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Sunday, September 29, 2013

Nigel Lawson and the GWPF is "confused and meaningless"

Sou | 8:52 PM Go to the first of 14 comments. Add a comment

Nigel Lawson is an English politician who heads up the Global Warming Policy Foundation.  His foundation, which is funded by who knows who (probably literally), has the aim of preventing any actions to mitigate global warming.  He's getting on in years but being old doesn't explain why he couldn't give two hoots about the future of humanity.  There are plenty of old people who push for the survival of the world, not its destruction.

Yesterday he wrote an opinion piece for the Telegraph which is nonsense from one end to the other (archived here).  Richard Tol, an academic economist (and a coordinating lead author of a chapter of IPCC WGII) who advises Nigel's foundation, tweeted about it and posed the challenge to "specify the bits that are confused and meaningless". Maybe Richard advised Nigel on what to write.  One hopes not.

Here are some of the bits that are confused and meaningless.  Nigel writes:
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which published on Friday the first instalment of its latest report, is a deeply discredited organisation. 
Nope.  The IPCC is not a discredited organisation, deeply or otherwise, despite the best efforts of Nigel and his cronies.  The IPCC has the support of 195 nations around the world.  That's almost 100% of the world.

Nigel continues to get it wrong, writing:
Presenting itself as the voice of science on this important issue, it is a politically motivated pressure group that brings the good name of science into disrepute.
Wrong again, Nigel.  The IPCC is apolitical, unlike your GWPF.  It is not a pressure group.  It's a small organisation that coordinates the preparation of reports about climate change.  The 195 member organisations cover the full spectrum of politics but the organisation itself is not political.

Nigel still keeps going from wrong to wronger, writing:
Its previous report, in 2007, was so grotesquely flawed that the leading scientific body in the United States, the InterAcademy Council, decided that an investigation was warranted. The IAC duly reported in 2010, and concluded that there were “significant shortcomings in each major step of [the] IPCC’s assessment process”, and that “significant improvements” were needed. It also chastised the IPCC for claiming to have “high confidence in some statements for which there is little evidence”.
There is no-one, apart from Nigel, who thinks the 2007 report was "flawed" let alone grotesquely flawed.  In fact the IPCC was awarded a Nobel Prize for its contribution to the world.  Nobel Prizes are not handed out for "grotesquely flawed" reports.

Nigel then proceeds to misquote the IAC, which did a review of the IPCC - at the request of the IPCC I should add.  Nigel deliberately leaves out the crucial first part of a sentence in order to change its meaning.  There is a vast difference in meaning between: significant shortcomings in each major step of [the] IPCC’s assessment process and
This chapter identifies and recommends ways to address the most significant shortcomings in each major step of IPCC’s assessment process, based on the Committee’s analysis of current IPCC practices, of the literature on assessments, and community input.
The latter is about identifying which shortcomings are the most significant.  It does not imply that there were significant shortcomings in the manner implied by Nigel.

Update: As Marco notes in the comments, Nigel Lawson is wrong on another count.  The IAC is not the 'leading scientific body in the United States', it is an international organisation created by "all of the world's science mobilize the best scientists and engineers worldwide to provide high quality advice to international bodies - such as the United Nations and the World Bank - as well as to other institutions."

Its co-Chairs are from Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. You can see the IAC Board members here.  Nigel Lawson also neglected to observe this recent statement from the IAC congratulating the IPCC:
By again bringing together so many experts from across the globe to synthesize current scientific understanding of climate change, the IPCC has demonstrated its on-going value to society. The InterAcademy Council (IAC) congratulates the IPCC on this accomplishment and expresses its gratitude to the hundreds of experts from developed and developing countries alike who volunteered their time and knowledge to this unique scientific endeavour. Their effort provides a scientific basis for decisions that policymakers around the world are making about how best to mitigate and adapt to climate change -- one of the most critical challenges facing humankind.

Nigel digs in deeper, invoking the "CO2 is plant food" denier meme.  That is an indicator of the depth of his denial.

He then goes on to write:
... as long ago as 2009, the IPCC chairman, Dr Rajendra Pachauri – who is a railway engineer and economist by training, not a scientist, let alone a climate scientist – predicted that “when the IPCC’s fifth assessment comes out in 2013 or 2014, there will be a major revival of interest in action that has to be taken. People are going to say: 'My God, we are going to have to take action much faster than we had planned.’” This was well before the scientific investigation on which the latest report is allegedly based had even begun. So much for the scientific method.
Two can play that game of "he's not qualified".  Dr Pachauri has headed up an R&D institute for many decades and is eminently qualified to chair the IPCC.  On the other hand, Nigel is just a politician, economist and treasurer of mixed success, who presumably (based on his "CO2 is plant food" throwaway) doesn't know the first thing about any physical or biological science.  Funnily enough, further in his article, Nigel touts a book he says he's written on global warming.  He's no scientist - what does he know about the subject?  Nothing, nada, zilch!

When he claims that "this was well before the scientific investigation...had even begun" he's woefully wrong.  Not only had scientific investigation already begun in 2009, but much of the research embodied in the current report was well underway and some of it had no doubt been completed.

Nigel's lack of knowledge about the earth system is further exemplified when he writes:
That is that global warming appears to have ceased: there has been no increase in officially recorded global mean temperature for the past 15 years. 
He's flat out wrong.  The "officially recorded" global mean surface temperature hit a maximum in 2010 - that's not even three years ago, let alone fifteen years ago.  Not only that but there has been an "officially recorded" increase in the heat in the oceans - down to two kilometres deep.  So he's doubly wrong.

Data Source: SkepticalScience Nuccitelli et al (2012)

Now for Nigel's mumbo jumbo:
This is not science: it is mumbo-jumbo. Neither the 90 per cent nor the 95 per cent have any objective scientific basis: they are simply numbers plucked from the air for the benefit of credulous politicians and journalists.
Nigel discounts the science because it doesn't suit his agenda.  He doesn't want the world to take any action to mitigate global warming so he comes up with a lot of mumbo jumbo to try to justify his appalling stance.  He wants the world to continue on a trajectory to six degrees of warming or worse.  He can't wait for the seas to rise one, two or six metres.  Well, he'll be dead and gone well before that happens.  But the young people today will be alive to see some of it if people like Nigel get their way.

Inconsistently, Nigel writes:
What we should emphatically not do is what Dr Pachauri, Lord Stern and that gang are calling for and decarbonise the global economy by phasing out fossil fuels.
Before the industrial revolution mankind relied for its energy on beasts of burden and wind power. The industrial revolution, and the enormous increase in prosperity it brought with it, was possible only because the West abandoned wind power and embraced fossil fuels. We are now – unbelievably – being told that we must abandon relatively cheap and highly reliable fossil fuels, and move back to wind power, which is both unreliable and hugely costly.
What he is arguing is change in the past meant prosperity but now we've got to remain stuck in the past.  That's hugely inconsistent.  He argues that in the past innovation brought good things but now the world has to stop innovating.  What a Luddite!  To continue to shift to clean energy is the only way the world has any hope of remaining prosperous.  It's probably the only way that society will survive in the future.  As for his equating modern wind turbines with old-fashioned windmills, who does he take us for?

Then Nigel goes for what is arguably the second last refuge of the scoundrel, pretending to care for developing countries.  As if!  All he cares about is maintaining what he sees as the status quo.  He wants to sell dirty coal to poorer nations so they will make cheap toys for him and his mates, while they suffer all the ills that dirty energy brings.  What he should be advocating is that developing nations bypass the pollution and filth that England and other nations suffered when they began burning coal, and invest in clean energy solutions.  Not only will that limit the damage from global warming, it will limit the huge cost of pollution and adverse health effects that go with dirty energy.

Hopefully the world won't take any notice of villains like Nigel Lawson.  He had his moment of glory many years ago.  Now he's acting like a clown.  If he's remembered in history books of the future, I hope it's for his current activities and not his past activities so that people will not repeat his sins.


  1. Richard Tol should have known that the IAC is not the leading scientific body in the US, but an international collaboration of national academies (of which the NAS is only one). He should also have known that the IAC did not decide, but was asked to do a review. The fact that he ignores all the errors shows he is outright dishonest.

    Oh, and you will not hear Lawson about this statement from the IAC:



    1. Thanks, Marco. I'll add some of that to the article.

  2. My you're prolific - I can't keep up! You may want to check out David Rose's latest -see my comment on your previous article

    1. I just googled "David Rose daily mail" and you'll never guess what popped up at the top of the list!

  3. It's comments - in the article - like this that I find most disturbing

    generally agreed that if the global temperature standstill soon comes to an end and the world is, as the IPCC is now suggesting might well be the case, 1.5ºC warmer by the end of the century, that would be a thoroughly good thing: beneficial to global food production and global health alike.

    There is some evidence (Richard Tol's work for example) that 1 - 1.5 degrees of warming from today could have economic benefits. There are others (Chris Hope's work) that say it will have no net economic benefit or damage. There is, however, fairly strong agreement that the benefit will start to reduce beyond 1.5 degrees and become net negative beyond 2.5 degrees (all relative to today).

    Here's the two main issues with that. We've already locked in close to 1 degree of warming. Any more emissions means we start to head into the regime where the economic benefit reduces and if we do nothing the evidence suggests that we'll be doing damage to the world economy. The second issue is that even these studies acknowledge that even if there could be a net economic benefit to 1 degree of warming, there will be regions that suffer as a consequence of climate change. In fact, it seems as though the regions that will benefit most will be the regions with most economic activity (and hence who contributed most to climate change) and the regions that will suffer most will be the populous tropical regions that have less economic activity and have contributed less to climate change.

    I find it remarkable that we aren't taking this moral dilemma more seriously. How anyone could argue that this is acceptable behaviour is beyond me.

    1. Me too. Thing is, all these people who are arguing for making the world hotter - how do they propose to stop it when it gets too hot even for them? Do they think the world can turn off the CO2 tap just like that?

      It's already causing lots of damage and destruction. I cannot fathom the people who oppose reducing CO2 emissions.

    2. Remember that that "economic benefits" depends on the region (I know you said it, but it needs to be emphasized).

      The people in the disadvantaged regions may not be so willing to stay there...


    3. My own thought exactly Marco. If Brazil or West Africa start to seriously degenerate after 1C of warming, does the rest of the world just say "Devil take the Hindmost"?



    4. Chris Hope has never published an estimate of the impact of climate change. He has always relied on other people's work.

  4. You omitted serving in the Navy and being a financial journalist from Lawson's CV. Oh, and being one of Lord Monckton's relatives by marriage. I read a good phrase to describe his expertise in climate science elsewhere which I think is apt. Lawson knows the cube root of f--- all about climate science.

    1. Fortunately, Nige's daughter Nigella took after her mother's side of the family, the Salmons, and took up writing cook books, etc. Nigella is the sister-in-law of Rosamund Monckton, Chris's sister. Nigella is entitled to call herself The Honourable Nigella Lawson but doesn't - could be a lesson in humility for potty peers. Which all goes to show you can choose your friends but not your relatives. Similarly, Nigel demonstrates you can choose your opinion but not your facts.

  5. I'd like to think that Bob Ward's complaint to the charities commission may give them some trouble.

    It beggars belief that an organisation (of undisclosed funding) can spread dis/ misinformation under the status of an 'educational charity.'

  6. "...the cube root of f--- all"

    Ooh, Catmando. I am so stealing that!



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