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Rodney Leach, Baron Leach of Fairford (1934 – 2016)

GWPF & Hansard

Rodney Leach (Lord Leach of Fairford), who has died aged 82, was a conservative member of the House of Lords, a vehement critic of global warming alarmism and a supporter of the GWPF. In his memory we re-publish his 2009 House of Lords speech on the UK’s Climate Change Act and climate policy.

John Wonnacott Lord Leach of Fairford at Lombard Street 2013 Oil on board 27 x 17 1/2 in (69 x 45 cm)

Rodney Leach, Baron Leach of Fairford (painting by John Wonnacott)

Lord Leach of Fairford: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Lea, referred to ships passing in the night, and rightly so on the economic front. I hope that I shall find myself on HMS “Lawson”, rather than HMS “Stern”. The same goes for ships passing in the night in science, which has now devolved largely into a shouting match between extreme alarmists and sceptics, with not nearly enough moderate dialogue between them. Perhaps I could help to gain a little perspective on this by referring to what my noble friend Lord Lawson referred to as the unsubstantiated assertions of the Government, to see where common sense stands on those.

Since the end of the little ice age in the late 19th century, the world has been re-warming at a rate of about 0.6 degrees centigrade per century. There have been fluctuations in that. There was a period of rapid warming from 1920 to 1940, much as there was more recently. There was no explanation for that. There was a period of cooling until 1975, when emissions rose quite rapidly. There was no explanation for that. There was a period of rapid warming from 1975 until the end of the century, much as there was from the 1920s to the 1940s. This has been seized on by alarmists as evidence of really frightening growth in temperatures. However, it has been succeeded in the 21st century by nine years of static and, more recently, falling temperatures. Again, that is completely against all the prognostications of the alarmists and the IPCC and wholly unexplained.

When you look more deeply into this at where all these measurements are coming from, you find a large number of them are extremely unreliable or, in the case of the Antarctic and the Arctic, almost non-existent. By far the most reliable database, which is not all that reliable, of any large land mass is in the United States of America, where there is a huge number of recording stations. We now know that temperatures in the United States in the 1930s were the same as, maybe even very marginally warmer than, they were in the 1990s. That is probably the best approximation there is for what has really been happening in temperatures—that is, a growth of about 0.5 to 0.6 of a degree per century, a figure that fluctuates for a whole variety of reasons that I shall not go into here.

A lot of what you read in the media or hear on the BBC is highly anecdotal, and there is a widespread impression that the polar ice caps are melting. It is worth spending a minute or two on that. The Arctic ice cap is, at the moment, bang on normal in the winter. In the summer, it has been melting a little bit. The Antarctic is considerably above normal. If you add together the Arctic and the Antarctic ice, they have measured about 700 square kilometres above normal in all the time that they have been accurately recorded. So the idea of great warming and melting in the polar ice caps is a complete figment of the imagination. I have, for Members who may be interested, a picture of the US nuclear submarine “Skate” at the North Pole in the winter of 1958, before the summer melt—14 March, to be accurate.

Lord Lea of Crondall: My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Lord for giving way, but as regards ships passing in the night, can he just come in on one ship, passing through the north-west passage? Is the growth of industry going through the north-west passage and the scampering between Canada, Denmark, Russia, the United States and everyone just a figment of my imagination?

Lord Leach of Fairford: My Lords, if the noble Lord would let me finish the sentence that I was in the middle of, I can say that this photograph of the US nuclear ship “Skate” was taken at the North Pole during the winter in March 1958. It was completely ice-free. If you put that together with the ice records I mentioned, there is a great deal of myth that passes about the North Pole and the South Pole. The North Pole is subject to currents, which probably explains the fact that it is sometimes completely ice-free. It is not a great static block of ice that is melting. Those are the facts about the Antarctic ice.

Laboratory science theory states that doubling the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase temperatures by 1 degree. A doubling of carbon dioxide takes place approximately every 200 years at the current rate of emissions, perhaps a bit more. Therefore, the whole argument hangs by a thread. Do other factors such as currents, sun and clouds accentuate that warming or do they decrease it? The IPCC’s theory is that they increase that warming. That is why the Government have, as my noble friend Lord Lawson, said, made the completely unsubstantiated assertion that temperatures will rise by 4 degrees this century.

Probably the best climatologist in the world is Professor Lindzen and another good one is Professor Singer. Professor Lindzen calculates that the effect of all these other feedbacks, as they are known in the jargon, is to reduce temperatures not increase them. He calculates that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would increase temperatures by about 0.3 of a degree. You can argue about the science and I am not a good enough climate physicist to make any direct contribution on that. What you cannot argue about are the facts. The facts are that there has been no acceleration whatever in global warming since emissions took off after World War 2 and that temperatures today, after the past nine years of static or cooling temperatures, are bang on that consistent recovery of 0.6 degrees from the little ice age and are well below even the lowest estimates of the IPCC range. So observation suggests that Professor Lindzen may be right and the IPCC completely wrong.

Lord Teverson: My Lords, we are talking about facts and observations. I am a simple person in this area, but one fact that seems indisputable is that sea levels are rising, and rising faster. There can be only two reasons for this: either the land is sinking or the sea is rising. Why would the sea rise? The only reasons for ocean levels to go up are either that the oceans are getting warmer and expanding, or that the ice sheets are melting and therefore the amount of water is increasing. There can be no other reason; therefore that simple fact says that global warming is happening. It is a problem and a fact.

Lord Leach of Fairford: My Lords, if I may say so, that is a perfect example of unsubstantiated assertion and anecdote. The world’s leading expert by far on sea levels is Professor Axel Morner, the IPCC’s lead author on sea levels. He says that sea levels have been increasing at six and a half inches per century since the little ice age, that they have over the past 100 years modestly declined, and that they are now rising at about six inches per century. The assertion of one and a half metres, and Al Gore’s absurd assertion of many metres, are pure speculation and wholly unsubstantiated by observation, or by the best single expert on sea levels in the universe—the IPCC’s lead author, who resigned from the IPCC, if I am not mistaken, because he refused to substitute fanciful numbers for the right ones.

I turn back to the science. It is widely believed that there is a universal consensus. If that is so, why have 33,000 scientists—the number grows so fast that I may be out of date, and it may be 35,000 or 40,000—signed a protest against the climate extremism expressed in the Kyoto Protocol? There is no scientific consensus. There is an official, political consensus. There are dangers to people’s careers and funding, and to the esteem in which they are held in official circles, if they express the views that I am expressing now. I can express them because I am not a scientist, so my career is not at risk. There is absolutely no consensus.

I once wrote a letter to the Times, saying roughly what I am saying now. I received a flood of letters, and those supporting me outnumbered those against me by six or seven to one. Many of them came from professors and fellows of the Royal Society who said that they did not care to speak out. That is just anecdote—I will not give their names—but it is typical. If you immerse yourself in the blogosphere, which is as good a place as any to study the science—and where sceptics are much more courteous and open to dissent than believers—you will find that scientific opinion is very divided, and that there are at least as many sceptics as believers.

The concern of anybody who is open-minded, and who recognises that ships must not pass in the night and that we must try to come to some agreement, is that the Government are not open-minded. They have signed up to the most expensive possible version of climate extremism. Professor Carter, a distinguished economist specialising in climate economics in Australia, recently testified before the authorities there that emissions trading schemes would cost every Australian family 3,500 Australian dollars per year for a theoretical IPCC-modelled reduction of one-1,000th of a degree centigrade. Let us suppose—although he is a very distinguished witness—that he is wrong by a factor of 100. It would still be true that the theoretical saving in climate warming would be one-10th of 1 degree—a wholly trivial amount for a vast expenditure. I agree with my noble friend Lord Lawson that there has not been a proper cost-benefit analysis of this, and that what cost-benefit analysis there has been has gone wholly against the government programme.

Has the Minister studied Professor Carter’s figures? If so, does he agree with them; do the Government agree with them? If they do not, do they have better-founded estimates and what are they? As I say, the professor is a very serious witness, and if he is even remotely right, the cost of government emission reduction schemes is frankly grotesque. He particularly applied it to emissions trading schemes, but the same goes for carbon offset, wind farms and various other forms of government-sponsored intervention.

Sometimes people talk about those vast expenses as though they were free, as though they fell out of the air. They do not; they come out of the vast shortfall in resources that are needed for huge projects, whether for economic well-being, reafforestation, ocean pollution or disease control—to go rather closer to home than the climate change arena. The trillions that we intend to spend on those grotesque schemes have to be taken from somewhere, and that is where they will be taken from—from adaptation, flood defences, reafforestation and disease control projects. Or, if the money comes straight out of the economy, it will come out of the wealth creation that is essential to survive properly in the 21st century.

It is not too late for the Government to reconsider. In my opinion, the only redeeming feature of the order is that there is not the slightest prospect that it will be taken seriously or actually implemented. Even if every other country signed up, it would not be implemented. I just ask the Government to reconsider this unsatisfactory proposal.