The climate-industrial complex

In his farewell address to the nation in 1961, President Eisenhower famously warned of a military-industrial complex that might gain unwarranted influence. But in the same speech he also pointed to a wider danger: that ‘public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite’. 

Half a century on, it seems clear that our public policy has been captured by a ‘climate-industrial complex’. In the field of economics, it distorts the truth, closing ranks and ignoring or distort dissent when its failures are brought to light. It justifies the squandering of astronomical sums of money – waste that has already added 20% to the energy costs of households and industry.

If it can be so reckless about the economics of global warming, is it not just possible that it may be exaggerating the dangers of global warming on which the whole case depends?

As Eisenhower spelt out:

…a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity…The

prospect of domination of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project alloca-

tions, and the power of money is ever present and is gravely to be regarded.

Having studied physics at Cambridge, I entirely accept the science of global warming: double the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the direct effect will raise the average temperature by about 1 ◦C.  But how much that will be amplified or dampened by clouds, water vapour, ice loss and other factors is far less certain. Indeed, the most recent IPCC report was for the first time unable to agree a most likely estimate of the overall effect, but did reduce the lower end of the likely range. Significantly, neither of those points were included in the Summary for Policymakers – presumably because the authors felt it their duty to report only facts that would stiffen policymakers’ resolve to tackle global warming. Most scientists remain scrupulously objective in their own work. But they know it is more than their career is worth to question exaggerated claims others may make of the scale, speed or impact of global warming. To adapt Upton Sinclair: ‘It is difficult to get someone to be critical of something if his salary depends on taking it for granted’. So, alarmist claims go unchallenged while evidence that we could adapt to global warming rather than try to prevent it is played down.

Dieter Helm exposed the fact that billions of pounds of public money have been wasted on renewables schemes, yet the climate-industrial complex has shrugged him off with barely a glance. [Professor Dieter Helm, one of our most respected energy economists, revealed that the government could achieve its target to reduce carbon emissions for a fraction of the £100 billion it has already committed, there was a deafening silence.  It is not as if Dieter Helm is a climate sceptic. Far from it.]  It is hard not to suspect that their flagrant disregard for sound economics may be mirrored in their approach to the science.

About the author: Peter Lilley was formerly the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry in the governments of Margaret Thatcher and John Major and also Secretary of State for Social Security. He was one of only three MPs to vote against the passage of the Climate Change Act and is the author of several previous GWPF publications.  The above is excerpted from his full publication, pdf linked here:


About budbromley

Life sciences executive, retired
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