‘Time to Reset the Climate Change Debate’: Philipp Lengsfeld

  • Date: 20/04/18
  • William Powell, Natural Gas World

The proper boundaries between industry, politics and science have become blurred, preventing a rational debate about energy policy and climate change, according to a scientist and former German member of parliament Philipp Lengsfeld. The public, whose interests they would normally serve, therefore instead finds itself caught in the middle, passive not active.

Dr Philipp Lengsfeld and Lord Lawson, House of Lords, 18 April 2018

The old distinctions have been eroded as lobby groups and special-interest non-governmental organisations have become too influential. The result is a toxic mix of claim and counter-claim tinged with a religious aura and fear that the climate is irreversibly damaged, as floods, droughts and hurricanes dominate the front pages.

Addressing an audience at the Palace of Westminster, London, April 18, Lengsfeld, the former Christian Democrat Union MP for Central Berlin but now in industry, said that there was a “huge moral and political authority behind the scares: the prospects are bleak and surrender is not an option.” But he said it was time to call the bluff of the prophets of doom. “Man is not evil by nature, needing to be educated by an enlightened elite,” he said. “Climates were never constant, and the concepts underlying the mean temperatures needed challenging,” he said.

It was an economist who came up with the 1.5°C limit on acceptable global warming, which was intended as a target for a political discussion; but that has become now an accepted scientific law, he said. That acceptance is behind the Paris Agreement; behind the vast amounts of money spent on decarbonising – “although carbon dioxide means life” – and also behind the notion that oil companies will not be able to produce all their reserves without raising the temperature of the earth and causing irreparable damage. […]

His solution to the heavily polarised argument was for the three spheres of life to co-operate in an arms-length and mutually respectful relationship. Scientific data should be robust and reproducible but never treated as Gospel. It must be checked, challenged and criticised, he said, rather than a self-fulfilling prophecy: “We have policy-driven evidence-finding.”

The event was organised by the Global Warming Policy Foundation, whose director, Benny Peiser, introduced Lengsfeld by quoting approvingly the remarks from Germany’s economy and energy minister Peter Altmaier. Altmaier had told an energy conference in Berlin April 17 that Germany would not phase out coal soon; that subsidies for renewable energy had to stop; and the Energiewende would fail unless it were global. Peiser said the CDU politician was repeating the arguments of Lengsfeld, presented in a paper a year ago.

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