Nigel Lawson


Please note, this page has been archived since 2011 and will not be updated. 

"To take the extreme case, while it may at first blush seem heartless to say that the welfare of those living in the next millennium is of no consequence, to take decisions on the basis that it is every bit as important as the welfare of the population of the world today would be palpably absurd." 

Nigel Lawson, An Appeal to Reason, A Cool Look at Global Warming.

Lord Nigel Lawson is the founder of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a life peer in the House of Lords, the author of An Appeal to Reason, A Cool Look at Global Warming and a former chancellor and secretary of state for energy. In 2005 he was a member of the House of Commons Economic Affairs Select Committee when it produced an inquiry into the economics of climate change.

Although he has no scientific background, Lawson has considerable political gravitas. He opens An Appeal to Reason by saying: "By way of preamble, I readily admit that I am not a scientist." In his book, Lawson states that the "largely man-made" increase in CO2 emissions have contributed to the "modest" Twentieth Century warming of the planet. However, he believes that "climate alarmists" have exaggerated the negative impact of this warming. Lawson writes: "Warmer but richer is in fact healthier than colder but poorer". He asks: "Is it really plausible that there is an ideal average world temperature?", adding "average world temperature is simply a statistical artifact." In his book, Lawson picks seven years of data from this century to question the scientific consensus that global warming will continue. This line of argument has been widely criticized by scientists.

Dr Robert Watson, a former chair of the IPCC and chief scientist to Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), has said: "Lord Lawson's perspective that the UK and Europe are over-reacting to the threat of human-induced climate change is substantially wrong and ignores a significant body of scientific, technological and economic evidence."

Sir John Houghton, in a review of An Appeal to Reason for the science journal Nature, argues that Lawson uses  "sleight of hand with gross numbers" to suggest future generations will not be significantly adversely affected by climate change while ignoring evidence that "global warming will lead to tens or hundreds of millions of people suffering loss of resources, livelihoods and land." Sir John concludes that Lawson presents "misleading messages" that his conclusion on temperature rise show a "surprising ignorance of elementary statistical analysis" and recommends the peer "begin with a course of reading of the IPCC reports."

Lawson is on the record stating: "I think that the ordinary bloke has an instinctive sense that it wouldn't be too bad if the weather warmed up." He stated the summer heatwave in France of 2003, which was responsible for the deaths of 15,000 people, was in his own experience "perfectly tolerable". Lawson took part in a Newsnight debate in 2008 with Professor Chris Rapley, the Director of the Science Museum . In the discussion he stated: "The sea ice has been increasing considerably for the last six months." Rapley replied: "If you're saying the sea ice is freezing - it's winter."

Lawson has links to the oil industry via his chairmanship of the company Central Europe Trust, which he declares on the Register of Lords' Interests. CET states on its website that it co-manages private equity funds and consults on mergers and acquisitions for companies including BP, Royal Dutch Shell and Texaco. Lawson has also been president of the British Institute of Energy Economics, sponsored by Royal Dutch Shell, the BG Group and BP.

Lawson attended Christ Church College, Oxford, where he studied Philosophy, Politics and Economics. In 1961 he was appointed city editor of the Sunday Telegraph and from 1966 was editor of the Spectator. Lawson was elected as a Conservative MP in 1974 and appointed to the position of Secretary of State for Energy in 1981. He was made chancellor under Margaret Thatcher two years later, in 1983. He resigned as Chancellor in 1989, which made him the longest serving chancellor at that time, after Thatcher ignored his advice to join the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. Lawson retains political and media influence - his son Dominic has edited the Spectator and the Sunday Telegraph - and he is a prominent advocate for the climate sceptic cause.