When you think, as I do, that Margaret Thatcher’s creed of selfish individualism did incalculable harm to this country, it can be difficult to give her credit when it is due. However, she deserves praise for her very significant contribution towards global action on the crucial issue of climate change. It is ironic that this was a policy she later seems to have regretted.
Thatcher was a research scientist by training and is the only scientist ever to be prime minister. Perhaps that helps to explain why, in 1988, she was the very first world leader to voice alarm over climate change. In 1989, she made a dramatic call to action at the UN and was instrumental in the setting up of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which led to the Kyoto protocol.
In 1990 she set up the Hadley Centre in the UK to carry out research into climate change.
In the final month of her premiership in 1990, Thatcher addressed the World Climate Conference and said that global warming was “real enough for us to make changes and sacrifices, so that we do not live at the expense of future generations.” She went on “Remember our duty before it is too late. That duty is constant....It lives on as we breathe.”
In her retirement, her views changed and in 2003, 13 years after leaving Downing Street, she wrote the kind of dismissive account of climate science that would not be out of place on Sarah Palin’s website.