The sound and fury of a Brexit-backing climate change denier

NIGEL LAWSON: a vociferous critic of the famously cautious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

Roz Paterson takes a look at the views of Tory grandee Lord Lawson • Weary of Brexit? Fed up with climate change? Come on then, let’s talk about Nigel Lawson.

For those of you too young to remember, Mr Lawson was Margaret Thatcher’s slash’n’burn chancellor, the man who lit his cigars with regulatory legislation, paving the way for the glorious, zero hours economy we enjoy today. A free market zealot and privileged vandal, in other words.

Today, at the grand old age of 176, he lives alone in a vast, plushly appointed mansion in France, from whence he delivers lofty, misleading, and mostly made-up statements about the European Union and climate change. And is listened to, because he is a former chancellor of the British exchequer, and his daughter makes cakes on telly. Something like that, anyway.

No need to be too factual—Mr Lawson certainly doesn’t feel the need to! For a couple of months in 2016, Lawson was the chair of the Vote Leave campaign, but receded into the background after he was replaced by Gisela Stewart. Alas, he probably did more damage there than if he’d been upfront.

A Daily Mail and Telegraph stalwart, Lawson plugs away doggedly at his self-appointed task…rubbishing climate change science and hacking away at regulations designed to protect people in the face of profiteering.

Such is Lawson’s disaffection with climate scientists that he founded a ‘think tank’ called the Global Warming Policy Foundation, to oppose climate mitigation policies and generally spread misinformation in the right-wing media.

Here’s a little background info. He is a vociferous critic of the famously cautious Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—an organisation that seeks to bring together scientific experts on climate change from across the globe and collate their findings, and which has been criticised for downplaying the more extreme scenarios—and claims its findings of anthropogenic climate change are ‘alarmist’.

He says this, not because he has devoted recent decades to meticulously sifting climate data, interviewing leading scientists and examining ice cores….no, no!…but perhaps because he stuck his head out the window in Gascony and decided it was pretty much the same as last year. I mean, it’s just common sense, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, Lawson’s interventions are not the harmless meddling of an old fool. He knows exactly how to appeal to people’s prejudices, and ignorance, and relies on our current media’s obsession with ‘balance’ to gain a platform for his unfounded—and unquestioned—assertions.

For instance, he has claimed that the levels of Antarctic ice are ‘not going down’, and that sea levels rose more in the first half of the 20th century than in the second.

Both of these statements are demonstrably false—satellite data exposes his lie on the ice, and research such as Anny Cazenove and William Llovel’s, published in the Annual Review of Marine Science, in 2009, reveals the opposite to be the case in terms of sea levels.

He has also made public statements, in the House of Lords no less, that the carbon floor price, which charges for carbon emissions to support investment in low-carbon energies, will accelerate electricity prices for the domestic user by 60-70 per cent by 2030. Shocking, non?!

In fact, simulated models of how this mechanism will work suggest a drop of between 3-7 per cent by 2030. Hmm. No doubt the good Lords were asleep during that one.

The former chancellor uses his erstwhile status, and all the gravitas it implies, to throw his weight around. Following the IPCC’s 2013 report, which found that human action was the ‘dominant cause’ of climate change, Lawson had recourse to the Daily Telegraph, where he declared this was “not science—it’s mumbo-jumbo”.

In doing so, he utilised the childish, ridiculing language so beloved of his former boss, Margaret Thatcher, who glanced across the industrial wasteland that she had made of England’s North-East, before famously denouncing her critics as “moaning minnies”.

He delights in being misleading, suggesting that the InterAcademy Council found the IPCC reports “grotesquely flawed”. They didn’t.

They picked up on a few errors—unsurprising in a report that seeks to pull together all current and relevant global research on an emerging scientific discipline—but finished with fulsome praise, congratulating the IPCC on “this accomplishment”, noting that “their effort provides a scientific basis for decisions that policy-makers around the world are making”.

He also wrote a book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming. This was trashed, minutes later, by John Houghton, who is not a retiree living in his holiday home, but an Honourary Scientist at the Met Office and co-chair of the IPCC, and therefore is actually qualified to talk about actual science, who pronounced the cranky tome “neither cool nor rational.”

Oh, there’s more…but let’s cut to Brexit, another of Mr Lawson’s hobbies.

As with climate change, he dismisses fears about leaving the EU with vague, dismissive high-handedness. “The ‘single market’ is a curious term…”, “Look, most of the world is not in the European Union…”, and “I love Europe! That’s why I live in France!”. Address any of your concerns? Nope, thought not.

He told Decca Aitkenhead, of the Guardian, that “Self-government is more important than anything else.” Aha! But then adds, “The decision to hold another Scottish referendum is the decision of the British government, it’s not for the Scottish government to decide.” Ah…

In case you hadn’t realised, Mr Lawson’s objections to the EU are not based on a fear of straight bananas and runny Camembert, but a dislike of legislation that seeks to restrain free marketeers.

You know, all that bureaucratic red tape about, say, clean air to stop us contracting incurable respiratory diseases, or waste disposal laws to enable us to go paddling on beaches without having to wade through sewage first…that sort of fussy, continental nonsense.

Yes, truly a man of the people. People Like Us, that is. Not people like you and me.

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