Click images for more details



Recent comments
Recent posts
Currently discussing

A few sites I've stumbled across recently....

Powered by Squarespace
« Energy opinion | Main | Thought crimes »

The ethics of global warming policy

Reader Gareth sends this report of last night's debate on the ethics of global warming policy.

I've just got back from the Fisher House / Von Hugel Institute seminar "Global Warming & Equitable Development: the Ethical and Political Priorities" (following your notice of same a few weeks ago).

Chaired by Rowan Williams, with a panel of: Lord Deben, Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, Prof Richard Lindzen, Prof Peter Wadhams (Prof Physics & Head of Polar Ocean Physics Group, Cambridge), Professor Sir Colin Humphrey (Cambridge), Prof John Loughlin Von Hugel Institute), Prof Chris Whitty (long job title - govt advisor) & Peter Lilley (late addition, not advertised), plus a paper by Prof Emeritus Tony Kelly (Cambridge) read by his son as he was unwell.

I'd expected this to be a bit of a greenfest with Lindzen as the token denier but it wasn't at all. The panel was quite balanced in representation of "warmist" and "denier" viewpoint as was the audience, and it was quite a civilized affair. Brian Hoskins did the usual "ice caps melting, sea level rising, etc" stuff. The Cambridge Polar chap also did "melting sea ice worse than we thought". Lindzen was quite good and disagreed with the polar chap that sea level data showed accelerating rise. Peter Lilley was good too,
saying that if you actually read the Stern report and use its own data you can see that it does not support the action taken by government. The Tony Kelly paper was sensible stuff, including bio-fuels hurt the poor.

The only one of the panel who I wouldn't have wished to have a follow up conversation with was Deben. I know it's ad-hom, but having seen him and listened to him, "egregious" does not begin to cover it. So bad news that Deben and his pal Yeo have their claws on the wheels of power, but maybe good news that a fair proportion of the panel and of this Cambridge audience have a different view.

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

Reader Comments (27)

Lord Deben has to be heard to be believed, eg at
I’ve transcribed his Oxford talk (in which he mentioned Lindzen, saying he should be “listened to” before dismissing him as an “oddball”, part of “a small contrary cabal of scientists and campaigners”) at
and have started fisking him at

Mar 7, 2013 at 12:01 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

I can understand the authors views on Deben and their far from the only one to have them.

But you have to give Deben & Yeo credit, both old school Tories, indeed old enough to be acolytes of that main hate finger of the left/liberals Thatcher, that act in total self interest at the public expense and but by the application of green wash have become darlings of the liberal press , who give their clear conflict of interest a free pass .

Interesting bed fellows 'the cause ' creates

Mar 7, 2013 at 12:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterKnR

A seminar on the ethical implications of the debate on the origins of global warming and climate change. But zero benefit.

Mar 7, 2013 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterBridge Crane

I would make a comment of Deben's contribution but it would not last long on this thread, the man is a menace to Britain and everything we hold to be true, sometimes I can't help wondering - if Gummer is suffering some sort of serious mental affliction.

Mar 7, 2013 at 12:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

I can't help wondering - if Gummer is suffering some sort of serious mental affliction.
Mar 7, 2013 at 12:59 PM Athelstan.


Mar 7, 2013 at 1:03 PM | Registered CommenterMartin A

Were any conclusions reached (apart from the odiousness of Gummer)?

+1 to Martin, BTW.

Mar 7, 2013 at 1:28 PM | Registered Commenterjamesp

You can certainly hear Deben talk. I once had the misfortune to share a restaurant with him and he outshouted everyone at his table with a load of crap. Dreadful meal in a good restaurant down exclusively to his behaviour.

Mar 7, 2013 at 2:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

Thanks Gareth, good to hear that the establishment still has some open minds.

Mar 7, 2013 at 2:39 PM | Registered CommenterGreen Sand

Speaking of climate ethics, the chart in the link shows that people who emit more CO2 live longer.

Developing economies, and those who would like to develop, will use more energy, and their citizens will be healthier, and live longer.

Mar 7, 2013 at 2:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon B

How far can one go in ad hominem remarks about someone like Lord Deben? I let myself go in the relative privacy of my own blog, saying things I wouldn’t say, and wouldn’t be allowed to say, here. His argument in the Oxford talk is weak -trite and confused - but it’s the revelations about his psychology which really hit home. If he were acting as an elected politician his arguments would be torn to shreds by journalists (though not by the opposition, of course for whom he’s probably not mad enough). As head of one of the quangos which increasingly make the important decisions, he’s considered off-limits.
This seems to me to be wrong. If his peculiar psychology has an influence on energy policy, it should be exposed. He’s clearly two blades short of a turbine.

Mar 7, 2013 at 3:08 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Martin A -



Mar 7, 2013 at 3:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

Mar 7, 2013 at 1:03 PM | Martin A

+1 more at least.

Lord Deben: Legend.

Mar 7, 2013 at 3:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

I speculate that Roman-Catholicism has had a significant effect on the psychology of Lord Deben (aka John Selwyn Gummer) with respect to carbon dioxide.

When an MP, he was on the receiving end of one of the most famous (UK) political insults in recent decades: the Norwegian D-word ("drittsek"), as used to describe him by the Norwegian environment spokesman regarding UK emissions of sulphur dioxide. It probably left some scars.

I have recently learned from my parents that 'climate-guilt' speakers are quite active in the Roman-Catholic forums that they are familiar with.

Mar 7, 2013 at 6:45 PM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Gareth's summary is pretty good. I attended. Prof Colin Humphreys wasn't there (I think Peter Lilley was his replacement?).
Lord Deben deliberately insulted Lindzen (more like slander actually) and insulted America. As Lindzen is a genuinely decent guy, he did not retaliate in kind.
Among Deben's other idiocies was to shout, "We are pumping huge amounts of ALIEN gases into the atmosphere", I muttered loudly - but not loudly enough - that he might reduce this if he stopped talking.
Who knew that CO2 is really alien spawn that breeds in our lungs and leaps out to seed the whole atmosphere?... arrrgh...
Sorry, where was I?

Lindzen ended his piece (each only got ten minutes) by (I paraphrase from memory) saying that in climate, alarmists had gone back before monotheism to primitive beliefs in omens and propitiating the angry 'gods' with sacrifices.

Mar 7, 2013 at 7:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterPhilip Foster

I was at the Cambridge meeting last night, and can only say that Deben was awful, arrogant and wholly absent of facts or reality. Prof. Waddams was also waffly and needs to check his information (I won't call them facts), e.g. his erroneous statement on the sea levels around Bangladesh from Sir John Houghton - the well known sea-level expert, not!.

Some of Deben's unbelievable utterances:
"CO2 is an alien gas"
"climate mitigation is just like fire insurance for your house"
"those who don't believe CO2 is a danger [i.e. believe in the null hypothesis] should be required to prove their case".

He also made mention of "saving the world", forgetting of course that the event was about ethics, chaired by the ex-Archbishop, was in the Catholic chaplaincy, so in a Christian setting. This should have given him the clue that in Christian teaching, (i) God has decided when the current Earth will end, and how, and that man can do nothing whatsoever to change that, (ii) when God created the earth, including all the fossil fuels, we declared it "Good", so (iii) in light of these, man cannot destroy Earth by his actions, and to deny the use of God's declared good gift of coal/oil/gas is to deny God himself.

It was very good that Peter Lilley was there, and he effectively demolished the Stern report, and countered Deben.

Mar 7, 2013 at 7:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

I remember a young, enthusiastic John Selwyn Gummer aka Lord Deben in 1972. He came to address our corn trade confidence and told us how wonderful things were going to be for us once we were within the tariff barrier of the EEC. Our exports to Europe would boom then, he said. He also told us that the Commonwealth countries no longer wanted to trade with us. This was a thumping great lie. Our family firm has bought thousands of tons of excellent, unsubsidised milk powder from New Zealand over the years and would be cut off from that happy trading relationship at the stroke of midnight on December 31 1972. The New Zealanders, who had never let us down, did not like losing their customer any more than we liked being compelled to buy EEC milk powder. The man was a liar then and has thrived on it all his life.

Not strictly climate -related but relevant to the man who has prospered mightily by deceit.

Mar 7, 2013 at 7:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterEdward Spalton

Discussing an opponent’s religion is usually considered off-limits, but Deben himself brought the subject up in his Oxford talk, in the most bizarre fashion.
Talking about minority views he says:

“... it’s no bad thing to assume that in general the corpus of scientific evidence is a better guide to action than particular detached theories held in isolation from the main body. I don’t want to make a religious parallel but I think that there is a very clear one.
and then, talking about the views of non-experts, he said:
I think the parallel is simply this. I’m sure that Cliff Richard is a very good singer. I don’t take his religious views any more than I take anyone else’s religious views. And yet, if you do the parallel with the climate change you put him on a platform with a bishop. On the basis that they’re both experts. I find that unacceptable there, and I don’t see why we should put up with it in the area we’re talking about today.
John Selwyn Gummer’s father, the Reverend Selwyn Gummer, sent him to Selwyn College, Cambridge. John Selwyn later converted to Catholicism, or “poped” as they say in High Anglican circles.

Mar 7, 2013 at 7:55 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

There was also claims that we (the west/developed nations) 'owed' the developing nations. Rhubarb! If anything, we should be striving to help them gain access to a stable and low-cost electricity supply. With this, they can stop burning fuels inefficiently creating real (carbon etc.) pollutants, which will have a massive positive health impact, and enable them to start real businesses that are profitable and productive. To deny them access to cheap fossil fuels with modern power generation, and force expensive unreliable renewables on them is cruelly unethical.

I would challenge any of the pro-global warming panel members to demonstrate a clear economic case for any household, business or other enterprise to survive with a renewable-only electricity supply. Even at less than 20%, Germany's power grid started to collapse, so what chance could a much less developed country have with a 100% renewable supply?

Mar 7, 2013 at 10:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

We should feel fortunate, and honored. We are in the presence of grand, even epic, villains. And there are lots of them.

Mar 8, 2013 at 12:14 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Just reading Anthony Watt's article "Quote of the Week – blaming Nature for poor model performance" reminded me that another statement made at the event was (I paraphrase & in 2 parts) "the average of all the models has correctly predicted the climate" & "not all models show the detailed up and down of temperature", from which I read 2 things, (i) that NO model is correct, and (ii) that this sounds like an excuse to brush over the temperature standstill for the last 17 years (because of (i)).

If anyone (Gareth, Philip) can improve the accuracy of my recollection, and who said it (I suspect Deben), then please do.

I've also just read some of the transcript of Deben's Oxford Union talk in Feb, and his characterisation of 'sceptic' is hugely warped, to put it mildly. The man has no sense of humility and shame whatsoever.

Mar 8, 2013 at 11:13 AM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

Matt Ridley has a pot at Deben here

Mar 8, 2013 at 4:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterDolphinhead

The one and only ethical issue about 'human-induced climate change' is that the founders of the IPCC wanted to destroy industrial civilisation, and vilifying CO2 was the strategy. Impoverishment and de-industrialisation and the accompanying 'lifestyle changes' are what the UNEP founders wanted. It's all a puritanical Malthusian and fascist plot - now supported by leftists who haven't thought through the issue, by people like Deben and Yeo who make money out of renewables and by politicians for popularity. Science is a smoke-screen to confuse and hide the real plot.

Mar 8, 2013 at 4:44 PM | Unregistered CommenterAriane

I should like to know the investment portfolios of, inter alia, John Gummer (the noble Lord) and Tim Yeo. I would suspect that our official greenies are by now heavily into protecting not only their beliefs but also the profitability of renewables ensured by subsidies. Apologies, if I am wrong in suspecting a bit of self-interest. If this does no apply, the advocates of more 'decarbonisation' may simply be helping the UK government survive with the aid of 'carbon' taxes, especially for 'dirty' imports.......Lord Stern remains keen on them, I suspect.

Mar 8, 2013 at 6:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterSonja Christiansen

Another thought about Deben's rant. He claims the £60/person charge is an insurance policy. Well it clearly isn't, for two reasons, (i) if my house were flooded or damaged by an 'extreme' weather event, he'd be the first to reject any 'insurance' claim made against the government, and (ii) it's actually a bet, as he has no idea whatsoever what the climate is going to be in 10, 20, 50 years, nor what the weather is going to to next week, and he himself said that he's making a judgement based on probabilities.

He's betting billions of our money on something he knows nothing about, the climate, which the IPCC described as a chaotic system that's impossible to predict.

Mar 8, 2013 at 7:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterSimon

At unthreaded, TheBigYinJames criticises Matt Ridley for being too polite to Lord Deben in his letter reproduced at
I hope I’ve made up for that at

Mar 8, 2013 at 8:22 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers


Yes, these people are in the position of influencing policies to suit their investments. They can, in effect, vote themselves rich.

And there are family connections too. Samantha Cameron's father trousers £1000 per day from his subsidy/wind farm and Mrs. Clegg works for a company which sells wind turbines.

The BBC pension fund is reputedly heavily invested in "green" technologies which all depend on legal compulsion or taxpayer/consumer-funded subsidy to be profitable.

There was once a very rude song, (which I have mostly forgotten) , once popular with the brutal and licentious soldiery, with the refrain

"My gosh, how the money rolls in".

Mar 9, 2013 at 10:15 AM | Unregistered CommenterEdward Spalton

I have come to the conclusion that we all have a little blame global warming and its consequences and guilt even more politicians who do not slow down.

Mar 18, 2013 at 6:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterAnny

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>