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« Diary dates, comedy edition | Main | Bob Ward, climate denier »

The extraordinary intervention of Baroness Williams

There was an extraordinary intervention from Baroness (Shirley) Williams in the House of Lords today on the subject of climate change, on the one hand making wild and unscientific claims and on the other demanding that these same claims be taught to children in schools.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD):

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that one of the key findings of the United States climate change report is that the process of climate change is now much faster than we had expected it to be? The effects are predicted to fall within a matter of a decade or so, rather than 20 or 30 years from now. Given that, will she persuade her friendly Secretary of State for Education to ensure that children in school are made more aware of the absolute necessity of tackling climate change than they are at present?

The demand that children be indoctrinated is all too typical of people who call themselves liberals these days. That's "liberal" in the same way that the People's Democratic Republic of China is democratic.

For those that are interested, here's the full exchange:

Lord Dykes

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their assessment of the United States National Climate Assessment report about climate change impacts in the United States.

The Senior Minister of State, Department for Communities and Local Government & Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Baroness Warsi) (Con):

My Lords, the United States National Climate Assessment is a valuable addition to the growing body of scientific evidence demonstrating the current impacts and future risks of climate change. Like the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent assessment, it shows that climate change is already having a serious impact on many economic sectors and all regions of the United States. It strengthens the case for ambitious action to tackle climate change in the US and globally.

Lord Dykes (LD):

I thank my noble friend for that very helpful answer. Is not the ominous reality of this very detailed scientific examination, along with recent developments such as the alarming weaknesses in the Wilkes Basin ice banks in east Antarctica, that all countries need to accelerate and reinforce their carbon reduction programmes urgently? Does my noble friend feel that the UK Government are responding adequately?

Baroness Warsi:

I can assure my noble friend that the United Kingdom Government—and the previous Government as well—have always been a leader on the issue of climate change and have sought to strengthen not just their own position but those of other countries. We are leading on legislation, we are leading on targets and we are leading in the international conversations to make sure that we take other countries with us.

Lord Barnett (Lab):

My Lords, if we in the UK doubled what we are now doing on climate change, what impact would it have in the United States?

Baroness Warsi:

The noble Lord makes an important point, clearly referring to the fact that the United Kingdom is, thankfully, responsible only for 1.5% of global emissions, unlike the United States. However, it is of course important that we continue to work with friends and colleagues in the United States to make sure that they keep heading in the right direction. We can say that the current Administration in the US are making all the right moves.

Lord Lawson of Blaby (Con):

My Lords—

Lord Howell of Guildford (Con):

My Lords—

Lord Lawson of Blaby:

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Howell for his characteristic courtesy. Is my noble friend aware that her reference to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is wholly mistaken? Is she aware that the latest IPCC report explicitly states that estimates of the aggregate economic impact of climate change are relatively small and that moderate climate change, which is what it predicts for the rest of this century, may be beneficial?

Baroness Warsi:

My Lords, I promised myself that I would try to not get into a discussion on science with my noble friend, but he tempts me. The scientist in the family is my husband, but I would come back to the noble Lord on this particular question by saying that the overwhelming evidence from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which is supported by every country in the world, clearly shows that this is a real hazard, it is man-made and it is causing us huge concern.

Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (Lab):

My Lords, the noble Baroness’s robust refutation of the noble Lord, Lord Lawson, is extremely welcome, but is her view of climate change shared by the Chancellor of the Exchequer?

Baroness Warsi:

I have never had a conversation with the Chancellor of the Exchequer about climate change. We have had conversations on many other things, but certainly I will speak to him when I next get the opportunity.

Lord Howell of Guildford:

My Lords, I will put a rather more moderate question. Is it not a bit regrettable that, whereas in the United States carbon emissions are falling as a result of the huge switch from coal to gas, the opposite seems to be happening here? Is the Minister aware that virtually no new gas turbines are now being built, despite government measures to encourage them? Indeed, some brand new and efficient gas stations are being closed down. Is there not something basically wrong with the policy?

Baroness Warsi:

One of the great successes in the United States has been the development of shale gas. It is, of course, a policy of which the Government are hugely supportive. Diversifying our energy consumption and investing in green energy, as this Government have clearly done, will both help ensure that we meet our targets.

Lord Foulkes of Cumnock (Lab):

My Lords, is the Minister aware that if she is asked a quiz question, “What do the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, the noble Lord, Lord Bell, and the noble Lord, Lord Foulkes, have in common?”, the answer is that we are all trustees of the Climate Parliament? In the Climate Parliament, Members of Parliament from all around the world agree with her and not with the noble Lord, Lord Lawson.

Baroness Warsi:

I pay tribute to the Members of the Climate Parliament, which is clearly a noble group of people.

Baroness Williams of Crosby (LD):

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that one of the key findings of the United States climate change report is that the process of climate change is now much faster than we had expected it to be? The effects are predicted to fall within a matter of a decade or so, rather than 20 or 30 years from now. Given that, will she persuade her friendly Secretary of State for Education to ensure that children in school are made more aware of the absolute necessity of tackling climate change than they are at present?

Baroness Warsi:

I will, of course, pass those comments on. It will take a whole generation to deal with one of the biggest challenges for our generation. As my noble friend said, it takes time between emissions going down and the real impact that that will then have in terms of keeping the global temperature down. The concerns at the moment are that the knock-on impact will be much greater than originally anticipated.

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Reader Comments (56)

Trying to ruin education twice?

May 13, 2014 at 10:07 PM | Unregistered CommenterAC1

Apart from a very few Lords, the place is full of idiots.

May 13, 2014 at 10:14 PM | Registered CommenterPhillip Bratby

This is what passes for debate?
God help us.

May 13, 2014 at 10:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterDon Keiller

Baroness Warsi:

I will, of course, pass those comments on. It will take a whole generation to deal with one of the biggest challenges for our generation.

another lost generation? Let me see. Could she be suggesting that the burden of meeting this terrible challenge threatening our generation will be borne by some other generation?

May 13, 2014 at 10:34 PM | Registered Commenterjferguson

jferguson @ 10.34

More likely she has in mind a time period to safeguard the remaining careers, reputations and pension security of those exulted folk who have promoted this "one of the biggest challenges".

It can then be dealt with by saying it was all a big mistake, without anyone being overly embarrassed while still in office.

May 13, 2014 at 10:49 PM | Registered CommentermikemUK

Lots of empty opinions and very little fact.
Do any of these people ever have to go beyond the glossy front cover to see if there's any real substance behind the flash?? It seems unlikely doesn't it.

May 13, 2014 at 11:10 PM | Unregistered Commentermikegeo

The colonial opinion might be that we're dealing with a bunch of inbred idiots whose next generation will end up deranged hemophiliacs, but then I guess this lot is a bunch of Labour watermelons whose family tribes intersect only in the rooms of crackpot university advisers.

May 13, 2014 at 11:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterJEM

More evidence that Lib Dems are just mad and incredibly ignorant of the real world! Lets hope they go into melt down at the next elections.

May 13, 2014 at 11:21 PM | Unregistered CommenterCharmingQuark

Add my vote to the idiots assessment.

May 13, 2014 at 11:30 PM | Unregistered Commentertimg56

I rather think that Guy Fawkes had the right idea :)

May 14, 2014 at 12:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterMartin

Being pedantic here, but I don't think China's name includes "democratic". It's just the "People's Republic of China".

I think you might be thinking of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (aka North Korea).

May 14, 2014 at 12:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterHK

They are always telling us that things are so much worse than they predicted. That is, by their own standards, their predictions are wrong. So their models are wrong, and nothing they say should be taken seriously until they can start making good predictions.

May 14, 2014 at 12:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterLTEC

The comment by Warsi that inherently compares the impact of US Shale gas with the UK green energy initiatives just illustrates how stupid and out of touch with reality these people are. I use the term stupid in its full demeaning definition.

The above doesn't add any value to the dialogue but my arthritis is flaring up and the slagging off makes me feel better.

May 14, 2014 at 12:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Singleton

As an Australian, I am amazed you still have an entirely unelected House of Lords. If Fawkes was trying to blow up the Lords he certainly did have the right idea.

May 14, 2014 at 12:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBill

I think the original point of the Lords - like the senate in Canada - was to have a group of sensible landowners to act as a check on the impulsive decisions of a sometimes mob-like majority.

Today the check is now the whip, which makes the Lords largely redundant.

May 14, 2014 at 1:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterChip

Bill: You haven't heard the famous saying? "Guy Fawkes, the only man to enter Parliament with honest intentions!"

May 14, 2014 at 1:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterAndrewSanDiego

Reading what Baroness Williams says, I second Judith Curry's statement that " climate change" is now a meaningless term.When the next decade has passed ,like Prince Charles' " 100 months to save the planet,"they will simply repeat their catastrophist predictions without the slightest doubt or apology. There is a total loss of reason and balance in this fanaticism .

May 14, 2014 at 1:48 AM | Unregistered CommenterHerbert

My lord, what an abomination of a discussion.

.....not so much the shambling disheveled level of knowledge expressed of climate science ....

.... more so all the "My Lord" ... " noble friend" and "...the noble Lord, Lord whatsisname"

The interesting thing is you can see that they too know it is all a joke.

May 14, 2014 at 2:10 AM | Unregistered Commentermarkx

Oh my lord(s), If this is not a sarcastic essay about the English House of Lords, then I truly feel for the English. It is almost if the Keystone cops have arrived in your government. Even atheists should pray for the English, you are going to need every single bit of luck and wit to untangle yourself from a huge collection of "people do not know they are idiots!" <--- need word for this.

You have a climate parliament?! Forget God save the Queen. God save England!

May 14, 2014 at 4:58 AM | Unregistered Commentertimothy Sorenson

When the fledgling NZ government was casting about for models of Parliamentary democracy during the 19th century, the concept of an Upper House was rejected as it didn't fit with the emerging nation's egalitarian ethos. Thank goodness for that, if this is a fair sample of the level of ignorance demonstrated in your House of Lords.
The concept of 'enobling' politicians who have an exceedingly slim grasp of anything except for catching various gravy trains in the main might require revisiting if the English Parliamentary democracy is to survive the wrath of angry citizens.
Or is it only the French who revolt if abused too sorely?

May 14, 2014 at 6:25 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander Kendall

If Shirley Williams outed herself as a climate change denier I would need to reexamine my scepticism.

As a young man I regret to say that I rather admired her apparent reasonableness. Now I understand why my harder nosed contemporaries wildly celebrated the loss of her parliamentary seat in 1979.

May 14, 2014 at 7:00 AM | Unregistered CommenterNicholas Hallam

Taiwan? Perhaps the Democratic Republic of Congo would have been a better example, having said that; China , officially the People's Republic of China, doesn't really involve the people in the government.

May 14, 2014 at 7:33 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

From the Ecclesiastical Uncle, an old retired bureaucrat in a field only remotely related to climate with minimal qualifications and only half a mind.

Lawson for the skeptics, the rest for the CAGW crowd!

One against umpteen. Is this not a savage indictment of the organisation of skeptic opinion? Where was Ridley? And I suppose Donohue? Recruiting for the skeptic cause? Don't kid me!

Someone should have had their ears to the ground and picked up that these questions were to be put, and then rounded up skeptic opinion to provide some proper answers. This would certainly happen in the lower house where such fiascos are nipped in the bud by the Whips. If so there, why not in the upper house?

Probably Ridley needs to do some practical political organizing now he is in a position to do so. Or maybe Lawson or someone else. Both Ridley and Lawson make names for themselves by activities in the skeptic cause outside parliament, but they would be better employed as foot soldiers or officer types in the skeptic camp in Parliament. After all, it will be there that CAGW is abandoned and the country saved from the calamity it would certainly turn out to be if the majority of lords who spoke got their way.

May 14, 2014 at 7:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterEcclesiastical Uncle

By ignoring even the UNIPCCs own report on the effects of Climate Change the Lords show the real problem to be that of politics and certainly not that of science. We can only be grateful for the fact that this is all recorded on paper as there must, at some time in the future, be a reckoning

May 14, 2014 at 8:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterDave_G

£300 or so a day and right up their own ars*es. Nice work if you can get it!

May 14, 2014 at 8:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterEx-expat Colin

Rambling incoherence in the HoL?

Whatever next? And to the fore, Baroness incoherence herself - Peeresses Shirl' and Warsi too - what delight!

Shirl' flying off all over the place at the minute [who is responsible?] on QT the other night spouting the most egregious drivel on the EU, riding her broom handle a lady flies into the Lords, she has been getting some new blood from somewhere, has she been to the same doctor as Keith Richard?

Could it be, the party of little David's favourite - education expert himself - big Cyril, of sex scandals galore and with its leader put in the dog house by Mr. Farage - a political party battling for life, in existential crisis - in a last desperate gamble have rolled out the old gun herself and boy is she firing - blanks as usual.

No matter, now shirl' she wants to further propagandize the children, filling their heads with more great dollops of political mush. Pray! what have these poor youngsters ever done to her to make her want to punish them?

May 14, 2014 at 8:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

btw, the defenestration begins on 'that report'.

Over at WUWT and with Dr. Don Easterbrook.

May 14, 2014 at 8:43 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

I heard Dame Shirley Williams on question time. Her rant made me cringe.

May 14, 2014 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoss Lea

Regrettably but inevitably the noble lords are doing the very thing that makes the HoL such an essential part of the British government — they (more so than the troughers along the corridor) are reflecting the views of the British public.
If a US government document claims to be reporting accurately on the state of the science why would "the man on the Clapham omnibus" or the average peer of the realm not believe it?
Given the (needlessly) scary report about the state of the Antarctic why would Greg Dyke, whose current priority is to save English football or wreck it depending on who you believe, assume that it is not telling the truth?
In neither case do the people concerned have the time or the inclination or (mostly) the scientific expertise to argue against these two documents. Nor are they willing to do so because they assume that the people who are responsible for them have got it right.
Understand what the sceptics are up against. The science is increasingly on the side of the sceptic view. The community's and the media's interpretation of that science continues to drive their own preferred interpretation whatever that happens to be at any given moment.
See my comment yesterday about Gladstone and the Irish Question and always keep in mind Steve McIntyre's continuing warning about peas and thimbles! They will continue to produce reports which on proper examination will be seen to report the science more or less accurately but the "cover sheet" or press release or what Sir Humphrey called the "Janet and John bit" (which is all that anyone who matters ever reads) will do its best to accentuate the negative; eliminate the positive — to misquote the famous Cooke/Mercer song.
And that, combined with a certain amount of obfuscation and misdirection from the usual vested interests, is exactly what we see at work in this exchange.
Uncle is right, but it will take more than Lawson, Donoghue and Ridley to overcome this obstacle.

May 14, 2014 at 9:06 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

Mike Jackson,

Alas, with making such prescient observations, I cannot argue with you [gnash], because you are quite right.

May 14, 2014 at 9:19 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

There is a Climate Parliament? (timothy Sorenson: I get the impression that it is a “worldwide parliament”, so you will be paying as much as us!) How much is that costing us (sure as eggs they are not self-funding, or offering their “services” for free)?

Lord Lawson quotes the IPCC figures at them, and they still say his is wrong! Who will rid us of these troublesome pests?

The House of Lords was originally a group of unelected people with a different agenda from the lower house; now, they are all political appointees, and just an heavily weighted extension of the House of Fools Commons.

May 14, 2014 at 9:47 AM | Registered CommenterRadical Rodent

Advanced collective dementia?

May 14, 2014 at 10:12 AM | Unregistered CommenterSteve

"It can then be dealt with by saying it was all a big mistake"

Or that they are all dead.

May 14, 2014 at 10:19 AM | Registered Commenterjamesp

Not that long ago the HoL contained many sensible politicians. You might not have agreed with their views but they were generally people who had held office at quite a high level and understood matters and the background, and the sort of advice that ministers receive and how much faith to put in it. Some even specialised in particular fields and became quite expert. They tended to take a balanced view and corrected the wilder excesses of the commons (the mob rule as someone called it). They did not seek office or anything else and were independent minded. Nowadays it seems full of placemen and women, who are no wiser than many backbenchers and completely under the whips.

May 14, 2014 at 10:22 AM | Unregistered Commentermike fowle

The lunatics are running the asylum.

May 14, 2014 at 10:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterIvor Ward (No relation to Bob)

What a bizarre exchange! Is Baroness Williams totally out of touch with reality not just about global warming but about what is actually taught in schools?

The idea the humans are affecting the climate by burning fossil fuels cannot lawfully be taught in UK state schools unless a suitable counterbalance is given as well. ( ).

There was a craze in the 2000s for this to be taught, and it still exists in a vestigial form in the odd page in a school textbook or an exam question. Obviously, a competent science teacher would at the very least point out that this was highly contentious hypothesis which was eventually discredited, leading to the US-led shift re-branding as "Climate Change" and then "Climate Disruption". I would guess that a non-state-school history teacher, Religious Instruction teacher or Critical Thinking teacher might well introduce the matter respectively as a case study comparable to a modern-day Tulip Craze, a religious Doomsday sect lifecycle, or an H L Mencken imaginary hobgoblin.

The British are nothing if not pragmatic and a bit subversive: a teacher who wishes to retain their job and not be turned into red 1010 gore yet not lie to the children would probably say something like "What really happens is XYZ but to get the mark in the exam you have to put down ABC. OK?" (Of course, if the Ofsted/ISI inspection lady is at the back of the class this topic could be re-scheduled ;-) )

May 14, 2014 at 10:57 AM | Unregistered CommenterSuffolkBoy

It is not for our politicians to actually do their own work, find out for themselves, or allow the "science and policy" to meet, even by accident, a single one of their brain cells.

They just bang on about what some other report or person has said and call for action.

Lets not forget most of them didnt even read the Climate Change Act before voting on it. Its the way they operate. I recall that in Blair's government the Minister for Europe (one of the Blair "babes" whose name escapes me) confirmed that she had never even read the proposed EU constitution or its replacement, the Lisbon Treaty.

May 14, 2014 at 10:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterRB

Ross Lea beat me to it; 'Dame' Shirley Williams' climate change hand-wringing on QT was indeed a deluded joke.

May 14, 2014 at 10:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

I hope and pray the noble Baroness forgives my wholly ignoble slip, relegating her to a mere Dame.

May 14, 2014 at 11:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterCheshirered

MJ, I think "the man on the Clapham omnibus" is a bit less credulous than that. He can generally tell when he is being preached at.

May 14, 2014 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered Commentermichael hart

Looking on the bright side, there is hardly a single issue that Shirley Williams has been on the right side of throughout her miserable excuse for a career. We could hardly wish a less credible advocate on the warmists than this Wilson-era relic.

May 14, 2014 at 11:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterUncle Badger

That new disinformation from 240 US delusionists (a country where the average temperature is still roughly the same as it was in the 1930's, a fact which refutes the entire report by itself) was really picked up by these old goats. What a shame they clearly didn't actually read the IPCC report which was more balanced. Well at least one of the noble turds managed to infer that us reducing our 1.5% contribution won't help the US at all, however Lawson asked a question about economics and it was reframed as a science question in order to answer it with strawman platitudes.

May 14, 2014 at 11:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterJamesG

RB (10:58 AM): as there is something like 30 Acts being passed EVERY SINGLE DAY in Parliament, is it any wonder few have read any of them?

It is all a nonsensical farce, and will surely end in tears – witness the BBC’s report on the loss to UKIP of one of their “ethnic” faces: “A British-born Indian…” Well, which is she? British? Or Indian? If the former, why the need to refer to her origins? If the latter, why is she involved in British politics?

With that sort of mentality, where a person can be “British-born” but not British, if you really want to see our future, look no further than Ukraine, with its Ukranian-born Russians.

May 14, 2014 at 11:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterRadical Rodent

michael hart
You may be right though I would debate the issue.
It's not a question of credulousness; it's a question of compartmentalisation of one's life and not thinking over deeply about things one doesn't fully understand.
There is also the "stands-to-reason" factor, the archetypal example of which is the argument that increasing tax rates will increase revenue.
The man on the Clapham omnibus — a construct by the late, very great Lord Denning — is still a valid shorthand for the vast majority of ordinary people who are pretty certain of their own limitations and rely on supposed experts to fill in the gaps. If you have the time and the inclination to dig deeper you may come up with enough information to challenge the received wisdom as it is passed down to you (as we do on here and other similar sites) but I'm prepared to bet that there are numerous pockets in our lives where all of us accept things that appear to make good sense and trust those with greater expertise then we have to get it right.
And the common man will resent being preached at if he knows he's being preached at. The trick is to have him assume that there is no debate, that the science is settled, that these things are going to happen unless we take serious action to stop them. In other words, present him with a fait accompli.

May 14, 2014 at 11:36 AM | Registered CommenterMike Jackson

IPCC claims supported by every country in the world???????
I don't think so.

May 14, 2014 at 11:42 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Marshall

It is rather sad that any group of highly educated people would be so easily duped into believing that a long winded bit of political hackery like the United States National Climate Assessment is a scientific document.

May 14, 2014 at 11:50 AM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

It almost makes one agree with the call for reform of the HoL. Of course, it could return to what it once did. When it consisted of proper Peers who had other interests and so knew how things worked and so were impartial in debate. Then it could act as one of the checks and balances we so badly need.

May 14, 2014 at 12:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterDerek Buxton

Do they drink petrol for breakfast?

May 14, 2014 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterSanta Baby

Seems like "Loony Lords" now
- But this could help kids education dramatically improve :
Simply equip kids with the above transcript & a checklist of logical fallacies.
..It would be a valuable lesson in critical thinking.

May 14, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Registered Commenterstewgreen

Self satisfied child abusing Fascist parasites.

Every one of them knows their CAGW scare is a lie.

But then Williams in particular has a record of the most obvious lying to promote genocide, child sex slavery and the dissection of thousands of living people and has been publicly denounced by every single honest "LibDem" - but only every single honest one.

May 14, 2014 at 12:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

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