Tuesday, April 9th 2013, 11:03 AM EDT
Greenwashing Thatcher's history does an injustice both to her and to science and technology policy
We've been running a series of essays on scientific advice recently (e.g. yesterday's piece by Shelia Jasanoff). It's on a break today, but here's something on a related issue.
Margaret Thatcher is often celebrated for her leadership on the issue of climate change. Read, if you haven't already, her 1989 speech to the UN for example. Or the 1988 one to the Royal Society. Or to the 2nd World Climate Conference in 1990. You might be surprised.
The image of Thatcher the global environmental leader jars with some of the patterns of right wing politics we are more familiar with today. Indeed, it suits particular ends of environmentalism to wave this particularly green-tinged blue card around. But Thatcher has long been a flexible cultural image, and in recent years was occasionally used as an icon for climate sceptics too. See, for example, these June 2010 pieces by Lord Monckton writing for the Watts up With That blog and Christopher Booker in the Telegraph.
Bob Ward argued at the time that Monckton seems to have a slightly selective memory about quite how much scientific advice he'd been giving Thatcher. Ward is also keen to note that although Thatcher's 2003 book Statecraft does appear to show more sympathy with the climate sceptic cause, she also seemed to be drawing on the advice of US right-wing "think tanks" he was rather suspicious of.
Looking back at the 1989 speech in 2005, George Monbiot wrote that it's striking how well informed she was in those late 80s speeches, and we probably have her adviser Sir Crispin Tickell to credit for this. According to Tickell himself he regularly gave her advice on environmental issues from 1984 onwards, helped write that speech to the Royal Society in 1988 and accompanied her to that 1990 World Climate Conference. He worked in a similar capacity with both Major and Blair.
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