Listen to the critics!

Nigel Lawson, (now Lord Lawson), a Chancellor of the Exchequer in the UK Government of Margaret Thatcher, published a book in 2008 with the title “An Appeal to Reason”, and sub-titled “A Cool Look at Global Warming”.   Lord Lawson was a member of the UK House of Lords Select Committee on the Economic Effects of Climate Change, which heard evidence on Climate Change on which it based its 2006 Report .  An “Appeal to Reason” is a more controversial version of certain of the observations in that Report.

The cover of the book includes endorsements by well known persons, scientific and otherwise, that-  not surprisingly – praise the book highly. Richard Lindzen, the unrepentant, anti-global warming Professor of Atmospheric Sciences at MIT writes:  “This brief and elegant book . . . . shows that whatever view one has of the science, almost all proposed approaches to the putative problem and [are?] intellectually deficient, economically absurd and harmful, and morally misdirected at best”. Anthony Jay, creator of the British TV series “Yes Minister”, concludes: “A wonderful desperately necessary book; nobody in authority should pronounce on global warming again until they have read it.”

Until now we didn’t take time to read the book because we thought that Lord Lawson had nothing essential to add to the denialist position beyond what was being spouted in newspapers, the US Senate and TV commentators.  Now that we have read the book we admit that we were charmed by his style, amused by his understated humour, but stunned by his confidence in “autonomous adaptation” – meaning the limitless ability of humankind to adapt to all problems.

Lord Lawson makes some good points. His caution to governments in connection with carbon taxes is sound.  He says:

“. . . levying a carbon tax initially at a low level (it could always be subsequently increased in the light of experience, should we so wish), is the only practical way of getting an indication of what it might take to change behaviour sufficiently seriously to cut back on carbon-based energy consumption.  . . .It should be noted that the popular resistance would not be to the tax burden, . . .  but to the higher energy price and its consequences – which would apply however that price rise is generated. ´ (pp 99 -100)

It will take a political leader of heroic  stature to follow Lord Lawson’s advice.  Prime Minister Julia Gillard is facing a revolt in her party because she chose to go ahead with a carbon tax for Australia.  Now that it has come into effect, the future of the tax is in question.  Businesses are protesting, the opinion polls report that a majority of Australians are against the tax, and the opposition party promises to repeal the tax when they form the government, which might happen next year.

Could British Columbia be the first jurisdiction in Canada  to secure popular support for a carbon tax?   According to the Pembina Institute 64% of a recent group of representatives of businesses, non-governmental organization, community organizations and academics support the BC carbon tax.  Only 18% considered that the tax had negative consequences.

The poll should not be considered as representative of public opinion at this time, and certainly not at the time of the next election, scheduled for 2013.  But it is a positive note on which to end this blog!


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