Skip to content

Adapt To Climate Change And Pocket The Benefits, Lord Lawson Says

There will be positive and negative consequences of climate change and the best policy is to adapt to change and “pocket all the benefits”, Margaret Thatcher’s chancellor of the exchequer Nigel Lawson told ABC radio today.

“Even the IPCC, the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change, if you look at their section on health, they say the most certain result of the warming which they are projecting, which may or may not come about, but the most certain consequence is the reduction in cold-related mortality.

“On the health front there’ll be huge benefits from the warming they project. There may be other things that are harms. So, if you adapt, what you do is you reduce the extent of any harm that might befall and you pocket all the benefits. On the health front, on agricultural production. As you know, carbon dioxide, so far from being polluting, is a life force and increases plant growth through what the scientists call the fertilisation effect,” Lord Lawson said.

Nigel Lawson is in Australia to take part in a carbon tax debate organised by The Spectator Australia magazine.

ABC Radio National’s Breakfast presenter Fran Kelly interviewed Lord Lawson this morning.

This is an edited version of the interview:

FRAN KELLY: Lord Lawson, you’re not a climate change sceptic, is that right? You acknowledge man is contributing to global warming. So why are you so opposed to the policies to cut carbon emissions?

NIGEL LAWSON: Well, first of all, and let’s get the basics sorted out. I am not arguing that carbon emission is not going to cause, might well not cause, some kind of warming. The question is: how much warming and how damaging that would be? The science of warming does not say that warming is catastrophic. That is what the propagandists say. There is no evidence to suggest that at all.

FRAN KELLY: Just on that, though, Lord Lawson, there’s plenty of scientists who say that it is catastrophic.

NIGEL LAWSON: No, there are very few, actually. The great majority don’t say that, nor, incidentally, does the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. There are just propagandists who say that and a few, small number, are [indistinct] scientists. But, any how, if you are going to address whatever the problem is, as I say, it’s not catastrophic but there might be some slight problem, if you’re going to address it by decarbonising you have to decarbonise globally, because we are talking about global warming. We’re not talking about Australian warming, or British warming. It’s global warming. And there have been a number of United Nations conferences to try and get a global agreement and China and India have made it absolutely clear that they’re not going to have their carbon emissions limited. And China is now far and away the biggest emitter in the world, even bigger than the United States. The United States, which is the second biggest, has said they’re not going to do it unless China and India are going to do it—and which they’re not going to do it—and therefore there is no prospect whatever of a global agreement. And therefore for either the Australian or United Kingdom to go it alone makes no sense whatever.

FRAN KELLY: Except if you do accept that the globe is warming and that’s going to cause a problem. I mean, for instance, China, yes, it is a major emitter, no doubt about it, but China does have plans for a national emissions trading scheme by 2015. China is moving to decrease its carbon intensity. It’s not that it’s doing nothing.

NIGEL LAWSON: Decreasing carbon intensity is neither here no there…

FRAN KELLY: Well, it’s a start, isn’t it?

NIGEL LAWSON: Let me finish what I’m saying, ‘cause you asked, I listened to your question. Now, if you would be kind enough to listen to my answer. Carbon intensity has been declining in western Europe for the past 100 years. We’ve become more and more efficient in the use of carbon and therefore carbon intensity’s declined. That is what always happens with progress. That always happens with productivity. But that doesn’t mean that the total emissions decline. In fact, as the economies grow, the total emissions increase. So that is a complete red herring and the Chinese are very happy for people to be taken in by it, as you have been, so that they can carry on without having any constraint on their overall carbon emissions. And I think they’re quite right. And I think it is immoral of us to try and persuade them to cut back because they have hundreds of millions of people in dire poverty. Hundreds of millions of people with diseases which are curable diseases, preventable disease. Premature death and so on. Quite preventable. But economic development is the only way they can do it, and therefore they want the fastest rate of economic development. They’re doing pretty well and they’re going to continue doing it.

FRAN KELLY: But, Lord Lawson, doesn’t it not worry you that economic development go ahead at the cost of a global, a warming world, that could have negative impacts on us? As I understand it, you argue for adaptation, yourself, over mitigation so that you acknowledge there will be negative consequences of global warming.

NIGEL LAWSON: There will be both positive and negative. Even the IPCC, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, if you look at their section on health, they say the most certain result of the warming which they are projecting, which may or may not come about, but the most certain consequence is the reduction in cold-related mortality. On the health front there’ll be huge benefits from the warming they project. There may be other things that are harms. So, if you adapt, what you do is you reduce the extent of any harm that might befall …

FRAN KELLY: How do you do that?

NIGEL LAWSON: … and you pocket all the benefits. On the health front, on agricultural production. As you know, carbon dioxide, so far from being pollution, polluting, is a life force and increases plant growth through what the scientists call the fertilisation effect.

FRAN KELLY: Doesn’t it, does it puzzle you that you are so out of step with the conservative leadership in your country at the moment, but not just because the carbon reduction policies there have bipartisan support, also strong support from industry in Britain?

NIGEL LAWSON: Well, there’s strong opposition. There’s growing opposition in industry in Britain, as a matter of fact. The latest decision to cut carbon emissions by 50 per cent by 2025 has aroused a whole lot of protests among huge numbers of industrial organisations. So much so that the British government has felt obliged to say, well, look, we’ll review the matter in 2014 and if the rest of Europe is not going the same way as we are we will abandon this.

FRAN KELLY: But business in Britain doesn’t want no action, does it?

NIGEL LAWSON: Business in Britain is very divided. I can tell you what business in Britain wants is cheap and secure energy and the cheapest form of energy, by far, is carbon-based energy. And it may not always be so, but for the foreseeable future it will be.

Click here for more information about The Spectator Australia’s 3 August debate.

Australian Conservative, 2 August 2011