Umm, a Gummer and carbon nonsense

by Gareth on March 28, 2011

Twenty years ago I’d have crossed the street to avoid meeting John Selwyn Gummer, then agriculture minister in Margaret Thatcher’s government, chiefly famous for having attempted to feed his young daughter a beefburger at the 1990 Ipswich Boat Show to demonstrate his understanding of the risks of contracting bovine spongiform encephalopathy (aka mad cow disease) from contaminated meat. It has since killed 166 people in Britain, Cordelia Gummer not among them. I now find myself in the strange position of agreeing rather wholeheartedly with Baron Deben, as he is currently styled, in an article headlined Climate change doubters are endangering our common future published in The Australian (!) last week. And his musings on the politics of climate action provide a useful counterpoint to the astonishing submission on the NZ government’s intention to gazette a “50 by 50″ target for carbon emissions made earlier this month by an Australian organisation calling itself The Carbon Sense Coalition.

Gummer’s central thesis is that in Europe there is consensus between the political left and right on the need for action to address climate change, based in an acceptance of the facts of the matter. He also gets the risk equation absolutely right.

[...] it is not only the Europeans – Right and Left – who have taken up the challenge. From California to Korea, governments and civil society are finding their own ways to work towards a world that is not threatened by pollution. Even if they were all wrong and we acted, the result would be that we would have a cleaner planet, more able to cope with feeding, housing, and clothing those 9 billion people. If, however, we follow the sceptics and they turn out to be wrong, then we would leave our children a legacy of destruction. The risk is all one way, which explains why in Britain, scepticism is confined to the extremes. The political parties embracing it are way out on the edge of the spectrum with views on most other matters that few of us would embrace.

It’s well worth taking the time to read Gummer’s article. He (respectfully) dismisses the views of his fellow Thatcherite peer Nigel, Lord Lawson of Blaby, but describes Christopher Monckton as “more lightweight and extreme and therefore largely discounted”. He concedes they “they keep us all on our toes”, but they have no influence on the direction of policy.

“Lightweight and extreme” would be a good way to describe the “evidence” presented in The Carbon Sense Coalition’s submission to the NZ government’s consultation process on emissions reductions targets, Clean, Green and Barefoot in the Snow (pdf). Life’s too short to enumerate all its evidential shortcomings, but I would note that Easterbrook has some competition from “ex-CSIRO scientist Dr Guy LeBlanc Smith PhD, AIG, AAPG” who uses the same Greenland ice core data to show that “current temperatures are generally lower than several warm periods in the recent past” (hint: they aren’t). The Coalition also manages to claim that there has been no global warming since 1998 and that the oceans are responsible for increasing atmospheric CO2 levels. Factually challenged the Coalition most certainly are, but the submission’s author, one Viv Forbes, is not without a certain charming turn of phrase:

Today is not unusual in any way, apart from the spectacular rise of a pagan global religion that places life-supporting carbon dioxide as the devil, worships green gods, sells indulgences to carbon sinners and advocates a return to the life style of the cave men.

That will come as news to Baron Deben, I am sure. He converted to Catholicism when the Church of England decided to allow the ordination of women. I doubt he’s keen on the troglodyte lifestyle. I hope that Nick Smith applies the same criteria as Gummer when evaluating the submissions crossing his desk…

[Pink Floyd]

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

John D March 29, 2011 at 10:43 am

Gummer, or Baron Deben if you prefer, seems a little out of touch with the views of Margaret Thatcher.

He states

She was a scientist by training and she cross-questioned the experts in the way only she knew how. She would have preferred them to have been wrong too. However, the whole assembly of facts, even then, more than 20 years ago, convinced her that we had to act.

Yet the great man himself, Bob Ward, writes The Guardian – this:-
(Note to bill and thomas my choice of media to reference, namely the Grauniad – official channel of Genuine People ™ )

Thatcher becomes latest recruit in Monckton’s climate sceptic campaign

Monckton’s use of Britain’s former PM illustrates that climate denialism is about politics, not science

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/jun/22/thatcher-climate-sceptic-monckton

Rather takes the shine off his article don’t you think?

Gareth March 29, 2011 at 10:48 am
bill March 29, 2011 at 2:57 pm

Monckton’s use of Britain’s former PM illustrates that climate denialism is about politics, not science

Finally, a quote from John D we can use!

You do realise that this shoots you own argument in the foot, don’t you? Thatcher relied on science as PM, but then drifted across to crankdom at about the same time she became a tobacco lobbyist in 1992. Coincidence, do you think? She’s clearly most concerned that the Left will turn out to be right, and is an ideologue first and foremost.

John D March 29, 2011 at 3:28 pm

What is also interesting is that he cites David Cameron as being on the political right.

This statement is so laughable. There is actually nothing to distinguish any of the parties in the UK at all.

Incidentally, bill, I didn’t expect anything less than you should suggest I had shot myself in the foot over this.

I was merely pointing out that Gummer had actually contracted Mad Cow Disease during that infamous burger eating session.

One also suspects that the EU have contracted said disease with their latest proposal to ban petrol-driven cars from cities by 2050.
This is laughable, not so much for the policy of creating an increased demand for electricity when they are reducing supply, but for the supposition that the EU will actually exist in 2050.

Thomas March 29, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Well J D, standing in the way of progress like you do has rarely been a position that remained tenable for long….

Law reforms like the one you mentioned are great. They will truly invigorate innovation.

I still remember vividly the times of the introduction of catalytic converters and strict emission laws for cars in Germany in the mid 80ies. The car manufacturer lobbies were screaming! Job losses and great ills of all sorts were to befall the German economy would these laws to be passed.

The laws passed. The German car manufactures fired their lobbyists and went on making highly fuel efficient and clean cars. Now German cars are selling like hotcakes even in China.

In the US the car manufacturers lobbyists won the same battle and got a bonus. The US manufacturers went on producing gas guzzling monster trucks and went duly broke en’masse in the 2008 oil price spike….

As I said J D, standing in the way of progress has been untenable. So how come you think you could break the trend?

SCM March 29, 2011 at 4:18 pm

It should be noted that Thatcher has pretty much lost her marbles these days due to the ravages of dementia (see below). Given that, it is pretty poor of Monckton to capitalise on her fame to promote his views.

[quote from article written in 2008 follows]

In a memoir to be published next month, Carol Thatcher paints a picture of “the new Lady T,” a much-diminished figure created by the progressive effects of dementia and a series of minor strokes.

Lady Thatcher, now 82, first started to show signs of mental deterioration almost a decade ago, her daughter recalls.

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