(November 24, 2009) Former Conservative chancellor Lord Lawson says he is not a climate change denier but is ‘sceptical’ about global warming policy.
The furore over the climate scientists’ emails has given an unexpected boost to global warming sceptics on both sides of the Atlantic, but none outside that small circle believe the affair will divert governments, businesses or communities from seeking a low-carbon future.
The affair lifted the launch, announced in The Times, of a new “high-powered” think tank on climate change by Lord Nigel Lawson, the former Conservative Chancellor and current global warming critic. He denies he is a climate change sceptic, but is “sceptical” about the policy response. He found the perfect platform to promote his Global Warming Policy Foundation while also calling for an independent inquiry into the content of the emails.
The director of the GWPF, headquartered in a room rented from the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, is Benny Peiser, a social anthropologist at Liverpool’s John Moores University, who has argued concern about climate change has reached “near hysteria”.
Its board of trustees includes Lord Barnett, a former vice-chairman of the BBC 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”.
Its academic advisory council includes Prof Ian Plimer, an Australian who argues volcanoes produce more CO2 than humans. “Some of those names are straight from the Who’s Who of current climate change sceptics”, said Ward. “To me, this is pretty much indistinguishable from the websites that are run by rightwing, free-market think tanks in the US. It’s just going to be a way of pumping material into the debate that hasn’t been through scrutiny”.
In the US, the trove of hacked emails seemed heaven-sent for America’s most devoted climate contrarians.
Among the last citadels of climate change deniers – the radio host Rush Limbaugh and the Republican Senator James Inhofe – the emails were touted as evidence of a worldwide scientific conspiracy. Inhoffe said. “They cooked the science to make this thing look as if the science was settled, when all the time of course we knew it was not.”
Limbaugh said: “I’ve instinctively known this from the get-go, from 20 years ago! The whole thing is made up, and the reason I know it is because liberals are behind it! When they’re pushing something, folks, it’s always bogus. ”
But such outrage is likely to remain confined to the margins of American political debate. In Congress, even the most determined opponents of climate change legislation now frame their arguments in economic terms rather than on the science – including Inhofe.
In the business world, some of the biggest players in the fossil fuel economy – such as Rio Tinto, Shell and General Motors – have joined USCAP, the business partnership that is supporting efforts to get a legislation through Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
“I can say conclusively that the hacked emails are just blips of information that will have absolutely no impact whatsoever on the push to get policymakers to back the science,” said Anne Kelly, the policy director at Ceres, a sustainable business network whose members include PepsiCo, American Airlines and Bloomberg. “One can’t help but think of the reaction of buggy whip manufacturers in the early part of the 20th century when the horseless carriage was created. The consensus has transcended political boundaries. It has transcended sectors. It is not an environmental movement anymore – it’s smart business and investors agree.”
In the political world, the email affair has elicited no comment and came as it was announced that 65 national leaders had so far pledged to attend the Copenhagen talks, almost a third of the total.
Caroline Davies and Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian, November 24, 2009
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