Oxford Union Debate on Climate CatastropheRichard Treadgold | August 25, 2010
Science 135, global warming scare 110
For what is believed to be the first time ever in England, an audience of university undergraduates has decisively rejected the notion that “global warming” is or could become a global crisis. The only previous defeat for climate extremism among an undergraduate audience was at St. Andrew’s University, Scotland, in the spring of 2009, when the climate extremists were defeated by three votes.
Last week, members of the historic Oxford Union Society, the world’s premier debating society, carried the motion “That this House would put economic growth before combating climate change” by 135 votes to 110. The debate was sponsored by the Science and Public Policy Institute, Washington DC.
Serious observers are interpreting this shock result as a sign that students are now impatiently rejecting the relentless extremist propaganda taught under the guise of compulsory environmental-studies classes in British schools, confirming opinion-poll findings that the voters are no longer frightened by “global warming” scare stories, if they ever were.
When the Union’s president, Laura Winwood, announced the result in the Victorian-Gothich Gladstone Room, three peers cheered with the undergraduates, and one peer drowned his sorrows in beer.
Lord Lawson of Blaby, Margaret Thatcher’s former finance minister, opened the case for the proposition by saying that the economic proposals put forward by the UN’s climate panel and its supporters did not add up. It would be better to wait and see whether the scientists had gotten it right. It was not sensible to make expensive spending commitments, particularly at a time of great economic hardship, when the effectiveness of the spending was gravely in doubt and when it might do more harm than good.
At one point, Lord Lawson was interrupted by a US student, who demanded to know what was his connection with the Science and Public Policy Institute, and what were the Institute’s sources of funding. Lord Lawson was cheered when he said he neither knew nor cared who funded the Institute.
Ms. Zara McGlone, Secretary of the Oxford Union, opposed the motion, saying that greenhouse gases had an effect [they do, but it is very small]; that the precautionary principle required immediate action, just in case and regardless of expense [but one must also bear in mind the cost of the precautions themselves, which can and often do easily exceed the cost of inaction]; that Bangladesh was sinking beneath the waves [a recent study by Prof. Niklas Moerner shows that sea level in Bangladesh has actually fallen]; that the majority of scientists believed “global warming” was a problem [she offered no evidence for this]; and that “irreversible natural destruction” would occur if we did nothing [but she did not offer any evidence].
Mr. James Delingpole, a blogger for the leading British conservative national newspaper The Daily Telegraph, seconded the proposition, saying that – politically speaking – the climate extremists had long since lost the argument. The general public simply did not buy the scare stories any more. The endless tales of Biblical disasters peddled by the alarmist faction were an unwelcome and now fortunately failed recrudescence of dull, gray Puritanism. Instead of hand-wringing and bed-wetting, we should celebrate the considerable achievements of the human race and start having fun.
Lord Whitty, a Labor peer from the trades union movement and, until recently, Labor’s Environment Minister in the Upper House, said that the world’s oil supplies were rapidly running out [in fact, record new finds have been made in the past five years]; that we needed to change our definition of economic growth to take into account the value lost when we damaged the environment [it is artificial accounting of this kind that has left Britain as bankrupt as Greece after 13 years of Labor government]; that green jobs created by governments would help to end unemployment [but Milton Friedman won his Nobel Prize for economics by demonstrating that every artificial job created at taxpayers’ expense destroys two real jobs in the wealth-producing private sector]; that humans were the cause of most of the past century’s warming [there is no evidence for that: the case is built on speculation by programmers of computer models]; that temperature today was at its highest in at least 40 million years [in fact, it was higher than today by at least 12.5 F° for most of the past 550 million years]; and that 95% of scientists believed our influence on the climate was catastrophic [no one has asked them].
Lord Monckton repeatedly interrupted Lord Whitty to ask him to give a reference in the scientific literature for his suggestion that 95% of scientists believed our influence on the climate was catastrophic. Lord Whitty was unable to provide the source for his figure, but said that everyone knew it was true. Under further pressure from Lord Monckton, Lord Whitty conceded that the figure should perhaps be 92%. Lord Monckton asked: “And your reference is?” Lord Whitty was unable to reply. Hon. Members began to join in, jeering “Your reference? Your reference?” Lord Whitty sat down looking baffled.
Lord Leach of Fairford, whom Margaret Thatcher appointed a Life Peer for his educational work, spoke third for the proposition. He said that we no longer knew whether or not there had been much “global warming” over the 20th century, because the Climategate emails had exposed the terrestrial temperature records as defective. In any event, he said, throwing good money after bad on various alternative-energy boondoggles was unlikely to prove profitable in the long term and would ultimately do harm.
Mr. Rajesh Makwana, executive director of “Share The World’s Resources”, speaking third for the opposition, said that climate change was manmade [but he did not produce any evidence for that assertion]; that CO2 emissions were growing at 3% a year [but it is concentrations, not emissions, that may in theory affect climate, and concentrations are rising at a harmless 0.5% a year]; that the UN’s climate panel had forecast a 7 F° “global warming” for the 21st century [it’s gotten off to a bad start, with a cooling of 0.2 F° so far]; and that the consequences of “global warming” would be dire [yet, in the audience, sat Mr. Klaus-Martin Schulte, whose landmark paper of 2008 had established that not one of 539 scientific papers on “global climate change” provided any evidence whatsoever that “global warming” would be catastrophic].
Lord Monckton, a former science advisor to Margaret Thatcher during her years as Prime Minister of the UK, concluded the case for the proposition. He drew immediate laughter and cheers when he described himself as “Christopher Walter, Third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, scholar, philanthropist, wit, man about town, and former chairman of the Wines and Spirits Committee of this honourable Society”. At that point his cummerbund came undone. He held it up to the audience and said, “If I asked this House how long this cummerbund is, you might telephone around all the manufacturers and ask them how many cummerbunds they made, and how long each type of cummerbund was, and put the data into a computer model run by a zitty teenager eating too many doughnuts, and the computer would make an expensive guess. Or you could take a tape-measure and” – glaring at the opposition across the despatch-box – “measure it!” [cheers].
Lord Monckton said that real-world measurements, as opposed to models, showed that the warming effect of CO2 was a tiny fraction of the estimates peddled by the UN’s climate panel. He said that he would take his lead from Lord Lawson, however, in concentrating on the economics rather than the science. He glared at the opposition again and demanded whether, since they had declared themselves to be so worried about “global warming”, they would care to tell him – to two places of decimals and one standard deviation – the UN’s central estimate of the “global warming” that might result from a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration. The opposition were unable to reply. Lord Monckton told them the answer was 3.26 plus or minus 0.69 Kelvin or Celsius degrees. An Hon. Member interrupted: “And your reference is?” Lord Monckton replied: “IPCC, 2007, chapter 10, box 10.2.” [cheers]. He concluded that shutting down the entire global economy for a whole year, with all the death, destruction, disaster, disease and distress that that would cause, would forestall just 4.7 ln(390/388) = 0.024 Kelvin or Celsius degrees of “global warming”, so that total economic shutdown for 41 years would prevent just 1 K of warming. Adaptation as and if necessary would be orders of magnitude cheaper and more cost-effective.
Mr. Mike Mason, founder and managing director of “Climate Care”, concluded for the opposition. He said that the proposition were peculiar people, and that Lord Monckton was more peculiar than most, in that he was not a real Lord. Lord Monckton, on a point of order, told Mr. Mason that the proposition had avoided personalities and that if Mr. Mason were unable to argue other than ad hominem he should “get out”. [cheers] Mr. Mason then said that we had to prepare for climate risks [yes, in both directions, towards cooler as well as warmer]; and that there was a “scientific consensus” [but he offered no evidence for the existence of any such consensus, still less for the notion that science is done by consensus].
The President thanked the speakers and expressed the Society’s gratitude to the Science and Public Policy Institute for sponsoring the debate. Hon. Members filed out of the Debating Chamber, built to resemble the interior of the House of Commons, and passed either side of the brass division-pole at the main door – Ayes to the right 135, Noes to the left 110. Motion carried.