Once we move on to how to respond to climate change, scientists are no longer the relevant experts. For we have now left the world of climatology and entered the world of economics, of opportunity costs and affordable trade-offs. And here, Lord Lawson is as expert as anyone.
I started watching Noah on a longhaul flight the other day. It’s a terrible film, and I switched off after half an hour, just as Russell Crowe was saying something like: “A flood may not be stopped; but it may be survived!”
As our plane sped through the sparse air, I began to wonder whether the BBC would screen a film containing such climate-change heresy. For Noah is taking a similar line to Nigel Lawson who accused the Corporation of censorship when it apologised for having allowed him to air his opinions.
Lord Lawson isn’t positing climate stasis (neither, for that matter, is anyone else: “climate change denial”, like “trickle-down economics”, is the invention of Left-wing fantasists). Nor does the former Chancellor of the Exchequer deny that human activity can impact on global temperatures.
His quarrel, rather, is with how governments are responding. Instead of spending colossal sums on trying fractionally to slow the process, Lord Lawson wants to spend more realistic amounts on adaptation. After all, as he once pointed out, mean annual temperature in Helsinki is 5.6 degrees centigrade, in Athens 17.4 degrees, and in Rio de Janeiro 26.6 degrees, and all three cities are capable of supporting large human populations.
Had Noah taken the BBC’s line rather than Lord Lawson’s, he wouldn’t have bothered with the Ark. Instead, he’d have tried to tackle to root cause of climate change, namely “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth”. He’d have ignored God’s instructions, and tried to improve the behavior of his fellow mortals in the hope of forcing the Creator to change His mind.
There’s a serious point here. Climatologists and meteorologists may not be infallible – like all specialists, they are prone to groupthink and confirmation bias – but their research is still the best we have to go on. If they tell us that the planet is heating, that that heating is probably the result of human activity, and that the effects will on balance be deleterious, we should take them seriously.
Once we move on to how to respond, though, scientists are no longer the relevant experts. For we have now left the world of climatology and entered the world of administration, of economics, of opportunity costs and affordable trade-offs. And here, Lord Lawson, who steered the world’s sixth-largest economy through some of its finest years, is as expert as anyone.
Noah, incidentally, has a pretty good claim to being the most successful ecologist ever: no one has done more to preserve bio-diversity. He did it, not by parading his piety, but by taking practical, affordable steps to deal with what was happening. Whether he could get away with a similar approach today is another question (see clip below).