Climate expert condemns political inaction while praising Thatcher: ‘the only PM to understand the problem’

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Margaret Thatcher speaking in July 1991. A trained chemist, she “showed an immediate understanding” of the problem and made it a priority of her premiership in its final period, said Professor Peter Wadhams.

ONE of the world’s leading climate experts has accused past prime ministers of paying lip service to global warming. Professor Peter Wadhams said that PMs from Major to Cameron had “mouthed platitudes” and shown “weak” leadership over the crisis facing the planet, unlike Margaret Thatcher who had recommended resolute action.

Professor Wadhams of Cambridge University’s polar ocean physics group believes Arctic ice melt has already reached critical levels – partly because of political failures worldwide. In a withering attack on Cameron and previous prime ministers he said they were to blame for talking up the issue while doing little to actually address the problem.

A former director of the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge, the highly respected Professor now believes the Arctic summer ice will melt by 2020 – 30 years ahead of official estimates – and with catastrophic results for the planet. In his new book A Farewell to Ice he said Margaret Thatcher had been the only prime minister in the last 25 years to either understand the issue or show a willingness to tackle it. He said: “In the UK, Mrs Thatcher was removed from office in 1990, just when she was beginning to make an international impression on the problem. Her successors, Messrs Major, Blair, Brown and Cameron, had no scientific training, were often politically weak, and mouthed platitudes about leading the international effort on climatic change while actually doing little.

“Margaret Thatcher, who had been trained as a chemist, showed an immediate understanding of the scientific principles involved and took up the need for international action on climate change as a principal task of the latter part of her premiership. “She founded the Hadley Centre for Climate Research and Prediction at the UK Meteorological Office in 1990 and pressed for international action.”

Professor Wadhams also says that scientists working on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change are now failing in their duty to speak out about the full dangers of climate change. Based on his own calculations, he believes that the summer ice in the Arctic will have melted before 2020 – which is 30 years before the IPCC estimate. He believes that sea level rise has been severely underestimated. Professor Wadhams fears that there is now so much carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere that dangerous global warming is inevitable unless we take more drastic action.

The outspoken expert is winning support for his views. Jarvis Smith, environmental commentator and founder of the P.E.A. (People. Environment. Achievement.) Awards, backed Professor Wadhams. He said: “Can there be any hope left of leadership from Westminster?

“Cameron’s promise to lead ‘the greenest government ever’ is in tatters following a pro-fracking premiership that prioritised fossil fuels over renewables, and within hours of becoming Prime Minister Theresa May set the wheels in motion to close Department of Energy and Climate Change – the very department charged with tackling climate change. It’s becoming increasingly clear that action on climate change will have to come from the bottom up – from a new wave of revolutionaries who understand we need to move now.”

Last year the Great British Oceans Coalition was crowned overall P.E.A. Champion for leading a tireless campaign following which the UK government agreed to create the world’s largest marine reserve around the Pitcairn Islands. The team was applauded by the judges for getting the government to act.

However, this year’s P.E.A. Award entries and nominations reveal a growing number of individuals are bypassing government departments and taking matters into their own hands.’ You can find out who is nominated by going to www.peaawards.com.

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