Nigel Lawson's diary: My secret showdown with the Royal Society over global warming

Plus: Milan yearns for a Thatcher, and how I might have killed Hugh Gaitskell

30 November 2013

9:00 AM

30 November 2013

9:00 AM

The long-discussed meeting between a group of climate scientists and Fellows of the Royal Society on the one side, and me and some colleagues from my think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation on the other, has now at last taken place. It was held behind closed doors in a committee room at the House of Lords, the secrecy — no press present — at the insistence of the Royal Society Fellows, an insistence I find puzzling given the clear public interest in the issue of climate change in general and climate change policy in particular. The origins go back almost a year, to a lecture by the president of the Royal Society, the biologist Sir Paul Nurse. In it he chose to launch a gratuitous personal attack on me, making a number of palpably false allegations. I wrote to him, pointing out his errors, and he replied — somewhat changing his tune — conceding that ‘it is quite legitimate for both of us to talk about climate change policy, but before doing so we need to have access to the highest quality climate science. I am not sure you are receiving the best advice, and I would be very happy to put you in contact with distinguished active climate research scientists if you think that would be useful.’

I readily accepted his offer: hence, at long last, this month’s meeting in the House of Lords. The charge that my critical views about climate change policy are based on inadequate exposure to reputable scientists was always absurd, not least given that the academic advisory council of the GWPF has on it, among others, the world’s most highly regarded physicist, Professor Freeman Dyson of Princeton, arguably the world’s most eminent climate scientist, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT (who flew over for the meeting), and three Fellows of the Royal Society. So Nurse’s team were able to tell me little I did not already know. But what did emerge was that, if anyone needed educating, it was them. Despite the fact that they were headed by Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, the Director of the Grantham Institute, which has pronounced views on climate policy, and a member of the Climate Change Committee, which is concerned with the implementation of the Climate Change Act, they were very reluctant to engage on the crucial issue of climate change policy at all. What was clear, however, was that they had no understanding of, or interest in, the massive human and economic costs involved in the policies they so glibly endorse.

These days I normally confine my travelling to my weekly commute between London and my home in deepest Armagnac. But I did pop off a few days ago to Milan, to be the principal speaker at the annual dinner of the Istituto Bruno Leoni, an excellent free market think-tank, run by some impressively talented youngsters. Each year the IBL chooses a theme for its annual dinner, and this year, to mark her death, the theme was Margaret Thatcher. They had asked me to explain how she had managed to achieve the impressive programme of radical economic reform in this country for which she will always be remembered. It was a sizable occasion, with well over 400 diners, and the only drawback was that, by the time I got up to speak (there were other, earlier speakers, as well as the inevitable fund-raising), it was well after 11 p.m. But it seemed to go down well with the digestifs. The next morning I was interviewed at length by Italy’s leading newspaper, the Corriere della Sera, which published a long piece headed ‘In Italia lo Stato pesa troppo. Sarebbe necessaria la formula della Thatcher’. Her reputation around the world continues to resound. I cannot think of any other British politician since Churchill of whom that can be said.

Talking of free market think-tanks, I have also just done a lunchtime meeting for the Institute of Economic Affairs. They had invited me to make the case for ‘Brexit’ — the departure of Britain from the European Union — which I now believe to be highly desirable. The room was packed and the discussion was refreshingly free of the fanatics, on both sides, who normally make debates on Europe so dreary. My mind went back to an occasion exactly 50 years ago, when I was at a small private dinner in Chelsea at which the guest of honour was the then leader of the Labour party and leader of the opposition, Hugh Gaitskell. During the course of the dinner, I found myself in an increasingly heated argument with Gaitskell over whether the UK should join what was then the European Economic Community. He was passionately opposed, and I was in favour of it. He became more and more exercised, his face got redder and redder, and I was afraid he was about to burst a blood vessel. Then, a few days later, and still only in his fifties, he dropped down dead. I was overcome with guilt, fearing that I may have precipitated his untimely end. Perhaps my present stance on the EU is some kind of penance.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Nigel Lawson was editor of The Spectator from 1966 to 1970. He then went into politics.

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  • Phillip2

    The GWPF has a much more distinguished Academic Advisory Council than any collection of climatologists that the RS could ever muster. Are we allowed to know who represented the RS? Or must that be kept a secret to avoid embarassing them as the scientific non-entities they no doubt in reality are?

  • Latimer Alder

    The Royal Society (motto – nullus in verba – ‘take nobody’s word’) insist on secrecy when discussing matters of huge public interest and importance with a senior statesman and Member of the Privy Council??

    Normally we expect the pollies to hide behind secrecy and the scientists to insist on full disclosure. Here it seems to be inverted.

    One does not need to be Poirot to wonder what it is they think they will achieve? And if they are not deliberately going out of their way to raise suspicions, they are doing so unwittingly…not a recommendation for the application of their intellectual capacities in the real world.

    • WinstonsBack

      This is conspiracy theory gone mad. And every other national science academy in the World as well? Oh but didn’t the Royal Society host open public meetings back in September to discuss the climate science? Amonsgt the hundreds of UK scientists expert in the topic there were some sceptics and deniers including representatives of the GWPF! So secret! Would not want the RS to run our inteligence services then. If it was not so sinister I would have to admire how you pounce one one isolated fact or event and leave out a whole host of other facts which contradict your point.

      • Phillip2

        What’s a denier? What is it that the se so-called deniers are denying? Methinks you don’t like “climate scientists” to be exposed to the scientific methodology

        • Leslie Graham

          Everyone knows exactly what is meant by ‘denier’ or ‘denialist’. It has long been part of the everyday vernacular.

          It is ridiculous to refer to parroters of disinformation and flat out lies as ‘skeptics’.
          There is absolutely nothing ‘skeptical’ about them, they accept every piece of junk spewed out daily by the carbon industry PR machine, of which Lawson’s pathetic little cadre of shills is a part, without any form of ‘scepticism’ whatsoever.

          It is sad enough that their are still those who fall for Lawson’s deliberate appeal to their worst instincts, however, those at the top, like him and Lindzen, who are knowingly spreading their lies are a particularly vile breed of sub-human and deserve to be recognised as such.

          Neither of these groups are remotely ‘sceptical’. They are climate change deniers pure and simple.

          The word denier dates from the 15th century and simply means ‘one who denies’.

          “…Denialism is the employment of rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none. These false arguments are used when one has few or no facts to support one’s viewpoint against a scientific consensus or against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They are effective in distracting from actual useful debate using emotionally appealing, but ultimately empty and illogical assertions….”

          That definition fits climate change deniers to an absolute ‘T’.
          There is simply no other word in the English language that is more apt.

          The attempt by deniers to falsely equate the term with the Neo-nazi holocaust deniers is disgusting. It is as cowardly as it is disingenuous.

          If the cap fits wear it and spare us your faux outrage.

          • Mike Jonas

            “The word denier dates from the 15th century and simply means ‘one who denies’.”.

            Naturally, a denier may in fact be correct or incorrect, depending on what is denied. In climate, what matters is the science, and that is clearly not yet settled.

            In this case, however, the word “denier” is misplaced. Those sceptical of mainstream climate science generally accept that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but claim that its effect has been overestimated primarily because of a lack of scientific knowledge about natural climate factors.

            Instad of hurling insults, it would be better to stick to the science.

            (NB. “Denialism” dates only from April 2007, when it was coined specifically to attack climate science sceptics)

          • global city

            The use of denier in the context of climate change is clearly to associate ‘deniers’ with Nazis, i.e, bad guys.

            The irony is that the watermelons are the biggest bunch of fascist bas***ds you’ll ever likely meet, outside of an SWP meeting that is.

          • global city

            Jeez! How boring was that? The same old rubbish everyone has heard a thousand times, with still no evidence!

            You warmists are like absolutist religious fundamental nuts. Where’s God.. ‘look, he’s all around. Look at the bees, the mountains, the miracles of Jesus’.


          • elderlyfox

            We ‘Deniers’ belive JUNK like: Like: no warming in 15 years, Arctic Ice 60% larger than 12 months ago, Antarctic ice thickest ever. No significant ocean level rise, (just mm). A frozen Northern hemisphere this winter. No hurricanes in US this year. The world’s ‘worst’ typhoon hitting Philippines this year had a gust of 275 kph measured. Typhoon Rose in Hong Kong in August 1972 had a gust of 341kph destroy their anemometer. CO2 follows warming by 800 years.
            Go carbon scam elsewhere!

        • Mnestheus

          A denier is by and large someone who , unable to read, let alone find succor in the climate science literature turns to op-eds such as this to be told what to believe.

          Like the average age of Lawson’s iacademic nformants, Dick Lindzen’s failure to convert any of his colleagues speaks volumes to the vacuity of Lawson’s views- if the green left dominates the policy debate it is precisely because the GWPF remains a scientific wasteland.

          • rtj1211

            Probably unlike you, I saw a vicious battle between two scientific groups play out in biomedical research over 20 years ago. The reasons that they become so trenchant is that whosoever loses can be certain that they won’t receive grant income again. Or that’s what they think at any rate.

            Sometimes, the solution is a quiet addressing of the issue behind closed doors, using a professional mediator (who understands the science) as a moderator.

            In this case, your claim that the ‘deniers’ are a ‘scientific wasteland’ appears to be misinformed. In science, it is those putting forward a hypothesis who must design experiments to refute and allow those disagreeing with them to question the veracity of their rigour.

            In the case of CAGW, the hypothesis is that carbon dioxide emissions, mostly since 1945, have accelerated the rate of increase of global temperature in a dangerous manner.

            In that case, you have to prove the following:
            1. That temperature increases mirror carbon dioxide increases more closely than any other likely candidates mediating the warming (it doesn’t – solar output, oceanic oscillations mirror it far more closely).
            2. That the rates of warming between 1977 and 1998 (since no warming occurred between 1945 and 1977 nor since 1998 either) are unprecedented in climate history (they are not – look to any number of geological studies, any number of ice core studies to confirm that).
            3. That the rises since 1800, which have been entirely beneficial to the human race, must continue at the same rate for sufficiently long time (at least 200-300 more years) to reach a point where the warming might become harmful (I know of no model which has demonstrated prognostic ability in this regard and nor do any other analysts of this sphere).
            4. That if the warming is not occurring for that long in the future, then amplification mechanisms will do it quicker, in which case the agents of amplification and the experimental evidence underpinning the reality of the action must be presented (none have been – the amplification figures have been POSTULATED and in the main, have been shown to be gross exaggerations).

            Note the difference between experimental measurement and proof and the use of computer models, which does not constitute proof of anything until 15 – 20 years of climate has been successfully predicted using aforesaid models (it hasn’t been).

            Now, I think I’ve laid out for you what you need to prove as a warmest and I look forward to you doing so to the satisfaction of the skeptics.

          • Mnestheus

            As your manifesto ignores the empirically proven- the physics of radiative transfer ,and the directly measured- the optical constants of such gases as CO2, your cry of ignoramus !: ” I know of no model which has demonstrated prognostic ability…” merely proves my point.

            Speccie readers will find virtually all of your objections professionally fisked in the

            Responses to common contrarian arguments section here :


            I suggest you run a reality check on your own views the old fachioned way- by seeing if you understand the subject well enough to publish a scientific paper.

          • flaxdoctor

            So you think the impact of a tiny increase in carbon dioxide levels in the Earth’s atmosphere has been ’empirically proven’ and anybody who disagrees with your assertion, or indeed the pronouncement of a public relations website is a ‘denier’.

            And this, despite nearly two decades of your ’empirically proven’ assertion being denied daily by weather station observations, with all major indices showing a stasis in global temperatures? As a scientist, I’d say you suffer from a serious hubris issue probably caused by an overdose of received wisdom.

          • Mnestheus

            Your share of that “tiny increase in CO2 levels in the Earth’s atmosphere ” amounts to over a hundred tonnes.

            Denying the temperature rise that began with the industrial revolution by focusing on its short term fluctuations is intellectuall akin to denying the motion of an up escalator by insisting that the treads are flat.

            If as a soi disant scientist you have some evidence that the absorbtion spectrum of CO2 has changed by an iota over the course of human history, why don’t you ornament your bibliography by publishing it? Indeed why don’t you impress us with your bona fides by providing a link to your contributions ?

          • flaxdoctor

            Speak for yourself, pollutionmeister. Denying that temperatures have fallen steadily since both Roman and Mediaeval warm periods is akin is akin to denying that the motion of a down escalator by insisting that the treads are flat. Do you have any concept of time other than your school day?

          • Mnestheus

            Really, old flack, do you imagine Speccie readers equally ignorant of both the instrumental and the stable isotope records? Some take Delingpole no more seriously than Monckton, and we don’t see Ridley or riding to Lawson’s rescue- real climate skepticism has to be based on real climate science.

            It is senseless to elide the global temperature record– what there is of it, with anecdotal accounts of regionall trends.

            If temperatures have been falling monotonocally since classical times, how ever can there have been any warm periods ?

          • flaxdoctor

            Pathetic – even Michael ‘Piltdown’ Mann has given up on that ‘regionall’ (sic) dross, as has the IPCC – can’t you even keep up with your own disinformation programme?

          • Mnestheus

            Just because you indulge in disinformation does not mean others do.

            There are of course exceptions , like Yuri Izrael, , who was a full time politburo dezinformatsia hack decades before he went to work for Lukhoil and joined the Lawson chorus.

          • flaxdoctor

            Disinformation AND conspiracy theories? Anybody else you’d like to libel?

          • global city

            but that is precisely what the warmists did to kick the whole mania off. They’re quite proud of the fact that they turned up the heaters and close the windows on a hot day at their first presentation! Hansen thinks he’s a genius for pulling it off. They are equally as proud of the fact that they used adulterated and truncated data-sets to only indicate the steepest rise that was taking place from the mid 70s’ to late 80s’, when the congressional hearing was fixed.

          • Craig King

            Like , say, Al Gore?

          • iviv44

            Are you really claiming that all the predictions rest on the concentration and physical properties of CO2 gas alone? No other factors feeding in? No feedback loops or higher order effects? Just a nice, direct, linear relationship? If you think it is really that simple then no wonder you are puzzled by people who question the ability of models to explain and predict climate.

      • Latimer Alder

        No conspiracy theory. I don’t generally believe in conspiracies. And this just needs one or two RSites to have a hissy fit.

        But it is definitely odd behaviour. One of the premier scientific bodies of the world publicly challenges Lawson and then wants to brief him about climate change *in secret*??? Difficult to dream up some plausible reasons that don’t at least *look* rather strange.

        And given the earlier meeting that you write of, it is hard to understand what it is that the RS feel Lawson was missing prior to this event. Have there been new developments we aren’t privy to? If so they’re flying very much under the radar, as they’ve not appeared in the blogosphere.

      • Billy___Bob

        Winston, members of the AGW cult don’t like to debate in public because they invariably lose. So they hold secret meetings, or off the record meetings, or make sure there is no one from the skeptic side allowed to speak and debate issues at the same time.

        The AGW side are intellectual cowards.

        Great debates are wonderful things. The AGW side hate them.

        • Leslie Graham

          The near unanimous consensus of evidence can be debated at any time – in the scientific literature.
          That is where science is ALWAYS debated and always has been.
          If the denialist cult had a scintilla of evdience to back up their crackpot claims of ‘conspiracy'[ (give me strength) and all the other absurd junk they produce and parrot to themselves they would be able to produce research papers and get them published in the appropriate peer-reviewed publications.
          The fact that they don’t and can’t speaks for itself.
          There is NO ‘debate’ about AGW and there hasn’t been for decades. The tiny minority – around 15 – scientists who refute some aspects of AGW have been falsified by literaly thousands of peer-reviewed studies.
          That IS “the debate” and the deniers lost it over 40 years ago.
          The greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the human race is the denial of climate change. Fortunately the percentage of people who are even yet being suckered by these self-centred propagandists is almost down to single figures.
          Even the State of Texas has 85% who now accept the obvious reality of climate change.
          We have known that a rise in the levels of CO2 would warm the Earth since 1896 for heavens sake. Are you actualy serious in your ‘belief’ that there has been a global conspiracy going on for the last 155 years!?
          Just madness. The denial is now desperate, hysterical, pathological and officialy beyond parody.

          • Leslie Graham

            That should have read:
            Are you actualy serious in your ‘belief’ that there has been a global conspiracy going on for the last 115 years!?

          • rtj1211

            It’s been going on since the late 1980s. Before that, climate science didn’t really impinge on politics and it wasn’t a potential vehicle for global socialism. Since then, it has been.

          • global city

            Why would that be?

          • Billy___Bob

            AGW is a cult. They had a chance to predict the result of a massive increase in CO2. Over one third of man made CO2 has occurred since 1998 and nothing has happened.

            No temperature increase. Nothing.

            Have you consider a deprogrammer?

          • rtj1211

            Have you ever written papers for the scientific literature?? I have, and trust me, there is a double-speak involved which is entirely associated with the following:

            i. The need to secure more grant funding, tenure etc etc.
            ii. The need to maintain the aura of the scientific community in the field concerned.
            iii. The ability to describe minor changes a ‘significant’, ‘different’ etc without asking whether it is critical or game-changing.
            iv. The ability to develop mantras which are rather like the hymns in a church, some of which may no longer be true or were in fact never true.

            You may find this deeply shocking, disturbing or surprising: I certainly did when I first started doing science. You learn to roll with the punches if you wish to progress and you ‘play the game’.

            Science is reviewed by scientists and it is solely scientists who decide what is published. You would have thought that the most important people to review what gets published were the people funding it, not the people doing it, but you would be wrong.

          • Mnestheus

            The question is whether you have ever published a paper on climate science- there are several hundred journals to choose from, not counting those subsidized by the energy industry on which the GWPF so egregiously relies.

            Climate PR by the Ad Council is part of the problem, and the GWPF cannot solve it by emulation.

          • Warwick

            The overwhelming majority of climate scientists were devout environmentalist long before they took up climate science.

          • flaxdoctor

            And the fact that just because something is published, doesn’t for a microsecond mean it’s beyond question or even that it’s not a complete lie: http://retractionwatch.com/2013/11/28/controversial-seralini-gmo-rats-paper-to-be-retracted/

          • Craig King

            Are you aware of “Climategate” and what those emails reveal regarding getting stuff published?

            You guys are just unbelievable.

          • Mnestheus

            Mr. King;s failure to publish anything on brain surgery gives the lie to that pack of charlatans and the publishers that serve them.

            He is clearly in the vanguard of the war against cliche’

          • ButcombeMan

            “Even the State of Texas has 85% who now accept the obvious reality of climate change”.

            Without commenting on the AGW debate, that remark of yours is incredibly silly.

            At one time almost everyone believed the world was flat. What “people”, especially non specialists, believe, is not relevant to a debate about highly complicated science.

            I am sure if you think for a moment about what you said you will see my point.

            The rest of your piece seems to be a rant and devoid of common sense also.

            Plainly there IS a debate about AGW, that is why you are here commenting.

            Your rant is sadly typical. You do the warmists a disservice by touching your keyboard and putting out such shallow rubbish.

          • Warwick

            If the proponents of this idea, that CAGW will make the earth uninhabitable, were really sure of their theories they would not invent dodgy constructs like the now completely discredited “hockey stick.”

            Furthermore, it is a total fabrication to say that those who doubt the CAGW claims believe that there is a conspiracy. Rather, the sceptics point to the high fashion in green left ideas that has followed the rejection and collapse of belief in a brave socialist new world and the traditional biblical God.

            But how vitriolic the CAGW proponents are becoming! They employ the kind of language that was formerly used by the Inquisition against heretics.

      • Baron

        Forget about c’contradicting points, the key point, WinstonBack, is this: The changing climate has FA to do with the CO2 concentration in the air. Keep this in mind for future reference for the day will come when even the deluded, like you, will get it.

    • Jagman 84

      Sadly “Climate Change” is all about Politics, not science. The Climate Change Act is aimed at relieving us of even more of our hard-earned cash to spend on what our “political masters” deem worthy causes. The alternative is increases in Income Tax / N.I. ( same thing really), which are certain vote losers at a G.E.

    • Defiant

      It NEEDS to be in secret because there’s nothing to discuss. Global warming has been swept to the wayside along with fairys, cold fusion, and the philosophers stone. But there’s a lot of money to be lost by a lot of “scientists” who’ve hitched all their horses to this one, rickety old cart.

  • WinstonsBack

    The RS naively offered Lord Lawson the opportunity to be briefed by leading climate scientists on the actual status of the climate science. Naive because they honestly believed once he was briefed he might change his position. They did not understand he has no interest in listening to the actual climate science. His is a political agenda pure and simple. It is driven by ideology. if the science does not fit with his ideology to hell with it. The Catholic Church did the same this with Copernicus and Galileo. Note Lord Lawson does not dwell on the discussion of the science. He quickly moves onto the policy, not the topic of the meeting. A sleight of hand to confuse and give the impression the Fellows were not qualified. Will he now take on the national science academies of the rest of the World? Where next? If his ideology dictates, the Earth is flat, the Earth is at the centre of the Universe?

    • Latimer Alder

      Of course Lawson wanted to discuss policy. He’s from the GW *Policy Foundation*. What do you expect him to want to hear about and talk about? Football? Ornithology?

    • lindzen4pm

      No. The ideology is on your side. Falsify the null hypothesis.

    • Billy___Bob

      Winston: “the actual status of the climate science”

      The RS said (I’m parapharasing): It hasn’t warmed in 15 years and we have no clue why, but we don’t plan to admit that in public or debate it.

      • lindzen4pm

        Those supporting the CAGW hypothesis will not address any of the issues surrounding climate science, and react to questioning of the hypothesis as tantamount to treason, or, more pertinently, heresy.
        Very scientific.

    • Craig King

      Just a minor niggle. If you accept Einstein’s proposition that the Universe is a sphere of infinite radius then where else could the Earth be if not at it’s centre?

    • Weaver

      You do realise the CBR is all but isotropic? The earth (and every point in space) is at the centre of the universe.

      Now run along and play with your science.

    • global city

      You have just described the watermelons who indulge inmost of the promotion of the mania, and those scientists right at the heart of the scam.

      I suppose it must be embarrassing having been taken in so completely by such an obvious scam.

      I own the rights to the Eiffel tower, if you’re interested in buying it cheap?

  • ilma630

    WB; Look at the Grantham Institute’s home page – “The Grantham Institute’s *mission* is to drive climate *related* research and *translate it into real world impact*” [my emphasis]. If this isn’t ‘political policy’ based, I don’t know what is. The presence of Richard Lindzen and Freeman Dyson however tells us this meeting had was a very serious *scientific* component to it, and it’s naive to think that Nigel Lawson doesn’t understand the science at a deeper level than most of us.

    As for ideology, what Mr Lawson has done (and you should read his book “An Appeal to Reason”, I have) is take a calm, cool-headed look at the policies being advocated and followed by successive governments, not just in the UK, but globally, and applies economic thinking (his expertise) to them, and found them wanting. If there is ideology, it is to be found in abundance in those who ‘believe’ man-made global warming is dangerous, a position Mr Lawson very effectively succeeds in de-constructing.

    • Latimer Alder

      Worth noting also that (according to NLs account) one of the RS members present was from the Committee on Climate Change, which advises the government on climate policy.

  • James

    “Professor Freeman Dyson of Princeton, arguably the world’s most
    eminent climate scientist”

    How can the world’s most eminent climate scientist be someone who has never
    published a single piece of climate science?

    If I was to voice an opinion on vacuum cleaners Nigel Lawson liked do you think he’d be calling me the world’s most
    eminent vacuum scientist?

    • Latimer Alder

      I think the punctuation is rather clumsy here.

      But if you read the phrase ‘arguably the world’s most eminent climate scientist’ as applying to the subsequent Lindzen ,and not to the preceding Dyson, your point disappears.

      • MissMagoo

        I really wouldn’t worry.
        James, like most enthusiastic supporters of the new world religion, is not interested in the truth, only in how he can find fault with those who shine a light on the shadowy world these people inhabit.
        The paragraph is perfectly clear to anyone who cares to read it without their “hate” blinkers perched on their nose..

        • Paul

          “hate blinkers” brilliant. MissMagoo – you are the wrong side of spiteful and paranoid. As is Lawson as an evil advocate of gibberish. This article does not question the science at all I notice. Does Lawson now believe the science but is now changing tack to say we cannot do anything about climate change? Sounds like it.

          • lindzen4pm

            ‘The science’?
            It is science, and climate science encompasses several disciplines. Lord Lawson does not dispute the climate changing, but does not side with the hysterical tendency who suggest that we must de-industrialise now to supposedly knock a few tenths of a degree off future warming. Given estimates for world temps in 50/100 years change with each new IPCC report, and report 5 has a wider temp range than IPCC 4, yet, perversely, greater confidence among their authors, even that is unclear. Once the null hypothesis has been falsified, then we may take this issue seriously.

          • Mnestheus

            Most climate scientists of my acquaintance do not ” side with the hysterical tendency who suggest that we must de-industrialise now to supposedly knock a few tenths of a degree off future warming.”

            If anything is hysteriacal it is the chanting of polemic mantras like “warmism ” and ” AGW” by folks who have never owned or opened an atmospheric science textbook.

          • global city

            yeah… ‘feckin denier’

          • global city

            It read to me like the information you are hinting at being left out of the piece was, er, left out at the behest of the RS scientists, who wanted a behind closed doors session.

            It is the reason why the article was so lacking in ANY detail.

    • Swiss Bob

      Are you really confusing Freeman Dyson with Sir James Dyson?

      If so it only goes to show that the survey showing sceptics are more intelligent and scientifically literate than the chicken little warmists is accurate, unlike the 97% tosh.

    • Mnestheus

      Freeman’s views on the vaccum are first-rate–
      its all this matter that’s confusing the issue.

    • global city

      maybe if he just said ‘vacuum’?

  • JackSavage

    “….the secrecy — no press present — at the insistence of the Royal Society Fellows…..”

    Says it all, really.

  • dodgy

    What would be of the greatest interest would be an actual report of the meeting. Failing that, I presume that we have to guess what happened from this rather bare account.

    I read this as reporting that:

    – The RS side repeated the dogma that CO2 is a greenhouse gas, that lab physics shows that a gas mix with increased concentration of CO2 gets warmer in sunlight and that consequently the Earth’s atmosphere MUST be getting warmer.

    – The GWPF replied that it isn’t according to observations.

    – The RS repeated that it must be, and suggested places where the heat could be hiding.

    – The GWPF replied that it was bad science to assume something which wasn’t proven.

    – The RS invoked the Precautionary Principle, and said that we must act now for the sake of our grandchildren.

    – The GWPF said that the current actions wouldn’t and couldn’t do anything useful, even it the theory was true.

    – The RS side said that that was a policy issue, and nothing to do with them..

    Does that sound about right?

    • RightWingGraham

      Lab physics do not account for clouds moving.
      They assume a constant albedo but we know that is not the case.

      Every time a cloud moves the lab physics is invalidated.

  • mikehaseler

    In normal life, when a group sets itself up as giving advice, then it is culpable if that advice is wrong: an architect whose building falls down, and engineer whose bridge falls down, a financial adviser whose advice causes us to lose our money. If their advice causes financial loss, then those paying out have a right to recover damages.

    As a result anyone who provides such advice has professional indemnity insurance because they know they will be found liable – often in a court of law, if that advice is deficient.

    Do who set themselves up as advisers have this professional indemnity insurance? No! Do they have any experience of giving professional advice which must be relied on by commerce and industry? No!

    In contrast, these “scientists” at the Royal Society want to have their cake and eat it. They want to be treated like academics – in that they don’t want to be legally liable for their advice – but they want their advice to be enforced by the full weight of the law.

    The question the Royal Society should now answer is this. If they believe they should be the “experts” advising government, will they also accept that like all other such advisers they have a duty of care and will be liable if that is wrong? In particular, if the climate models prove to be faulty – will the public who have had money taken from us be able to sue them for this poor advice?

  • EppingBlogger

    As Nigel Lawson was o keen to get us into the ERM as a procurer to the Euro it would be very interesting to know when and why he changed his mind about the EU. I have never seen a cogent explanation of that.

    • rtj1211

      I suspect it has something to do with the development of a legal entity called the EU state, which over-rides all nation states within it.I think he sees the EU state as a very dangerous legal formulation and something which Britain does not wish to be part of. In addition, the bankrupting of Clubmed nation states due to the Euro says that the EU is too unwieldy an organisation to benefit its peoples.

      • EppingBlogger

        The circumstances you describe are all true but they do not explain the change of mind by Nigel Lawson. He was at the centre of government for a long time and cannot have not known the nature of the EU when he was pushing for ERM; and his consequent resignation destroyed Margaret Thatcher, indirectly.

        • global city

          Yes, and they all knew what was coming down the line,as building the EU as the supranational state was the intention from day one.Thatcher and Lawson included

          What I would like to see answered, honestly, is why the establishment have decided that merging our sovereignty is the right thing to do.

  • Noblesse Oblige

    Lord Lawson ought not to have been surprised by the shallowness of the self appointed “experts.” Again and again we have seen an inability to comprehend the obvious or even to engage on the issues, having convinced themselves of a belief system that is impervious to fact. As an American I can’t give you any lectures — we have our own National Academy which displays the same afflictions — but it is sad to see Sir Paul Nurse abandon the principles and traditions the Royal Society that were established by the likes of Newton, Banks, and Davy.

  • neilcraig

    Bear in mind that the nominal purpose of the meeting was, according to Nurse, to inform the GWPF of the “real” science. This is not in any slightest way consistent with them refusing to have their “scientific advice” made public.
    From Lawson’s words it is clear that they made no serious attempt to dispute the science. If so they can only be aware that the entire catastrophic warming story is a totalitarian fraud which no honest person – politician, journalist or “scientist” – could be promoting.
    Apart from anything else Nurse owes Lawson a public apology – not just for lying about him but also for claiming to have scientific advice better than he was getting. As does anybody who has said that Sir Paul Nurse is in any way honest.

    • rtj1211

      To be fair to Nurse, he is the President of RS and he will, presumably, be taking his advice from specialists in the field. He is a practicing biologist so he will represent the best advice given to him, rather than formulating his own. He’d have to be extremely sure of his ground to undermine all his colleagues in a field he has no personal expertise in, after all.

      The on dit inside the ICRF when he took over from Walter Bodmer was that many senior scientists were shocked at his ruthlessness. In one case, he informed a senior Professor that he was no longer in the plans the day after that Prof had received one of the UK’s more prestigious medals. The Prof had foreseen the eventuality and secured themselves both a Chair and the Headship of a Research Institute.

      • neilcraig

        The point is that it is clear from Lawson’s article that it was the RS’ “experts” who refused to say on the record, and probably to say at all, the “scientific” advice they were giving in support of CAGW even though this was the purpose that Nurse had promised the meeting was about.

      • global city

        No,no,no. Nurse long left the position of President/spokesperson for RS views on the issue into direct and passionate advocacy, also taking on the role of Head assassin of deniers! The heffer deserves every bit of opprobrium he has coming his way when the whole thing finally collapses… hopefully followed by a cascade of lawsuits.

  • BJC70

    Why does this have date 30 November 2013 when here in Australia it’s only 29 Nov?

    • geoff Chambers


      Because the Spectator is about 200 years old and back then it took two days to get a copy from London out to readers in the provinces, so the issue printed on Wednesday was dated Friday.

      It may be “only” the 29th where you are, but it’s still the 28th here in Europe. The post-chaise had its problems, but so does the internet.

  • MissMagoo

    I imagine that the noble fellows very nearly choked on their custard creams when they realised who Nigel had brought along to be educated!
    If only Nurse and his henchmen could have spend a few hours trying to get up to speed on the science and the political implications of their pronunciations, they might then have realised just how they were outclassed by the eminent attendees from GWPF and how much they needed to consider their position.
    Never mind though, it’s the same story whenever the lies are highlighted. Duck and dive and go for the man, not the ball.
    Congratulations on your coup Nigel.

  • Leslie Graham

    Lindzen “an eminent climate scientist”!!


    Lindzen is generaly regarded as a joke in the scientific community with his wearisome thousand-times-falsified nonsense about low sensitivity. No wonder he is the ONLY technicaly qualified scientist in Lawson’s laughable think tank of maverick deniers and con men.

    The problem with Lindzen’s argument for low sensitivity is that it contains three separate fundamental flaws:

    CO2-equivalent has not increased by 100%, but rather by about 76% above pre-industrial levels.

    Lindzen has completely neglected all non-GHG influences on the climate.

    The second-largest influence (behind CO2) is from human aerosol emissions, which have a cooling effect. Lindzen seizes on the uncertainty associated with aerosols – the strength of their cooling effect is not well-known; however, the scientific evidence does clearly indicate that they have a cooling effect. In fact, Lindzen’s own sources on the subject conclude that aerosols have a strong cooling effect. Yet in his argument, he has completely failed to account for this cooling effect. In short, Lindzen treats the GHG forcing as equivalent to the net radiative forcing (which is what the climate responds to), but the two are not equivalent.

    3°C is the equilibrium climate sensitivity – the amount the planet will eventually warm once it reaches a new energy balance. The planet currently has an energy imbalance (mostly stored as heat in the oceans), so there is still more warming “in the pipeline” from the GHGs we have already emitted. Lindzen fails to account for this effect.

    By themselves, each of these fundamental errors completely invalidates Lindzen’s argument. Taken together, they leave us amazed as to how Lindzen has continued to make this obviously and grossly fundamentally flawed argument for over two decades. Well – I guess we know really don’t we deniers?

    There simply is no question – Lindzen’s claim that the Earth hasn’t warmed as much as expected, which is the basis of his low climate sensitivity argument, which is the basis of all remaining relatively credible climate contrarianism, is entirely false based on three fundamental physical flaws in his argument, as demonstrated by simply comparing the models and observations.

    • global city

      as opposed to all those IPCC supported ones?

    • RightWingGraham

      The joke is on you Leslie.
      Every time a cloud moves your precious equilibrium changes, what you fail to realise is that your maths assumes a constant albedo but the cloud movement breaks that. Your maths is therefore bunkum.
      Lindzen is right about the low sensitivity too, sorry mate – try a little Beers Lambert, water vapour at 20x the potency of CO2 is at 40,000ppm, CO2 at 400ppm. Do the maths.

  • Oliver_K_Manuel

    Thanks, Nigel, for having the courage to confront the Royal Society.

  • Tony Peart

    The organ of the right wing-nut

  • Tony Peart

    This is a replacement for Monty Pythons Upper Middle Class Twit of the Year ?

  • Icarus62

    If Lawson had been around 70-odd years ago he would no doubt have been bemoaning the “massive human and economic costs” of strengthening our military forces to face the looming threat from Nazi Germany, and studiously ignoring the cost of *not* doing so.

    Global warming deniers play the game of pretending not to believe the findings of climate scientists, so they can justify inaction in the face of the ever-growing climate chaos we’re seeing now. It’s irresponsible and inhumane and motivated almost entirely by greed, but it seems these people have no conscience to speak of.

    Perhaps they’re assuming that they’ll be dead and gone before the mobs with pitch-forks start looking for the architects of the global warming denial scam.

    If I were them, I wouldn’t be so sure.

    • Latimer Alder

      ‘Ever growing climate chaos’??. H’mm. More sea ice than ever since records began, quietest hurricane season ever (0), no temperature rise for 17 years…

      Where is this ‘ever growing climate chaos’, please? Because it sure isn’t showing up in the observational data.

      Perhaps it’s just a figment of your imagination

      • Icarus62

        In reality: Accelerating sea level rise, accelerating global warming, greater than an order of magnitude increase in extreme heatwaves, a rising trend in intense precipitation, a rising trend in the incidence of intense hurricanes, glaciers melting all over the planet, shifting climate zones, changing wind and weather patterns, acidification of the oceans… so yes, I think ‘growing climate chaos’ is an accurate assessment of the evidence.

        • Latimer Alder

          Where are the observations of sea level rise ‘accelerating’?

          Where are the observations of *any* current global warming, let alone accelerating ones?

          Where is the order of magnitude (you do know what an order of magnitude is) rise in ‘extreme heatwaves’ documented? How defined?

          Where is the ‘rising trend of intense hurricanes documented? How defined? BTW there were no hurricanes making landfall in USA at all this year…far below average. Its nearly ten years since any hurricane hit. So where are they?

          Where is the ‘rising trend of intense precipitation’ documented? How defined?

          When (since the end of the Ice age) have glaciers not been melting?

          You can imagine as much as you like, but without observations to back them up, they remain fantasies.

          • Icarus62

            Accelerating sea level rise:


            Accelerating global warming:


            Order of magnitude increase in extreme heatwaves:


            Rising trend of intense hurricanes:


            Rising trend of extreme precipitation:


            “Glaciers reached their Holocene (the past 10 000 years) maximum extent towards the end of the Little Ice Age (the Little Ice Age extended from the early 14th to mid-19th century.) Since then, glaciers around the globe have been shrinking dramatically, with increasing rates of ice loss since the mid-1980s.”


          • Craig King

            Do you realise that nobody takes any of those links as being gospel. It is as easy to bring up Ryan Maue, Nils Axel Morner, the Land Bureau, and the IPCC all showing the opposite of what you think is reality.

            Frankly when you link to SkS, the most activist warmist website on the WWW, any credibility you may have been aiming for is shot.

          • Icarus62

            An entirely predictable response to inconvenient scientific facts.

          • global city

            As it is based on an accurate analysis of the links out there, it was the only one that could be made.

          • Jagman 84

            The scientific facts are merely a red herring. It is all about “Redistribution of Wealth”. However, unlike Robin Hood, from the poor to the rich; eg: Call- me – Dave’s Pa in Law?

          • Weaver

            Several of your partisan links don’t even support your claims.


          • Latimer Alder

            1. I started with the sea level rise. Your graph shows a pretty steady increase of about 16cm per century since 1920. No ‘acceleration’ is visible to me.

            2. I was hoping for observations of some temperatures of something somewhere where the temperatures were going up. Instead you presented something about ‘global ocean heat content’, measured in joules.

            Whatever this graph is supposedly telling me, it is not direct empirical evidence of warming. There is no ‘jouleometer’ that can measure joules. To make the case that warming is happening at all, you would need to show that actual temperatures are rising. Not just present estimates of some unmeasurable quantity. And then you would need to show that warming was accelerating. Fail.

            (BTW, I translated the supposed increase in heat content you cite into the expected rise in sea temperatures. It equates to a 0.09C rise in temperature since 1960. Good luck in actually measuring that to confirm the theory)

            3. I didn’t bother with your points 3, 4 and 5. Judging on the ‘wuality’ of 1 and 2, it’d be a waste of my time.

            Seems to me that since the cessation of observable warming since 1997, warmists have been driven to look for ever obscurer indicators to bolster their theories.

            Since the primary (and I would suggest overarching) indicator – temperature – does not show any change they invent new statistical only measures of some parameter or other and then tie themselves into knots showing that it has dramatically risen ..or fallen ..or changed or done something at all that they can write a paper about as definite proof that warming is still with us and will prove dangerous.

            And when further study shows that such a claim is tosh (hurricanes is a good one), they just move on to a further even obscurer metric that gives them succour for a few years.

            Maybe one day the ‘warming’ will return, and will manifest itself by the simple measurable method of increasing temperatures. Maybe the hurricanes will restart. Maybe the constant rate of sealevel rise will really accelerate. All things are possible.

            But until they do, there ain’t no ‘ever growing climate chaos’ and it is naive and/or irresponsible for you to claim there is.

            Unless of course it is a matter of faith for you. In which case I fear there is no hope. Nobody ever let the data get in the way of a good old-fashioned millenarial cult belief.

          • truth_seeker_3

            Just more of your propaganda…using theory as fact.

            There are some questions you have not answered.

        • global city

          All that acceleration…. it’s all sure to be on top of us pretty soon then?

          I think that we had better wait and see what happens… seeing how everything has accelerated even beyond the hysterical claims of ten or so years ago.

          You have actually just made claims that are utterly contrary to the actual observed evidence.

    • flaxdoctor

      Given Lord Lawson’s ethnic background, you display unspeakably bad taste in addition to your offensive ignorance.

      • Icarus62

        I’m not the slightest bit interested in his ethnic background. His unethical behaviour is what we’re talking about here.

        • flaxdoctor

          Questioning the worst ‘science’ since Lysenko is ‘unethical’ while thousands die from obscenely high fuel bills?

          Claiming ‘Growing climate chaos’ when ALL the evidence is that this is alarmist drivel, and even the IPCC repeatedly state this?

          You really have no grasp whatsoever on reality. At all.

          • Icarus62

            It’s inconceivable that anyone could be in such a prominent position as Lawson is, and not be aware that the GWPF and other similar bodies are purely propaganda outfits peddling pseudoscience with which to deceive the public and delay action on AGW.

          • flaxdoctor

            What utterly dishonest bilge – the IPCC’s climate models have been shown to vastly exaggerate the impacts of human emissions on AGW, proving beyond any doubt we do not have a useful understanding of the issue – but YOU want ACTION anyway – so what should we do? The global temperature has been practically static for 17 years, extreme weather is just a propaganda tool for liars, but you want ACTION.

            So, any marvellous as to ideas what might work to change this scary, dangerous, alarming, gut-wrenching stasis?? Think of the children and all that…

          • Icarus62

            All the evidence says that it’s far too late for emissions controls alone to avert very large global warming, and geo-engineering is fraught with danger and likely to be impractical, so we need to focus on coping as best we can with living in a radically different world. Resilience is the key, and having far-sighted hard-nosed individuals to get to work on the problem, rather than venal short-sighted politicians.

          • Weaver

            You do realise that greatest resilience comes from economic growth, don’t you? The very opposite of what your green policies are promoting?

          • global city

            Outline some of your thoughts on building in this resilience?
            it sounds interesting!

          • global city

            It is inconceivable that you think you can make that blindly repeated rant about any sceptical organisation and still be taken seriously, or even imagine that it would work for you in some way.

  • ohforheavensake

    This really sounds as though Lawson was thoroughly bested at the event, and he’s posted something here in a rather pathetic attempt to save face. I think, if he’d won the arguments, he’d be crowing: this reads as though he left the meeting with his tail between his legs.

    • flaxdoctor

      Yeah, everybody knows former Chancellors have zero grasp of debating skills. The biologist nerd must have done him, right?


    • Weaver

      You talk about your climatology, where you think yourself an expert.

      But Lawson attacks you on the economics and policy and ethics; not the so-called “science”. Here you and your vaunted RS are useless; almost completely ignorant of the disciplines involved. Do you even know what a discount rate is?

  • corinium

    Given Hugh Gaitskill died from Lupus, I’d say the conspiracy theory about how the KGB poisoned him is more likely to be his cause of death than a vigorous argument with a youthful Nigel Lawson.

  • Distance Left

    Shocked, but not surprised. The facts, will out, the IPPC report is pretty clear just hope there’s enough time for the whole experiment of civilisation not to be put at jeopardy but in-clubs, madness, fanatics and good old fashioned stupidity.

  • Roddy Pfeiffer

    The Global Warming alarmists would better received if any of their predictions came about. They are 100% wrong and still stick to their theory. The earth is cooling, not warming. The seas are not rising. The polar icecaps are increasing, not melting. Extreme weather? we’re still waiting. In the US, for example, the 2013 hurricane season is non-existent, Overall violent storms are down, not up.

  • Roddy Pfeiffer

    The Global Warming alarmists would better received if any of their predictions came about. They are 100% wrong and still stick to their theory. The earth is cooling, not warming. The seas are not rising. The polar icecaps are increasing, not melting. Extreme weather? we’re still waiting. In the US, for example, the 2013 hurricane season is non-existent, Overall violent storms are down, not up.

  • Overzealous climate change advocates have actually promoted dubious scientific claims that have hindered good conservation science such as the attempts to save endangered amphibians going extinct from the spread of a novel chytrid fungus by researchers and the pet trade. Due to the advocacy of journals like Nature who wrongly pushed global warming as the cause, epidemiologists and biologists were even attacked for suggesting it was a fungus and not climate change. Read Contrasting Good and Bad Science: Disease, Climate Change and the Case of the Golden Toad