Richard Courtney: The History of the Global Warming Scare

Posted: September 12, 2012 by tallbloke in Analysis, climate, government, Politics

The bulk of this is a repost from the late John Daly’s website ‘Still Waiting for Greenhouse’, with a new introduction by Richard Courtney. My thanks to him for his permission to republish. – TB

The History of the Global Warming Scare
Richard Courtney


In 1980 the British Association of Colliery Management (BACM) commissioned me to determine if there were environmental issues which could affect the coal industry as the ‘acid rain’ issue was then doing. I searched literature (scientific, environmental and journalistic) to identify possible issues and persons interested in possible ‘environmental’ issues. I then interviewed as many of the identified people as possible and – on the basis of the literature search and interviews – I constructed influence diagrams of the identified potential issues.

The influence diagrams indicated two potential problems which my report needed to inform to BACM; viz. ‘global warming’ (as it was then called) and microdust.

I provided my report to BACM near the end of 1980 and they considered it in early 1981 (it is often referred to as my “1980″ and my “1981″ report, but that is the same report). It concluded that positive feedbacks in the political system would cause ‘global warming’ to become a serious environmental issue whether or not any scientific evidence to support it were to be obtained. Indeed, the political feedbacks were so severe that the issue would become more important than any other ‘environmental’ issue and was likely to supplant most ‘environmental’ issues.

Please observe that the diagrams do not mention environmentalists. That is because they had no interest in ‘global warming’ at the time the diagrams were constructed. Indeed, the initial reaction of Greenpeace to Thatcher having raised the scare was to oppose ‘global warming’ because they saw it as a distraction from the ‘acid rain’ scare.

But all environmentalists jumped on the AGW bandwagon when they saw its usefulness.

BACM rejected that report saying it was “extreme” and “implausible”. Since then ‘global warming’ has failed to obtain any supporting evidence but has become the major ‘environmental’ issue such that all other ‘environmental’ issues have become subordinated to it.

John Daly was interested in why I had been involved with ‘global warming’ from the start of the scare and I answered him by explaining about how my 1980 BACM report had been rejected, and I sent him an extract from it including two diagrams. He asked me to update that extract so he could post it on his blog. The article on his blog is the update which he posted in (I think) 1999.

Imagined Risk

All available evidence indicates that man-made global warming is a physical impossibility, but if the predicted warming could be induced it would probably provide net benefits. However, there is a widespread imagined risk of the warming and politicians are responding to it. Responses to imagined risk are often extreme and dangerous. For example, somebody with a fear of mice may see a mouse and as a response try to jump on a chair causing damage to the chair and injury to himself. There is no point in telling the injured person that mice are harmless because fear is irrational so cannot be overcome by rational argument.

Widespread imagined risk is to be expected as the end of the twentieth century (the end of the second millennium) approaches. Prophets of doom have occurred when the end of each past century approached. They always proclaimed that “the end of the world is nigh” unless people changed their ways and accepted great hardship. So, history suggests that the global warming scare or something like it can be expected at this time.

Global warming proponents call for reduced CO2 emissions and this equates to a call for cuts in the use of energy, but the energy industries have done more to benefit mankind than anything else since the invention of agriculture. And global warming proponents often call for use of ‘renewables’ to replace fossil fuels, but that is a call for a return to preindustrial society: the industrial revolution occurred when fossil fuels replaced biomass and windpower. It is physically impossible for wind and solar energies to supply the energy needs of the developed world, and the peoples of the developing world are insisting on their right to develop too.

The past prophets of doom have all been wrong, so it is reasonable to expect today’s doom-mongers to justify their arguments. And this is especially the case when they attack something so clearly beneficial to mankind as the use of fossil fuels. But imagined risk is not rational, so reasonable expectations do not apply. The simple fact that it is physically impossible for CO2 emissions to cause man-made global warming has no effect on imagined fear of global warming. (It is a simple fact that a mouse cannot eat a person, but some people try to jump on chairs at the sight of mice.)

Also, some global warming proponents are accepting a good financial income from the global warming scare and have become global warming propagandists to promote their interests. These include some researchers who obtain research grants and some environmental organisations who need donations. They are making a living by promoting fear of man-made global warming. Their behaviour is similar to that of the ‘snake oil salesmen’ in the nineteenth century. Snake oil salesmen sold snake oil that did not require real snakes to make it. Global warming propagandists are selling fear of man-made global warming and that does not require real man-made global warming to make it.

The success of the global warming propaganda has induced some observers to argue that a conspiracy has created the imagined risk in the public’s perception (e.g. Böttcher, 1996). But consideration of the origins of the global warming scare deny the existence of any such conspiracy. Interests coincided and supported each other. And a coincidence of interests usually has a more powerful effect than a group of conspirators. The origins of the scare are political and have resulted in political policies that now threaten serious economic damage for the entire world.

The origins of the global warming scare

The hypothesis of man-made global warming has existed since the 1880s. It was an obscure scientific hypothesis that burning fossil fuels would increase CO2 in the air to enhance the greenhouse effect and thus cause global warming. Before the 1980s this hypothesis was usually regarded as a curiosity because the nineteenth century calculations indicated that mean global temperature should have risen more than 1°C by 1940, and it had not. Then, in 1979, Mrs Margaret Thatcher (now Lady Thatcher) became Prime Minister of the UK, and she elevated the hypothesis to the status of a major international policy issue.

Mrs Thatcher is now often considered to have been a great UK politician: she gave her political party (the Conservative Party) victory in three General Elections, resided over the UK’s conduct of the Falklands War, replaced much of the UK’s Welfare State with monetarist economics, and privatised most of the UK’s nationalised industries. But she had yet to gain that reputation when she came to power in 1979. Then, she was the first female leader of a major western state, and she desired to be taken seriously by political leaders of other major countries. This desire seemed difficult to achieve because her only experience in government had been as Education Secretary (i.e. a Junior Minister) in the Heath administration that collapsed in 1974. She had achieved nothing notable as Education Secretary but was remembered by the UK public for having removed the distribution of milk to schoolchildren (she was popularly known as ‘Milk Snatcher Thatcher’.)

Sir Crispin Tickell, UK Ambassador to the UN, suggested a solution to the problem. He pointed out that almost all international statesmen are scientifically illiterate, so a scientifically literate politician could win any summit debate on a matter which seemed to depend on scientific understandings. And Mrs Thatcher had a BSc degree in chemistry. (This is probably the most important fact in the entire global warming issue; i.e. Mrs Thatcher had a BSc degree in chemistry). Sir Crispin pointed out that if a ‘scientific’ issue were to gain international significance, then the UK’s Prime Minister could easily take a prominent role, and this could provide credibility for her views on other world affairs. He suggested that Mrs Thatcher should campaign about global warming at each summit meeting. She did, and the tactic worked. Mrs Thatcher rapidly gained the desired international respect and the UK became the prime promoter of the global warming issue. The influences that enabled this are described in Figure 1 and the following paragraphs.

Figure 1. Influences leading to UK imagined risk of global warming.

Overseas politicians began to take notice of Mrs Thatcher’s campaign if only to try to stop her disrupting summit meetings. They brought the matter to the attention of their civil servants for assessment, and they reported that – although scientifically dubious – ‘global warming’ could be economically important. The USA is the world’s most powerful economy and is the most intensive energy user. If all countries adopted ‘carbon taxes’, or other universal proportionate reductions in industrial activity, each non-US industrialised country would gain economic benefit over the United States. So, many politicians from many countries joined with Mrs Thatcher in expressing concern at global warming and a political bandwagon began to roll. Mrs Thatcher had raised an international policy issue and thus become an influential international politician.

Mrs Thatcher could not have promoted the global warming issue without the support of her UK political party. And they were willing to give it. Following the General Election of 1979, most of the incoming Cabinet had been members of the government which lost office in 1974. They blamed the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) for their 1974 defeat. They, therefore, desired an excuse for reducing the UK coal industry and, thus, the NUM’s power. Coal-fired power stations emit CO2 but nuclear power stations don’t. Global warming provided an excuse for reducing the UK’s dependence on coal by replacing it with nuclear power.

And the Conservative Party wanted a large UK nuclear power industry for another reason. That industry’s large nuclear processing facilities were required for the UK’s nuclear weapons programme and the opposition Labour Party was then opposing the Conservative Party’s plans to upgrade the UK’s nuclear deterrent with Trident missiles and submarines. Unfortunately, the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl accidents had damaged public confidence in nuclear technology. Then, privatisation of the UK’s electricity supply industry exposed the secret that UK nuclear electricity cost four times more than UK coal-fired electricity. Global warming became the only remaining excuse for the unpopular nuclear power facilities needed for nuclear weapons. Mrs Thatcher had to be seen to spend money at home if her international campaign was to be credible.

So, early in her global warming campaign – and at her personal instigation – the UK’s Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research was established, and the science and engineering research councils were encouraged to place priority in funding climate-related research. This cost nothing because the UK’s total research budget was not increased; indeed, it fell because of cuts elsewhere. But the Hadley Centre sustained its importance and is now the operating agency for the IPCC’s scientific working group (Working Group 1). Most scientists’ work depends on funds fully or partly provided by governments. Also, all scientists compete to obtain their share of this limited resource. Available research funds were shrinking, and global warming had become the ‘scientific’ issue of most interest to governments. Hence, any case for funding support tended to include reference to global warming whenever possible. Much science in many fields may be conducted under the guise of a relationship to global warming. Activities which have obtained funds by this method include biology, meteorology, computer science, physics, chemistry, climatology, oceanography, civil engineering, process engineering, forestry, astronomy, and several other disciplines. Now, funds for this work are provided to most UK Universities and several commercial research establishments.

Much peer pressure deters scientists from damaging potential sources of research funds. There is especial pressure – loss of future career – to avoid being the first to proclaim the scientific truth of global warming and thus damage the research funding of colleagues. But failure to proclaim the scientific truth does not mean that many scientists believe in the global warming hypothesis. In 1992 – at the height of the global warming scare – Greenpeace International conducted a survey of the world’s 400 leading climatologists. Greenpeace had hoped to publicise the results of that survey in the run-up to the Rio summit, but when they completed the survey, they gave very little publicity to its results. In response to the survey, only 15 climatologists were willing to say they believed in global warming, although all climatologists rely on it for their employment. Also, the Leipzig Declaration disputes the IPCC assertions about man-made global warming. It was drafted following the Leipzig Climate Conference in November 1995 and has been signed by over 1,500 scientists from around the world.

The global warming issue is political. It induced the ‘Earth Summit’ that was attended by several Heads of State in Rio de Janeiro during June 1992 and is the reason for the Kyoto Summit in Japan in December 1997. Governments have a variety of motives for interest in global warming. Each government has its own special interests in global warming but, in all cases, the motives relate to economic policies. In general, the USA fears loss of economic power to other nations while this is desired by those other nations. Universal adoption of ‘carbon taxes’, or other universal proportionate reductions in industrial activity, would provide relative benefit to the other nations. Unfortunately, if a few nations adopted the changes they would increase their manufacturing, transportation and energy costs and thus lose economic competitiveness and industrial activity to all other nations. Developing nations cannot afford technological and economic advances that would benefit them and also reduce their increases to CO2 emissions as they develop, so they are seeking gifted technology transfers and economic aid from developed countries.

The press are interested in selling papers and the TV companies want to gain viewers. Threat of world-wide disaster makes a good story, and the statements and actions of politicians together with great increase in scientific publications gave global warming an apparent authority. The media began to proclaim the worst imagined horrors. For example, massive floods were predicted due to melting of polar ice. and one UK TV programme went so far as to assert that the polar bears would die out because their habitat would melt. The public rely on the media to provide them with their information, so they came to believe the global warming scare because they were only given one side of the story. Politicians respond to public concern, so the politicians actions began to gain popular support.

On face value global warming is an environmental issue. Many environmentalists joined the bandwagon. Governments were offering money and the public were concerned at global warming. Any environmental issue which could be linked to global warming was said to be involved in the matter. But the environmentalist interest was aroused by the impact of the issue. Contrary to common belief, environmentalists did not raise awareness of global warming, they responded to it. Simply, environmentalist organisations were part of the general public and decided to use the issue when it became useful to them.

Figure 2. Positive feedbacks supporting UK imagined risk of global warming.

Aspects of the global warming issue began to feed on each other. Many positive feedback loops exist in the system and the major ones are shown in Figure 2. The system amplifier is the politicians’ support of global warming. The issue is assisted by gaining political approval each time it passes around a loop shown in Figure 2.

The UK Government lost interest in global warming when Mr John Major replaced Mrs Thatcher as Prime Minister. The flow of Government money began to stop for conduct of global warming research. UK scientists then began to speak out in denial of the global warming hypothesis. It seemed that the issue was dying a natural death. Then the ‘coal crisis’ arose in October 1992 when the public protested at the scale of pit closures. This gave the UK Government a new need to find an excuse for its policy of closing coal mines. Global warming fitted this need and so the Government committed £16,000,000 to an advertising campaign which scaremongered about global warming, and re-established the funding priorities for climate research.

Later, at the start of May 1997, the Conservative Party lost office to the Labour Party and Mr Tony Blair became UK Prime Minister. The UK had initiated the global warming issue and a change of UK policy may have had a significant effect on the widespread imagined risk, but by then the global warming issue had become important in its own right. Many countries had a stated global warming policy, 122 of them had signed a declaration of intent to reduce CO2 emissions at the Rio Summit, and the Kyoto Summit was scheduled. The UK was one of the very few countries that had reduced its CO2 emissions since the Rio Summit because the UK had replaced coal-fired generating capacity by gas-fired generating capacity. This provided the UK with a position of authority in this international affair, and Mr Blair committed the new UK government to strict action to cut CO2 emissions.

Governments’ global warming policies

Man-made global warming has become a major international political issue. The imagined risk has become a real risk in the form of proposed government policies to inhibit CO2 emissions. The Rio Summit in 1992 proposed actions to constrain the emissions and the Kyoto Summit in December 1997 is intended to establish binding agreements that will commit nation states to the constraints. Although there are no real and potential risks of the global warming, the effects of the constraints will cause real and severe economic damage.

All industrial and economic growth requires an abundance of available energy supply. Anything that inhibits energy supplies reduces economic activity. At Kyoto, governments will be pressured to reduce CO2emissions to far below their 1990 levels. This requires cutting fuel supplies and, therefore, economic activity. The effects would be much more severe than the ‘oil crisis’ in the 1970s because the constraint on fossil fuel usage would be greater, the increases to energy costs would be larger, and energy demand has increased since then.

Already, OECD countries (Europe, Japan and the US) have agreed in principle to adopt the ‘Berlin Mandate’ that requires them to cut their CO2 emissions to 15% below their 1990 levels by year 2010. The US Department of Energy (DoE) estimates that this would increase US domestic energy prices by between 80 and 90% and would increase the coal price to US consumers by 300%. Also, the DoE study determines that the Berlin Mandate would not reduce world-wide emissions of CO2. Energy intensive industries would be forced to move from the US to places where the emission constraints did not exist or were not enforced. This could even result in an increase to the emissions because the less-controlled places are likely to have less energy efficient industries. The DoE study goes further by saying that its findings are not specific to the US but apply to every industrialised country.

The US DoE study is supported by a similar study commissioned by the German government. That determined the cost to Germany of fulfilling the Berlin Mandate would be about US$500 billion and the loss of 250,000 jobs.

Industrialised countries would not suffer alone. The economy of every country is affected by the performance of the world economy. The economic disruption in the developed world would harm economic activity everywhere. The largest affects would be in the developed countries because their economies are largest. But the worst effects would be suffered by the world’s poorest peoples (people who are near to starvation are starved by economic disruption.).

A rational assessment of appropriate policies would include cost/benefit analysis, but imagined risk is not rational. All the proposed responses to the imagined risk of man-made global warming would increase starvation and poverty while inhibiting economic development throughout the entire world. And CO2 emissions would not be reduced and may be increased. In practice, politicians are accepting the predictions of climate models as being predictions of the future, and they are acting to change that future. This is similar to the behaviour of people who believe horoscope predictions of future harm so they avoid situations where that harm could happen.

  1. Caz says:

    I have long argued that it is Mrs Thatcher who started the whole man made global warming thing and often to be poo pooed when putting that argument.

    Thank you for publishing this great article.

    I did see it in more simple terms though, in that she needed a scientific reason to break the UK’s reliance on coal and thus the NUM for the generation of electricity. This article certainly fleshes it out splendidly.

    It’s an odd world when those who decry her most are mainly the ones who now push her legacy most.

  2. CraigM says:

    “a coincidence of interests usually has a more powerful effect than a group of conspirators”

    Greed is Good 😉

    Thank you for posting TB.

  3. vukcevic says:

    After 3 day week and power cuts, ordinary people never noticed it; left was more concerned about poll tax, while sensible ones were buying their council houses.
    ‘Iron Lady’ and Falklands War, could see satellite reports coming in for the news channel, but it was all under temporary embargo. As a young engineer well aware of the environmental matters, the global warming ideas of Mrs T were barely noticed, and at one occasion few of us discussed it, eventually concluding there was nothing to it more than an effort to appear progressive or stay in touch with her science profession.

  4. Entropic man says:

    My philosophy teacher would be dubious of the implied premise ” Global warming ideas were politically convenient for Mrs Thatcher and are therefore invald.”

  5. Entropic Man:

    Your “implied premise” only exists in your imagination.

    My article makes a clear distinction between the ‘science’ of global warming and the reasons Mrs Thatcher (now Lady Thatcher) promoted it as a political issue.

    The science and the political issue are often conflated but my article does not conflate them because they are not the same thing. My article explains why Mrs Thatcher promoted ‘global warming’ and what resulted. It does not go on to relate how she dropped the issue after it had fulfilled its usefulness to her (that is another story).

    The important point is that from its start the AGW issue was predominantly political and not scientific.

    I often see it suggested that Mrs Thatcher promoted ‘global warming’ in opposition to the coal industry (e.g. Caz repeates that suggestion in this thread) but – as my article explains – she had a much more personal reason for promoting it. However, members of her political party were willing to support her in that promotion – at least, none would question it – because they were opposed to the coal industry.

    Conflation of issues often occurs in considerations of this subject. This surprises me because the system described by the influence diagrams in the article is a relatively simple system of political interactions if compared to many political issues.


  6. Archonix says:

    My philosophy teacher would be dubious of the implied premise ” Global warming ideas were politically convenient for Mrs Thatcher and are therefore invald.”

    Then it’s fortunate that isn’t the claim of the article, isn’t it?

  7. intrepid_wanders says:

    I know we butted head heads in the past (you being boarderline skydragon, me lukewarmer/skeptic, silly thing about convection…), but I have a question.

    How does the CFC/Ozone nonsense figure into this? You account here works well with my memory of the 80s.

  8. intrepid_wanders:

    You raise two issues and I answer each in turn.

    In am most certainly NOT “borderline skydragon”. I hope your suggestion is not an example of ‘poisoning the well’.

    My view is simple and can be summarised as follows. The feedbacks in the climate system are negative and, therefore, any effect of increased CO2 will be too small to discern. This concurs with the empirically determined values of low climate sensitivity empirically obtained by Idso, by Lindzen&Choi, etc..

    Therefore, I say the man-made global warming from man’s emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) would be much smaller than natural fluctuations in global temperature so it would be physically impossible to detect the man-made global warming.

    Of course, human activities have some effect on global temperature for several reasons. For example, cities are warmer than the land around them, so cities cause some warming. But the temperature rise from cities is too small to be detected when averaged over the entire surface of the planet, although this global warming from cities can be estimated by measuring the warming of all cities and their areas.

    Similarly, the global warming from man’s GHG emissions would be too small to be detected. Indeed, because climate sensitivity is less than 1 deg.C for a doubling of CO2 equivalent, it is physically impossible for the man-made global warming to be large enough to be detected. If something exists but is too small to be detected then it only has an abstract existence; it does not have a discernible existence that has effects (observation of the effects would be its detection). Perhaps I should have been pedantic and said in my article “Discernible man-made global warming is a physical impossibility”.

    Secondly, the ‘ozone hole’ scare led to the Montreal Protocol which banned CFCs and was used as the model for the Kyoto Protocol. But that was after the events reported in the body of my article, and so is not relevant to them. However, it is pertinent to the fact that the putative Kyoto Protocol existed when Mr Blair became PM. But his primary reason for supporting AGW was his lack of experience of government was less than that of Mrs Thatcher when she became PM: by adopting AGW he took on the credibility which the UK had in the issue as a result of the earlier actions of Mrs Thatcher.

    Discussion of the formation of the Montreal Protocol would be another article. Perhaps you would like to provide it? In my opinion it is an important subject because – like AGW and CO2 – the relationship of CFCs to the ‘ozone hole’ was never adequately demonstrated and evidence which refutes the relationship has increased with time.


  9. tallbloke says:

    Richard says:
    the relationship of CFCs to the ‘ozone hole’ was never adequately demonstrated and evidence which refutes the relationship has increased with time.

    One of those pieces of evidence can be found here:

  10. Tallbloke:

    Yes, thankyou.


  11. Roger Clague says:

    I am agreement with Richard Courtney’s explanation of the role of Mrs. Thatcher in the origin of the CAGW scam.

    However he says

    “The feedbacks in the climate system are negative and, therefore, any effect of increased CO2 will be too small to discern. This concurs with the empirically determined values of low climate sensitivity empirically obtained by Idso, by Lindzen&Choi, etc..”

    Am I right in thinking that you are a luke-warmist and agree with this analysis by Lindzen?

  12. Roger Clague:

    Thankyou for your interest.

    Firstly, I am a climate realist: I accept whatever the empirical data indicates and I reject implications from models which do not agree with the empirical data.

    So, I am not a ‘warmist’, not a ‘luke warmer’, not a ‘climate denier’ and not a ‘skydragon’.

    Secondly, yes, I completely agree with Lindzen in his paper at

    Click to access 198_greenhouse.pdf

    More important with respect to your question is that I agree with Lindzen&Choi in their paper which analysed ERBE data from the tropics. It can be read at

    Click to access Lindzen-and-Choi-GRL-2009.pdf

    Its conclusions include

    “For sensitivities less than 2 deg.C, the data readily distinguish different sensitivities, and ERBE data appear to demonstrate a climate sensitivity of about 0.5!C which is easily distinguished from sensitivities given by models.”
    “Finally, it should be noted that our analysis has only considered the tropics. Following Lindzen et al. [2001], allowing for sharing this tropical feedback with neutral higher latitudes could reduce the negative feedback factor by about a factor of two. This would lead to an equilibrium sensitivity that is 2/3 rather than 1/2 of the non-feedback value. This, of course, is still a small sensitivity.”

    So, Lindzen& Choi find a climate sensitivity of about 0.4 deg.C which agrees with my statements that said,

    “My view is simple and can be summarised as follows. The feedbacks in the climate system are negative and, therefore, any effect of increased CO2 will be too small to discern. This concurs with the empirically determined values of low climate sensitivity empirically obtained by Idso, by Lindzen&Choi, etc..

    Therefore, I say the man-made global warming from man’s emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) would be much smaller than natural fluctuations in global temperature so it would be physically impossible to detect the man-made global warming.”

    I hope that clarifies my actual position.


    PS Idso’s “8 natural experiments” provide a “best estimate” of climate 0.37 deg.C for a doubling of CO2 which is very similar to the finding of about 0.4 deg.C obtained by Lindzen&Choi.

    Idso’s paper can be read at

    Click to access Idso_CR_1998.pdf

  13. Gray says:

    Was Margaret Thatcher the first Climate Skeptic?

    In 2003, towards the end of Margaret Thatcher’s last book, Statecraft, in a passage headed “Hot Air and Global Warming”, she issued what amounts to an almost complete recantation of her earlier views.

    She voiced precisely the fundamental doubts about the warming scare that have since become familiar to us. Pouring scorn on the “doomsters”, she questioned the main scientific assumptions used to drive the scare, from the conviction that the chief force shaping world climate is CO2, rather than natural factors such as solar activity, to exaggerated claims about rising sea levels. She mocked Al Gore and the futility of “costly and economically damaging” schemes to reduce CO2 emissions. She cited the 2.5C rise in temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period as having had almost entirely beneficial effects. She pointed out that the dangers of a world getting colder are far worse than those of a CO2-enriched world growing warmer.

  14. tallbloke says:

    Posted on Steve McIntyre’s blog in response to his analysis of Lewdandodgy’s survey and paper:

    Posted Sep 10, 2012 at 4:20 PM | Permalink | Reply
    Steve says:
    “In addition to fakes, it is possible that there are some skydragons in the first pattern.”

    Steve, Richard Courtney vehemently denies being a ‘skydragon’, but offers cogent argumentation to support his position that any human effect on temperature is unmeasurable. He did it again today for example here:

    I think it’s a reasonable position, and that labelling people who hold similar positions as ‘skydragons’, even if purely for the purpose of identifying survey subgroups’ is divisive.

    Maybe you could analyse Richard Courtney’s comment and tell us where you think he is incorrect, or provide support for your own view that a human fingerprint on global temperature is measurable so we can consider your reasons for being sure that those who disagree with that position are a small ‘fringe’ of the ‘sceptic community’.



  15. Gray:

    Mrs Thatcher was not the first “climate sceptic”: as the introduction to my above article suggests, I probably was.

    However your observation is correct: as I said in my comment addressed to Entropic Man says at 9.41pm
    “My article explains why Mrs Thatcher promoted ‘global warming’ and what resulted. It does not go on to relate how she dropped the issue after it had fulfilled its usefulness to her (that is another story).”


  16. Tallbloke:

    Thankyou for that. I did not know Steve had suggested such a thing, and I would have thought our past face-to-face conversations would not have indicated that about me.


  17. Gray says:

    Hi Richard

    The statement was a quote from the linked article – the headline in fact.

    Were it true, Margaret would no doubt be both the first advocate and first denier of global warming, whereas I’d probably describe her as a ‘politician’.

    The inside view is of great interest nonetheless, thanks.

  18. tallbloke says:

    Richard: We probably shouldn’t read too much into Steve’s choice of label for a subgroup of survey responders, but I thought it worth registering the point that cogent argument put forward by people with a good command of the science disagree that the human impact on temperature is measurable, as well as people who disbelieve it for reasons we might not go along with.

  19. tallbloke says:

    Steve reponded:

    Steve: nonetheless, there is a relevant distinction. You’re probably right that the group that I labeled skydragons are a larger proportion of the skeptic community than my initial estimate. I realize that no all respondents in this camp are in the thermodynamic camp.

  20. Gray:

    Yes, Mrs Thatcher was a politician and she used AGW as a political ‘tool’.

    I suspect she was shocked to discover she had acted as ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’ and her political ‘tool’ had grown out of her control. Lord Monckton can provide a fuller explanation of how she reacted to that discovery than I can.


  21. Tallbloke:

    Thankyou. I admit to some disappointment that Steve thinks I am in the same “camp” as the skydragons whose misunderstanding of radiative physics is deplorable.

    I am probably the only individual who has constructed my own system for quantitative energy dispersive analysis of X-rays (QEDX) and I think my ZAF correction algorithm for the Au layer on the detector crystal is still the best. The wavelengths in QEDX are different but the basic physics is the same as that which applies to IR in the atmosphere. So, it is sad that some people think I could agree with the skydragons.


  22. Caz says:

    Fascinating stuff Richard. As Lord Monckton is not present are you able to tell the “another story” about Mrs Thatcher dropping the the man made global warming? I never really noticed that, and saw only a Tsunami of of Global warming flooding over Kyoto that has still yet to receed.

    I do see the man made global warming situation as very similar to the collapse of the banks. Contrary to what the politicians now say, that collapse was long predicted by many but it took longer than most thought. I wonder how long it will take for the people to realise that carbon footprints have no clothes.

  23. sunsettommy says:

    Richard Courtney was never a Skydragon follower at any time and I can say that with the fullest confidence because of his past comments at my forum,Jo Nova,and a few others places.

    He stopped commenting at my forum in part because of a subforum section that I set up to allow for those “skydragon” discussions to take place in it.Richard was never involved with it and I understand why.

    It is the same with John Kehr who later joined and posted a few times then stopped.He has a since then at his own blog made it clear in his view that AGW is impossible because it does not warm up fast enough to keep up with the increased outflow of IR. to space.

    The Science of why the Theory of Global Warming is Incorrect!

    By the way Richard that is a nice long report.I will post an excerpt of it and link back to here.

  24. intrepid_wanders says:


    Thank you for the pleasant, composed reply and I apologize for the mis-characterization. I had a different experience some time ago discussing adiabatic physics at Jo Nova, that were vetted by Leonard Weinstein, but you insisted that I was wrong. Merely an explanation, not an excuse for the pigeon-holing. Anyhow, many years ago, enough time for James Lovelock to come to his senses 😉

    The Montreal Protocol was a fascinating piece of garbage that I was curious if there was a whisper back then. It is quite obvious that the use of a fluorine molecule in the “doomsday predictions” definitely could gain more traction faster than an inert waste product of CO2.

    Thanks again for that stroll down the early eighties 😉

  25. tallbloke says:

    richardscourtney says:
    September 11, 2012 at 1:15 am

    Thankyou. I admit to some disappointment that Steve thinks I am in the same “camp” as the skydragons whose misunderstanding of radiative physics is deplorable.

    Richard, The Skydragons think human impact is unmeasurable ‘for the wrong reasons’. For the purposes of dissecting the survey, the statistician can’t tell why a subgroup of respondents gave a particular answer, but groups them under a single ‘label’ for the purposes of analysis. I think Steve’s use of the word ‘camp’ is unfortunate, carrying as it does the notion of ‘tribal affiliation’. However, he does at least recognise that within the ‘camp’ of people who think human influence on temperature is unmeasurable, there are ‘sub-camps’ of differing groups who think that for different reasons. So although Steve’s analysis places you in the camp he calls ‘skydragon’, he acknowledges you don’t mix with the dragons themselves or agree with their reasoning on this question of measurable human influence.

    Note also that he labels all those sceptics who chose to agree that there is a measurable human impact on T as ‘lukewarmers’. I’m sure there are a lot of people in that ‘camp’ who would dislike this epithet being applied to them too. I guess statisticians working with data concerning human beliefs and intellectual positions always run the risk of ‘pigeon-holing’ peoples complex system of views and beliefs because of the very nature of the process by which they differentiate them into respondent ‘groups’.

    I hope Steve finds the time to re-examine his own reasons for beleiving the human influence on T is measurable. For myself, the fact that the error on the TOA energy balance measurement is three times bigger than the signal claimed for the putative ‘enhanced greenhouse effect’ pretty much consigns AGW to unmeasurability.

  26. Friends:

    I am making a single reply to several people. I intend no disrespect to anyone by this. It is because I have important duties today so lack time, but I want to make this quick reply so I do not seem to be ignoring points made in this thread.

    I agree ” the man made global warming situation as very similar to the collapse of the banks”.

    I don’t have time now to relate Mrs T’s retreat from AGW. I think it is of purely historical interest and this contrasts with the history of how and why she started it: that history shows the issue was from its beginning mostly political and not scientific. However, I could relate the story of her retreat from AGW.

    And –also for lack of time- I respond by taking the liberty of answering your point by copying something I have written elsewhere. I hope that does not offend.

    The AGW-scare was killed at the failed 2009 IPCC Conference in Copenhagen. I said then that the scare would continue to move as though alive in similar manner to a beheaded chicken running around a farmyard. It continues to provide the movements of life but it is already dead. And its deathly movements provide an especial problem.

    Nobody will declare the AGW-scare dead: it will slowly fade away. This is similar to the ‘acid rain’ scare of the 1980s. Few remember that scare unless reminded of it but its effects still have effects; e.g. the Large Combustion Plant Directive (LCPD) exists. Importantly, the bureaucracy which the EU established to operate the LCPD still exists. And those bureaucrats justify their jobs by imposing ever more stringent, always more pointless, and extremely expensive emission limits which are causing enforced closure of UK power stations.

    Bureaucracies are difficult to eradicate and impossible to nullify.

    As the AGW-scare fades away those in ‘prime positions’ will attempt to establish rules and bureaucracies to impose those rules which provide immortality to their objectives. Guarding against those attempts now needs to be a serious activity.

    Thankyou. And I commend your blog to everybody. It is good.

    There is no problem with the “mis-characterization”. Indeed, I am grateful for it because it invited me to correct the matter.

    I apologise if I offended you in the past and I apologise that I don’t remember it so I cannot correct the matter.

    As you say, “The Montreal Protocol was a fascinating piece of garbage” but I draw your attention to my response (above) to Caz in this post. The Montreal Protocol led to the Kyoto Protocol. We now need to prevent zombie bureaucracies based on AGW that are similar to the EU LCPD.

    That is fine, but I trust you will correct any ‘skydragon’ accusations if they occur.

    I note your points about “statisticians” and “pigeonholing” and I agree.

    I must now rush but hope to reply to any further points late tonight.


  27. ntesdorf says:

    Thanks for a very good explanation of the sequence of events and the role of Mrs. Thatcher in it. The Ozone Hole CFC fraud was a stalking horse for the CAGW fraud.
    Thank you for publishing this great article. The fact that Enron was an enthusiastic proponent of Carbon Trading is a good sign post to the motivation.

  28. Michael Hart says:

    Thanks Richard.

    I was always of the opinion that Thatcher was really just making a pre-emptive strike into “green” politics and making sure she didn’t get caught napping. Politically smart for her, but didn’t help the country.

    I’d certainly like to see the Ozone story revisited. I was one of those fairly well scientifically educated people who swallowed the “new evidence” wholesale. I already knew about it and the doubts/lack of good evidence, but I was too credulous.

    With hindsight, I came to the conclusion that the ozone “success” is what emboldened scientists-in-search-of-funding, and environmental-catastrophists in search of the next catastrophe. Shared interests indeed. Incompetence beats conspiracy almost every time in my opinion.

  29. Sailorman says:

    Thanks Richard,

    I stumbled across this during a sleepness night away from the family – a really interesting paper that truely resonates with me.

    I particularly like the diagram – so eloquent; and also like the sentence “And a coincidence of interests usually has a more powerful effect than a group of conspirators” – which is so true.

    Your warning about the implications of the AGW-scare slowly fading away is unsettling to put it mildly. I agree that the scare is unlikely to be ‘killed off’ – slowly fading away seems to be the best we can hope for, but I had not contemplated the long-term ramifications possibly associated with such an outcome.

    One minor quibble & one question:
    ~ minor quibble: I left England in the mid-1970’s so missed first-hand experience of the political events, but I understood the expression to be ‘Thatcher – the milk snatcher’. This would certainly seem to roll off the tongue much easier (especially when chanting at a political / union rally) than your version ‘Milk snatcher Thatcher’. Perhaps the explanation is that the papers (which I missed) would have referred to her as ‘Margaret (milk snatcher) Thatcher”.

    ~ question: you include reference to the critical role played by Sir Crispin Tickell, UK Ambassador to the UN’. Forgive my ignorance if this is common knowledge – What is the source for such a specific statement?

  30. Sailorman:

    Please forgive my tardy reply. I am often away and out of communications. I have just again returned and have yet to unpack.

    You ask me;
    “~ question: you include reference to the critical role played by Sir Crispin Tickell, UK Ambassador to the UN’. Forgive my ignorance if this is common knowledge – What is the source for such a specific statement?”

    I answer.
    I do not know if it is common knowledge.
    Sir Crispin was one of the people I interviewed as part of my analysis for BACM in 1980. He then told me he had advised Mrs Thatcher of the potential for ‘global warming’ and he had pointed out to her the personal advantage she would have in promoting the issue because she had a science degree. I had no reason to doubt him, and I still don’t. Indeed, the AGW-scare had not then started so I see no reason for him to have said it if it were not true.


  31. […] Richard Courtney has made a couple of comments on a WUWT discussion of a new paper studying temperature trend components which are worthy of a separate discussion.  […]

  32. mitigatedsceptic says:

    I long suspected that Mrs T initiated AGW to put paid to the miners’ unions and to pave the way for nuclear generation. RC’s excellent article provides some substance for my suspicions and pinpoints the real originator, Sir Crispin Tickell.

    AGW has little to do with science but a lot to do with politics.

    I believe (here RC disagrees with me) that once the public comes to see that AGW was a political trick and not a genuine concern for the future of the planet, that all the money spent on IPCC and climate science is really being wasted, that their household budgets are being milked because of energy prices escalated to pay for unneeded windmills they should revolt against the whole programme and drive some sense into their representatives in parliament. The runaway ‘success’ of Thatcher’s trick and the whole ‘scientific debate’ have clouded its origins.

    Profound thanks to RC!

    The Thatcher scam really needs to be given a good airing.

  33. richardscourtney says:


    Thankyou for your comment.

    I make two responses.

    Firstly, if you remove all mention of ‘science’ from the influence diagram in my article then the remaining feedback loops cause the issue to escalate. Simply, the initiation of the AGW issue was political and independent of the science.

    The science existed before the issue ‘took off’ and has solidified against AGW since.

    Secondly, the issue is already dead but the smell of its corpse continues to disrupt politics and political policies. I address this in my above comment at September 11, 2012 at 10:29 am.


  34. mitigatedsceptic says:

    Richard, Yes, the feedback loops (ex science) have just that effect.
    I have long propounded the thesis that self recreating autonomous (from human influence) institutions emerge spontaneously from human conversations and ‘take on a life of their own’ to put it crudely. The whole AGW conversation seemed to have become an example of this and, if so, has escaped from human influence. So I do hope you are correct in saying that the issue is dead.

    BTW I see from his website that Sir CT, the catalyst for Mrs T’s political trick, was a great supporter of Lovelock who now seems to have had a Damascene Conversion. If Sir CT were to take a similar position, at least some of the smell might be dissipated.

    I am concerned too that the AGW myth may still be part of the curriculum in many schools in UK. I was horrified to learn that some teachers are creationists and offering that as science. Clearly I have led a very sheltered life. It is quite a shock to wake up to the reality that the lunatics are running the asylum in so far as it can be run at all. Are we really slipping back into the Dark Ages?

  35. richardscourtney says:


    You ask me,
    “Are we really slipping back into the Dark Ages?”

    If by that you mean returning to pre-Enlightenment thinking, then in my opinion we are, and I don’t like it.


  36. mitigatedsceptic says:

    In my darker moments I feel that, apart from the few who felt that reporting observations was sufficient, we never really liberated ourselves from what Hume called enthusiasms and superstitions. Because of his scepticism about the attribution of causal relations, he, like Newton, distrusted all ‘explanations’ calling them ‘metaphysical’.

    Obviously in everyday life we have to bend to custom and habit and take for granted the causal relations commonly accepted by the society in which we live. But, I think, we should put the burden of proof on those who offer causal explanations that imply moral values and which ultimately lead to oppressive compliance with some particular viewpoint.

    The application of mathematics to the formation of causal assertions from raw observations is, to me, a dubious step. Even more dubious is the notion that because a model can be fitted to historical data, it must have explanatory value and should be used to form public policy, if that is implied by its description of affairs. Inductive inference is a shaky tool at the best of times; even more unreliable when the prescriptions and explanations are so remote and obscure fro the phenomena as they are in the conversation about AGW.

    I have always felt that this AGW thing is the epitome of what Hume was warning us about. I am really too old to care much for the future of the kind of people who are being lured into making personal sacrifices for the sake of generations to come; but I am very angry indeed to see, as Hume saw in his time, how easily so few can control so many with so little real effort. At least when ideas are imposed by force, we can see the bloodshed and suffering. When they are imposed through education and indoctrination, there is no sign of blood, but there is slavery nonetheless.

    Please forgive this rant!