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Discussion > Leftie climate sceptics

Following on from the Richard Bean post and comments, here's a list of moderately prominent (e.g. running a blog or having written a book) climate sceptics who have, or in some cases had in the past, left-wing views, in alphabetical order. Please add more to the list as you come across them.

Claude Allegre
Harold Ambler
Richard Bean
Pascal Bruckner
Geoff Chambers
Alexander Cockburn
Piers Corbyn
Lord Donoghue
Martin Durkin
David Evans
Tom Fuller
Steve McIntyre
Brendan O’Neill
Ben Pile
Prof Philip Stott
Graham Stringer MP
Graham Strouts

Jan 10, 2014 at 6:11 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

The Pope? He's got to believe in divine intervention or something hasn't he? And I think he's a leftie. Ditto the Archbishop of Cantebury. Although on second thoughts many be the belief bit is lacking there...

Jan 11, 2014 at 1:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterChandra

The late Alexander Cockburn is an interesting example, since he was coeditor of Counterpunch, which is a serious leftwing American site. There was a long debate which can be found at
http://www.zcommunications.org/zsearch/keyword?key_word=cockburn&page=9
between Cockburn and Monbiot (with an intervention by Michael Mann). Monbiot’s point, if I remember correctly, was that Cockburn was quoting sources financed by big oil or run by right wingers. The fact that Monbiot devoted five articles to refuting Cockburn suggests that the existence of leftwing climate sceptics is considered particularly dangerous to the cause.

Jan 11, 2014 at 6:31 AM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff: I remember reading that debate early on in my climate web investigations and finding Cockburn totally convincing. Because of the effect of so-called mitigation policies on the poorest it made perfect sense that the Left should take this up - something that Martin Durkin expressed very well in The Great Global Warming Swindle in 2007. The question is why it hasn't happened far more.

Paul: Very good subject for a discussion thread but if Ben Pile why not Richard Lindzen?

Jan 11, 2014 at 6:44 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

I don’t think the way Richard Lindzen or Steve McIntyre votes is of the least interest, since it’s irrelevant to their scientific / statistical analysis. On the other hand, several commenters her should be mentioned, because their political opinions are relevant to their comments. I’m thnking of TheBigYinJames and esmiff, but there are no doubt others.

Jan 14, 2014 at 10:05 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Judith Curry has said, IIRC, that she's at least been a Democrat donor in the past. Matt Ridley described himself in an interview as most analogous to a Clinton Liberal in the US. I know he's a Tory peer over here but this is more about personal perspectives than political affiliations isn't it?

Jan 15, 2014 at 12:13 AM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

I seriously doubt that Steve McIntyre could be described as left-wing, at least in a Canadian context. His views are perhaps left wing by US standards, but in Canadian terms he comes across as a moderate or centrist. I mean, the man has spent his life in the mining industry, and still has active business interests. He also bans all political comment from his blog, hardly the stance of a committed political animal of any stripe.

Jan 20, 2014 at 6:03 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Johanna
Steve McIntyre once mentioned in an aside that he lives in the most “liberal” part of the most liberal city in Canada, strongly hinting that he’s that way too. It’s only interesting because it demonstrates that you can be an old white leftwing male and still think logically, and because there’s a current of thinking among some social scientists who study us that assumes that anyone weird enough to deny a truth averred by 97% of scientists must be suffering from some fault in their wiring, with their political beliefs dictating their scientific ones, or something. For the “hardwiring” school of psychologists, the existence of even a small number of us presents them with an intellectual challenge (as if they’re not intellectually challenged enough already).

Ben Pile is interesting because he’s a journalist, (like Donna Laframboise, whoses previous work on humanitarian causes suggests she might belong on this list) and he writes at SpikedOnline, which is overtly Marxist (though of an eccentric kind).

The rest of us are mostly useful I suspect as a kind of fifth column within the left-voting trendy middle class, serving as an occasional reminder to Guardian-reading friends that their image of climate deniers as scientifically illiterate UKIP-voting creationists might not be entirely correct. It’s not much, but it’s all we can do for the moment.

Jan 20, 2014 at 4:15 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff, I have remarked at times that I Iive in the most left-wing jurisdiction in Australia (which I do), but I assure you that it does not imply in any way that this reflects my own views! Indeed, if it did, I doubt that I would remark on it, considering it to be merely the natural order of things.

My guess is that McIntyre, as a primarily rational person, would share a similar cultural dissonance when faced with the mindless greenie policies and feelgood empty rhetoric that characterises such jurisdictions.

Jan 21, 2014 at 2:00 AM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Closely related post at Spiked today
http://www.spiked-online.com/spikedplus/article/14540
THERE’S NOTHING LEFT-WING ABOUT BEING GREEN
By Brendan O'Neill.
Unfortunately mostly behind paywall.

Very reminiscent of the Graham Strouts blog
http://skepteco.wordpress.com/2013/06/16/greens-to-the-left-or-greens-to-the-right/
that mentions O'Neill.

Jan 21, 2014 at 3:07 PM | Registered CommenterPaul Matthews

geoff and johanna,

The report in MacLeans does seem to vindicate the Geographical Determinists ;-)

McIntyre’s association with “Red Ed” (now the CEO of the Toronto-Dominion Bank) will surprise those who assume that a climate skeptic must be a rabid Republican, but as he puts it, “I live in downtown Toronto, and I have the politics of downtown Toronto.”

Jan 21, 2014 at 5:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrad Keyes

Freeman Dyson

Dyson may be an Obama-loving, Bush-loathing liberal who has spent his life opposing American wars and fighting for the protection of natural resources, but he brooks no ideology and has a withering aversion to scientific consensus.

Jan 21, 2014 at 5:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterBrad Keyes

Thanks Paul Matthews for the Spiked reference. I’ll have to subscribe, and I’ll mention that the Bish sent me :-)
There’s an awful lot of pointless redbaiting going on here, as at any blog with a rightwing tendency (see e.g. Stephen Richards at
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2014/1/21/europes-energy-emergency.html
and sHx’s angry replies)
I’ve always seen the prevalence of rightwingers among climate sceptics as a canary-in-the-coalmine effect. Those who object to government interference and high taxes are naturally the first to notice the effects of green policies. The industrial workers thrown out of work by high energy costs will only notice later.
It’s a serious drawback of our democratic free press tradition that there’s absolutely no-one on the left to explain what’s happening, and they’re not going to believe the Daily Mail and Peter Lilley. No doubt UKIP will mop them up and be transformed into a leftwing party in the process, much as is happening to the National Front in France.

There’s no doubt, I think, that the origins of environmentalism are on the left, and much of its attraction, in America at least, can be put down to the absence of a living socialist tradition there. To be “progressive” in the US means to protest against the drawbacks of successful capitalism, usually by writing a book about it. And very successful it has been, too; the criticisms of Rachel Carson, Ralph Nader, Vance Packard and others have done wonders for the environment, thanks to public pressure, a free press, and all the other characteristics of an open society which the left so grudgingly accepts. In a society where the idea of a mass movement of working people is viewed with suspicion, a mass movement of likeminded puritanical thinkers bent on making the world a better place is much more acceptable. Maybe they should rechristen the planet “Mayflower” and be done with it.

Meanwhile in Britain, the Labour Party, incapable of organising their normal activities in a brewery because of the non-smoking and other health and safety regulations, have decided to regulate the temperature of the planet instead.

Jan 21, 2014 at 9:21 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Geoff, nice post.

However, I think we need to distinguish between the brand of "environmentalism" epitomised by the authors you cited (Rachel Carson is not a source I'd be proud of!) and the older conservation movement, in English-speaking countries at least.

In the US and Australia, the original conservationists were often political conservatives, including wealthy industrialists and landowners, who simply cared about the natural world for its own sake. They endowed foundations, created parks and so on for very different reasons than the rabid mob we now have to deal with. They certainly did not wish for the near extinction of economic progress and even the human race as the price of respecting and caring for the natural world.

Jan 21, 2014 at 11:47 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

Brad Keyes: I knew we'd missed someone. But Freeman Dyson? Doh!

Like Geoff Chambers but (with all respect) with more maths I find almost everything the man says stimulating or interesting. Not a cardboard-cutout leftie but a truly independent thinker, through and through. And so, I hope, are all of us, Cobdenites, Lilburnists and all.

Jan 22, 2014 at 2:21 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Richard,

Hehe

You probably know Dan Kahan, the Yale Prof who empirically dispelled the knowledge-deficit and science-illiteracy "explanations" for the existence of popular climate skepticism, only to replace it with one that's equally patronising to both sides: cultural cognition, whereby we reject information uncongenial to our social group's worldview. Kahan himself is predictably warmist but he has the integrity to keep the associated presumptions (almost always) out of his work and his public outreach, blogging etc. He's one of the few real gentlemen I've ever locked horns with among their intellectuals (even if the Affirmative/home team on his blog occasionally incites him to intervene irrationally against a skeptical commenter).

Anyway what's amusing is to ask Kahan and his cultural-cognition fans to explain why [a given leftist] is scornful of CAGW in diametric contradiction to their prevailing hypothesis. What I've found is that they'll produce an ad hoc just-so story customised to the counterexample they want to explain away. ("According to WilConPedia, when Freeman Dyson was 2 yo he watched his entire family get gunned-down by computer modellers...)

I KEEP TELLING Dan to read Hal Lewis' resignation letter and try to grasp that it's our revulsion of pseudoscience that animates us, but (all his intellectual integrity notwithstanding) I doubt he'll be able to bring himself to do that until his academic retirement.

But maybe if enough of us asked him...

Jan 22, 2014 at 6:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterBrad Keyes

geoff chambers/johanna
It's also worth remembering that wealthy industrialists and landowners endowed model villages for their workers and set up charitable foundations.
I'm not suggesting philanthropic and charitable activity was exclusively the preserve of the "Right" (Rochdale and the Salvation Army are just two examples that would prove me wrong) or that there weren't more than enough of the archetypal cartoon mill owner (Rochdale again as an example) but the idea that all those who drove the Industrial Revolution were ogres without a thought for their workers — even if that thought was mainly because it was in their own financial interests — is a distortion that had bedevilled much of 20th century politics and is now distorting the debate on environmentalism and climate.
Dare to question the near-perfection of anything that has been associated with 'The Left' — the environment, NHS as two immediately obvious examples — and see where it gets you. So you get the black and white and totally distorted situation that if you don't accept every word that proceeds from the mouth of George Monbiot you must be an reconstructed fascist who wants his grandchildren to die a horrible death* and if you suggest the NHS could do with a bit of improvement here and there you are hell-bent on turning health care over to the profiteers and introducing all the worst possible aspects of the American system.
Colour me confused! And cynical with it.
*And of course you're in the pay of 'Big Oil' as well

Jan 22, 2014 at 9:35 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike: Salvation Army, left or right? I say you need both to march blowing that bugle! But what a great reminder. On the pioneering of equality for women in leadership Catherine and Bramwell were certainly in a class of their own. In their gripping concern for the poorest a clear offshoot of early Methodism - and persecuted by the Methodists of their own day, needless to say. Later Salvationists did the same to the Pentecostals that followed them - but that didn't stop that movement galvanising the poor of the earth, from San Paulo to Seoul. Another reason it's so hard to say which foot comes first. All we know is we need both in this neck of the woods.

Jan 22, 2014 at 10:55 AM | Registered CommenterRichard Drake

Sure, and I'll go for the left foot first, Richard! :-)
I see the Sally Army as essentially "of the people" which in this context I equate with 'left'. But the "co-op=good lady-of-the-manor=bad" simplistic philosophy makes sense only to those whose aim is to undermine the system — any system!
I had a disagreement the other day with someone who wishes to abolish the House of Lords, a subject on which I am broadly neutral except that he used the Duke of Buccleuch as one of his examples. While I've never met the man himself I have had some dealing with the Buccleuch Estate and I am prepared to bet that the Duke is probably more in touch with 'ordinary' people and aware of their problems than 90% of MPs of any party! He employs more of them and is landlord to more of them than any Labour MP, most of whose experience of humanity comes either from text books or from mixing with fellow-PPE graduates-cum-interns-cum-policy wonks.
Bit like Freud's somewhat "restricted" (to say the least) clientele that I spoke of the other day.

Jan 22, 2014 at 1:49 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

You and others have made an important point, Mike. Somehow we have been inveigled into a position where Jesus was a left winger, and by implication the Romans were right wingers. Or something.

These bizarre caricatures of history have weaseled their way into Western thought, and the consequences are there to see all around us.

Jan 24, 2014 at 1:15 PM | Registered Commenterjohanna

johanna
"My kingdom is not of this world." And I've always thought that "render unto Caesar ..." is the best indication of the division between the religious sphere and the secular one. Each is entitled to a different kind of loyalty.
I have met those who claim that it is impossible for a Christian to be on the political right and those who say the same about the political left. All men are sinners to a greater or less extent (women too!) and their political beliefs don't come into it.
A recent survey seemed to suggest that churchgoers were significantly less likely to engage in petty crime like shoplifting or nicking the office pencils but I've never seen any suggestion that Rightists were any more or less venal than Leftists.
Geoff and I will disagree about government priorities in the social sphere and perhaps even about the size of government itself but what has that to do with whether or not CO2 is causing the earth to warm, catastrophically or not?
If it appears that those of a Leftist persuasion are more inclined to side with the "consensus" then I would hazard a guess that there is something else at play beyond a simple belief in the science.

Jan 24, 2014 at 5:23 PM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

So, until recently, I would have considered myself a staunch believer in the prevailing climate change rhetoric. But, as a reasonable person, I started to question that which I had been told over and over by my "green" friends and our media (I live in the U.S.) And so it is that I found this blog, among others. I am not a scientist by trade.

I am "stuck" on a few key talking points used by those who are proponents of AGW, so consider this an opportunity to educate a previously dyed-in-the-wool climate change believer as to why you consider it bunk. I ask the following with all due respect--- I truly ask in the spirit of inquiry.

Where do the statistics come that this is the 4th hottest year on record, if global temperatures have not increased since 1998?

In your opinions, what is causing the accelerated decline of Arctic sea ice?

Do any of you believe that the climate is changing, just not as a function of man?

Again, I've come to all of this quite recently and ask as a private citizen who found herself up late at night, fretting that the world was devolving into climate madness and dystopia. If nothing else, give me some hope.

Sincerest thanks in advance.

Jan 24, 2014 at 5:52 PM | Registered Commentermaestra2014

Mike Jackson
As you know, I’m happy with the idea of a political world which encompasses both the Duke of Buccleuch and Dennis Skinner. And no doubt growing fuel poverty means we’ll need both socialist welfare handouts and the Duchess’s hand-me-downs, so no disgreement there.

The big absence in the discussion of leftwing scepticism to my mind is the idea of national ownership or control of our energy generation and other key infrastructure. On this question, I’m certainly in favour of bigger government, and if I were active in the Labour party, my biggest concern would be how to re-establish democratic control over such essential national resources as energy, transport and communications, without repeating the mistakes of postwar Labour governments. Of course, if it were done tomorrow by some imaginary non-existent leftwing party, it would probably end up being run by a leftwing version of Lord Deben.

Maestra’s sincere questions are off-topic here, but deserve their own thread, I think. Does anyone want to start it?

Jan 24, 2014 at 8:51 PM | Registered Commentergeoffchambers

Maestra’s sincere questions are off-topic here, but deserve their own thread, I think. Does anyone want to start it?

Walk this way :)

Jan 24, 2014 at 10:20 PM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Simon Hopkinson

Walk this way
If I could walk that way, I wouldn't need ... I can't remember whose joke that was originally. Eric Morecambe?

geoffchambers
I start from the premise that individuals know better how to spend their own money than anyone else, whether that be the government or even their next-door neighbour. I am also a supporter of what Maggie was actually saying in that notorious interview namely that persons should do what persons can do for themselves; the next level is the family; the next level is the community (which is one reason I have always believed the French commune is important and believe so even more now I live here), then the local authority, then the government. How big that government is depends on a lot of things but any civilised society is surely better with the people driving the government rather than the other way round.
I'm in two minds about where government should be involved in things like energy. There can obviously be only one national grid but I see no reason why there shouldn't be competition in supply. But there again why should there? But I agree there is a strong argument for proper regulation (which doesn't mean stifling regulation which is what is very likely to happen with shale prospecting). The private sector needs regulating to ensure it isn't ripping the customer off to boost its bottom line; the public sector needs regulating to ensure it doesn't become bloated and lazy and inefficient which there is a tendency for it to do. That aside they should be allowed to get on with the job sans political interference — which is what I mean when I talk about small government.
As to your last point I think the biggest mistake that Attlee's government made (and Miliband could well make it again) was in believing that the gentlemen in Whitehall really do know best. A reading of the Beveridge Report and a comparison with the legislation that that government subsequently enacted is quite revealing.

Jan 25, 2014 at 9:46 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson