Was Margaret Thatcher the first climate sceptic?

From the Telegraph

Margaret Thatcher was the first leader to warn of global warming – but also the first to see the flaws in the climate change orthodoxy.

Pointing out the problems: Lady Thatcher's 'Statecraft' highlighted the flaws in the climate change orthodoxy Photo: AFP/GETTY

A persistent claim made by believers in man-made global warming – they were at it again last week – is that no politician was more influential in launching the worldwide alarm over climate change than Margaret Thatcher. David Cameron, so the argument runs, is simply following in her footsteps by committing the Tory party to its present belief in the dangers of global warming, and thus showing himself in this respect, if few others, to be a loyal Thatcherite.Certainly, Mrs Thatcher was the first world leader to voice alarm over global warming, back in 1988, With her scientific background, she had fallen under the spell of Sir Crispin Tickell, then our man at the UN. In the 1970s, he had written a book warning that the world was cooling, but he had since become an ardent convert to the belief that it was warming, Under his influence, as she recorded in her memoirs, she made a series of speeches, in Britain and to world bodies, calling for urgent international action, and citing evidence given to the US Senate by the arch-alarmist Jim Hansen, head of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

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Eventually we’ll have the emails of those who did promote this science/policy teratosaur. It may be through dissection of the fossilized remains of it, though.


Where I come from Margaret Thatcher is a HATE figure, despised by millions.
This woman destroyed large swathes of industry, individual people and whole communities.
The fact she bought into Global Warming is no surprise and should come as no surprise.
Her son is a convicted gun runner.

Bruce Cobb

This is great to hear. I’ve wondered what her views were now on CAGW/CC. She really should apologize, though, for being a key player in unleashing the horror of the Warmist ideology on the world. It is not a good legacy to have.


Margaret Thatcher – a conviction politician willing to call it as she sees it. Whatever happened to those?


Thatcher was out to destroy the coal mining industry and replace coal fired power generation with nuclear. She was also looking to make her mark upon the world stage. Step forth Sir Crispen Tickle who came up with the cunning plan of using global warming as the issue for Thatcher to tout on the world stage whilst at the same time using it as the rationale to take the axe to the coal industry. Let this be an example of how actions that are brilliant tactically, can become strategic catastrophe’s.

Stephen Wilde

“This woman destroyed large swathes of industry, individual people and whole communities.”
Er no. She saved the taxpayer from the tyranny of an overpowerful greedy and ruthless union juggernaught with openly Marxist political preferences.
Loss making state owned industries had to be reorganised to avoid national bankruptcy. No one was ‘destroyed’ but many were displaced in terms of their working environments.


Thatcher, Thatcher, school-milk snatcher.

Many years ago, I worked at the research facility of a firm called BX plastics. There were three lady scientists, two of whom were lots of fun, and the other, Margaret Roberts, was only interested in politics. This was about 60 years ago, and I cannot actually recall anything about Ms. Roberts; but she became Maggie Thatcher.

Brilliant woman,most likely one of the greatest politicians of the last 100 years. What a pity she did not a fully nuclear power industry going, that would have been a magnificent legacy

Peter Miller

In the UK, Thatcher is seen as either a saint or a demon.
Personally, I think she was a saint, who saved Britain from socialism and economic collapse. In the latter half of the 1970s, before she came to power, Britain was an inefficient ugly place mostly populated by bolshie individuals and ruled by the unions.
15% of Britain’s heavy industry used plant and equipment built before the First World War, so it is not surprising it failed. Over-manning and restrictive work practices resulted in the demise of much of Britain’s industrial base, not Thatcher’s economic policies.
Britain, after ten years of Thatcher, was almost unrecognisable and a very much better place in which to live or visit.
So, even a saint can make a mistake – she did in believing in AGW; however she, like many of today’s readers of WUWT, eventually saw the light and correctly denounced her previous beliefs as being BS.

Colin Porter

I was a great admirer of Margaret Thatcher until I discovered her contribution to the Global Warming Scam and worked out her back scratching antics with the MET Office and Hadley Centre. Whilst I applauded her efforts to secure the industrial security of the country in putting the miners in their place and attempting to encourage the building of more nuclear capacity, it really was not necessary to have promoted the concept of global warming just in order to achieve her political goals against the miners as she was destined to achieve it with labour legislation anyway.
It comes as little benefit that she now seems to have reversed her opinions as detailed in her book as this is now only just coming to light. Far better that she would have announced it with a fanfare. In 2003 she would have been listened to. In 2010 she will be just dismissed as a silly old f**t.
At least her motives seemed honourable at the time, which you could not say for the new Tory encumbent of the office. David Cameron appears to have the intelligence to understand the principals and politics of climate science should he have chosen to and had a great opportunity to mitigate what Thatcher had done in promoting the cause by calling for a complete and unbiased review of the science, especially in light of the evidence of the Climategate emailes which emanated mainly from our shores. Just as Thatcher had needed an excuse to start the crisis, this was an opportunity for Cameron to end it, but what did he do? He gave the job of Energy & Climate Change Secretary to Chris Hune, the most overtly warmist member of the Cabinet who now wants to impose an electricity generating target of 40% renewables by 2020 and vehemently opposes nuclear power. Cameron could have gone down in history as the world leader who exposed the scam and helped save western industry from an even greater decline from crippling energy costs. Instead, he will be remembered as yet another corrupt politician who helped line his own pocket with spin offs from the climate change industry. Besides the usual after public office offers, such as board appointments for green energy companies or carbon traders, climate change advisors, paid lecture tours etc., both David Cameron and his coalition deputy Nick Clegg have a direct interest in the renewables industry. David Cameron’s father in law has a windfarm with eight giant turbines earning a nice little profit from the tax and electricity bill payer with applications in for two more sites. Nick Clegg’s wife is director of an energy company presently applying for permission to build another 23 turbines in a massive development in Wales. This is the sleeze that David Cameron and his unholy bed partners will be remembered for.
And as a last and favourable comment to our Margaret Thatcher, would she have allowed your Mr Obama to walk all over our last major global company BP with unreasonable and unhelpful condemnation and threats and interference in the company? No! She would have clouted Obama around his head with her handbag. Good on you Maggie. With all your faults, you are still worth at least ten of Cameron, Clegg, Brown Blair and Obama put together. But I still can’t forgive you for your contribution to climate science, no matter how honourable the reasons seemed at the time.

Old Goat

Thatcher, Thatcher, Dave can’t catch her –
Compared with that powerful, forceful woman, the current lot are a bunch of wimps and toadies. She didn’t kill the mining industry, the unions made a pretty good fist of that thmeselves. Home produced coal became so expensive, and the supplies to power stations so erratic depending on the whim of the unions, it wasn’t worth prolonging the death throes of the industry any further. Commie b*sta*ds like Scargill helped destroy the coal industry, and the unions also destroyed the docks. people have short memories. For me, Thatcher was the epitome of how a PM SHOULD be. I wouldn’t give you tuppence for the demi-mediocre bunch at the helm now. THEY are about to destroy the economy and hammer the final nails into the coffin of industry.

Robert Morris

Note to the mod team, you might find it better to snip the political re-hashes that are likely to appear – retrospectives of the Thatcher Years tend to come in two distinct flavors that are irreconcilable. I believe that Anthony has a preference for not allowing overt political positions to dominate his blog, and believe me, two decades and more since her day, she’s still a very hot political subject for many in the UK.


“Mac says:
June 14, 2010 at 4:43 am
Where I come from Margaret Thatcher is a HATE figure, despised by millions.
This woman destroyed large swathes of industry, individual people and whole communities.
The fact she bought into Global Warming is no surprise and should come as no surprise.
Her son is a convicted gun runner.”
Where I come from in the UK she is not a hate figure. Far from it, I rather wish she still had all her marbles and could continue to run this country after the mess the last lot have left it in. She sorted that lunatic, Arthur Scargill, who was hell bent on destroying the Government and, as a result, he destroyed the coal industry with his far left policies.
I don’t see the relevence at all of the comment about Mrs T buying into Global Warming. As a scientist, I imagine she could see the benefit of researching into the suggestion to establish whether there was any “truth” in it. The fact that the “truth” has become distorted along the way can hardly be laid at her door. I am sure she would have handbagged the scientists by now if she’d still been around.
As for her son being a convicted gun-runner, get a life! We all have a black sheep in the family somewhere, don’t we? I know I do, but it doesn’t make me a bad person because of it.
But there we are, no-one is ever lukewarm about Thatcher; you either love her or hate her. I could never understand how the very left wing friends I had could hate her so much. I do now though, as I feel exactly the same way about Blair and Brown and the mess they got this country into, despite them blaming it all on starting in USA – is Obama getting his own back now, blaming everything on “British” Petroleum in the Gulf?

Edward Bancroft

“Thatcher, Thatcher, school-milk snatcher.”
Whilst this is not relevant to the AGW discussion, it was the Labour (socialist) government that first abolished free school milk for secondary schools (age 11-16). Margaret Thatcher subsequently removed this for 7-10 year olds.
Hope this helps explain the comment to non-UK readers.


Funny how people view the same thing differently. The UK Unions are still rabid about the loss of their territory. The fact that after Thatcher, the UK was, for a short time, the EU powerhouse is forgotten.
The sad fact is that there are some who think the masses are disorganized and incompetent – the natural state of man in their eyes, while at the same time, they believe in the power of Government – run by a limited number of increasingly incompetent people. Of course they don’t think they’re incompetent, they can never see the forest for the trees.

Henry chance

Most of us were sceptics when it was first called global warming. No one is a climate sceptic that I have ever met. Some claim to be climate change sceptics.
Common sense is not very common.

Doug in Seattle

Mac says:
June 14, 2010 at 4:43 am
Where I come from Margaret Thatcher is a HATE figure, despised by millions.

More tolerance from the left.

I thought she believed this would be a good argument for promotion of Nuclear Power.


you should be aware that in the UK Mrs Thatcher is very much like Marmite
there is no (absolutely none) middle ground.

Cassandra King

Mac said?
Er I think you labour under some pretty big misaprehensions. By 1980 UK industry was dead on its feet ruined and wholly uncompetitive under the choking boot of Marxist bully unions who actively sought the destruction of the companies they worked for.
While British Leyland was making the morris marina/allegro/maxi the Japanese were making cars that people actually wanted to buy and knew they wouldnt a)rust away/b)break down/c)have the build quality of a soviet toilet.
You see while the labour unions were busy over sleeping night shift workers losing thier sleep breaks and walking out on strike because the management asked them if they could possibly make products that didnt break down the Japanese were re tooling and using modern methods of working and manufacture to produce quality goods.
The biggest trick the left ever pulled is to blame their own destruction of UK industry onto Maggie Thatcher, all the sins of the union baron bullies heaped onto the one person who tried to piece together the wreckage of the 60s and 70s.
If it were not for the union bullies the UK would still have a massive industry base, please do some research on the union industrial sabotage of the decades before Thatcher took power and you find many union bosses taking orders from the USSR.

Stephen Wilde

The union leader Jack Jones was prominent at the time and his close Soviet connections came to the fore recently but there has been surprisingly little said about it. He was not the only one.

James Sexton

I’m really glad to see someone finally setting the story straight. I don’t know about the rest of the people here, but every time I read or here about M. Thatcher, I can’t help but recall the “other side of the same coin”, R. Reagan. And then I wonder when are their replacements going to get here?
A couple of apt quotes from both……From Dutch, “Government does not solve problems; it subsidizes them.”—-Ronald Reagan (We are today subsidizing climate alarmism.)
And from the Iron Lady, “There are still people in my party who believe in consensus politics. I regard them as Quislings,….” —— Margaret Thatcher (How much more would she loath consensus science?)
While the two still polarize, and they weren’t perfect by any means, if two existed today and in the recent past, with like qualities and were in office, I dare say there wouldn’t be a need for websites such as this. Those two would have made the alarmists, history revisionists and tricksters subject of ridicule and scorn.

Bruce Cobb

Peter Miller says:
June 14, 2010 at 6:18 am
even a saint can make a mistake – she did in believing in AGW; however she, like many of today’s readers of WUWT, eventually saw the light and correctly denounced her previous beliefs as being BS.
You can’t really make the comparison between the leader of a nation and readers of a blog. She was in a position of power, and pushed something she should not have, for political reasons. Yes, she deserves credit for denouncing her previous position, but that doesn’t relieve her of her responsibility for the enormous damage she caused.
Many of us simply believed the MSM, as we weren’t even aware there was another side. It was only when I heard that “the debate is over” that I thought, “wait a minute, there was a debate?” “How’d I miss that?”

James Sexton

biddyb says: “As for her son being a convicted gun-runner, get a life!”
Yeh, but, that would have made her smile. “I always cheer up immensely if an attack is particularly wounding because I think, well, if they attack one personally, it means they have not a single political argument left.”——Margaret Thatcher


It seems that Mrs. T. did change her mind, (remember “The lady’s not for turning”?)but I feel that the comments here have become slightly political.


Ironically, as Mac above would attest, the NE pits (here) were closed by her for so-called “environmental” reasons. The recent Redcar (Tees steel plant) moth-balling had a new twist, however, with carbon subsidies in the billions (£) going to the TATA corp. for the pleasure of providing mass regional unemployment (700 Tees jobs directly, probably thousands more indirectly). Obviously, this is not a party-line problem, as the recent (3 mos. ago) voting down of a much-needed coal-fired plant by the Scottish Parliament shows. Cheap energy and jobs for regular people are not a priority with governments these days (USA incl.).


From the Telegraph article:
She mocked Al Gore and the futility of “costly and economically damaging” schemes to reduce CO2 emissions. She cited the 2.5C rise in temperatures during the Medieval Warm Period as having had almost entirely beneficial effects. She pointed out that the dangers of a world getting colder are far worse than those of a CO2-enriched world growing warmer. She recognised how distortions of the science had been used to mask an anti-capitalist, Left-wing political agenda which posed a serious threat to the progress and prosperity of mankind.
A trick of the right which became a dreadful trick of the left. The gallant ship of old UK sinking, due to an unintended “trick”.


It is interesting when you look back at it.
At the time Thatcher used AGW as an argument to shut down coal-plants.
But her real agenda was to get rid of the Marxist Unions crippling the U.K.
Hidden agendas are never nice. Especially if you have to lie.
What is the hidden agenda today?
For Norway? Such a big producer of fossil fuels?
In fact I think you can call the Norwegian system “Fossil Fueled Socialism”.
So why do the “Goose Liver Socialists” in Norway try to remove the economic base of their system? They are not.
They want other countries to move over to natural gas.
Because we have a lot of that too. And oil is dwindling, they believe.
(Despite everyones belief in that NOW we will soon reach peak oil, the
reserves seem to increase, and increase, and increase….)
And, we can use oil-money to build windfarms (and other installations) for the UK and other countries, they imagine. (and doing it, right now)
And if you are rewarded with a top-job in the UN, who cares?
Pure egoism, in other words. Which is as it should be.
But the dishonesty, and the hypocracy makes me sick.


There was nothing ever saintly about Margaret Thatcher. This was a person who didn’t believe in ‘society’.
She stole peoples’ jobs, she stole peoples’ futures, she even stole milk from children.
She gave us the Little Englander mentality, she gave us the Benefit Culture, she gave us the Poll Tax, she gaves us New Labour.
We had socialism for the rich, unfettered capitalism for the rest of us.


Was Margaret Thatcher the first climate sceptic?

“In the year the IPCC was formed under the shelter of the UN (1988), and a year before Margaret Thatcher gave the IPCC her blessing, Daly was writing a scathing book on what he called the myths and politics of the Co2 scare campaign. ”

Global Warming: How It All Began
by Richard Courtney


Germany makes things. France makes things, Italy makes things, Ireland makes things, even little Andorra make things – the UK, the place that gave the world industrialism, makes nowt.

Jimmy Haigh

Vincent says:
June 14, 2010 at 5:14 am
“….Let this be an example of how actions that are brilliant tactically, can become strategic catastrophe’s.”
Sorry, but that is a catastrophic apostrophe…


Robert Morris says:
June 14, 2010 at 6:21 am
“Note to the mod team, you might find it better to snip the political re-hashes that are likely to appear”
AGW is all about politics


John Daly’s book was entitled:
The Greenhouse Trap— Why the greenhouse effect will not end life on earth. published in 1989 – Bantam Books
ISBN-10: 0947189777
ISBN-13: 978-0947189778


I was there and it was horrible.
Then along came Mrs T who saved Britain from a Marxist catastrophe.
She would have been briefed on GW by trusted underlings and got on with politics.
However I doubt she would have tolerated the continuance of this farce after Climategate.


Given the political and scientific environment of the era, I certainly don’t blame PM Thatcher for encouraging research into AGW, or ACC, or whatever it is today.
In fact, I think it was completely correct. We had just gone from a decade of “next ice age” drum beating to a new belief in “warming”. To completely ignore it would have been wrong (It’s sad that science-oriented people can’t recognize a simple sine wave when they see one).
Back in the day, we had Thatcher, Reagan, and Mulroney. To this day we have people doing their best to smear and destroy the memories and achievements of all three. Together they helped orchestrate the fall of the Soviet Union, and dragged the first world back into a fleeting recognition of leadership. Then, as now, anything in a positive direction is fought bitterly by socialist and otherwise misguided forces.
Regarding the Iron Lady, a verse from Pink Floyd’s hate filled screed against her:

She stands upon Southampton dock
With her handkerchief
And her summer frock clings
To her wet body in the rain.
In quiet desperation knuckles
White upon the slippery reins
She bravely waves the boys Goodbye again.

Patrick Davis

“Stephen Wilde says:
Er no. She saved the taxpayer from the tyranny of an overpowerful greedy and ruthless union juggernaught with openly Marxist political preferences.
Loss making state owned industries had to be reorganised to avoid national bankruptcy. No one was ‘destroyed’ but many were displaced in terms of their working environments.”
She also enabled several car mfgs, like Honda and Nissan, to open plants at taxpayers expense (To keep them in the UK, and taxpayers are STILL paying that “debt”). Nothing like balance, eh? Arthur Scargill would be proud!


The article does not quote from Thatcher’s book Statecraft, so I have no idea if the Telegraph is representing her accurately. However, the point in citing Thatcher’s U.N. speech is not that people should believe AGW is real because Thatcher does, but to underscore that the climate science behind AGw is not a left wing conspiracy.

Tom in Texas

The Iron Lady

Patrick Davis

“Cassandra King says:
June 14, 2010 at 7:34 am ”
BL and Lucas, “Great” British motoring icons. I recall driving past a “Triumph” plant, with car bodies out in the open rusting, and they were used in production. I’ve been to the Ford Transit plant at Eastleigh, Southampton, and they are pretty good. All mfgs these days use Japanese mfgs techniques anyway.


Thatcher’s 1989 U.N. speech can be found here:
But I also found this from a 1991 speech she gave in Japan:
It is only in recent years that we have begun to understand how seriously we have together upset the balance of nature. Acid rain, the threat to the ozone layer, global warming—these are problems which have to be overcome by international cooperation. And never has the international community worked together more closely than in meeting the threat to our global environment.
But the point I would most like to make to you today is that sound science, not sentimentality, must be the basis of our approach. And the system best able to develop that science, most willing to apply it and best able to generate the wealth required to pay for it is free enterprise. Green socialism is no more an answer to the world’s environmental needs than was the smoke-stack socialism of Eastern Europe which poisoned our rivers, disfigured our buildings and rotted our forests.



Mrs Thatcher also employed Nigel Lawson as her Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was a good Chancellor and has since become a rational thinker on things climatic. His book “An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming” is well worth reading.

Patrick Davis

“XmetUK says:
June 14, 2010 at 10:42 am
Mrs Thatcher also employed Nigel Lawson as her Chancellor of the Exchequer. He was a good Chancellor and has since become a rational thinker on things climatic. His book “An Appeal to Reason: A Cool Look at Global Warming” is well worth reading.”
Recall the “spitting image” images of the time? He was a idiot!

Mac says:
June 14, 2010 at 4:43 am
Her son is a convicted gun runner.

And all round village idiot.

Paul Birch

What evidence is there that Maggie Thatcher ever “believed” in AGW?
Thirty years ago, when Maggie Thatcher came to power and (probably coincidentally) the theory of AGW took over from the Coming Ice Age theory, AGW could be seen for a short time as a genuine scientific hypothesis; on examination, though, it was quickly disproved (the computer models were GIGO, failing even to retrodict the climate for the previous century, and producing predictions that rapidly deviated from actuality; over the previous century industrial production of CO2 did not correlate with temperature as the theory required, and if anything the correlation was in the opposite direction, with temperatures falling when production boomed and rising when production stagnated; over longer periods CO2 lagged temperature; and calculations of the basic physics and planetary science showed that the greenhouse forcing could not possibly be anything like as large as claimed) . It ceased to be science and became a left-wing environmentalist ideology. That was my scientific judgement then as now. But for the most part I was an ardent supporter of Maggie Thatcher’s policies. So had she made a point of publicly promoting this ideology I think I would have noticed – and been rather upset by it.
I’ve read some of the speeches that are alleged to show her support for AGW. They do nothing of the sort. They show her making the sort of wishy-washy nod to environmentalism that even the greatest statesmen seem unable to resist (let alone the run of the mill politician); and she acknowledges that some people have claimed that anthropogenic production of greenhouse gases might cause substantial global temperature rises ; but she is very carefulnot to say that she “believes” it, or to refer to it as anything other than a theory or possibility to be checked out. She strongly promotes scientific research to find out more. She most definitely does not promote action in advance of (or defiance of) scientific evidence.
So, unless someone can point to other speeches in which she says something else, or other hard evidence, I remain unconvinced that Maggie Thatcher was ever an AGW believer. Remember that “politics makes strange bedfellows”. Sometimes one will find oneself in alliance with factions and causes with which one has little common ground, and for which one has little true sympathy. I suspect that this is the case with Maggie Thatcher and AGW.

What does Lord Monckton have to say about this, having been science adviser to The Iron Lady?

Mike Taylor

I too, like many who have little time to dig deeper than the national press trash fed to us every day, fell for the AGW scam in its early days. I too, like Maggie, am a scientist. When I finally started to read into the real science, I was shocked and embarrassed into doing a U-turn (this makes me laugh as Maggie once famously said – “…the Lady’s not for turning…”). Fellow-PhD scientists, like myself have poured scorn on me, claiming that AGW is the “consensus” of 2,500 “scientists”. It was these type of comments that made me look into the truth – and now I am firmly of the view that anyone still believing in the scam of anthropogenic global warming has gone from gullible to just plain stupid – and there are unfortunately many PhD’s in this category. There is probably a long list of folk with science training that have been initially taken in by the scam, until they find the time to seek the truth behind the myth – the only thing man-made about climate change is the hoax itself. I join the ranks of David Bellamy, Maggie et al in hopefully having saved my face when the wheels finally come off this scam.

Rob Potter

As noted previously, Margaret Thatcher saw in AGW a way to garner international support for her purely UK plans to diversify energy production (it was going to be expensive to switch from coal-fired power stations, so she wanted other countries to “buy” into the same approach so Britain would not suffer economically). The fact that this tactic was enthusiastically taken up by the left to promote supra-national regulation and global governance was the unanticipated outcome.
The AGW meme was also taken up by a much broader group who simply believed that humans were over-using resources. Once again, a promising tactic (to encourage efficient use of these resources) has instead become a major weapon for, essentially, Malthusians who go much further and actively promote fewer people on the planet. There is a whole field now of “de-development economics” which has sprung up to give legitimacy to groups such as the Optimum Polulation Trust as this field tries to get away from the stigma of the first half the 20th century.
I don’t often link to piece here, but a report from Brendan O’Neil at Spiked is worth a read:
My journey as supporter of AGW began as seeing the need for increased investment in efficiency, but as a natural skeptic as well as an observer of human ingenuity I quickly moved on to an understanding that humans can – and will – deal with everything the planet and solar system can throw at us, providing we don’t cripple oursleves financially.
Nigel Lawson, one of the more astute Chancellors of the Exchequor (finance ministers) of the 20th century and the architect of much of the financial improvements seen under Thatcher, has shown this quite clearly. Even the absurdly inflated potential costs of climate change calculated in the Stern Review are actually less than the costs of the proposed mechanisms to prevent them. Even without debating potential human causes to climate change, mitigation as an approach is a complete non-starter.
Human beings have done a fabulous job over the last hundred or so years in providing a comfortable life for quite a few billion people. That we still have much to do for the other one or two billion still living in poverty is not to be denied, but to do that we need to move forward, not back.


Thatcher is a hate figure to the large section of Britain’s population whose model of the state is a giant mother pig lying on its side, and for whom citizens are millions of piglets fighting for a nipple to suck.
Beats working.