The underpinnings of climate scepticism: extract from "The Carbon War".

In 1993 I addressed the annual US-Europe coal conference with Harlan Watson,  who later headed the USA’s climate negotiation team. This is the man, and the constituency, I saw that day.
Extract from The Carbon War (Penguin 2000) p 127……Watson reached his recommendations. “What should you do, you might ask? Let me make several suggestions. First, and foremost, you must put aside your differences and get properly organised to address the issue. You need to speak with one voice. Second, you must get timely, credible and relevant information to the political decision makers, to the media, and to the public at large. Third, you need to follow closely the activities of both the INC and the IPCC, and, to the extent possible, actively participate as NGOs through trade associations.” Then, finally, to the bottom line. “Do not underestimate what you are up against. In the US, it is the combined forces of the environment community and Vice President Gore and his powerful allies in the Administration. In the past, business interests throughout the world could rely on the United States to maintain sanity in the international environmental arena – this was certainly true during the Climate Change Convention process. Well, my friends, that is not the case today, and it is time to pull up your socks, roll up your sleeves, and get to work.”
Watson finished, relishing the applause.
Constance Holmes (a coal lobbyist) fixed me with her hard stare. It seemed to be my turn. The subsequent scene was best described by the Energy Daily, an industry journal, a week later. “Global warming had an apparent cooling effect at the sixth US-European coal conference last week, as industry representatives emptied out of the conference room before an address on the issue by an internationally known environmental representative. As Greenpeace’s Jeremy Leggett took the stage, attendees left in droves, leaving perhaps 30 coal industry representatives to listen to their opposition.”
After the session was over, they took me off to another room, and a press conference for the benefit of the half-a-dozen journalists covering the conference. Most of them worked for coal industry journals. Constance Holmes again took the chair, and launched straight into the question that she evidently thought would most effectively skewer me. How could the West provide the technologies necessary to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the Third World if revenues were being drained by carbon taxes?
Just watch and see how revenues will be drained if global warming takes off as the IPCC predicts, I said. And anyhow, who said carbon taxes would have a negative economic impact? The carbon-fuel industries, mostly. Many studies suggested exactly the reverse, and the tax could even be made fiscally neutral.
Harlan Watson at that point volunteered to give the trade press his view of what was motivating environmentalists in their advocacy of carbon taxes, and indeed any measures to limit greenhouse-gas emissions. The problem, he said, was that after the collapse of communism, and the exposure of command economies as recipes only for disaster, the old left had been found themselves with nowhere to go.  They had elected in large numbers to switch to the environmentalists’ bandwagon.
Fighting hard to keep the flame away from the blue touch paper now, I tried to paint a picture of a representative group of my colleagues for the journalists, and show just how many million miles Watson was away from the truth. Consider the head of Greenpeace’s delegation at the climate talks, I invited them, the senior diplomat who would by now doubtless have been an Ambassador; the concerned lawyers working on a fraction of the salary they could have made in industry; the intelligent young graduates who applied in hundreds for every grinding administrative assistant’s job.
After we finished answering questions, I turned to Watson immediately. I had managed to put the flame out by now. “You were in danger of getting a bit near to your philosophical underpinnings there, Harlan,” I laughed. “Did I understand you correctly? Do you seriously think that we are all old communists?”
His shiny face was twitching as he tried to hold my gaze. “I think there are many who have that agenda,” he said in a constricted voice.