Oxford professors and the poor
May 22, 2013
Bishop Hill in Climate: Allen, Climate: Sceptics, Climate: sensitivity, Matt Ridley

Yesterday Myles Allen posted a highly personal attack on Matt Ridley. The Guardian has apparently failed to respond to Matt's requests to allow him to respond (I am reminded of their publication of Bob Ward's hit piece on me back in 2009, when it took days to get them to reply to me and weeks before the response was published). This being the case Matt has asked me to post the following:

Dear Professor Allen,

In your polemical Guardian article on Tuesday you produce no counter-arguments to my Times article. For example, you ask: "Is Ridley right that there is no actual evidence of harm as long as droughts, floods and storms are within historic variability?" You then do not answer that question. Well, am I right or not?

You then say:

Where Ridley may well be right is that if you are confident that citizens of 2065 will be rich enough and smart enough to cope with whatever we bequeath to them; or if you really don't care about unborn generations anyway (what have unborn generations ever done for me?); or if, like Bjorn Lomborg, you discount future damages to give very little weight to anything that happens after 2065; or if you firmly believe that the "second coming" will occur before 2065 anyway – then there probably isn't much point in trying to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. These are perfectly coherent ethical positions: they don't happen to be positions that I subscribe to, but if that is what Ridley thinks, so be it.

This is manifestly dishonest. To find out what I think, try reading my article rather than making up fantastic and absurd stories and then saying "if that is what Ridley thinks…". Where did I mention anything remotely like a "second coming"? Where did I imply that I "don't care about unborn generations", when I made the exact opposite point? Why did you choose to distort my argument that the citizens of 2060 will be able to cope with mild climate change into a quite different point -- "cope with whatever we bequeath them"? And why did you choose to ignore the point I clearly made that climate policy is doing more economic and ecological harm to the poor today than climate change itself, and will do so for several more decades?

Not only do I care very much about my children and potential grandchildren, which is why I do not want to burden them with biomass power stations and wind turbines that drive up energy costs, spoil landscapes and exacerbate rainforest destruction. But I also care about poor people alive today, whom you do not mention. Climate change policies are killing nearly 200,000 people a year by subsidizing bio-energy and driving up food prices.[1] Fuel poverty is being driven up by subsidies for wind energy — this may not trouble Oxford professors, but it is a real issue for many people. Hard-pressed south-east Northumberland, where I live, has just lost 500 jobs at an aluminium plant because (in the words of Civitas) “the smelter’s long-term viability is critically undermined by the government’s energy policies”.

Although you describe the climate debate as acrimonious, you will find no ad hominem attacks on you or distortions of your position in my Times article. For anybody, let alone a scientist purporting to speak with scientific authority, to write an article as vicious and misleading as this is frankly despicable. It exemplifies the sort of innuendo journalism that the Leveson report rightly criticised. Until this week I had considerable respect for you, having followed some of your work and disagreed only with the political interpretations you put on it. Now you have lost my respect.

Yours sincerely,

Matt Ridley

[1] http://www.jpands.org/vol16no1/goklany.pdf

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