LORD LAWSON had barely removed his microphone when the vitriolic attacks began.
The veteran politician had just taken part in a calm debate about the merits of extracting gas from shale. During the discussion on the BBC’s Today programme he stated his firmly held view that there has been no global warming so far this century.
It was the catalyst for an outpouring of venom on message boards and social networking sites. In a selection of the printable insults Lord Lawson was described as “a rabid climate change denier”, “a liar” and “a lone nutcase”. One listener even posted: “Why isn’t he dead yet?”
Former Chancellor Lord Lawson celebrates his 80th birthday in March and might be forgiven for wondering, at his time of life, if he really needs to endure all this. His supporters insist he is turning the tide in the bitter debate over the impact of global warming but such is the might of the green lobby there must have been occasions when he felt like a lone voice.
Climate change is a complex issue and it could be decades before there is a definitive answer as to its impact on the planet and the extent to which pollution caused by man is harmful. At the moment there’s much that we can’t explain but it is certainly an emotive issue that polarises opinion.
However Lord Lawson, an inherently decent man with a compelling argument, finds himself pilloried. Yesterday there was an apparent campaign by green activists to have him banned from the BBC.
In the past he has spoken about attempts to smear his organisation, the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think-tank which challenges many misconceptions about global warming and warns against hasty policy decisions based on exaggerated research.
In this propaganda war in which his opponents seem intent on destroying his reputation there have also been mutterings about the funding of the organisation, although it receives no cash from any oil or energy companies.
Dr Benny Peiser, director of Lord Lawson’s organisation, says: “It does get personal. Some use a bullying strategy rather than engage in proper debate.”
The foundation chooses not to have a Facebook site or Twitter page. “They can encourage personal attacks,” says Peiser, who launched the fight back against global warming alarmists seven years ago.
He claims there’s growing public disillusionment with the narrow agenda being pushed by the green lobby. Polls appear to support that, with one showing more than one in three Britons believe global warming claims are hyped.
Lord Lawson’s organisation is not allied to a political party but he has found himself coming under fire from the Government. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne has called some of the Foundation’s work “misinformed, wrong and perverse”.
Lord Lawson says no one is certain about the impact of global warming on the environment. He says: “There is no scientific basis for some of the alarmism.”
He adds: “While it is scientifically established that increased emissions of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from the use of carbon-based energy such as coal, oil and gas can be expected to warm the planet, it is uncertain how great any such warming would be and how much harm, if any, it would do.”
Many scientists now believe that climate change is much more likely to be part of a cycle of warming and cooling that has happened regularly every 1,500 years for the last million years, without causing major harm.
Lord Lawson fears that economies are being harmed by an obsession with so-called renewable fuels, which are expensive. They might be trendy and appear to have all the right green credentials but they are costing us all a small fortune in hidden taxes and higher fuel bills to fund their introduction.
It’s claimed that by 2020 every family could be paying an additional £300 a year and that energy produced from wind farms is five times more expensive than conventional fuels.
The peer and his growing band of supporters insist that it’s premature to turn our backs on fossil fuels, including shale gas which can be extracted cheaply in large amounts by a process known as fracking.
Yesterday Lord Lawson described this fuel as “exciting”, adding: “There is now the prospect of cheap gas in abundance all over the world.”
Lord Lawson, who was Margaret Thatcher’s Chancellor from 1983 to 1989 and an MP for 28 years, is not the only one to have suffered for his views on climate change. Anyone who dares to challenge the often zealous green lobby is apparently fair game.
Entertainer and mathematician Johnny Ball has been vilified for opposing the commonly held view about global warming.
He says: “For daring to take this contrarian view I’ve lost bookings, had talks cancelled and been the subject of a sinister internet campaign that only came to an end following the intervention of the police.”
Ball shares many of Lord Lawson’s views, saying: “Logic tells me that we will eventually be proved right. The argument that we are going to hell in a handcart because of global warming is failing at every turn. The furore over climate change has been totally overstated. Nothing has happened in the past 20 years but the green lobby is incredibly powerful.”
He has been forced to threaten legal action against one campaigner for his “vitriolic” attacks. Ball, who opposes the creation of huge wind farms, says: “Nigel Lawson deserves immense respect because the supporters of this doom and gloom theory have behaved outrageously.”
Environmental campaigner David Bellamy also claims he has been victimised for taking an alternative position. He has said: “The sad fact is that since I said I didn’t believe human beings caused global warming I’ve not been allowed to make a TV programme. The idiot fringe has accused me of being like a Holocaust denier.”
SO WHAT IS FRACKING AND COULD IT REALLY SOLVE OUR ENERGY CRISIS?
Shale gas could help solve Britain’s energy crisis for the next three centuries.
The technique of extracting natural gas from shallow beds of shale, or fracking, has been known since the early 19th century but breakthroughs in technology now make it more commercially viable.
In the US fracking is already big business and it’s thought that shale gas could provide half the nation’s natural gas production by the end of the decade. Extraction involves the use of drills and wells. China is another world leader but so far despite discoveries of the gas, Europe is lagging behind.
BP claims shale gas could help make the Western hemisphere almost self-sufficient in energy within the next 20 years.
One company exploring the Fylde coast in Lancashire says that it has found 200 trillion cubic feet of gas under the ground, which if recovered could generate 5,600 jobs.
Fracking is controversial because relying on the gas will result in more fossil fuels being burned, higher carbon emissions and a possible move away from renewable energy such as wind and solar.
Shale gas emits larger amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, than conventional gas but still far less than coal. Extraction has also been linked to various earth tremors.