Friday, February 20, 2009

Margaret Thatcher: Climate Change Pioneer?

One of the brighter and more thought provoking new Tory bloggers on the block is Richard Willis. He stood is Sutton & Cheam last time and is a Reading Borough Councillor. Today he has written a provocative blogpost asserting that Margaret Thatcher was the original climate change pioneer.

Thatcher, who got her degree in chemistry in 1947 from Oxford and went on to work as a research chemist before becoming a tax lawyer and, eventually, a politician, gave her first documented speech mentioning climate change at the Royal Society in 1988, almost a decade into her 11-year reign as Prime Minister. She told the assembled scientists that three changes in atmospheric chemistry 1. greenhouse gases, 2. the hole in the ozone layer and 3. acid emissions from power plants, warranted not just good science to resolve uncertainties but also government action to diminish pollution and promote sustainable development. She said:

“Even though this kind of action may cost a lot, I believe it to be money well and necessarily spent because the health of the economy and the health of our environment are totally dependent upon each other”.

On 8 November 1989 she addressed the General Assembly of the United Nations on the matter. Read her speech and I suspect that some people will be very surprised. She was clearly speaking from personal understanding and deep concern.

In 1990 she addressed the 2nd World Climate Conference. Her comments included the following:

“…the need for more research should not be an excuse for delaying much needed action now. There is already a clear case for precautionary action at an international level.”

“We should not forget that CFCs are 10,000 times more powerful, molecule for molecule, than carbon dioxide as agents of global warming. But of the other greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide is by far the most extensive and contributes about half of the manmade greenhouse warming. All our countries produce it. The latest figures which I have seen show that 26 per cent comes from North America, 22 per cent from the rest of the OECD, 26 per cent from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and 26 per cent from the less developed countries.

These figures underline why a joint international effort to curb greenhouse gases in general and carbon dioxide in particular is so important. There is little point in action to reduce the amounts being put into the atmosphere in one part of the world, if they are promptly increased in another. Within this framework the United Kingdom is prepared, as part of an international effort including other leading countries, to set itself the demanding target of bringing carbon dioxide emissions back to this year’s level by the year 2005. That will mean reversing a rising trend before that date.”

As with so many other issues Margaret Thatcher was ahead of her time. She set the framework for the policies that the present Government is following. It would be nice to hear some of her critics giving her a little credit in this area. And next time that the Lib Dems claim that they are the only party with a long history of campaigning on this issue I shall point out that Margaret Thatcher was already doing it before their party came into existence!

David Cameron is therefore treading faithfully on Margaret Thatcher’s pioneering path.

Well, that's bound to antagonise those who cannot bring themselves to admit that Margaret Thatcher did any good at all.


Unknown said...

@Iain Dale
"Well, that's bound to antagonise those who cannot bring themselves to admit that Margaret Thatcher did any good at all."

Most i've spoken to want her dead, so even if there was to be footage of her discovered where she healed the sick and walked on water it wouldn't make any difference.

The left are quite pathetic as far as Thatcher is concerned.

Anonymous said...

Indeed MT's Chemistry knowledge and obvious scientific understanding can be highlited in a couple of areas:

The removal of lead from Petrol.

The acceptence of CFC damage to the ozone layer - I am sure MT was pivotal in getting the US to accept the CFC ingredients should be removed.

Ralph Hancock said...

Iain. I had the impression, perhaps wrongly, that you yourself don't believe in man-made climate change? If so, in your view, Mrs T would have been ahead of her time -- but wrong. I know you're quoting someone else, but approvingly.

C Hogan-Taylor said...

I will definitely be wheeling this one out next time anyone near me starts on with their ill-informed Thatcher ate babies for breakfast, blah blah communities, mines and Argentina crap. Excellent find; bookmarking that blog.

The Grim Reaper said...

The only reason the Left hate Margaret Thatcher so much is because of their constant wallowing in victimhood. I still hear people complaining to this day about Thatcher closing down the mines - get over it, for crying out loud!

I was born in the 1980s myself, so I don't know what exactly life would have been like under a Thatcher government. Depending on whom you talk to, it was either paradise on earth or it was like living under a despotic female dictator. Doesn't seem to be any in-betweens as far as Thatcher is concerned.

The moment that the Left wing admits that Thatcher wasn't all bad is the day I will begin to listen to them seriously once more.

Paul Burgin said...

Or indeed those who refuse to believe that global warming is the fault of mankind!

Anonymous said...

What most in the Labour Party and indeed many in the country do not know is that the MT was a serious scientist, studied Chemistry in the labs of the great Dorothy Hodgkins, the Nobel Prize winner who produced the vitamin B12 structure. I am not surprised by her lecture at Royal Society.

weggis said...

"her first documented speech mentioning climate change at the Royal Society in 1988, almost a decade into her 11-year reign"

If only she had said that and DONE something about it at the BEGINNING of her Premership!!!

A later Chancellor, it was either Lamont or Clarke, did do something about it in the early 1990s but that was of course reversed in 1997! By YKW.

Unknown said...

Not only was she a serious scientist, but she is the ONLY Prime Minister we have ever had from a science background.

She often said that the fact she was the first PM to be educated as a scientist was far more important than the fact she was the first female Prime Minister.

Whenever you see old clips of Maggie you realise just what a giant she was. God, how I miss her.

Man in a Shed said...

The difference between Mrs T and the current batch of politicians is that she decided what to do based on evidence. The professionals today decide what's popular then claim to be "passionate about it".

The case on CFC and the ozone layer was well made. The man's to blame warmist one is on far shakier ground, as has since been proven.

The problem with the climate change debate is often the unqualified and the naive.

What we need is a return to scientific scepticism and an acknowledgement of the massive holes in our knowledge and understanding. I think Mrs T would have backed that also before destroying the West's economy of partial and conflicting data.

Man in a Shed said...

@Paul Burgan - you make my point. You assume this is a matter of faith, its not.

The complete failure of climate prediction over the last decade has shown that faith in the warmists is faith misplaced.

What's needed is scepticism and hard scientific graft. Including being open to other ideas and possibilities.

Unknown said...

Of course, the other lady to head a major European government, Angela Merkel, worked as a physicist. It is interesting that politicians of the right who know something about science don't have a problem with man made climate change!

As an historical note, Neville Chamberlain was a metallurgist, one of the few PM's not to have gone to Oxford and probably the first to have a scientific background.

Mr Mr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mr Mr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Well, that's bound to antagonise those who cannot bring themselves to admit that Margaret Thatcher did any good at all.

Surely its more likely to antagonise global warming denialists such as yourself?

an ex-apprentice said...

Dear Mr Tackybaptist, 7:57pm

"you yourself don't believe in man-made climate change?"

Tis not that those sceptical, or even contemptuously dismissive, of this lunatic-fringe branch of pseudo-science, so favoured by the Marxist Tendency, do not believe in "man-made climate change". That man has, for a long time, been affecting the composition of our atmosphere, and so influencing climate, is incontrovertible.

The problem arises from doom ridden predictions of man-made catastrophic climate change.

These are made on the unproven and utterly unjustified assumption of a positive feedback, which the idiot pseudo-scientists feed into their idiot computer models -junk in junk out.

Positive feedback is rare in nature, and practically unknown in complex, long-term demonstrably stable systems such as our climate.

Scientists have no evidence as to the existence, the magnitude, or even the sign (positive or negative), of feedbacks in the climate system.

Without that evidence, mugs like you are whistling up your own backsides.

Doug said...

Norman "Dorothy Hodgkins, the Nobel Prize winner who produced the vitamin B12 structure"

Just a wee correction. Hodgkin was an X-ray crystallographer and elucidated the structure of vitamin B12. The 'production' as in total synthesis was by the great Robert Burns Woodward and Albert Eschenmoser.

More importantly Hodgkin was robbed her due credit in the elucidation of the structure of DNA. Crick and Watson owe a lot to her work.

John MacLeod said...

Baroness Thatcher is a very able, honourable woman and was a great Prime Minister; but there was a political context to these remarks - her determination to wean Britain off coal and decisively end the days when democratically elected government could be held to ransom by the National Union of Mineworkers. She had not only seen the Heath administration brough down by the miners; but had herself in 1981 been forced to climb down rather than risk a dangerous confrontation with the NUM - preparing thereafter astutely for the Last Battle of 1984-1985. These remarks and this strikingly early assertion of the global warming/CO2 hypothesis must be viewed by that political prism. It is only a hypothesis; it has, these days, all the trappings (and the intolerance) of a religion and a Thatcher endorsement should not close our minds to other and serious arguments anent climate change.

Anoneumouse said...

Oh yes, the acid rain (So2) scare, that was the in-thing just after the 1970's global cooling (lack of Co2)scare . Then we had the ozone (O3) scare. Currently we have the warming (Co2) scare

But the real scare for these shyster politicos should be the impending BNP (FY all) scare.

an ex-apprentice said...

Dear Mr MacLeod,

Given that two of the speeches referred to took place in '89 and '90, does this not cast doubt on your theory of an underlying political motivation?

I am inclined towards the view that this was a belief that The Lady held sincerely.

The Grim Reaper said...

Sunny said "Surely its more likely to antagonise global warming denialists such as [Iain Dale]?"

You're so passionate about the subject that you're now making up words - what the hell is a denialist!?

Come to think of it, DenialList sounds like a good name for Dolly's place at the moment.

Glyn H said...

Quite proper in as much that any conservative should seek to conserve that which is best – as any capitalist will seek to maximise his potential returns whilst ensuring the continuance of his ability to trade; and thus not destroy his base materials/ongoing workforce/what he leaves to his children. Mars has no Range Rovers (© J Redwood Esq.) but has climate change, as we do – ergo this is not anthropogenic. But Gore/O’Barmy/H Benn/Hirst (CEO Met Office) et all seek to destroy the west’s economy in pursuit of this lunatic agenda. Forget not the Russia signed up to Kyoto a couple of years ago to exploit the West’s carbon trading lunacy!

Ralph Hancock said...

Dear Ex-Apprentice

No, I wasn't pushing a particular line here, just querying Iain's apparent shift in attitude from being a full-scale 'denialist' (useful word) to apparently approving Mrs T's statement of the opposite view.

I wouldn't contest your view. Anyway, since any measures will be ineffective, we have no choice but to wait and see. (But I'm glad I'm old.)

MikeyP said...

Doug 10:04

More importantly Hodgkin was robbed her due credit in the elucidation of the structure of DNA. Crick and Watson owe a lot to her work.

I think you will find that is Rosalind Franklin of Kings College London!

John Pickworth said...

I recall Lady T speaking quite forcefully for lean-burn engine technology in the early 1980's.

She eventually lost the argument (even though she was right) and we abandoned a technology in which we were the world leaders for the short-sighted EU/American favoured catalytic converters and highly toxic unleaded petrol.

an ex-apprentice said...

Dear Mr Tachybaptus,

My apologies.


The news that my most treasured leader Margaret Thatcher was the original global warmingmonger is a sever blow to someone who has grown skeptical over the years.
Yes, I can see her words coming as a blow to the Thatcher-phobes, but I also recall commentary that she also saw 'climate change' as a justification of nuclear power, which would weaken the hands of the coal miners.
I think this point was made in the Great Global Warming Swindle, but Thatcher's views on global warming need further investigation.
Indeed, I wonder if she holds such views today.
We should remeber that the campaigns against global warming represent the most concerted attack on capitalism since communism.
I will be blogging as much over at Barnsley Bill later today.

Will Cooling said...

Wasn't this speech just a knee-jerk reaction to the Greens doing very well (as a percentage of the popular vote) in the just passed European Elections?


I've just posted my reaction over at

Well, yes Will, tthe Greens did well then.
I guess the Lawson boom was so strong then Britain could then afford Green policies, just as Germany had a strong Green Party before many other countries.
Now times are hard, I see Britain turning to the BNP.

Colm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Johnny Norfolk said...

A Lady of vision, not how Labour/BBC show her.

Do you think what has happened under Labour would have happened under Thatcher.

My answer.... No way.

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to see the debate that this article has sparked!

I hope that you will all become regular readers of my blog in addition to Iain's excellent blog.

I bow to no-one in my admiration of Maggie and was a little surprised myself as I began to dig around for evidence for the article.

However, as usual, she was ahead of her time.

Demetrius said...

Mrs. Thatcher could no more get everything wrong than she could get everything right. She was PM in a world that was changing rapidly, taking over when Britain no longer had effective control over its own destinies. Much of what happened was going to happen in any case one way or another.

OBC News said...

Thatcher was clearly losing the plot by this point - CO2 indeed - but you're right Iain, great ammunition.

Nich Starling said...

Iain, she may have been right in this case but it still doesn't make me feel "she did any good". How did her saying this change anyone's views ? Sadly your party is full of people who totally disagree with her views.

Span Ows said...

Will Cooling, I doubt that very much.

Iain Dale, not sure but I think the second speech link is from 1990 when she addressed the 2nd World Climate Conference - I know an excerpt is then posted but the way your post reads it looks like the "speech" link is for the 8 November 1989 (General Assembly of the United Nations)

That said the 2nd World confernece speech was only 2 weeks before the leadership contest and only 5 days after Geffory Howe resigned...what a Lady!

Span Ows said...

I wa sgoing to tell richard but I see his post is've missed a link!

Anonymous said...

The point is nothing has happened since that date and with India and China going full blast it got worse - but world temps are lower now than 10 tears ago and 1938 is still the hottest year on record - even though records do not go back far enough to be meaningful.
Its perfectly possible to have a theory about global warming 20 years ago but in that time sea levels have not budged, Antarctic ice is thicker than ever and a satellite which had been reporting thinner ice in the Arctic has had to only just now be taken off line because of a serious fault.

So the lesson is even Mrs T can get things wrong - she even agreed to the Single Market.

And ex-apprentice is right.
If positive feedback, which warmists like to use to justify their apocalyptic claims, were likely then it would have happened in the past and of course it has not and there are many instances of higher levels of CO2 in the past.

Lucky said...

If you go to you will see a video which makes this point - but also notes that she did it to break the backs of the coal industry and hence its unions.

disgusted said...

Mr ex-apprentice said

"Scientists have no evidence as to the existence, the magnitude, or even the sign (positive or negative), of feedbacks in the climate system."

Not true.

The water vapour feedback is positive. (Warmer air can hold more water vapour which is itself a greenhouse gas.)

Facts and figures in e.g.
Dessler & Sherwood "A Matter of Humidity", Science, 20/2/09

Paul Halsall said...

You know it is possible to viscerally hate Thatcher, as I still do, and still admire her in many ways. Hey, I even think, as an indubitably historic figure, she should be given a state funeral.

She was clearly very intelligent. She often stood her ground. She was always a model of poise. Her government responded well to AIDS, largely thanks to Norman Fowler, but also thank to her sense of practicality about gay men (after all one of her ministers, Lord Avon was an early victim).

But she detested the working class, pushed many on to non-working benefits, and she hated the railways. She engaged in the wholesale deindustrialisation of this country (compare our output to modern France or Germany.)

Anonymous said...

@ Martin Day

And don't forget her chemical contribution to something that many people in the UK use regularly...

...soft scoop ice cream.

They found a way of stabilising the ice cream emulsion whilst incorporating about double the amount of air as normal ice cream. So the ice cream could be carved even when cold; and (the manufacturers particularly liked this bit), because ice cream is sold on volume not weight, it meant less ingredients were needed and profits were higher.