Field of Science

Voice of the Iron Lady

Margaret Thatcher, bane of an entire generation of British liberals*, recently (Correction: not that recently, but in 1990) spoke at the 2nd World Climate Conference, and you can read a transcript of her speech online. Climate change isn't something I mention often at this site - it's really not my field of expertise. But I thought that I would like to share one excerpt with you:

Many of the precautionary actions that we need to take would be sensible in any event. It is sensible to improve energy efficiency and use energy prudently; it's sensible to develop alternative and sustainable and sensible ... it's sensible to improve energy efficiency and to develop alternative and sustainable sources of supply; it's sensible to replant the forests which we consume; it's sensible to re-examine industrial processes; it's sensible to tackle the problem of waste. I understand that the latest vogue is to call them ‘no regrets’ policies. Certainly we should have none in putting them into effect.

The thing that has always confused me about the climate change 'debate' is that I don't really see why there needs to be a debate in the first place. Ultimately, the best methods being proposed to combat climate change seem to come down to reducing pollution, and reducing waste. Irrespective of whether anthropogenic climate change is happening or not, these are good things in themselves. It strikes me as being a bit like the idea that bathing regularly reduces the likelihood that you will get sick. Maybe there's a chance that you won't become ill even if you don't wash yourself for a fortnight - but you would still feel better if you had, nonetheless.

*Does anyone else here remember The Tin-Pot Foreign General and the Old Iron Woman?


  1. Look again. Few argue against prudence. Many argue against fanaticism.

    `The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, `which is to be master -- that's all.'

  2. I think that speech was given in 1990. Margaret Thatcher is retired and has given no speeches for several years.

  3. In my experience, most of the so-called "arguing against fanaticism" is arguing against prudence. Decrying fanaticism is one thing; being reactionary is anither.

    Don, you're right - I'd only just seen the link, I assumed it was something recent. My apologies.

  4. Well that depends on what is defined as being "prudent." Sometimes what is said to be "prudent" really is a cover for a more fanatic and reactionary agenda under the guise of salvation.

  5. I do have a personal concern that the "anti-climate change" movement has had a negative impact on environmental action, as a number of people do seem to have seized on the idea that if climate change can be somehow discredited then that removes the need for any environmental action. Nevertheless, as I said, most of the suggested actions have positive effects independent of climate change. Waste disposal, for instance, is a huge problem for modern society that seems likely to only get bigger. The best way to deal with the issue of waste disposal, surely, is to reduce the amount of waste being produced in the first place.

  6. Yeah...this is why I avoid this topic altogether. And then people lynch you for being neutral. To pull a Godwin, people look upon Neonazis more favourably than anyone neutral on anything. Yes, I'm agnostic to AGW. Suck it. (not you, but the anti-neutralists, if such a position could even exist)

    PS: Peer review does not make things true. protip: publication in science is messy business riddled with politics and alterior motives. (and I'm only *beginning* to see a tiny part of a non-politically-charged field, even!) Once I got lynched for mentioning that too (on Pharyngula, of all places), so I withdrew from any discussions on the topic, as the sheer fanaticism scares me. Definitely not an environment conducive to any real research...

    (this applies to data both for and against AGW, so I just don't trust ANY of it)

  7. "in a non-politically-charged field"

    Taxonomy has always been a battle field. It may not directly relate to general left/right politics, but it is highly political by nature.


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