Prince Charles as climate scientist

I was once at a dinner at which HRH Prince Charles was the honoured guest, and he talked after dinner about urban design and architecture generally, on which he had strong views. I knew enough about the subject to recognise that there were alternative views that could be well supported, and wondered why HRH had not referred to them.

It struck me then that he might be one of those for whom the opinions came first, with the evidence being used to support the opinion — rather than the opinion’s growing out of a sustained study of the evidence. Of course, he is not alone there. All of us do that from time to time, having gobbets of evidence that we can produce on demand to sustain the opinion we have, whatever it is.

In Prince Charles’s case it might also be possible that no one ever really argues with him, because it might be considered quite rude and disrespectful to do so. I can recall other subjects on which he has spoken where his view seemed to be delivered ex cathedra, as it were — as a given, rather than as a  proposition that might be argued with in discussion.

And he has done it again in the last few days, speaking to an audience in London like this: It is baffling, I must say, that in our modern world we have such blind trust in science and technology that we all accept what science tells us about everything – until, that is, it comes to climate science. All of a sudden, and with a barrage of sheer intimidation, we are told by powerful groups of deniers that the scientists are wrong and we must abandon all our faith in so much overwhelming scientific evidence. So, thank goodness for our young entrepreneurs here, who have the far-sightedness and confidence in what they know is happening to ignore the headless chicken brigade and do something practical to help.

So far as I can tell, these were classic off-the-cuff remarks, and were not supported by any examples, evidence or data. Indeed, he also told the audience that I have tended to make a habit of sticking my head above the parapet and generally getting it shot off for pointing out what has always been blindingly obvious to me.

I think there’s a real clue in the phrase ‘blindingly obvious to me’. In fact ‘climate change’ can’t be blindingly obvious to anyone, because climate is the long-term average of weather. Whether the global climate is changing in any significant way is not even clear, let alone the extent to which any change is due to human activities of various kinds. What Prince Charles seem to be saying is that if something is obvious to him, then those who disagree with him are powerful intimidators who ignore the overwhelming scientific evidence.

With all due respect to the heir to the throne, this can only be described as rubbish. The only intimidation I have been able to discern, over the last few years, is the description of sceptics as ‘deniers’. The supposed ‘death threats’ to climate scientists turned out to be nothing of the kind. What on earth can he mean by ‘a barrage of sheer intimidation’? Where and when did this barrage occur? At whom was it directed?

And who belongs to these ‘powerful groups of deniers’? To the best of my knowledge, again, those who disagree with the AGW orthodoxy are not organised at all. The closest I get to a group is an occasional lunch with a bunch of retired scientists, medicos and servicemen whose principal link is that they share a common view that the AGW scare has been grossly overdone. Yes, there is the Global Warming Policy Foundation in London, and the Heartland Institute in the US, but to describe these as ‘powerful’ is ludicrous. They seem to exist on the smell of an oily rag, unlike Greenpeace and the WWF, which have substantial financial resources and a privileged position in the IPCC business.

Finally, the use of the phrase ‘overwhelming scientific evidence’ says it all. HRH doesn’t really have a clue about the nature of the evidence, which is certainly large, but not at all overwhelming. To almost any question about the earth’s climate the best current answers are uncertain. Has the planet warmed over the last century? Probably. Is this warming unprecedented in human experience? Probably not. Is the warming going on at the moment? Not really. How much of it has been due to human activities like burning fossil fuels, making cement and clearing land? Some, but probably not much. Should we be really worried about what is going to happen in terms of climate? Probably not.

If Prince Charles can show me that there is in fact much more certainty than this, based on good argument and good evidence, I will refrain from assuming that ‘the heedless chicken brigade’ remark applies much more surely to HRH and those who talk like him, than it does to anyone else.


Join the discussion 26 Comments

  • Peter Donnan says:

    If Prince Charles expressed these ideas as an ordinary citizen they would hardly be reported on: as it is, he could be dismissed as a sincere, well meaning person with half-baked views on climate change which are widely shared or indeed as some sort of nutter. He regularly comes out, on other topics as well, expressing all sorts of notions. The obvious conclusion is that Australia should formally disassociate itself from such a monarchy and become a democracy.

    This conclusion does not follow from anything that you have written and quite surprisingly the idea of an Australian republic is not currently as popular as it may have been in the past. The logic of our population mix, decreasing links with UK/Ireland etc make the process inexorable but not in the immediate future.

    • whyisitso says:

      The personality of the monarch is not important at all on whether we retain our present system of government or become a “republic”. There are many far more important issues at stake here. The republic remains on the left wing bucket list as the best way they have of changing the Constitution to their radical liking. They’ll never do it with fully informed referenda on individual issues.

      • Peter Donnan says:

        It’s true about the personality of the monarchy being irrelevant: especially on climate change! Even those who believe in it, may not want such endorsement from such a person as Charles!

        I would dispute the ‘never’ in your last sentence and if Peter Costello or Malcolm Turnbull equivalents surface in the future that may change things but the simple facts are there would need to be an agreed-upon framework re President role, voting etc from both major parties before any prospect of a successful referenda and this is not an immediate agenda item, I agree.

  • Walter Starck says:

    If nothing else the Prince makes it obvious why the queen has seemed so reluctant to pass on the crown.

    • whyisitso says:

      If you mean she’s elderly and is reluctant to die before she’s called, I agree. There is no tradition of abdication in the British monarchy, unlike in Europe.

  • David says:

    “The only intimidation I have been able to discern, over the last few years, is the description of sceptics as ‘deniers’.”

    Don I thought you might be interested in this

  • David says:

    They [AGW skeptics] seem to exist on the smell of an oily rag,… “, well,the smell of oil at least.

    Sorry I could not resist. 🙂

  • DaveW says:

    Perhaps he’s been reading too much Michael Mann? I suppose our king-to-be
    may consider it lèse-majesté if someone disagrees with his blindly obvious
    opinions and his offended ego magnifies such affronts into “a barrage of sheer
    intimidation” by “powerful groups of deniers”. If no one can confront his views
    on homeopathy, why should they do so over the blindly oblivious climate change?
    One wonders what the Prince thinks of vaccinations.

    Anyway, I’m not a Hobbesian
    and am a republican to my core, but I can change my opinions when the data
    suggests I should. Last year you defended Scarlett Johansson against one of my
    comments and suggested “Match Point” was a good example of her acting talent.
    Alas, it didn’t show up as a classic on any trans-Pacific flight, so I bought
    it on iTunes.

    You are right – she did a fine job as the floosy (alas, no femme
    fatal in that good, but not great, semi-noir film). Also, she recently took a
    principled stand on some anti-Semitic nonsense with Oxfam. So, I retract my
    slur on her acting and politics. Too bad she wasn’t given a better-scripted
    role, though. I thought Emily Moritimer had the more difficult role and gave a
    very nuanced and impressive performance. Still, the plot smacked of An American
    Tragedy and I remain suspicious of Mr Allen.

    • margaret says:

      Match Point was very silly – Scarlett Johanssen was quite good in it and of course very easy to watch. Woody Allen is a creep. Some of his films are good though – Blue Jasmine was one Midnight in Paris another. These are my opinions with nothing to back them up. Another opinion is that Prince Charles is a bit of a goose.

      • DaveW says:

        Hi Margaret, Yeah, I suppose Match Point was on the silly side, and derivative. Blue Jasmine sounds interesting but also derivative in a Tennessee Williams kind of way. Our Ms Blanchett is another of those actors who feel impelled to wear political opinions like designer gowns, so I don’t like patronizing her films – but even in tedious films like Oscar & Lucinda and Elisabeth she does shine. Charles, however, never seems to glow at all. Mr Allen should be given the benefit of the doubt as to his personal life, but I think he is over-rated as a director.

        • margaret says:

          Yes Dave W – Blue Jasmine resembles A streetcar named desire. You are right about Woody Allen deserving the benefit of the doubt re recent allegations about his personal life but there’s no doubt that it’s creepy to marry your step daughter.

  • Julian McLaren says:

    If I had been born into Title, I would also be inclined to tell the commoners to cut back on their profligate lifestyles. Damn nusiance the commoners are polluting the hunting fields.

  • David says:


    You have often asked where is the evidence of serious consequence
    due to climate change? Over the last 12 years, the average debt per farm in Queensland has increased from $700,000 to $2,000,000 (The Drum). That represents an annual increase of a thumping 9%. According to Barnaby Joyce (on QandA) the principal reason for this failure is the “drought”, as he calls it. Apparently he wants to establish a rural “bank” within the Reserve Bank to buy back non-performing farm debt to enable farmers to exit with dignity aka a handout. These are the sorts of changes that one might expect to see with AGW.

  • DaveW says:

    The Australian Bureau of Statistics has a discussion of drought in the 1968 Yearbook of Australia. I think we can agree that 1968 was before CAGW poisoned
    the data well. The tables tell the story, the same I was taught years ago at uni – Australia is a land with frequent droughts. Look at the tables and read, e.g. “Australia’s most severe drought periods since the beginning of European settlement appear to have been those of 1895-1903 and 1958-68.”

    Where you see proof of CAGW all I see is the same variable and often dry climate as always. The last few years of flooding rains were also somehow contorted into proof of CAGW, but I have read the flood list at the Dickabram Bridge over the Mary and know that even worse floods than the last few years occurred in the late 1800s. Australia is a land of droughts and floods and has been for a very long time. If our climate is changing, as climates seem to do, then unfortunately we have no idea how or why it is changing because the CAGW clique are not interested in understanding or ameliorating any change. As far as I can tell everything must be manipulated to prove global climate change and that it is worse than we thought and that anyone who disagrees is amnion of big oil, coal or whatever.

  • GenghisCunn says:

    Those who haven’t seen it might be interested in Lord Monckton’s response:

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