Nigel Lawson, the Iron Ladyâ€™s chancellor, scourge of the miners and father of the adorable Nigella, has joined the ranks of the climate change sceptics. He believes David Cameronâ€™s green agenda is overblown, biofuels are useless and carbon trading resembles â€˜nothing so much as the sale of indulgences by the medieval churchâ€™
An inverview of a global warming skeptic conducted by a believer.
By John-Paul Flintoff
I canâ€™t pretend Iâ€™m expecting to get on with Nigel Lawson. In fact, Iâ€™m worried that I might lose my cool â€“ say something Iâ€™ll regret, perhaps even bop him on the nose.
On receiving his new book, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming, I find myself handling it as though it is toxic; I even flinch at the expression of fierce intellectual arrogance in the authorâ€™s photograph.
When I start reading, though, Iâ€™m dismayed to discover that I agree with considerable amounts of what Lawson is saying â€“ especially about the current biofuel madness â€“ while also disagreeing with other chunks.
As energy minister under Margaret Thatcher, Lawson masterminded the war against the miners, and as chancellor of the exchequer he launched a series of controversial privatisations and deregulated financial services. Lately, heâ€™s raised my blood pressure even further by pooh-poohing the idea of climate change and resisting any attempt to address what most people accept as a pressing reality. In fact, according to the Lawson view, I â€“ like many others â€“ am a deluded fool for growing food in the garden, cycling everywhere, flushing the minimum possible amount of water down the loo (using an Interflush), and generally making do and mending when things fall apart.
Still, itâ€™s hard to disagree with him about biofuels, on which new European Union regulations came into effect last week, requiring petrol to contain at least 2.5% biofuel, a figure that will increase in future.
â€œBiofuels,â€ he says, â€œhave become one of the European Unionâ€™s latest fads. Itâ€™s far from clear that ethanol produces more energy than is used in its own production. In the second place, it requires a vast amount of land to produce a relatively small amount of ethanol. This not only antagonises environmentalists, upset by the destruction of rainforests for this purpose, but has also led to a marked rise in food prices â€“ in particular the price of grain.â€
Last year the Chinese government suspended its production of ethanol for precisely this reason. Now dozens of other countries that are experiencing grave food shortages must wish more would do the same.
In person, Lawson appears less intimidating than his photo. Though no longer startlingly thin â€“ his weight loss, some years ago, gave him the unexpected opportunity to become a bestselling diet guru â€“ heâ€™s by no means fat. And instead of scowling, he twinkles, disarmingly.
We meet at the glamorous home of his daughter, the TV cook Nigella, and her husband Charles Saatchi, the adman turned art collector. Lawson himself now lives in France. Sinister lifelike sculptures â€“ an old codger, a woman pushing a pram â€“ loiter in the hall and on the stairs. Among the many other artworks are several large pots by Grayson Perry.
To begin with, I tell Lawson Iâ€™m glad somebody of his background has made absolutely clear the uselessness of biofuels, carbon trading (â€œit has done nothing to reduce emissions, merely awarded subsidies to selected emittersâ€), and carbon offsetting (â€œa scam . . . it resembles nothing so much as the sale of indulgences by the medieval churchâ€).
If we seriously wanted to reduce emissions, he says, weâ€™d have to impose a carbon tax across the board â€“ but this government lacks the confidence to do that. Not that heâ€™s bothered about emissions, anyway. And so we come to climate change . . . or we would, but Lawson thinks the term is specious: it was only adopted, he says, because recent evidence suggests that global warming has almost stopped.
Read the rest of this interview at London’s Sunday Times.