That Time When Lord Lawson Talked Climate Change in a US Senate Committee Hearing

This DeSmog UK epic history post follows climate denier Lord Lawson as he travels to the United States to brief a senate committee on the economics of climate change.

In his sunset years, Lord Nigel Lawson had managed to clamber back onto the world’s political stage.

Two months before the House of Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee inquiry – into allegations that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) used poor statistics and economics – had been published, the former chancellor (who instigated the inquiry) flew out to the United States to present the report’s conclusions to the senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.

Lawson said: “I cannot of course speak for the Committee as a whole, but my own understanding of the issue is clear.”

He then launched a no-holds-barred attack on the scientists. “The IPCC’s consistent refusal to entertain any dissent, however well researched, which challenges its assumptions, is profoundly unscientific,” he claimed.

Certainly a Myth’

Lawson argued that Michael Mann’s hockey stick is “almost certainly a myth” and repeated former OECD chief David Henderson’s claim (which he later withdrew) that the IPCC uses a “demonstrably fallacious method of inter-country economic comparisons, manifests a persistent upward bias in the likely amount of carbon dioxide emissions over the next hundred years.”

Lawson claimed that the scientists may have been “so profoundly concerned about the perils of global warming that the darkest possible picture is painted”, but he also uttered dark hints that they were motivated by money.

The IPCC was exaggerating climate change “to command greater attention” which “may be a consequence of the way research funding is administered.”

It is a cold, isolated world for the climate change contrarian in the modern scientific community,” Lawson lamented.

He concluded: “I believe that the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change process is so flawed, and the institution… so closed to reason, that it would be far better to thank it for the work it has done [and] close it down.”

A Lobbyist Author

The presentation before the senate was loudly applauded by the sceptics in the United States, but immediately led to suspicion amongst the environmental community.

One enterprising blogger examined the Word file submitted to the committee by Lawson, and discovered that the document had originally been created by a lobbyist named Christopher Springham, who was, at the time, working for the Luther Pendragon communications consultancy in London.

Among the consultancy’s clients was ExxonMobil, and Lawson’s adversaries pointed out that Springham had previously worked for Exxon at its headquarters in Virginia in the United States. The Guardian reported that Lawson assured them he had “significantly altered the draft before sending it to the committee.”

Springham told me some years later: “A bright journalist in one of the environmental online sites did what they usually do with a written testimony and looked for the root file and they found me and Googled my name and in a fit of conspiratorial genius, what may have seemed like a golden connection, and noticed I had once been a spokesperson for Mobil Oil – there ergo I must be a climate apologist, a climate denier and must therefore be in cahoots with this peer of the realm and we can go and bamboozle the Senate with anti-climate rhetoric.”

Difficult to Substantiate

The sober reality, Springham remembers, was that he had simply copied an article Lawson had written for Prospect from the magazine’s public website and emailed it to the former chancellor so he could use it as the basis of his speech.

This is difficult to substantiate because, according to the Prospect magazine, Lawson’s article appeared in November 2005, some six months after the peer appeared before the senate.

The error may have crept in because Senator Inhofe, chair of the committee, mistakenly wrote in his book that Lawson appeared before the senate committee in December.

Later that year, Lawson and Henderson were both invited to speak at the ExxonMobil-funded conservative think tank, the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where Roger Bate, an AEI fellow, was working to celebrate the publication of the House of Lords report.

The former chancellor returned to London a few days after their presentation to the Koch and Exxon-funded think tank to celebrate Thatcher’s 80th birthday at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hyde Park among old friends, including John Blundell, director of the Institute of Economic Affairs, and Geoffrey Howe, as well the Queen, the Duke of Edinburgh, and celebrities Andrew Lloyd Webber and actress Joan Collins.

Amid the Champagne-fuelled chit chat among the Tory grandees in attendance, there may well have been the whispering murmurs of a new leadership battle.

The DeSmog UK epic history series continues with a look at how David Cameron’s rhetorical flourish beat down climate denier David Davis to win the Conservative Party leadership.

Photo: The Telegraph via Creative Commons