All the opinion polls have David Cameron’s government heading for government for the first time since 1997. The theme of the conference is that the Tories have changed, that theirs is a modern, progressive conservative party ready to govern. All the old bad policies have gone to be replaced by progressive, socially-inclusive, green ones.The trouble is that, despite their green posturing, the sceptics are never far away. Just yards way from the Conference hall, the hard-right Freedom Association held a series of events. One was called “Free Thinking on Climate Change”.
Speakers included the cream of leading British climate sceptics. Caroline Boin, the environment programme director at International Policy Network, which was funded for a number of years by Exxon to try and undermine action on climate change, before Exxon was forced to stop funding them. Ruth Lea, another leading sceptic, and ex-Director of the rightwing Centre for Policy Studies and Viscount Monckton, the former adviser to Margaret Thatcher’s policy unit, who is another leading sceptic who is trying his utmost to undermine Al Gore’s film, An Inconvenient Truth.
The chair of the event was Roger Helmer, the hard-right euro-sceptic Conservative MEP, who is Chairman of The Freedom Association. Helmer is the kind of dinosaur that Cameron would love to become extinct within his party, and is one of the leading climate skeptics at the European Parliament.
Helmer has just produced a highly misleading leaflet on climate change called “Straight Talking on Climate Change”, which includes such factually incorrect statements such as we are not facing “unprecedented warming”, that a warming world will not create disaster, and there is nothing unusual with the melting poles.
All the “further reading” Helmer advocates are skeptics such as Fred Singer and former Conservative Chancellor Nigel Lawson, who has just published a book called, An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming. In an interview for the Times this week, Lawson argued that global warming is treated as if it was “a new religion”, rather than being considered in rational terms.
It was over a decade ago in America that the Wise Use movement tried to portray environmentalism as some new kind of religion. Many publishers rejected Lawson’s book before one was mad enough to take it on. One of the ones who rejected it said simply: that “it flies so much in the face of prevailing orthodoxy that it would be very difficult to find a wide market.”
If the Tories do ever make it back into government, their hard-right fringe will be doing just that: pushing climate scepticism to the widest audience possible.