics argued that some of the names of members of the Global Warming Policy Foundation are "straight from the Who's Who of current climate change skeptics." Ward was concerned that the GWPF would pump material that was not scrutinised through peer-reviewed into the climate change debate. The Global Warming Policy Foundation's board of trustees includes Lord Barnett, who voted against the Climate Change Bill, and the Bishop of Chester, "who has argued there was no consensus among climate change scientists that carbon dioxide levels are the key determinant". Professor Ian Plimer, a member of the GWPF's academic advisory council, "argues volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans." At its launch in 2009 it was described as a "new high-powered all-party think-tank" by global warming critic, Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Conservative Chancellor, in an interview with The Timess journalist David Aaronovitch.
The Guardian article cast doubt on the idea that an upsurge in scepticism was underway, noting that "in (the US) Congress, even the most determined opponents of climate change legislation now frame their arguments in economic terms rather than on the science".
Fred Pearce wrote in The Guardian (2010) that the three inquiries Global Warming Policy Foundation looked into were all badly flawed, and that The Climategate Inquiries report ably dissects their failures. He writes that the report, "for all its sharp—and in many cases justified—rejoinders to the official inquiries ... is likely to be ignored in some quarters for its brazen hypocrisy." Pearce argued that one of the criticisms of the three inquiries was that no climate sceptics were on the inquiry teams, and now the critics themselves have produced a review of the reviews that included no one not already supportive of the sceptical position. But, Pearce wrote, Montford "has landed some good blows here."
In 2004, a paper was published in the journal Science by Naomi Oreskes titled Beyond the Ivory Tower: The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change. It researched the hypothesis that legitimate dissenting opinions on anthropogenic climate change might be downplayed in scientific papers and concluded that 75% of the examined abstracts either explicitly or implicitly backed the consensus view, none directly dissenting from it. The essay received a great deal of media attention from around the world and has been cited by many prominent people including as Al Gore in the movie An Inconvenient Truth, the Royal Society and former Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Government, Prof Sir David King.
Peiser identified an error in this paper in that keywords used in the ISI database search were in fact "global climate change" and not "climate change" as originally stated, which resulted in a correction being published by Science.
Noticing that the original research had limited itself to articles in peer-reviewed publications, Peiser then performed a similar survey that included non-scientific, non-peer-reviewed, publications and wrote a letter to Science claiming that only 29% of such papers agreed with the consensus viewpoint, 3% explicitly disagreeing. Science chose not to publish Peiser's letter saying that the basic contents of his letter were not novel enough to be published, as they were "widely dispersed on the internet."
In an article in The Daily Telegraph, Peiser claimed that leading scientific journals were 'censoring debate on global warming' and that Science "has a duty to publish [his research]".
One of his main points of criticism is that the vast majority of the abstracts referred to in the study do not mention anthropogenic climate change, and only 13 of the 928 abstracts explicitly endorse what Oreskes called the "consensus view". Peiser later admitted that it was a mistake to include one of the papers in his survey and said that his main criticism of Oreskes' essay its "claim of a unanimous consensus on anthropogenic global warming (APG) (as opposed to a majority consensus) is tenuous" and that it still was valid. "I accept that it was a mistake to include the abstract you mentioned."
In a 2006, letter to Australia's Media Watch, Peiser explained that he had retracted 97% of his original critique and elaborated on some of his comments: "I do not think anyone is questioning that we are in a period of global warming. Neither do I doubt that the overwhelming majority of climatologists is agreed that the current warming period is mostly due to human impact. However, this majority consensus is far from unanimous."
Peiser is a member of Spaceguard UK, and a German libertarian blog, "Achse des Guten" ("Axis of Good"). A 10 km-wide asteroid, Minor Planet (7107) Peiser, is named in his honour by the International Astronomical Union.