IoS Letters Special: Readers answer climate sceptic and former chancellor Nigel Lawson

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Nigel Lawson asserts that suspecting "wicked oil companies" of sowing disinformation "will not do". On the contrary, the report "Smoke, Mirrors, and Hot Air" in 2007, from the Union of Concerned Scientists in the US, lays out very clearly what companies such as ExxonMobil have been up to in pursuing a campaign to sow doubt about anthropogenic climate change, mirroring the Big Tobacco campaign in previous decades. He is right to say that there is "far too much at stake" to make simplistic assumptions. There is also, I suggest, too much at stake to procrastinate endlessly in the fond hope that the issue might go away, despite significant evidence to the contrary, or at least become someone else's problem.

Philip de Jonge

via email

I am afraid Nigel Lawson is right. If there are any independent climate scientists left who are not sponsored by the government, the pressure on them is high, because most of the climate research institutes are funded by the government. What do we want to do with the world – spend hundreds of billions in "the name of", or provide food, development, education and health now?

Valko Yotov

via email

A sensible driver, seeing something untoward in the distance, will slow down long before the exact nature of the problem is clear. Nigel Lawson would presumably continue at top speed; dismissing the warnings of his concerned passengers as, in the words of the Global Warming Policy Foundation's website, "irrationally alarmist".

A link between rising CO2 levels and climate change may not be proven conclusively for decades. Until then, carbon reduction is the only sane course of action. The world can accommodate climate change sceptics, and dissent over the way in which carbon reduction is to be achieved. However, it is difficult to understand why anyone would oppose carbon reduction itself – unless their motives were purely economic.

Simon Crust

Godalming, Surrey

What is it that motivates Nigel Lawson to deny climate change? Does he reject the notion that certain gases – CO2, methane, etc – lead to global warming when concentrations of these gases in the atmosphere increase? It is widely accepted by most climatic scientists and governments that this is a correct scientific analysis. Does he deny that human activity – heating buildings, transport, the breeding of large herds of cattle to feed a growing human population – results in more CO2 and methane emissions? Scientists are in widespread agreement that levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased steadily since the Industrial Revolution.

Unless he refutes one or both of these propositions, it is difficult to identify the basis for his position as a climate change sceptic. Could it be that he simply does not want to face the truth, because it does not fit his core economic beliefs? Is it the threat to those beliefs that leads him to oppose so vehemently strongly scientifically attested views on the derivation of climate change?

Lucian Warwick-Haller

Botley, Hampshire

Nigel Lawson was famous as chancellor. He is certainly no scientist!

Charles Atkinson

Formby, Merseyside

As an energy economist, I have sympathy with some of the views expressed by Nigel Lawson, especially relating to carbon trading and, hence, the clean development mechanism. Recent research by the London School of Economics concluded that the most effective method of reducing man-made CO2 was through birth control.

The sun reawoke, after a cooling period, on 25 September 2009, when a 1,000,000km flare was observed shooting out from it into space. Since then further solar flare activity has been observed, which can produce natural warming.

It is now time to combine scientific, economic and technical information in respect of both man-made and natural warming, to revisit the question of cost-effective and affordable climate change policies.

Elizabeth Marshall


When talking about Climategate, Lord Lawson said on BBC's Question Time that the Government's Chief Scientist, John Beddington, had denied climate change. The Chief Scientist had, in fact, said that nothing that had happened in the Climategate scandal undermined the basic science of global warming. This slip, if it was a slip and not a deliberate effort to mislead, is as bad as the Climategate "slips" and should be acknowledged as such.

Ken Neal

via email

The debate would be better informed were the subject treated like any other scientific study. This requires all research to be published by a respected journal or other source; all the relevant facts to be published, including those that seem not to support the conclusions, and review by peers in similar disciplines, again to be published. These basic criteria seem not to have been adhered to.

Roger Bater

Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands

Nowhere does Nigel Lawson accept that a challenge to the orthodox global warming view can be mounted only in a scientific debate. It is simply not good enough to point out a few mistakes in scientific papers or in laboratory practice. It would appear that Lawson wishes to move on from the science to what to do about any climate change. Now the argument becomes mainly economic and political. It is in these areas that Lawson and the Global Warming Policy Foundation could make a really significant contribution.

Paul Finlay

West Bridgford, Nottingham

It behoves us to be parsimonious. Regardless of global warming, we should be spending very substantial sums on research into alternative energy sources. The initial object should be to reduce costs on as many of these as possible, so that the payout time is within, say, five years. The case for global warming has a better than 50 per cent chance of being correct. This strengthens the argument for action now.

Ian Duguid

via email

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