Lack of Environment

A blog on the politics and psychology underlying the denial of all our environmental problems

Why are Euro sceptics also climate sceptics?

with 9 comments

Because both involve the maladaptive coping strategy of ‘blame-shifting’. (Clive Hamilton)

It is a matter of public record that only 3 MPs (all Conservatives) voted against the third and final reading of the Climate Change Bill in October 2008 (Christopher Chope, Peter Lilley, and Andrew Tyrie) and that, on the verge of doing so, Peter Lilley also joked about the fact that it was, at the time, snowing in London (Hansard (i.e. House of Commons Debates) Volume 481 (Part 153) column 838). However, there are at least a dozen sceptical Conservative MPs (or MEPs)- and they are all staunchly anti-European as well.

This post is longer than is typical for me but it did not make sense to split this list in half and separate part of it from the conclusion. So, (in alphabetical order) the most prominent of them are as follows:
— Graham Brady disputes the legitimacy of the consensus view that climate change is happening and that we are causing it; and does not want the economy “destroyed” to fix a problem we may not have (as quoted by Andrew Grice in The Independent newspaper of 2 December 2009).
— Douglas Carswell agrees and, clearly heavily influenced by reading Ian Plimer’s book, Heaven and Earth, claims that “…it was a lot warmer in the middle ages” (as quoted in the Clacton Gazette of 23 October 2009).
— Christopher Chope, one of the 3 Tory rebels on the Climate Change Bill, cited a report by a firm of accountants that suggested the UK will be responsible for little more than 1% of global GHG emissions by 2050 (Hansard 481 (153) c.769). This is blame-shifting – one of Clive Hamilton’s maladaptive coping strategies for those in denial of AGW (see Requiem for a Species).
— Philip Davies has (in 2007) described AGW as a “bandwagon” that people have jumped on with “religious zeal”; said he was as concerned as anyone else about the world our grandchildren will inherit; but was opposed action that “disproportionately affects our economy and the quality of life of the people of this country” (Hansard 461 (106) c.1020-21). His position had changed very little by 2009 because he was still calling for “proper cost benefit analysis” (he is clearly not a fan of the Stern Review); and bemoaning the apparent fact that anyone who urges caution “is completely decried and treated like a Holocaust denier” (as quoted by Grice – see link above).
— David Davis, writing in The Independent newspaper on the same day as Grice, made it clear he believes those who say global warming stopped in 1998; and claimed the problem was not worth the economic cost or the environmental blight (of wind farms) inherent in the solutions then being pursued (Davis 2009).
— Daniel Hannan (MEP) has made it clear that he accepts our climate is changing “…although probably not to the degree claimed by some climate change professionals…”; and he resents the fact that his scepticism leads some to label him anti-environmental. Furthermore, in seeking to defend himself he also cites (non-scientist) Lawson’s Appeal to Reason as his excuse, as a layman unable “to reach a confident view”; for assuming that AGW is a problem not worth fixing (Hannan 2009).
— Roger Helmer (MEP) made a speech to the European Parliament on 4 February 2009, in which he quoted Christopher Booker as having said that “global warming alarmism is the greatest collective flight from reality in human history”; describing EU proposals as “…planning to spend unimaginable sums of money on mitigation measures which will simply not work [that will] deny us the funds we need to address real environmental problems” (Helmer 2009). Furthermore, Helmer has even accused the Church of England of having “abandoned religious faith entirely and taken up the new religion of climate change alarmism instead” (again as quoted by Grice in The Independent newspaper – see link above).
— The Rt Hon Peter Lilley MP (i.e. a former Cabinet Minister in the Thatcher government) is arguably the most forthright and most experienced of Tory sceptics (and the most senior of the 3 Climate Change Bill rebels). As such, he does not dispute the basic science of AGW; but does dispute what the climate modellers are telling us (Hansard 498 (153) c.1049). Indeed, earlier that same year, in a similar debate on 16 July 2009, Lilley had been even more strident in his opposition to the consensus (IPCC) view; and more emphatic in his acceptance of the misinformation campaign apparently funded by big business (Hansard 496 (113) c.480-81).
— John Maples equates climate scientists with doctors in the 1850s by suggesting that the former are “scratching the surface of something that they do not really understand…”; and that what they actually say “does not justify any of the apocalyptic visions…” described by some demanding mitigating action be taken (Hansard 477 (106) c.103).
— The Rt Hon John Redwood MP was one of many who used Martin Durkin’s 2007 Great Global Warming Swindle documentary to justify his scepticism; along with mentioning melting ice on Mars and suggesting that warming may have some benefits (Redwood 2007). More recently, he has been happy to ridicule scientific projections and question the entire AGW hypothesis on the basis of isolated extremely cold weather events (Redwood 2010); all in a manner very reminiscent of Christopher Booker.
— Andrew Tyrie, the third of the Tory rebels, would appear to have opposed the passage of the Climate Change Bill in October 2008 on primarily economic grounds; dismissing concern over AGW as having “an air of unreality” about it and doubting whether most of its projected consequences will ever happen (Hansard 477 (106) c.98).

What do we learn from all of this? Well I think Lilley is the key to this puzzle: He was a successful stockbroker and businessman before entering Parliament; and apparently still maintains positions on the board of directors of several large companies (Lilley 2010). Therefore, irrespective of whether or not Lilley is a sceptic (he claims he is not), he is quite prepared to rely upon sceptical arguments such as those that say temperature reconstructions are flawed (if not faked); and that climate models are unreliable. Lilley clearly does not accept the findings of the Stern Review but where is he getting his misinformation (or who is feeding it to him)? It does not take much digging and textual analysis to spot the similarities between what he says and what, for example, the Institute of Economic Affairs says… The trouble with all of this is that, if anything, scientists have been erring or the side of caution and under-stating the consequences of our inaction.

In conclusion then, although I am as opposed to the UK being part of a Federal European super-state as are all of the above sceptics, I have not been seduced by money fetishism and/or growthmania (or if I ever was – I have come to my senses). Therefore, if climate realists are going to win the argument, we are going to have to win the economic argument. If so, I have a couple of questions:
1. What will happen to conventional cost-benefit analysis once account is taken of the cost of repairing all the damage caused by increasingly-frequent and increasingly-severe natural disasters?
2. Why is it that this Health and Security Perspectives of Climate Change – How to secure our future wellbeing conference in London last Monday, organised by the British Medical Association and supported by the World Health Organization – was not even mentioned on the news (apart from by the BBC’s Environment Correspondent Richard Black)?

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9 Responses

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  1. Regarding your point about the cost benefit analysis, a report was (finally) produced here in Canada about the costs of climate change. And although the research was rather conservative on the impacts of climate change, the report concluded that we are looking at a cost of $5 billion a year by 2020 and up to $40 billion a year by 2050. That’s 3% of our Gross Domestic Product.

    I remember reading a story in an economic magazine (it said climate change on the cover and so was naturally drawn to the magazine!) which was an interview with a gentleman responsible for an economic report (at the request of the British Government) looking at the costs of stopping vs dealing with the consequences of climate change. Basically, the report stated that stopping climate change would cost 1-2% of global GDP for a period of 10 to 20 years. On the other hand, letting climate change happen and paying for the effects would cost 5 to 20% of global GDP “each year and for ever“.

    I just found the article if you are interested: http://www.technologyreview.com/printer_friendly_article.aspx?id=37774

    jpgreenword

    20 October 2011 at 10:08

    • Thanks for this comment. It is indeed heartening to know that the analysis of the “gentleman” in question (i.e. Sir Nicholas Stern and his Stern Review) has now been validated by objective researchers in other countries…

      Martin_Lack

      20 October 2011 at 10:56

  2. Re your title question: “Why are Euro sceptics also climate sceptics?”. It seems to me that there’s a good match between those whose main agendum is the pursuit of ‘business as usual’ (BAU) and those who resent ‘interference from Brussels’. Denial of climate change makes rejection of policy input from outside the UK easier to defend.

    Anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is, in essence, a result of human pollution. Pollution doesn’t respect national boundaries. Denying pollution is a problem makes it easier to justify parochialism. Peer beneath the disguise and it’s simply NIMBY on a grander scale.

    It seems to me there are similarities here with the rejection by the US of numerous UN (and other ‘not invented here’) stances with regard to the environment — their (abysmal) failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol being a case in point.

    Aside (1) a quick glance at some of the justifications these AGW deniers offer suggests we would all be better off if these people could be persuaded to spend some time on the Skeptical Science website. They all speak as though from considered knowledge, but reveal their ignorance in almost every other breath.

    Aside (2) “… the UK will be responsible for little more than 1% of global GHG emissions by 2050…”. What a load of tosh. Arguably the UK is responsible for 100% of all GHG emissions — because we started the industrial revolution.

    It’s about time humans started thinking outside their own petty little boxes.

    pendantry

    20 October 2011 at 18:50

    • Thanks for all of these comments.

      Clearly my question was a rhetorical one – as I believe AGW denial is highly-selective refusal to acknowledge reality due to ideological prejudice in favour of BAU. However, I do not think that you can call sticking your head in the sand NIMBYism; it is more akin to wishful thinking and/or a total abdication of all moral responsibility for ones’ actions.

      AGW is – first and foremost – a Limits to Growth phenomenon. That is to say, CO2 is now a dangerous pollutant solely because we are pumping into the atmosphere over a 1000 times faster than the Earth can turn it back into fossil fuel (most of which is over 300 million years old).

      Although you would not want to get me started on why the US did not ratify Kyoto Protocol, the biggest problem with the entire UNFCCC process is that we have all spent much of the last 18 years arguing about who is more to blame and who should therefore act first. It is a bit like people on a sinking ship arguing about who should inflate the life jacket rather than getting in the lifeboat.

      Having had a look through John Abraham’s devastating critique of (“no-really-I-am-a-Lord“) Monckton (thanks again for providing the link), I think it is highly likely that, in the past at least, it has been Monckton that has been most influential. However, thanks to Abraham, that may no longer be the case. Therefore, I remain of the view that, in the UK at least, it is the IEA and the GWPF that are orchestrating the campaign to deny the reality of AGW.

      Forget thinking “outside their own petty little boxes“, these people need to wake up “and smell the toffee“! If you have ever been to India or Nepal and witnessed an open-air cremation, you will know what I mean (it is enough to put you off BBQ’s for life)!

      Martin_Lack

      20 October 2011 at 19:56

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