Liz Truss, the new Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, is going to attempt to address her country’s energy crisis with a welfare program (freezing energy bills for citizens) and greater domestic oil and gas production. This mixed bag of government and market is a palliative; the general question concerns energy philosophy. Should the UK be driven by Net Zero or Net Abundance? Should climate alarmism be taken at face value or demoted?
Interestingly, Margaret Thatcher focused on the latter question and changed her mind. She first embraced the simplistic notion that humankind’s warming of the climate was a per se bad. But upon further review, she came to realize that eco-zealotry polluted the debate. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, indeed, has benefits, not only costs, and climate policy has its immediate costs in return for hypothetical, distant benefits.
Thatcher’s mature views invite PM Truss to think hard about energy policy, past the immediate crisis. Legalizing oil and gas drilling is just a start; there needs to be a re-evaluation of government-enabled wind and solar power generation and a re-evaluation of the present anti-consumer, anti-taxpayer war against mineral energies. Each is now environmentally friendly, unlike decades ago. And each spares green living space from the machinery required for dilute renewables.
Back in 1988, PM Thatcher “broke quite new political ground,” in her words, by “speaking ominously on climate change” before the Royal Society (the UK’s National Academy of Sciences). “It is possible,” she said, “that … we have unwittingly begun a massive experiment with the system of this planet itself.”
In The Downing Street Years (1993), Thatcher, while wary of “green socialism,” described how her environmental concern expanded from stratospheric ozone to “another atmospheric threat,” man-made global warming from CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions.
As Prime Minister, she was battling the nationalized, unionized coal-mining sector, the leadership of which was socialist-inspired and at odds with her reform agenda. Her advisors were climate alarmists. Natural gas from the North Sea was poised to back-out coal, and nuclear seemed to be an affordable, practical option. A low-carbon future, in other words, seemed to be practical and affordable.
But she wised up. In her later book, Statecraft: Strategies for a Changing World (2002), Thatcher declared war on the doomsters’ favorite subject … climate change.” In her words:
The doomsters’ favorite subject today is climate change. This has a number of attractions for them. First, the science is extremely obscure so they cannot easily be proved wrong. Second, we all have ideas about the weather: traditionally, the English on first acquaintance talk of little else.
Third, since clearly no plan to alter climate could be considered on anything but a global scale, it provides a marvelous excuse for worldwide, supra-national socialism. All this suggests a degree of calculation. Yet perhaps that is to miss half the point. Rather, as it was said of Hamlet that there was method in his madness, so one feels that in the case of some of the gloomier alarmists there is a large amount of madness in their method.
The fact that seasoned politicians can say such ridiculous things – and get away with it – illustrates the degree to which the new dogma about climate change has swept through the left-of-centre governing classes….
Thatcher also recognized an “ugly … anti-growth, anti-capitalistic, anti-American” political agenda around climate change. She invoked her own precautionary principle: “Government interventions are problematic, so intervene only when the case is fully proven.”
The leadership of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom from 1979 until 1990 “recast attitudes toward state and market, withdrew government from business, and dimmed the confidence in government knowledge.” PM Liz Truss has the opportunity in a moment of crisis to reset the debate, substituting energy realism for fantasy and climate calm for exaggeration. That begins with rejecting Net Zero as immoral for helpless consumers, uneconomical for taxpayers, and a road to serfdom for all.