A climate summit in Durban has ended with agreement to bring down carbon emissions to save the planet.

A deadline of 2020 could yet prove a cop-out. But do we need to be so concerned about emissions? Is fear of global warming holding back much-needed development?

Emma Barnett interrogates George Monbiot, environmental activist, and Claire Fox, director of the British think-tank, the Institute of Ideas.

[Image courtesy of eyeglass view via ©©]


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  • I’m surprised the comments so far dont consider the worthwhile analysis of the starting point of the 2 speakers – are you to be bound by the limits of liberalism (Monbiot) and the inevitable logic and pseudo objective ‘factual’ stance he presents – or is the listner willing for a moment to consider all issues of pollution, climate change, even of the geographical boundaries of nation states as being political issues – making polution and global warming a Political issue – not a-political & objective problems that individuals, poor and rich states can really claim to have an equal stake in. From this starting point actual causes & meaningful objectives can be seen – note that the ‘green’ movemement has gone far out of fashion now & that more substantive approaches are needed than can be offerd by anxious do gooder liberals offering paternalism rather than real empowerment of the people to decide issues and act on problems for themselves.

  • @John Campbell

    Most interesting is the questions in the poll. The two relevant questions sent to the scientists were:

    1) Has the earth warmed, cooled or stayed the same temperature since the start of 19th century?

    2) Do you think that the activities of man has a significant effect on climate?

    If you answered “warmed” and “yes”, you were marked as non-skeptic. Interesting thing is that about 99% of skeptics who have studied the matter would be also counted as believers. The earth has indeed warmed up since the little ice age and surely deforestation, urbanization, farming, dams, soot etc. has significant effect on climate on both local and global level.

    Amazingly though only 81% of those polled answered “warmed” and “yes”. This wasn’t the result that they wanted, so they started selecting subgroups. The obvious choices like education level, number of publications, status, field etc. were not considered to be good basis for selection. Instead they came up with a subgroup of just 77 scientist – those that had published an article mostly falling in the field of climate change in the previous two years.

    Of those 77 scientists 75 had answered “warmed” and “yes”, qualifying them for the title of believer.

    You don’t do propagandist studies like this if your case is solid and certainly you don’t refer these kind of “studies” as a proof of your case if your case is solid.

    I wonder why they don’t use a simple question like: “Do you think that human CO2-emissions are causing catastrophic climate change? Yes or no.”

    Because they wouldn’t like the results.

  • @Luc Hansen

    No relation I hope?

    “There is nothing I would like more than for those facts to be overturned and to find out that the current warming is a mere blip and the inexorable march towards the next ice age is resumed. Sadly, science informs me otherwise.”

    Then you should be happy to learn you have misunderstood science, and that it shows that the last 13 years have shown a gradual decline in temperatures.

    “…(And by the way, there need never be another ice age as long as humans exist – we have the technology to banish ice ages forever!)”

    Umm…no, we have not. We have nothing like the capability to stop an ice age. We may have the capability for a small population to survive in an ice age, with extensive hydroponics and nuclear power, but we can’t stop one…

    “..So climate change deniers will meet the same fate as that of the geocentric universe promoters – extinction…”

    As so graphically illustrated here –
    Why is it that Warmists seem to welcome violence?

  • I am all in favour of looking at the evidence, as Mr Monbiot urges. The AGW theory makes a number of predictions (e.g. differential positive warming in the troposphere, and increasing temperatures as atmospheric CO2 increases.) None of these predictions have yet been reliably observed. Therefore, anyone who understands the scientific method must, for the time being and no matter how tentatively, accept the null hypothesis.

    Btw, Mr Monbiot’s assertion that 97% of scientists accept the AGW theory is, I believe, taken from a 2009 online survey of 10,257 earth scientists conducted by researchers at the University of Illinois. For some reason (possibly the responses of most of these scientists), the researchers chose to highlight the views of a subgroup of just 77 scientists, 75 of whom thought humans contributed to climate change. The ratio 75/77 produces the 97% figure.

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  • So Claire Fox believes that everyone – regardless of how rich and powerful they may be – should have no restrictions on their liberty to do anything they like, regardless of what the consequences may be to anyone else.

    Is this what passes for thought in the “Institute Of Ideas” ?


    The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), already under severe criticism for violating the requirements of academic peer review and relying on secondary sources, comes under attack again in a new report released August 29 and co-produced by three nonprofit research organizations titled Climate Change Reconsidered: 2011 Interim Report.

    According to the new report, “natural causes are very likely to be [the] dominant” cause of climate change that took place in the twentieth and at the start of the twenty-first centuries.
    “We are not saying anthropogenic greenhouse gases (GHG) cannot produce some warming or have not in the past. Our conclusion is that the evidence shows they are not playing a substantial role.”

    The authors of the new report go on to say,“the net effect of continued warming and rising carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere is most likely to be beneficial to humans, plants, and wildlife.”

    Both conclusions contradict the findings of the widely cited reports of the IPCC.
    Key findings, as outlined in the interim report’s executive summary, include:

    “We find evidence that the models over-estimate the amount of warming that occurred during the twentieth century and fail to incorporate chemical and biological processes that may be as important as the physical processes employed in the models.”

    “More CO2 promotes more plant growth both on land and throughout the surface waters of the world’s oceans, and this vast assemblage of plant life has the ability to affect Earth’s climate in several ways, almost all of them tending to counteract the heating effects of CO2’s thermal radiative forcing.”

    “The latest research on paleoclimatology and recent temperatures [finds] new evidence that the Medieval Warm Period of approximately 1,000 years ago, when there was about 28 per cent less CO2 in the atmosphere than there is currently, was both global and warmer than today’s world.”

    “New research finds less melting of ice in the Arctic, Antarctic, and on mountaintops Atlantic meridional overturning circulation (MOC), and no changes in precipitation patterns or river flows that could be attributed to rising CO2 levels.”

    “Amphibians, birds, butterflies, other insects, lizards, mammals, and even worms benefit from global warming and its myriad ecological effects.”

    “Rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2 concentrations, by increasing crop yields, will play a major role in averting hunger and ecological destruction in the future.”

    You can download a free PDF copy of the full 2011 Interim Report at:

  • George Monbiot is a climate change zealot – he and his fellow zealots exaggerate everything and have got EVERY prediction they have made wrong. Point 1. There is no provable man made global warming. Mars has heated up for the same reasons that other planets have warmed up… a natural and normal heating… guaranteed to follow by a natural cooling. Monbiot is being paid to push out the climate change lie. He is a fraud.

  • Institute of Ideas ? What a laugh, she sounds like she hasn’t had an intelligent thought in her life. Her “freedom” is the freedom of those with wealth, power and influence to do as they please to the rest of us, her “philosophy” was exposed by one simple question. Well done, George.

  • George comes across as a dictator. He shot himself in the foot when he conceded that fossil fuels are much cheaper than green alternatives. CO2 is not a polutant and their is no link between CO2 emisions and global warming. He and his like would (are) bankrupting this country in the pursuit of junk science. Freedom must and will triumph over evil dictatorships.

  • Monbiot cleverly changed the subject from human-induced global warming to factory-produced pollution. Claire Fox fell into his trap by trying to defend the indefensible, pollution. She should have called a “straw man” foul on Monbiot and brought the debate back on topic by pointing out that pollution and CO2 are two different things. Monbiot would have had no choice but to argue that CO2 is a worse pollutant than the byproduct of lead smelting because it is causing dangerous warming on a global scale. She could then have asked him to explain why there has been no global warming since 1998 in spite of a 26% increase in atmospheric CO2 over the intervening years. Checkmate!

  • […] [5]. […]

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  • […] here and here), the incalculable consequences of man-made global warming (see this interesting exchange between two leading commentators, the tensions in the middle east, continuing worries about terrorism, drought and starvation in […]

  • There was a fixation with technological fixes as the be-all and end-all on the debate which did not adequately address the issue of rights and freedoms. If more energy is needed to enable everyone to enjoy an equally high standard of living, as Claire Fox claims, that simply brings us back to the issue of how people not in a position to negotiate directly with a corporation on equal grounds can obtain the right and freedom to direct energy resources towards technologies, present and future, that serve their interests and not those of the corporation.

    Monbiot did not quite convincingly demonstrate that the state represents the people or the overall interests of the people which is an essential part of the discussion of the rights and freedoms of people vis-a-vis those of the corporation in the example of the Romanian smelter polluting the commons. Hence the comments from people under the impression that he was simply arguing for more state intervention in the economy and infringement on the rights of the corporation when this was not the case.

  • […] debate is available here. George opens with the classic litany of ecological alarmism, concluding that the ‘vast […]

  • Adam, the fact that proposed solutions to the climate change crisis reflect “leftist” ideas like taxes on pollution, collective action, wealth redistribution and regulation, all in the name of the global common good, does not invalidate them as solutions. Perhaps it just means the “left” was right all along. If that’s the case, there’s no need to destroy the planet in a fit of desparate denial.

    Surely, it’s up to you to present convincing alternatives, as I’m afraid Claire didn’t cut the mustard.

  • The podcast ended just when it was getting interesting. Individual freedom is too precious to trust to anyone but ourselves, as it places personal moral responsibility on us to do what we ought, which is very different from doing what we’re told. Fox was on the side of us doing what we ought, that is whatever is in the widest social interests of humanity, whereas I gathered Monbiot was very much in the camp of telling us what to do, according to ‘overwhelming evidence’. I’ve carefully considered the IPCC and others’ arguments on climate change and can only conclude that there is an awful lot of ‘evidence’ which is based on a very small number of serious scientific projects, but is full of telling me as an individual how I should think and act. Monbiot’s disrespect and intolerance for anyone who won’t be told to think like him is palpable.

  • Clare Fox doesn’t really “do” science does she? I’m afraid she embarassed herself here.

  • George’s column on this was enterprisingly subtitled (perhaps not by him) with the phrase “the need for the state to protect the 99%” – precisely the paternalist stance that Claire was shooting at. It’s a stance that imagines all but 1% of us to depend on the powers that be to protect us (see under clientelism) so it’s a view that’s elitist even as it tells itself it’s all about opposing elite power.

    As I hear it, Claire’s beef with the climate consensus is that it’s precisely those misanthropic and paternalistic features of it, *not the science*, that give it such a compelling role to play for the political class – people not otherwise famous for their deference to science. They like it, use it and sponsor it *not* for its technical validity, but because it equips them with the *ethical* means to connect their regressive politics with those of the Guardian reader, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.

    If that’s valid, then Claire’s position (easy on the techne, bring on the demos) makes a lot of sense.

  • Good morning all.

    One thing I’ve noticed in reading the comments so far is that some folk seem very impressed that Clare Fox is the Director of the Institute of Ideas, as if this gives legitimacy to her thoughts and opinions. This is an organisation which she set up herself and a position to which she appointed herself. So where is the intrinsic legitimacy of her position.

    And what do we know about the background of this IOI? Who funds this “organisation”? Perhaps those persons/corporations or other respresentatives of the infamous 1% whose unbridled libertarianism threatens to place the 99% in shackles. In this light, when we hear those “arguments” she makes, we might well think of the response that Christine Keeler was supposed to have made at the time of the Profumo scandal in the 60s (in response, I think, to a denial by Profumo that he had had a relationship with her): “Well, [s]he would say that, wouln’t [s]he”.

    A final thought: perhaps an appropriate response would be to view the IOI in the same light as that government department made famous in the 70s via Montry Python’s Flying Circus: the Ministry of Silly Walks. Ladies & Gentlemen, I present to you the Institute of Silly Ideas!!!

    Hohohohohohohohohoho …

  • It seems to me that with ‘freedom’ comes the obligation to exercise that freedom RESPONSIBLY, such that its exercise does not cause harm to others. Do others agree with this assumption? Unfortunately, the debate about freedom often ignores this obligation (or is it so obvious not to need stating?). In the absence of self-regulation (unfettered action), the State is invariably called upon to arbitrate the conflicting interests of its citizens. Given human nature, I can’t envisage a time when the State wont be needed to play this role.

  • I am profoundly shocked – shocked about the incredibly poor level of debate both parties (both with supposedly high levels of intellectual competence) are willing to stoop down to. This extends to the lack of editorial standards within ‘thefifthcolumn’ for putting this on the Net. Both Clair and George are exchanging tricks below their respective levels. Where is George’s grasp of the scientific evidence – and where is Claire’s perspicuity?

    I am trained as an environmental scientist and sustainability manager (sorry, I have to state this to support the following point): When the climate changes on this planet – and anybody who still disputes the veracity of this fact can only be accused of committing High Treason – there will be no escape from the GLOBAL consequences – for nobody. And these consequences are to be suffered by individuals and societies very comprehensively, indeed – in terms of their ecological, economical, and social environment. George must know this very well and he should have argued this point at this (top) level – and not get imbroglio’ed in an embarrassingly low-brow discussion about how one is to view the world, i.e. whether “the glass is half full – or half empty”.

    Claire – on the other hand – reveals herself (I do hope unconsciously!) as a very dangerous totalitarian, indeed: (Quote: “The way forward…is to industrialise everything”). This statement exhibits pure madness and shows the incredible hubris Claire is suffering from. You may now understand how (inexplicably) easy it seems to have been for her to change from a revolutionary Stalinist agenda to becoming a liberated capitalist – the extremes have met round the back door. Accordingly, her new dogma only repeats the standard, high-octane, hegemonist clap-trap of the sort one nowadays gets hit by – once again – at every corner: “Freedom for all to develop themselves (into never-never land)”!

    Appalling show all around.

  • Politics is the process of a crowd making up its mind. The crowd decides what is acceptable, limiting freedom. The only question is: what is the best process for a crowd to make up its mind? I’d say the best process is the one that gives the most benefits to the crowd, as a whole.If that means freedom of some members of the crowd is reduced, I have no problem with that. As long as it’s the best process, overall, for the whole crowd.

  • Very good debate. Fox’s retreat into the ‘political freedoms’ space she wanted to concentrate the debate on demonstrates her failure to understand that the freedom to employ the power of the state via grassroots political activism is the freedom that gives birth to regulation.

  • It´s the old Structure and Agency argument again.

    Is C Fox really suggesting that all structures (laws, moral codes etc) impeding complete agency should be torn down?

    For whose benefit? Not mine, that´s for sure.

  • A strange line of questioning too. It would be great if the reporter was a little more informed. James Hansen was not the first scientist to raise the alarm.

  • So it seems there is a point made in the comments above that if we impose restrictions on polluters (from whatever industry), you know, to stop them slowing killing people, the economy will fail and everything will go to pot? Perhaps this is true…

    But the reason for this economic mess? Poor regulation and greedy corporations… good example to make your point? I think not…

  • I could not agree more with Mr Monbiot in this instance. Claire Fox seems to be mistaking her ideological standpoint for being a factual one, based on evidence.

    Curtailing the freedoms of those who impinge upon the freedoms of others is exactly the reason we have a society based on the rule of law. If someone commits violent assault, they get jail time and community service; if a nuclear power station is found to have been lax on its safety checks and workers are killed or injured the power station must pay compensation.

    Without this as a foundation for our society how can people be expected to trust the establishment or the government they vote for. Deregulation has already caused enough suffering over the past twenty years, it is high time to reverse this immoral trend.

  • […] jQuery("#errors*").hide(); window.location= data.themeInternalUrl; } }); } – Today, 4:50 […]

  • George’s cynical use of sub-standard industrial practices does nothing to justify the removal of freedom. This kind of faux anti-capitalism is the sort of rubbish that paints industrial development as a kind of genocidal crime rather than the engine of human progress in the modern period. Mix this in with his paternalistic drivel about removing bad choices from individals and industry about energy use and you are left wandering what kind of society environmentalists envisage we live in. It makes George Osbourne’s imposition of austerity look like a tea party.

    If fossil fuels are cheaper then we should use them. If they produce pollution then we should do our best to mitigate against it. The same is true of nuclear power. And for that matter given that wind turbines seem to be made in China using fossil fuels – because its cheap – we might ask is wind power just a luxury we can afford because of the exploitation of the industrialisation of the developing world?

    Are the environmentalists really aware of the consequences of halting the industrial development of Asia and Africa? The Asian miracle has given the world hope of averting a far worse global catastrophe – the slide into economic depression. It may yet happen as the West’s economic gamble looks like it has shot its bolt. But to impose restictions on energy use for want of an ideological mish-mash of ideas based on climate science is economic suicide on a scale far far worse than even the worst climate scare mongers can manufacture.

    The facts are there George starring you in the face. Environmentalists can not evade the question history is asking of us all.

  • George’s column on this was enterprisingly subtitled (perhaps not by him) with the phrase “the need for the state to protect the 99%” – precisely the paternalist stance that Claire was shooting at. It’s a stance that imagines all but 1% of us to depend on the powers that be to protect us (see under clientelism) so it’s a view that’s elitist even as it tells itself it’s all about opposing elite power.

    As I hear it, Claire’s beef with the climate consensus is that it’s precisely those misanthropic and paternalistic features of it, *not the science*, that give it such a compelling role to play for the political class – people not otherwise famous for their deference to science. They like it, use it and sponsor it *not* for its technical validity, but because it equips them with the *ethical* means to connect their regressive politics with those of the Guardian reader, Uncle Tom Cobbly and all.

    If that’s valid, then Claire’s position (easy on the techne, focus on the demos) makes a lot of sense.

  • Jason, you said “Monbiot as usual refusing to have a principled discussion and instead blethering on about Romanian Smelting works.” Surely Mr Mobbiot was trying to show Ms Fox how excessive freedoms would work in the real world, which Ms Fox was not willing to acknowledge. Could you please explain why this was not relevant to the discussion? Also could you say where protecting people from pollution that is killing them is having “their working lives… regulated out of existence” As I suspect you won’t because you may not like to come and defend your views, could anybody else reading this explain those points on Jason’s behalf? I am either totally missing something or Jason does not understand what was being discussed.

  • No one is arguing that the climate doesn’t change or that global warming may be happening. There is a scientific debate about what is the most important cause of global warming and there is also some dispute about whether the current prediction of global warming is as apocalyptic as suggested if one looks over the life cycle of the planet where climatic changes have been continuous. However, the people who raise doubts about the human impact of global warming or who question its impact are vilified as climate deniers or blasphemers. This hysterical reaction implies more than a disagreement about the science and indicates a fear of the future and of man’s ability to face it. Those who shriek that something must be done about global warming have little faith in our human ability to transform nature in a way that benefits our future and their only response is therefore misanthropic; to curb human action, reduce consumption, reduce population and return to a kind of feudal or primitive state of existence. Those of us who believe in humanity’s transformative capabilities want to properly understand the problems we face so we can tackle them; not by reducing our capacity to act but by increasing it. So we welcome human development in China and India (uneven as it may be) as it enhances the human potential to act and transform nature. We welcome the possibility of boundless energy produced by nuclear power, of new technologies to purify water and combat drought, of genetic enhancement to grow more disease-resistant food so that the human population can increase and our ability to discover new resources to continue the qualitative survival of the human race is enhanced. The only limitation we see is our imagination. I agree with Claire.

  • Is Claire Fox really the director of the Institute of Ideas? I really hope that she has listened to her arguments on this call and discovered that she was fresh out of ideas. George rang rings around her without doing anything so much as asking her a simple question that she could not and would not dare answer for the holes it would have opened up in her arguments. Her ideas of freedom would leave a very sorry and confused planet. I guess her stance cynically boils down to the point of “we are all free but some of us are more free than others…live with it!!”

    I wouldn’t like her world at all and funnily enough I doubt that anyone with ideas would be able to flourish!

    I have just discovered George Monbiot and thank heavens!!!

  • Easy win for George. Claire Fox really struggles to express her ideas beyond a few woolly notions of so-called ‘freedom’, which only amount to allowing the rich and powerful to do what they like and bugger the rest of us. It is embarrassing to listen to her.

  • Clare Fox: “I would disagree with this [the Romanians protesting about a polluting factory which endangers their lives] is not a priority”. A struggle to avoid being poisoned is not a priority?

    People are allowed by Ms Fox the freedom to have political freedom (except, presumably, for example, in Chile in the 1980s) but not the freedom to protect themselves from the harmful effects of others.

    CF: can you sleep at night?

  • Hmmm, I think Claire Fox’s position was pretty ropey at best, she never really got down to any firm answers, and thinks that encroaching on Freedoms rarely happens? She started saying things like, “for me its about energy”. WTF does that mean, have you got any solutions? Are you just saying random words in random order? Her position was basically saying f*** the people who are suffering now, but possibly if we let companies do what they want, then maybe in some years time, its possible that future generations, may get some reward as they will have a house to live in? This argument is spurious and is basically saying that there are peoples lives that are expendable? I don’t buy that at all…

    There is no reason why regulation curtails corporations ability to adapt and change, in fact I expect regulation forces companies to think differently, think of new ideas, for example greener smarter energy, where they don’t need to think about the regulations that are placed on them.

    Bill Hicks said it best, “You should be free to do what you want, as long as those freedoms do not conflict with the freedoms of others”. Its a simply concept, and in this particular instance, it is right that the state should intervene to protect that group of people who live near the smelting factory. I would hazard a guess that this scenario is NOT a one off. I expect there are examples of this all around the world.

  • Claire Fox……. omg!

  • Libertarian = an anarchist who wants police protection from his slaves.

  • Interesting! Thankyou for that.
    Would have been even more interesting with a few gentle, well timed interventions from the ‘interrogator’ during the debate. George was trying to nail Claire on a particular question, while Claire was obviously more interested in a wider debate around notions of freedom. A little thoughtful intervention by the chair could have resolved the issues left hanging and brought them out more for the listener.

  • Having clicked through to this site from George’s Guardian column, I’m happy to add my two cents worth (Kiwi cents, that is, pun intended).

    The very idea that there is doubt about the potentially catastrophic effects on most species on this planet of excess CO2, as proven as the fact of evolution, is simply wishful thinking at best, deliberate avoidance for the most venal reasons at worst.

    And just as the theory of natural selection was developed to explain observed evolution, so the theory of fossil fuel emissions being the source was formed to explain the observed increase in CO2.

    This theory is overwhelmingly accepted within the scientific community, and paleoclimatology informs us as the the fate awaiting humankind and other species as the concentration of CO2 in the oceans and the atmosphere increases, consequences that are observed today and are reflected in the websites of all the major reinsurers.

    Those are the facts.

    There is nothing I would like more than for those facts to be overturned and to find out that the current warming is a mere blip and the inexorable march towards the next ice age is resumed. Sadly, science informs me otherwise. (And by the way, there need never be another ice age as long as humans exist – we have the technology to banish ice ages forever!)

    So climate change deniers will meet the same fate as that of the geocentric universe promoters – extinction.

    But having engaged with many deniers (all right, skeptics, to be kind), at heart, they all have one common objection: that the solution to climate change will involve overturning their most cherished beliefs – individualism, free enterprise, unregulated markets, the survival of the fittest (or most brutish, as Hobbs put it): yes, Claire Fox, Austrianism.

    For the few, the unrelentingly acquisitive few, the privileged few, like Claire, the answer to potential disaster brought about by lack of their nemesis, regulation, is simply even less regulation. What fools.

    As Einstein pointed out, we cannot solve problems with the same thinking that caused them. In this case, massive market failure cannot be overcome by more market.

    Currently, we are now faced with government failure on a global scale, unlike that we have ever seen before. Even MAD was benign compared to what our governments, 194 governments, are now allowing to happen under their/our noses.

    And the solutions are under our noses, too. Rich countries, stop burning coal, now, and assist poorer countries to phase out their coal burning. The only people who will lose a little are a few rich, very rich, white folk, and the remaining 99.9% of humanity will gain immeasurably.

    We just need to get it done.

  • Ah, the old “political freedom” dodge from Claire Fox. Nicely done.

  • I would have to agree with Karin,

    @Gordon, do you have a reference to back up that statement?

    As for this podcast, I think that George did a wonderful job, and Clare Fox couldn’t seem to get her head on straight. She argued in circles and really, made little sense. Even if she was right (which I don’t believe she was), her inability to articulate her ideas was rather disappointing and made her look ignorant. Bravo George for being so clear and concise!

  • History has proven time and again that without regulation some human beings will, on the whole, exploit and curtail the freedoms of those with less power and influence. It is alarming that as the Director of the Institute of Ideas, Claire Fox appears to be so fixed in her thinking and not open to ideas.

  • I support Claire’s position on the need for development, and don’t think this badly made podcast flatters anyone involved. But on the substantive issue of “freedom”, it is clear that no-one is free in the sense of not subject to laws; however, what Monbiot is saying is that the question of political freedom – the ability to decide for ourselves and not for the government to decide for us – is outweighed by the need to remove the freedom of individuals to pollute. Fine, if that’s what you believe and long may you be free to argue it. But if you live in, say, China, would more freedom help or hinder the ability of people to change their environment? Or would you prefer to leave that to the Chinese state? Monbiot reduces freedom to a conflict between individuals which needs the state to arbitrate. For Claire Fox, with whom I agree, the key issue of freedom is freedom of the individual with regards to this same state.

  • Monbiot as usual refusing to have a principled discussion and instead blethering on about Romanian Smelting works.If he really cared about the Romanian people he’d stop arguing that their working lives should be regulated out of existence.

  • Arguing against ‘regulation’ is the same as arguing against ‘law’ – they’re different words for the same concept.

    Most people think that rule by law is a good idea – the only disagreement is over which laws i.e. exactly what to regulate and to what extent. There are many, many activities that are today regulated because the harms that have arisen from those activities are now deemed unacceptable for one reason or another e.g. the use of child labour.

    So perhaps Claire Fox would support repeal of the Clean Air Act, which could be seen a precursor to setting limits on carbon emissions?

    Her arguments sounded v odd to me.

  • […] staged debates with a short time-limit, but this one is quite interesting: The Fifth Column’s ‘Global Warming: Does it matter?’ with writer George Monbiot and think tank director Claire Fox. LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

  • @Gordon Pye, you say “Since the CERN and NASA data in the late summer anyone who still pushes CO2 global warming is a potential criminal !”

    I wonder what you base that idea on? I haven’t heard of any findings that refute the idea that global warming is happening and partly caused by CO2 emissions into the atmosphere.

  • The Institute of ideas, or lol.

  • Thanks George. Voice of reason vs. voice of greed.

  • Claire, in the opening exchange with George, you concede that sometimes peoples freedoms can intrude on the freedoms of others (you say that it happens “rarely”). If you are reading this comment, could you give an example of one of these rare examples?

  • Claire Fox’s think tank is running on empty.

  • Amazing how some people duck and dive to defend the indefensible. Well done George

  • Clare’s extreme views on political freedom seem to blind her to reality. George Monbiot’s patient and reasoned responses to her made this even more apparent.

  • Hi Emma,

    I’m wondering if you could get Claire Fox to answer the original question George asked her on this comments board. It struck me very much that her position that removing all frameworks increases freedoms is, at best, wishful thinking.

    Not every freedom forms part of a zero-sum game but some clearly do and without rules of engagement, it’s a nonsense to say that everyone’s freedom is increased when clearly, already powerful people have a greater access to those freedoms.

    It seems to me that Claire Fox is incapable of working out that the freedoms she has living in a western society are available to her because western societies are more heavily regulated. She might wake up if she had to live in a country with the lack of regulation she’s looking for. That’s not to say that regulation is always good, far from it, but the converse position, that regulation is automatically bad and having less of it is a good thing, is pure nonsense.


  • Since the CERN and NASA data in the late summer anyone who still pushes CO2 global warming is a potential criminal !

  • Claire Fox sounds really ignorant. Her Wikipedia entry is very interesting 20 years working for Revolutionary Communist Party

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