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DOMINIC LAWSON: Free speech, fake science – and why we must take the fight to the climate zealots

September 8, 2020

By Paul Homewood


After months of Extinction Rebellion ruining ordinary people’s lives, the press now seem to have woken to reality, following XR’s siege on them!



As I write this column, I do so without knowing if all those who regularly purchase the Daily Mail from their newsagents will be allowed to buy the edition in which it appears.

That infringement of their — your — liberty is the purpose of Extinction Rebellion, a small-ish but increasingly influential group of middle-class climate change protesters who want to silence anyone or any organisation that doesn’t share their hysterical view that the planet and its inhabitants will fry to fossil-fuelled extinction within a decade or two unless we return immediately to a form of pre-industrial subsistence.

That, ostensibly, is why they had been blockading the print sites of most of our national newspapers.

Their belief is not based on science but is quasi-religious: they regard any provider of information which does not conform to their strictures as wicked and to be silenced (if they refuse to be converted), rather in the same way that the Spanish Inquisition treated heretics.

Extinction Rebellion are pictured blockading Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on Friday night using vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to try to prevent newspapers from reaching newsstands on Saturday

Extinction Rebellion are pictured blockading Newsprinters in Broxbourne, Hertfordshire, on Friday night using vehicles and bamboo lock-ons to try to prevent newspapers from reaching newsstands on Saturday

One of its founders and still an active member, Roger Hallam, went even further, declaring that ‘maybe we should put a bullet in the head’ as ‘punishment’ for those he deems responsible for this alleged impending planetary extinction.

Although it was the bulk of the newspaper industry that his group has been attempting to intimidate and shut down this weekend, last year it tried something similar with the BBC, massing outside New Broadcasting House, preventing many of the corporation’s journalists from getting in, while holding up banners with the slogan ‘BBC, your silence is deadly’.

In fact it is Extinction Rebellion which wishes to silence voices it disapproves of; and it was almost comical that it should have targeted the national broadcaster, which has itself taken the decision not to allow airtime to anyone who questions the idea that man-made climate change is the biggest global threat to human health (although the coronavirus pandemic might have caused some inside that organisation to wonder belatedly whether in fact disease might be the true villain).

Sir David Attenborough, still vigorous well into his 90s, is the cutting edge of that BBC campaign. He has declared that ‘we cannot be radical enough’ in our policies to reduce CO2 emissions.

It is even more fabulously ironic that the issue of The Sun newspaper which the Extinction Rebellion blockaders on Friday night fought to prevent reaching the public contained an adoring interview with Sir David about ‘the climate crisis’.

In it, he told his interviewer: ‘We are damaging the environment just by sitting here breathing. The carbon dioxide going out of this window as a consequence of meeting here is quite significant.’

I would have been tempted to reply: ‘Don’t be silly, Sir David; it isn’t.’ But the nation’s favourite presenter of once ideology-free wildlife documentaries was, as always, treated with uncritical deference.

In a way, the same unwillingness to debate has been both the media’s — and the politicians’ — approach to Extinction Rebellion and its spiritual leader, the precocious Swede Greta Thunberg.

Yes, the Press is now defending itself robustly against XR’s physical attempts to silence it, yet there has been a peculiar reluctance to challenge the protest group’s claims forensically. Peculiar, because it is not just that their methods are objectionable: so are their arguments.

Perhaps the only time this happened (at least on the BBC) was when Andrew Neil, during XR’s tedious onslaught last year on those attempting to get to work in London, interviewed the movement’s then spokeswoman, Zion Lights.

Neil asked her to give the scientific basis for her claims that ‘our children are going to die in the next ten to 20 years’. After some confused waffle, she responded: ‘The overall issue is that the deaths are going to happen’ — which did not get us much further.

She seemed even more at a loss when Neil responded to her insistence that ‘billions of people will die [as a result of climate change] over the next few decades’: ‘I looked through the report of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] and there is no reference to anything of the sort.’

Alas, the BBC have since parted company with Mr Neil, whose critical approach to this matter is not their house style.

As for Ms Lights, she has since left XR … to become an advocate of nuclear power.


In a brave article, she said that she had become aware that this country (or any other developed nation) could not abandon fossil fuels and still keep the lights on without rapid development of nuclear power — the only reliable way of mass-producing energy without emitting CO2.

No amount of wind or solar energy installations can produce energy 24 hours a day, or in absolutely reliable quantities: they are inherently intermittent in their production.

As the late chief scientific adviser to the Government, Professor Sir David MacKay, said a week before he died in 2016: ‘Because my time is thinner and thinner, I should call a spade a spade…

‘There is this appalling delusion people have that we can take this thing [renewables] and we can just scale it up, and if there is a slight issue of it not adding up, then we can just do energy efficiency. Humanity really does need to pay attention to arithmetic and the laws of physics.’

Yet the XR lot regard nuclear power as satanic, not just because of its former connection with weapons production, but also because they shun anything which doesn’t seem to them ‘natural’.

It seems they would rather mankind died of hunger naturally, than prospered through technological and industrial processes. Or, rather, they take prosperity for granted, without understanding how it was created (perhaps because the great majority of them seem to come from homes which have never known poverty).

Yet our politicians seem cut from the same cloth. When Greta Thunberg came to the UK in April last year, they queued up to praise her and her arguments, which are indistinguishable from those of XR.

Speaking alongside her in parliament, the then Environment Secretary Michael Gove said: ‘We have not done nearly enough. Greta, you have been heard.’


Indeed, two months later, the Government legislated to make the UK ‘net zero carbon by 2050’ — admittedly 25 years later than XR’s impossible demand. But it had no idea how much this would cost, or how it would be done.

When Greta Thunberg (second from right) came to the UK in April last year, politicians including Michael Gove (far left) queued up to praise her and her arguments, which are indistinguishable from those of XR

When Greta Thunberg (second from right) came to the UK in April last year, politicians including Michael Gove (far left) queued up to praise her and her arguments, which are indistinguishable from those of XR

The New Zealand government did carry out such an exercise, and concluded that to achieve ‘net zero’ by 2050 would cost 16 per cent of GDP annually. This would equate to £560 billion a year if applied to the UK — equivalent to almost three-quarters of all public expenditure.

Yet this legislation was passed without even a debate, let alone a vote in the House of Commons: it was enacted through a statutory instrument. This could only happen because the overwhelming majority of MPs are too scared to be seen as so-called ‘climate change deniers’.

And they absolutely refuse to engage with such rigorous thinkers as Bjorn Lomborg, the president of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre think-tank, or Michael Shellenberger (named as a ‘hero of the environment’ by Time Magazine in 2008), both of whom argue that grotesquely excessive resources are being ineffectually dedicated to ‘preventing’ climate change.

So Bjorn Lomborg’s latest book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts The Poor, And Fails To Fix The Planet, has been almost entirely ignored in the British media (forget about any BBC interviews with Lomborg).

And I believe the Daily Mail is the only British newspaper which has given much space to Shellenberger’s new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All — perhaps the most pertinent of his points being that to move to 100 per cent renewables ‘would require increasing the proportion of land used for energy from today’s 0.5 per cent to 50 per cent’.

The fact that the British political establishment — and the bulk of the media — have ceased even to engage in this debate, on an intellectual level, has left the ground free for Extinction Rebellion to occupy. Really, they didn’t need to try to silence the Press. The intimidation and groupthink has done its work quite thoroughly already.



To be fair to Dominic Lawson, he has been one of the few journalists to show some criticism towards the obsession with climate.

But it appears others, who have kowtowed to Greta in the past, are finally waking up to the madness.

  1. Christoher Badcock permalink
    September 8, 2020 11:27 am

    Dear Louis,

    Thanks for this, and for the lovely photo of Adeline.

    Thanks also for the invitation. Unfortunately, we have arranged to see James that day. Could we make it some other?

    Finally, thanks also for the Moonfleet link. It looks very nice, and we are thinking of making a booking.

    Love to you and to Adeline on her first day, Dad XXX


    • September 8, 2020 12:01 pm

      Errrr, Christopher…. Did you send your comment on XR to Louis?

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      September 8, 2020 12:13 pm

      If that’s the Moonfleet Manor Hotel, its terrific. Book it!

  2. Geoff B permalink
    September 8, 2020 11:29 am

    give (one) enough rope
    If you give people the opportunity to do something wrong or detrimental to themselves, they will usually do it; one does not need to interfere to bring about someone’s downfall. The full version is, “Give (one) enough rope, and (one) will hang (one)self.

    enough said…

  3. September 8, 2020 11:36 am

    He comes from a good pedigree.

  4. Ian Phillips permalink
    September 8, 2020 11:40 am

    We are part way through reading Shellenberger’s book. Very enlightening on the history of how “conservation” has caused huge problems in past decades, particularly in Africa. My only concern, so far, is that he still thinks we have a CO2/AGW climate crisis. I hope I am wrong here. His promoting nuclear energy is entirely right, but does not address the alarmism and misrepresentations of the climate fanatics.
    Another individual of great integrity, Bianca Jagger, has now joined the growing chorus of objection to the XR “Exaggeration Rebellion”, and left its ranks, but she also still believes in CO2/AGW. Having met her very briefly once, I believe, however, that she could be persuaded to think again on this.
    Attenborough will carry on promoting climate alarmism until the day he dies. Did he not sell out to protect his TV programmes career? By contrast his friend David Bellamy, who refused to go along with the climate hype, was summarily sacked.

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      September 8, 2020 12:01 pm

      Its not for the sensitive, but if you are interested in conservation in Africa I would highly recommend the documentary “Trophy” directed by Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz. It lays out the arguments very well and has (I think) a very neutral viewpoint. Its not for minors – its 15 rated and should not be shown to children (or woke adults/snowflakes/millenials) who are sensitive.

    • Broadlands permalink
      September 8, 2020 1:15 pm

      Ian… “My only concern, so far, is that he still thinks we have a CO2/AGW climate crisis…”

      The only reason for anyone to believe there is a climate crisis is because of climate model projections that predict a crisis. After over 200 years of burning carbon for energy the global average temperature anomaly last year is only plus 0.75°C, lower than it was in 2016. That’s hardly evidence for a climate emergency.

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        September 8, 2020 3:55 pm

        Hi Broadlands. I tend to follow your comments which, most of the time, tend to be informative. However, I wonder if you are just trying to wind somebody up when you say: “After over 200 years of burning carbon for energy the global average temperature anomaly last year is only plus 0.75°C, lower than it was in 2016.”
        If you are using the (illiterate) short-hand for CO2, then ‘burning CO2’ is not actually possible – afaik. On the other hand burning carbon – as in coal etc, is, even if it does emit CO2.

    • Mike Jackson permalink
      September 8, 2020 9:01 pm

      I’ve just started on Lomborg’s ‘False Alarm’ and before I’m halfway through chapter 2, he’s lost me.

      In chapter 1 he says at one point:
      “Tackling global warming means limiting the rise in global temperature, or even trying to reverse that rise.”

      Early in chapter 2, writing about polar bears he offers us:
      “Polar bears survived through the last interglacial period 130,000 to 115,000 years ago, when it was significantly warmer than it is now.”

      Why should I go any further? Either a warmer climate is something that needs to be “tackled” or it is something that has happened before and which bears — and presumably humans — “survived through”.

      Am I missing something obvious here?

  5. Robert Jones permalink
    September 8, 2020 12:00 pm

    Dominic Lawson has been a steadfast realist about so-called ‘Climate Change’ and the Mail will benefit from his clear-thinking. Why doesn’t the UK’s Chief Scientist go to print in the same way?

    • Jackington permalink
      September 8, 2020 12:06 pm

      The words jobs and worth come to mind.

  6. It doesn't add up... permalink
    September 8, 2020 12:05 pm

    An interesting turn for the Mail, which had gone all Greta since George Greig took over from Paul Dacre. Of course the comments revealed that the readership hadn’t really followed.

    • Ben Vorlich permalink
      September 8, 2020 3:35 pm

      Apart from Griff and ZDB the rest seem to be in the skeptical camp.

  7. Douglas Brodie permalink
    September 8, 2020 12:39 pm

    Having wrecked the broader economy in just a few months by “following the (disputed medical) science”, maybe politicians will have the humility the admit that their slow motion wrecking of our national energy infrastructure by following the unproven, disputed climate science is equally misguided, quite apart from their supposed “solution” being technically unworkable and unaffordable in the economic ruins of Coronavirus.

  8. Peter Yarnall permalink
    September 8, 2020 12:57 pm

    Very simple. As in the Mann/Ball libel case. When an eventual court case arises, get the judge/magistrate to ask XR to provide historical data to prove their case in mitigation. I’m sure we would all like to see the basis on which our hard fought for freedoms would be curtailed.

    • Mack permalink
      September 8, 2020 1:21 pm

      Is that when they pull out a copy of Nostradamus’ finest predictions and a ouija board and start screaming ‘It’s all there, honest!’ Sounds perfectly reasonable to me. Although probably not the best way to run society.

  9. Mad Mike permalink
    September 8, 2020 1:37 pm

    I must be practically the only one, apart from XR supporters, who actually welcomed XR’s blockade. As someone said before about giving someone enough rope….. XR have now shown themselves in a true light and I think the penny has dropped with the public and politicians. XR’s ambitions have little to do with CC but are targeted on the complete over through of democracy and capitalism. We all know that here but they have really shot themselves in the foot. Whether the backlash from MSM and politicians will extend to the CC issue itself is another matter but this is certainly a crack in the solidarity that is climate alarmism.

    • A C Osborn permalink
      September 8, 2020 2:52 pm

      Exactly like the IPCC & UN, who have openly admitted it is not about the environment.

      • Broadlands permalink
        September 8, 2020 3:01 pm

        Indeed Mr. Osborn…

        “But one must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy…One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy any more.”

        —Ottmar Edenhofer, Co-chair of IPCC WG III, New American, Nov. 19, 2010

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      September 8, 2020 4:12 pm

      Personally, I would have loved to some burly great copper make a start on the bamboo scaffolding with a chainsaw, delivering the debris to a waiting skip. The bill for the clearance should then have been sent to XR – with attitude!

  10. Charles permalink
    September 8, 2020 4:26 pm

    The failure to debate is a consequence of intimidation – cowardice to confront the issue rationally, lest they be defamed like others.

    They still haven’t learned the lessons of history:

    “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile-hoping it will eat him last.”
    -Winston Churchill

    “First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out…
    …When they finally came for me, there was no one left to speak.”
    -Martin Niemoller

    • In the Real World permalink
      September 8, 2020 5:23 pm

      Charles , your NIEMOLLER quote is the one that has been tampered with by the Socialists , because it is not true .
      It was the [ National ] Socialists who were coming to take anyone away who did not agree with their 3rd Reich .

      Funny how the same thing is still happening today , where the Socialists try to put an end to anybody who does not agree with them .

      • Roger Cole permalink
        September 8, 2020 8:51 pm

        Well done, I thought that looked a bit odd, and how typical of the Left to alter words and meanings while maintaining the appearence of normalcy.

      • Charles permalink
        September 9, 2020 5:28 pm

        There are several versions of Niemoller’s verbatim expression.
        In the version cited, the “Socialists” referred to were Communists.
        Those victims were taken away by “National Socialists”,
        who were in fact Fascists.

        Semantics aside, the profound lesson expressed by Niemoller
        is identical between the versions and remains all too timely.

      • In the Real World permalink
        September 10, 2020 9:33 am

        But the fact is that the ” National Socialists / Fascists / Nazis ” were socialists , although todays left wingers refuse to accept that & try to change history .

        Here is the election manifesto from the 1930s Nazi party showing clearly that they were Socialists .

  11. robin Lambert permalink
    September 8, 2020 7:28 pm

    Good Article by Lawson……Climate’ Exstink’ rebellions Are Probably funded by Vulture Capitalists who Want Worlds resources As ‘Their own’ ie Bill Gates funds ”The Guardian;; or it would fold…george Soros,Jeff Bezos , Leonardo di caprio &other Luvvies Greta &her Carbon boat…

  12. StephenP permalink
    September 9, 2020 9:25 am

    One slight ray of light.
    It looks as if Andrew Neil might get his programme back on the BBC.
    Also the new Director General Tim David has said that the BBC should reduce its bias. I’m not holding my breath.

    • StephenP permalink
      September 9, 2020 9:27 am

      Tim Davie. d…. Autocorrect

  13. robin Lambert permalink
    September 9, 2020 6:13 pm

    ITV has also flouted its ”Non Political Charter” by BLm Mad dance on Britains Got talent(,but its brainwashed!?) Subsceptible to media hysteria?..

  14. Henning Nielsen permalink
    September 9, 2020 9:46 pm

    Sir David: ‘We are damaging the environment just by sitting here breathing. The carbon dioxide going out of this window as a consequence of meeting here is quite significant.’

    That’s easy to solve, just stop breathing out, Sir David. Only a few hours a day of this small sacrifice will make a significant impact on your struggle to save the climate.

  15. Cyan permalink
    September 10, 2020 8:59 am

    More support for the cause from the Daily Mail:

    Sooner or later (hopefully sooner) the “Man on the Clapham Omnibus” is going to get the message.

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