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CCNet 09/04/13

Margaret Thatcher: Hot Air And Global Warming

From Global Warmist To Climate Sceptic

 
Margaret Thatcher who has died yesterday at the age of 87 was the first political leader to warn of global warming – but also the first to see the flaws in the climate change orthodoxy. 
 

 



The doomsters’ favourite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong. Second, we all have ideas about the weather: traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else. Third, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism. All this suggests a degree of calculation. Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point. Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method.  --Margaret Thatcher, Statecraft, HarperCollins 2002



It was precisely because Margaret Thatcher knew what scientific research was like that made her impervious to claims that science was a special case, with special features and incapable of being understood by outsiders, and therefore that science policy should be left in the hands of scientists. Such a strategy of persuasion and protection might have considerable purchase on a science minister with no direct experience of the working life of a scientist, but not Thatcher. – Jon Agar, Thatcher, Scientist, Notes & Records of the Royal Society, 25  May 2011
 
 

 

 

Unlike the blanket TV coverage NASA climate scientist James Hansen generated at his 1988 appearance before Congress, there were no cameras when British prime minister Margaret Thatcher addressed the Royal Society on 27th September 1988. Told that the prime minister’s speech was going to be on climate change, the BBC decided it wouldn’t make the TV news. The speech had been a long time in the making. Flying back from visiting French president François Mitterrand in Paris in May 1984, Thatcher asked her officials if any of them had any new policy ideas for the forthcoming Group of Seven (G7) summit in London. Sir Crispin Tickell, then a deputy-undersecretary at the Foreign Office, suggested climate change and how it might figure in the G7 agenda. The next day, Tickell was summoned to Number 10 to brief the prime minister. The eventual result was to make environmental problems a specific item, and a statement in the London G7 communiqué duly referred to the international dimension of environmental problems and the role of environmental factors, including climate change. --Rupert Darwall, The Age of Global Warming, London March 2013
 
 

The truth behind this story is much more interesting than is generally realised, not least because it has a fascinating twist. Certainly, Mrs Thatcher was the first world leader to voice alarm over global warming, back in 1988. It is not widely appreciated, however, that there was a dramatic twist to her story. In 2003, towards the end of her last book, Statecraft, in a passage headed “Hot Air and Global Warming”, she issued what amounts to an almost complete recantation of her earlier views. Long before it became fashionable, Lady Thatcher was converted to the view of those who, on both scientific and political grounds, are profoundly sceptical of the climate change ideology. Alas, what she set in train earlier continues to exercise its baleful influence to this day. But the fact that she became one of the first and most prominent of “climate sceptics” has been almost entirely buried from view. --Christopher Booker, The Daily Telegraph, 12 June 2010
 
 

The main reason, however, why the needs of energy security do not dictate any move away from carbon-based fuel is coal, of which pretty well all the major energy-consuming nations of the world (including not least the UK) have centuries-worth of indigenous supplies. It is true that, as I well recall from my time as her Energy Secretary, Margaret Thatcher was a deeply committed believer in nuclear power, largely on energy security grounds. But her rejection of coal in this context had nothing to do with carbon dioxide emissions (although she understandably found it a useful debating point) and everything to do with her well-founded distrust of the politically-motivated leadership of the National Union of Mineworkers at that time. That problem is happily long gone.  --Nigel Lawson: An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, Duckworth & Co 2008, p. 73
 
 


 

Margaret Thatcher’s legacy to the universities was revolutionary. Her views on education were driven in large part by her personal experiences as a student; she was, in the main, satisfied with the school education she received in Grantham, but she was dissatisfied with some aspects of Oxford. In particular she felt that the universities were complacent because they were over-protected from the market. She therefore introduced them to greater accountability and to market forces. The leadership of British universities often being wrong on important issues, it was no surprise that Mrs Thatcher’s policy was a success. By introducing accountability for research – a policy that became known as the Research Assessment Exercise – Margaret Thatcher so galvanised the British universities that they now come second only to America’s in every international league table. --Terence Kealey, The Daily Telegraph, 9 April 2013
 
 
 
1) Margaret Thatcher: Hot Air and Global Warming - Statecraft, HarperCollins 2002

2) Margaret Thatcher: The First Warmist - Financial Post, 13 March 2013

3) Was Margaret Thatcher The First Climate Sceptic? - The Daily Telegraph, 12 June 2010

4) How Thatcher The Chemist Helped Make Thatcher The Politician - PopSci, 8 April 2013

5) Terence Kealey: How Margaret Thatcher Transformed Our Universities - The Daily Telegraph, 9 April 2013
 
 
 
1) Margaret Thatcher: Hot Air and Global Warming
Statecraft, HarperCollins 2002

The doomsters’ favourite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong. Second, we all have ideas about the weather: traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else. Third, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvellous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism.

All this suggests a degree of calculation. Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point. Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method. Indeed, the lack of any sense of proportion is what characterises many pronouncements on the matter by otherwise sensible people. Thus President Clinton on a visit to China, which poses a serious strategic challenge to the US, confided to his host, President Jiang Zemin, that his greatest concern was the prospect that ‘your people may get rich like our people, and instead of riding bicycles, they will drive automobiles, and the increase in greenhouse gases will make the planet more dangerous for all.’


It would, though, be difficult to beat for apocalyptic hyperbole former Vic President Gore. Mr Gore believes: ‘The cleavage in the modern world between mind and body, man and nature, has created a new kind of addiction: I believe that our civilisation is, in effect, addicted to the consumption of the earth itself.’ And he warns: ‘Unless we find a way to dramatically change our civilisation and our way of thinking about the relationship between humankind and the earth, our children will inherit a wasteland.’

But why pick on the Americans? Britain’s then Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, has observed: ‘There is no greater national duty than the defence of our shoreline. But the most immediate threat to it today is the encroaching sea.’ Britain has found, it seems, a worthy successor to King Canute.

The fact that seasoned politicians can say such ridiculous things – and get away with it – illustrates the degree to which the new dogma about climate change has swept through the left-of-centre governing classes. [...]*

* Excerpts from Margaret Thatcher: Statecraft.  © HarperCollins 2002, pp. 449-450
 
 

2) Margaret Thatcher: The First Warmist
Financial Post, 13 March 2013

Rupert Darwall

Unlike the blanket TV coverage NASA climate scientist James Hansen generated at his 1988 appearance before Congress, there were no cameras when British prime minister Margaret Thatcher addressed the Royal Society on 27th September 1988. Told that the prime minister’s speech was going to be on climate change, the BBC decided it wouldn’t make the TV news.

The speech had been a long time in the making. Flying back from visiting French president François Mitterrand in Paris in May 1984, Thatcher asked her officials if any of them had any new policy ideas for the forthcoming Group of Seven (G7) summit in London. Sir Crispin Tickell, then a deputy-undersecretary at the Foreign Office, suggested climate change and how it might figure in the G7 agenda. The next day, Tickell was summoned to Number 10 to brief the prime minister. The eventual result was to make environmental problems a specific item, and a statement in the London G7 communiqué duly referred to the international dimension of environmental problems and the role of environmental factors, including climate change. Environment ministers were instructed to report back to the G7 meeting at Bonn the following year, and duly did so.

Tickell’s interest in climate change dated from the mid 1970s. Influenced by reading Hubert Lamb’s book Climate History and the Modern World, Tickell took the opportunity of a one-year fellowship at Harvard to study the relationship between climate change and world affairs and wrote a book on the subject in 1977. By 1987, Tickell had been appointed Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations and informally was acting as Thatcher’s envoy on global warming, his position at the UN making him privy to gossip from other nations.
 
On two occasions, Thatcher recalled him from New York to brief her.

Tickell was always struck by her determined approach; in the world of politics, Thatcher was a woman in a man’s world and someone with scientific training in a non-scientific world. To meet the test, you had to know what you were talking about; if she challenged you, you needed to be sure of your ground; she could be remarkably vigorous, Tickell found. The prime minister wanted the government to grasp the importance of global warming.

Ministers were called to Number 10 for briefings by climate scientists. “You are to listen, not to speak,” the prime minister told them. Returning to England for his summer holiday in 1988, Tickell called on Thatcher and suggested she make a major speech on global warming. She thought the Royal Society would be the perfect forum for it. She spent two weekends working on the draft with George Guise, one of her policy advisors.

In the speech, Thatcher addressed the society as a scientist and a fellow who happened to be prime minister. Environment policy was her main subject. Action to cut power station emissions and reduce acid rain was being undertaken “at great and necessary expense,” she said, building up to her main theme. “The health of the economy and the health of the environment are totally dependent on each other,” implicitly rejecting the view of conventional economics of there being a trade-off between resources used for environmental protection which couldn’t be used to raise output or increase consumption. It was also clear that the G7’s endorsement of sustainable development had not been an oversight or meant to be taken lightly, as far as she was concerned. “The government espouses the concept of sustainable economic development,” she stated, although the new policy had not been discussed collectively by ministers beforehand or with Nigel Lawson, the chancellor of the exchequer.

Thatcher concluded her speech by referring to one of the most famous events in the Royal Society’s history, when in 1919 Arthur Eddington displayed the photographic plates taken during the total eclipse of the Sun earlier that year. The eclipse enabled Eddington to record whether light from distant stars was bent by the sun’s gravity and verify a prediction of Einstein’s theory of relativity.

Cambridge philosopher Alfred Whitehead witnessed Eddington’s demonstration. The scene, tense as a Greek drama, he wrote, was played out beneath the portrait of Isaac Newton, the society’s 12th president, “to remind us that the greatest of scientific generalizations was now, after more than two centuries, to receive its first modification.” In Vienna, reports of it thrilled the 17-year-old Karl Popper. What particularly impressed Popper was the risk implied by Ein-stein’s theory, that light from distant stars would be deflected by the Sun’s mass, because it could be subjected to a definitive test: “If observation shows that the predicted effect is definitely absent, then the theory is simply refuted. The theory is incompatible with certain possible results of observation — in fact with results which everybody before Einstein would have expected.” These considerations led Popper to argue that the criterion for assessing the scientific status of a theory should be its capacity to generate predictions that could, in principle, be refuted by empirical evidence, what Popper called its falsifiability, or refutability, or testability.

Every “good” scientific theory is a prohibition. The more a theory forbids, the better it is. Scientists should therefore devise tests designed to yield evidence that the theory prohibits, rather than search for what the theory confirms. If we look for them, Popper argued, it is easy to find confirmations for nearly every theory. “Only a theory which asserts or implies that certain conceivable events will not, in fact, happen is testable,” Popper explained in a lecture in 1963. “The test consists in trying to bring about, with all the means we can muster, precisely these events which the theory tells us cannot occur.”

In 1988, proponents of global warming did not provide a similar black and white predictive test of the key proposition of global warming: the degree of warming with increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. It is therefore incapable of being falsified. The issue is not the capacity of carbon dioxide to absorb radiation in a test tube, which had first been demonstrated by John Tyndall in 1859, but the effect of increased levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases on the temperature of the atmosphere. An answer can only be derived from empirical observation.

Scientists Roger Revelle and Hans Suess’s characterization of mankind carrying out a large-scale geophysical experiment, further illustrates global warming’s weakness as a scientific statement and its strength as a political idea. While prejudging the results of an experiment constitutes bad science, the proposition simultaneously generates powerful calls to halt the experiment before it is concluded. Yet questioning the science would inevitably be seen as weakening the political will to act. It created a symbiotic dependence between science and politics that marks 1988 as a turning point in the history of science and the start of a new chapter in the affairs of mankind.

Two years later, Mrs. Thatcher would address the UN: “We must have continued economic growth in order to generate the wealth required to pay for the protection of the environment,” she told the General Assembly, “But it must be growth which does not plunder the planet today and leave our children to deal with the consequences tomorrow.”
In the past growth happened. Now it had to be the right sort.

Excerpt from “The Age of Global Warming: A History,” published this month by Quartet Books, London.
 

3) Was Margaret Thatcher The First Climate Sceptic?
The Daily Telegraph, 12 June 2010

Christopher Booker

Margaret Thatcher was the first leader to warn of global warming – but also the first to see the flaws in the climate change orthodoxy
 
Lady Thatcher at the launch of her book 'Statecraft'
Pointing out the problems: Lady Thatcher’s ‘Statecraft’ highlighted the flaws in the climate change orthodoxy
 
A persistent claim made by believers in man-made global warming – they were at it again last week – is that no politician was more influential in launching the worldwide alarm over climate change than Margaret Thatcher. David Cameron, so the argument runs, is simply following in her footsteps by committing the Tory party to its present belief in the dangers of global warming, and thus showing himself in this respect, if few others, to be a loyal Thatcherite.

The truth behind this story is much more interesting than is generally realised, not least because it has a fascinating twist. Certainly, Mrs Thatcher was the first world leader to voice alarm over global warming, back in 1988, With her scientific background, she had fallen under the spell of Sir Crispin Tickell, then our man at the UN. In the 1970s, he had written a book warning that the world was cooling, but he had since become an ardent convert to the belief that it was warming, Under his influence, as she recorded in her memoirs, she made a series of speeches, in Britain and to world bodies, calling for urgent international action, and citing evidence given to the US Senate by the arch-alarmist Jim Hansen, head of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

She found equally persuasive the views of a third prominent convert to the cause, Dr John Houghton, then head of the UK Met Office. She backed him in the setting up of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, and promised the Met Office lavish funding for its Hadley Centre, which she opened in 1990, as a world authority on “human-induced climate change”.

Hadley then linked up with East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU) to become custodians of the most prestigious of the world’s surface temperature records (alongside another compiled by Dr Hansen). This became the central nexus of influence driving a worldwide scare over global warming; and so it remains to this day – not least thanks to the key role of Houghton (now Sir John) in shaping the first three mammoth reports which established the IPCC’s unequalled authority on the subject.

In bringing this about, Mrs Thatcher played an important part. It is not widely appreciated, however, that there was a dramatic twist to her story. In 2003, towards the end of her last book, Statecraft, in a passage headed “Hot Air and Global Warming”, she issued what amounts to an almost complete recantation of her earlier views.

She voiced precisely the fundamental doubts about the warming scare that have since become familiar to us. Pouring scorn on the “doomsters”, she questioned the main scientific assumptions used to drive the scare, from the conviction that the chief force shaping world climate is CO2, rather than natural factors such as solar activity, to exaggerated claims about rising sea levels. She mocked Al Gore and the futility of “costly and economically damaging” schemes to reduce CO2 emissions. She cited the 2.5C rise in temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period as having had almost entirely beneficial effects. She pointed out that the dangers of a world getting colder are far worse than those of a CO2-enriched world growing warmer. She recognised how distortions of the science had been used to mask an anti-capitalist, Left-wing political agenda which posed a serious threat to the progress and prosperity of mankind.

In other words, long before it became fashionable, Lady Thatcher was converted to the view of those who, on both scientific and political grounds, are profoundly sceptical of the climate change ideology. Alas, what she set in train earlier continues to exercise its baleful influence to this day. But the fact that she became one of the first and most prominent of “climate sceptics” has been almost entirely buried from view.
 
 
4) How Thatcher The Chemist Helped Make Thatcher The Politician
PopSci, 8 April 2013

Colin Lecher

Before becoming Britain's first (and only) female prime minister, Thatcher graduated from Oxford with a chemistry degree.
 

Margaret Thatcher Publicity photo for the 1951 election campaign. The Royal Society

Margaret Thatcher died today at 87. She'll be remembered as the first (and only) woman to be prime minister of Britain, but what's often missed or only glanced over in her biographies, and now her obituaries, is her career as a chemist.

Thatcher graduated from Oxford in 1947 with an undergraduate degree in chemistry. Her fourth-year dissertation was on X-ray crystallography of the antibiotic cocktail gramicidin, and her supervisor, Dorothy Hodgkin, was working at the time on the structure of penicillin. In the years after, Thatcher worked as an industrial chemist at British Xylonite Plastics and at Lyons, with a probably apocryphal story circulating that she helped produce a form of soft-scoop ice cream.

It's seldom discussed how much her degree might've affected her politics. A paper by science and technology professor Jon Agar, written for Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London and published in 2010, took a look at that connection, first by examining her as a student:

All of her biographers agree that the future Mrs Thatcher devoted her free time to politics rather than science, and even regretted her choice of undergraduate study. One repeated anecdote has her walking with a friend at graduation in 1947 saying, ‘You know, I oughtn’t to have read chemistry. I should have read law. That’s what I need for politics. I shall have to go and read law now.’ Another repeatedly recalled incident, at an unspecified date, but presumably during her undergraduate years, was a conversation between the young scientist and Norman Winning, the Recorder, or municipal clerk, of her hometown, who had a Cambridge natural sciences degree. Winning advised her to continue with chemistry as a means to getting into law as a patent lawyer. All these anecdotes serve to prepare the narrative for the next stage in Thatcher’s career, her training and employment as a lawyer in the later 1950s.

But instead Thatcher took a position at British Xylonite (BX) Plastics in 1947, Agar writes. It's not clear exactly what her work entailed, but she, perhaps unexpectedly, joined a union there. In 1949, after gaining an opportunity as a parliamentary candidate, Thatcher became a food research chemist at "the cakes and teashop business J. Lyons & Co." She likely researched the chemical process saponification, but not much else can be confirmed about her work there.

By 1951, Thatcher resigned from Lyons and switched career paths, studying tax law and passing the Bar in 1953. In 1959, she won a seat in Parliament.

The popular theory, then, is that Thatcher studying chemistry was "incidental," Agar writes. It kept the lights on while she pursued politics. He quotes journalist Hugo Young's summary:

These two jobs, lasting barely three years in all, constitute the totality of Margaret Thatcher’s first-hand contact with the world of commerce and industry. . . . In any case, prime minister Thatcher never tried to make political capital out of these fugitive involvements. They were incidental to her political ambition and she has never pretended otherwise. They made her a living, while she devoted most of her psychic energy to the greater and more glamorous task.

But that doesn't mean her career as a chemist and politician never intertwined, Agar argues. In 1971, Lord Victor Rothschild proposed laws to make government funding of science closer to a business proposition: policy would be shaped by market forces. "Basic" research science (or just "cheap" science) wouldn't be affected, but other research would. Thatcher, then Education Secretary, strangely seemed to shift positions in a decisive meeting on the subject, ultimately agreeing that the market should play a role in government funding of science.

It was a controversial decision--121 scientists and doctors signed letters of protest to The Times--but Agar marks this as a defining moment, when Thatcher's hard-line conservative policies first took shape. It wasn't a coincidence that the battle was fought over science, either, Agar writes:

"it was precisely because Thatcher knew what scientific research was like that made her impervious to claims that science was a special case, with special features and incapable of being understood by outsiders, and therefore that science policy should be left in the hands of scientists. Such a strategy of persuasion and protection might have considerable purchase on a science minister with no direct experience of the working life of a scientist, but not Thatcher."

Agar sees that moment as the beginning of a slope toward more conservative policies. In effect, she used her chemistry background to test the political water: if she could pull off policies like that in the science sector, she could do it in other sectors, too. Agar writes that Thatcher was fond of this quote, about Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone and the physicist Michael Faraday: ‘When Gladstone met Michael Faraday, he asked him whether his work on electricity would be of any use. “Yes, sir”, remarked Faraday with prescience. “One day you will tax it.”'


 
5) Terence Kealey: How Margaret Thatcher Transformed Our Universities
The Daily Telegraph, 9 April 2013

As Education Secretary and then PM, Margaret Thatcher battled resistance from university leaders every step of the way, says Terence Kealey.

Margaret Thatcher’s legacy to the universities was revolutionary. Her legacy to the schools, though, was mixed. And it is was as Prime Minister rather than in her earlier role as Secretary of State for Education and Science (1970-74) that she exercised her greatest influence.

Margaret Thatcher’s views on education were driven in large part by her personal experiences as a student; she was, in the main, satisfied with the school education she received in Grantham, but she was dissatisfied with some aspects of Oxford. In particular she felt that the universities were complacent because they were over-protected from the market. She therefore introduced them to greater accountability and to market forces.

Her first major step to galvanise the universities was to introduce fees for international students: before 1981, international students were educated effectively for free. When the fees were introduced, they were denounced by the leadership of the British universities which, with one voice, predicted no international student would apply to a British university again.

The leadership of British universities often being wrong on important issues, it was no surprise that Mrs Thatcher’s policy was a success. After a transient dip in international student numbers, they have soared ever since, to provide a vast influx of funding and the beginnings of a market to British universities.

Margaret Thatcher’s next step was to cut infrastructural support monies for research to the university sector: she felt that some universities were not using their research monies well. When the cuts were introduced, they were denounced by the leadership of the British universities which, with one voice, predicted that they would be a disaster from which the British economy in general and British universities in particular, would never recover.

The leadership of British universities often being wrong on important issues, it was no surprise that Mrs Thatcher’s policy was a success. By introducing accountability for research – a policy that became known as the Research Assessment Exercise – Margaret Thatcher so galvanised the British universities that they now come second only to America’s in every international league table.

And Margaret Thatcher left a lasting legacy: when Tony Blair and then David Cameron came to power, they each continued her privatisation policies, in particular by introducing top-up fees for home undergraduates. When the fees were introduced, they were denounced by the leadership of the British universities which, with one voice, predicted that they would be a disaster from which the British economy in general and British universities in particular, would never recover.

The leadership of British universities often being wrong on important issues, it was no surprise that fees have been a success. The later fee hikes having been so recently introduced, we are currently witnessing a dip in some numbers, but on past form they will recover, to leave the universities better funded and more receptive to student needs than before.

Margaret Thatcher’s schools record is mixed. She wanted to protect the grammar schools from comprehensivisation, she wanted to increase parents’ choice over which schools to send their children, and she wanted to free schools to have more say over their own admissions and educational policies. But on all these points she was thwarted by the Department of Education and Science and by the local authorities – indeed, as Secretary of State she presided over the destruction of more grammar schools than any other Secretary of State – and she never privatised the schools the way we are now seeing the universities being privatised.

Yet even those failures bore good fruit because they increased her resolve, when Prime Minister, not to fail again at the hands of the Civil Service or of local authorities. Nonetheless, state education in Britain today has had to look to Thatcher’s disciples such as Michael Gove rather than to the lady herself for improvements.

But at least she left us her disciples. She will be missed.

Terence Kealey is vice-chancellor at University of Buckingham and a member of the GWPF’s Academic Advisory Council.
 
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