Sunday 29 December 2019

Matt Ridley v Nick Robinson ('Today', 28 December - Transcript)

(With gratitude here and here for making finishing this transcription so much quicker)

Nick Robinson: Climate change should not be presented as an emergency and, indeed, it - like all alarmist claims - should be open to debate. That's the view of our guest editor today, Charles Moore, the Telegraph columnist and biographer of Margaret Thatcher. He sits on the board of trustees of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which describes itself as, quotes, "open-minded on the contested science of global warming". One of those who've written for the Foundation is the science writer and Conservative peer Matt Ridley. Lord Ridley joins us in the studio. Good morning to you.
Matt Ridley: Good to you.
Nick Robinson: The risks you've argued in the past have been greatly exaggerated but, I imagine, the simple question for many people is 'why listen to you rather than the climate change global, international, scientific consensus?
Matt Ridley: Well, the consensus says that there's going to be a range of outcomes, anything from 1 to 4 degrees. 1 is harmless. 4 is very harmful. So, actually, the consensus says there's going to be a range. Now the problem is the BBC, for example, and a lot of other media have decided to let themselves be bullied by climate activists into dividing this into goodies who believe in climate change and baddies who don't, which is actually very inaccurate because of all these people at the Lukewarmer end of the spectrum where I sit, and where proper climate scientist, like Judith Curry, also sit...
Nick Robinson: (interrupting) To be clear though that one and half degrees is described by governments, not by climate change activists. by governments, including the UK Conservative government. as very serious for the globe. So that's not a question of bullying, it's international policy.
Matt Ridley: Well, that's a policy question. But at the other end of the spectrum you've got people who are effectively doomsday cultists now who say that we're gonna have 6 billion people dead in a few short decades. That's Roger Hallam of Extinction Rebellion. Or Kevin Anderson, the scientist on whom Greta Thunberg, your next guest editor, heavily relies, and he says we are going to see 4 degrees by 2050. No responsible scientist agrees with that and yet those people are given a hearing on the BBC whereas the Lukewarmers are denied a place on the BBC. People like me are not allowed on...
Nick Robinson(interrupting) 'Lukewarmers' in your description of yourself.
Matt Ridley:  Exactly. We're not allowed on the BBC... 
Nick Robinson(interrupting) Well, here you are, being allowed on the BBC!
Matt Ridley: But only because Charles Moore is the guest editor....
Nick Robinson(interrupting) Well, not only because Charles Moore. In fact...because you've been on the programme before. In fact, I know I've interviewed you before. Just to focus, though, on the scientific debate, one and a half degrees - not 4 - is the international consensus for very serious global harm...
Matt Ridley(interrupting) No, no, that's not true, Nick.
Nick Robinson: ... adopted, forgive me, just finish finish the thought, and therefore why shouldn't that be taken seriously, on what is often referred to as the Precautionary Principle? We can't be certain, it could be very bad, so we act, with care.
Matt Ridley: Well, one of the reasons for being careful about not overreacting to climate change - and I'm not saying we shouldn't...we should do nothing, I'm saying we should do things...but I think we should be careful not to overreact and not to shut down civilisation. One of the reasons for that is because some of the measures we're taking are doing real harm already. We're denying fossil fuels to Africa, so as a result they're burning wood to feed themselves. That's killing their children. It's also destroying forests. And another example is the diesel scandal, which came directly out of climate change policy - and I know you've got Sir David King on later, and he was Chief Scientific Advisor at the time, when they pushed for switching to diesel because it had lower carbon dioxide emissions, even though it had other huge air pollution problems.
Nick Robinson: Now, I know the focus of your argument is largely about policies that you think are counter-productive at best and maybe positively bad at worst...isn't your thinking, though, underlain by the fact that you're a Conservative, like many of the people on this Foundation, you're a free-marketer, and your real fear is that socialists have grabbed hold of the green agenda and they are managing to get support for things that you are fundamentally opposed to, on a new basis? That's your worry, that's your..
Matt Ridley: (interrupting) That's not true about the Foundation. The Chairman is Lord Donoughue. He's a Labour peer. So this...there are LibDems on the Foundation, there are bishops on the Foundation, this is not a Conservative thing. I think - quite the reverse, actually, that most of the people who are worried about what we're doing in the name of climate change are worried about the effect it's having on poor people. It's costing nearly 9 or 10 billion pounds a year to the British consumer and most of that is going from poor people to rich people. Conservatives love this stuff, because they get to build wind farms.
Nick Robinson(interrupting) I say Conservatives, of course, because there's you, there's Charles Moore, there's Nigel Lawson, who are prominent, in terms of having a voice on this subject. Just briefly, if you would, you say you're concerned about hitting the poor, and you say you do want to do something. Briefly - we'll have you back and then you can tell us more - what "something" would you do?
Matt Ridley: Well, first of all, open up the debate more. And I think it's a problem that the BBC and people like Roger Harrabin, your Environment Editor, talks much more closely and takes his instructions from the environment lobbies...
Nick Robinson(interrupting) He doesn't take his instructions from anybody. I know Roger Harrabin. He's a journalist. You're a journalist, he's a journalist, he reports what he thinks is true.
Matt Ridley: Well, his Twitter account very strongly reflects that.
Nick RobinsonFine, you disagree with it. Doesn't mean he takes instructions.
Matt Ridley: But the other thing is that a lot of what the BBC and other media tell us to do, like stopping eating meat, wouldn't make a blind bit of difference...
Nick Robinson (interrupting) He's never told anybody to stop eating meat, Matt Ridley, I mean this is preposterous!
Matt Ridley: No, it's not preposterous...
Nick Robinson: We report people who say that you shouldn't eat meat and we interview people who say you should. We're not telling people to do anything!
Matt Ridley: What we need is an insurance policy against this problem, and we shouldn't pay more in a premium than the risk we're running.
Nick Robinson: A more open debate, that's what we've had, and thank you for helping us have it. Matt Ridley, Lord Ridley, thank you for coming on.


  1. Replies
    1. And has Harrabin ever told us we should stop eating meat?

      Robinson was emphatic that this was not possible, but it sounds to me like a very Harrabin type of thing to say.

    2. I think he probably has, but that was probably before the Dogma of Settled Science was declared a few years back and all climate sceptics were cast into the outer darkness.

  2. I found it interesting that Robinson referenced Charles Moore as a Telegraph columnist "and biographer of Margaret Thatcher".

    Maybe I'm being paranoid, but the use of Mrs Thatcher's name felt like a "dog whistle" to me, intended to indicate to the audience that Moore was a Thatcher fan and could therefore be discounted as a wrong 'un.

  3. "Nick Robinson: We report people who say that you shouldn't eat meat and we interview people who say you should. We're not telling people to do anything!"

    This is a classic BBC defence!

    Try this thought experiment...

    If tomorrow the BBC were to start interviewing people who said we should stop wearing shoes, began featuring barefeeters in its Countryside programme, had a barefeeter section on the Website, spoke to barefeeters on the One Show, featured a storyline in Easterenders about a young person becoming a barefeeter and had Schula in the Archers becoming a barefeeter...

    Nick Robinson would say: "We're not telling people to go barefoot. Far from it. In fact we've interviewed people who say we shouldn't go barefoot."

    1. There would be lots of questions;

      "Should I go barefoot?"

      "Will we all be going barefoot by 2030?"

      There will stories popping up under science and technology:

      "Scientists: We need to go barefoot by 2025"

      There will be Twitter storms:

      "Mogg accused of 'podism' for calling barefootism' a 'step back' "

      There will be human interest pieces:

      "The Barefoot Rapper's Chart Feat"

      There will be CBBC cartoons explaining why barefootism is natural and healthy.

      And still Nick Robinson will deny the BBC is telling anyone to go barefoot because they had one hostile interview with an opponent of barefootism 2 years ago.

    2. Excellent. You know your BBC so well, as does Charles Moore, which is why the BBC has no answer to this. Mr Robinson can fume and fuss all he likes: it's irrefutable so he just ends up looking like a flimsy man of straw.

    3. Wonderful.

      And this:

      Stormzy announces he will go barefoot when he delivers next year's Reith Lecture...

  4. The Ridley-associated Foundation has a former BBC Science Correspondent on their academic council -
    'David Whitehouse, who has a doctorate in astrophysics, was successively BBC Science Correspondent and Science Editor BBC News Online. He is the author of a number of books on solar system astronomy and the history of astronomy.'

  5. Ivan Ready-Deal29 December 2019 at 11:57

    Interesting this should coincide with one of those awesome BBC context-lite 'quote' headlines.

  6. Harrabin wrote this in August - he made the UN case for not eating meat without challenging any of the claims.

    The BBC also broadcast this BBC One programme recently - “I’ve eaten meat my whole life, but the more I learn about our planet, the more I question how we treat it”, says Liz Bonnin at the start of new BBC One documentary Meat: A Threat To Our Planet?.


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