Structured debate on climate change would have been better

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Transition Town Lewes is interested to see that Nigel Lawson is being given a platform at the Lewes Speakers Festival on July 20 to air his unscientific opinion on climate change.

Given such a critical subject is being addressed in one of the UK’s leading transition towns, we would have welcomed a structured debate between Lawson and recognised climate change experts, rather than allowing him to express his views unchallenged. In the absence of that debate, Transition Town Lewes would like to put some questions to Nigel Lawson

Who are the main funders of his Global Warming Policy Foundation?

Investigative journalism suggests that those who profit most from weak environmental regulation have been actively funding climate change deniers. An anonymously funded group, The Donors Trust, has “distributed $118m to 102 think tanks or action groups which have a record of denying the existence of a human factor in climate change, or opposing environmental regulations.” (The Guardian)

Is the Global Warming Policy Foundation funded by the Donors Trust? If it is genuinely independent of vested interests and not ideologically driven, why so coy about funding?

Why so sure that he knows better than the accepted consensus of thousands of climate scientists?

He is not a scientist himself, yet he has criticised the Kyoto protocol, saying it is “wrong-headed” and claimed that there are substantial scientific uncertainties surrounding climate change.

He has even called for the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) to be “shut down – apparently it is not objective – and spoken of the “intellectual bankruptcy of the [...] climate change establishment”.

Does he accept that extra CO2 in the atmosphere causes warming and contributes to climate volatility?

He believes that man-made global warming is exaggerated, but the evidence proves conclusively that global warming is happening. According to the World Meteorological Organisation, the first 10 years of the 21st century was the warmest decade since the start of modern measurements in 1850, with more national temperature records broken than in any previous decade. The decade was the warmest for both hemispheres and for both land and ocean surface temperatures. Scientific evidence shows large increases in CO2 in the atmosphere since the start of the industrial revolution. Has this not been at the very least a contributory factor?

Why claim that Antarctic ice volumes are unchanged when this is clearly contrary to satellite measurements?

Why similarly incorrectly imply that the correlation between CO2 and sea levels is uncertain as sea levels were rising more slowly since 1950 than before it. In fact the current sea level rise is accelerating?

Why so reluctant to accept the economic case for working to prevent climate change? As a former Chancellor of the Exchequer he presumably knows his economics and yet he has criticised the Stern Review, published in 2006, which made clear that the potential costs of climate change far exceed the costs of a planned reduction in C02 output.

He says that a programme of rapid and drastic decarbonisation would be a diversion of resources that might otherwise be used for economic development, the relief of poverty, the eradication of disease, and so on. Can he not accept that development of renewable energy sources, more energy efficient manufacturing and more low carbon homes and devices might actually promote economic development and reduce poverty? And that they might be a very good thing for the world even if he were to be proved right and global warming is complete bunkum?

Why advocate adaptation to changes in global climate, rather than attempting to reduce greenhouse gas emissions? He argues that the impact of global warming will be relatively moderate rather than apocalyptic. Perhaps he is unaware of a number of recent catastrophic weather events causing billions of pounds worth of damage and killing many people that would be consistent with the scientific models predicting climate change?

Nigel Lawson asks if a binding global agreement on decarbonisation is a practical proposition, citing the complete failure of the recent Copenhagen conference. Perhaps if we all looked at the best solutions for future generations of ordinary people instead of promoting policies to keep the big resource companies in business we might just begin to get somewhere. Lawson is part of the problem and most definitely not part of the solution.

Susan Murray

Transition Town Lewes