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Carbon Brief Staff

Carbon Brief Staff

22.03.2011 | 12:00am
ScienceConservative Lord John Gummer on climate change: ‘In the end, we all have to face the facts.’
SCIENCE | March 22. 2011. 0:00
Conservative Lord John Gummer on climate change: ‘In the end, we all have to face the facts.’

Tory peer and former Shadow Environment secretary John Gummer came out to bat for right-wing advocacy on climate change, with an op-ed piece yesterday in the Australian:

“The battle against climate change in Europe is led from the Right. David Cameron, Conservative Prime Minister in Britain, President Nicolas Sarkozy in France, and Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany.”

The Australian has hosted a vitriolic debate about the existence and impacts of climate change, which has been raging for months. Australia’s prime minister Julia Gillard is under political pressure over the proposed introduction of a carbon tax, with her poll ratings suffering as a result.

Referring back to his time as a front-bench minister for Margaret Thatcher, Gummer writes:

“â?¦Climate change is very inconvenient and that’s perhaps why some, particularly in the US, present this or that partial argument to try to rubbish the science. If their theses stood up, I’d be the first to welcome it. However, I learned my trade in the hard school of Margaret Thatcher, who was the first major political figure to accept that climate change was happening and that mankind had caused it.

“She was a scientist by training and she cross-questioned the experts in the way only she knew how. She would have preferred them to have been wrong too. However, the whole assembly of facts, even then, more than 20 years ago, convinced her that we had to act.”

One of the key arguments made in Australia against the introduction of a carbon tax is that it will put it the country at a competitive disadvantage internationally. Gummer, however, points to action in China, which he says is “now planning a climate change act that will draw on the experience of the West and seek to avoid our mistakes”.

He continues:

“So it is not only the Europeans – Right and Left – who have taken up the challenge. From California to Korea, governments and civil society are finding their own ways to work towards a world that is not threatened by pollution. Even if they were all wrong and we acted, the result would be that we would have a cleaner planet, more able to cope with feeding, housing, and clothing those 9 billion people.

“If, however, we follow the sceptics and they turn out to be wrong, then we would leave our children a legacy of destruction. The risk is all one way, which explains why in Britain, scepticism is confined to the extremes. The political parties embracing it are way out on the edge of the spectrum with views on most other matters that few of us would embrace.”

Gummer has something positive to say about UK climate sceptics, who he says “keep us on our toes”, but concludes:

“In the end, we all have to face the facts. The scientific consensus is now so significant that, even if we ourselves remain doubters, it would be wrong to endanger our children by hoping for the best. If we act sensibly there is real chance of success. The rest of the world is doing it, and I hope that Australia will join us in her own way and play her part in protecting our common future.”

An accompanying commentary to the piece in The Australian notes that Gummer, who was a conservative politician for 35 years, has refused to advise Australian opposition leader Tony Abbott on climate change policy. Abbott, who has in the past called the science behind climate change “crap”, publicly flip-flopped last week on whether he believes that it is happening or not.

Gummer is not the only conservative politician to take on climate scepticism in the media recently. Peter Ainsworth, a former shadow secretary of state for the environment, wrote in a letter to The Spectator last month:

“Even if the climate change sceptics are right (and believe me, I hope they are), is it really a good idea to continue to be economically dependent on imports of oil and gas? Is pollution a good thing? Does anyone at all think that fossil fuels are going to get cheaper? Will we be more socially and economically secure if we continue with business as usual? What is the point of the climate change sceptics? And who is paying them?”


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