Sir Alex and climate change


There were two major events in  Cambridge last night, a sell-out concert featuring Lemar and just across the  road, the even more pulsating Al Gore himself presenting his Oscar winning film An Inconvenient Truth to another packed house. 

I naturally headed for the latter, having been invited by Cambridge University’s Programme for Industry, which scored a major triumph in securing Al’s presidential-style presence. I was joined by scientists, business leaders and academics, as well as NGOs, faith groups and politicians.

But there were also a couple of very surprising names on the delegate’s list – Sir Alex Ferguson and his son Jason.  In fact, they almost came and sat next to me, until they realised my row was allocated to the media and they quickly shuffled off to the back row instead.

However, I followed in hot pursuit to ask Sir Alex about his interest in climate change, but he was not forthcoming. He was very dismissive and refused to make any comment on the subject, saying he was just there as a spectator.

There must have been a reason for his presence, I imagine he gets lots of invites, so why the sudden interest in climate change, as commendable as it is? Why refuse to talk about it? Is he also planning to be one of planet earth’s messengers? Does he have carbon zero plans for Manchester United? Maybe his club will lead the way with solar panels and wind turbines.

I tried to break the ice by saying how I had last seen him at Newmarket Races when his horse Rock of Gibraltar won the 2,000 Guineas, but that didn’t make any difference. And I had a flutter on it too.

Perhaps Jason holds the key to this mystery, he was listed as a director of Malindi Consultancy, of which I know nothing about. This is what wiki says about the two of them:

“Ferguson has refused post-match interviews with the BBC since May 2004 after a documentary, Fergie & Son, was aired showing dealings between him and his agent son Jason.”

Regarding the film, there is little I can add on this subject as it has been thoroughly aired here before.  What I found most compelling was the impact of climate change on the world’s population, the climate refugees, such as  Darfur, and we all know how terribly they have suffered there.

He also cited the success of the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer by cutting back on CFCs. It proves how effective mankind can be in solving catastrophic environmental disasters. As a result, the Montreal Protocol has been called “the most successful international environmental agreement to date.”

Al is an extremely accomplished and convincing presenter and makes an excellent case using great photography and scientific data.  You cannot doubt his sincerity and commitment to tackling climate change and spreading the message globally.  

He is spending the next two days running Climate Project training programmes in Cambridge and will repeat his presentation again this evening for the public which I had been planning to see with Vicky Ford, but as I have already watched it, I passed my ticket on to Michelle Tempest as tickets are like gold dust, they could have sold dozens of times over.


  1. Mens Sana

    My background is identical to yours – educated amateur, if you like. And I completely agree with you that nobody knows the answer. That’s why the debate needs to be kept open. I’m appalled by attempts to shut it down through claims of “consensus” or worse.

    There is a whole different debate to be had on the issue of what to do about the possibility of AGW. That’s one for economists rather than climate scientists. I’m quite sure the answer is nothing like “reduce carbon usage by 50%” as is currently being mooted by our lords and masters.

    Glad you like the Patsy pic.

  2. mens sana

    and as you may have guessed I’m still getting the hang of html tags

  3. mens sana

    Sorry-Depends on your point of view. I’m not a climatologist, tho’ I have a scientific training-don’t know if you are or not. I don’t know the answer-nor does anyone. I am though inclined to believe the AGW side.

    However if you consider the implication of getting it wrong, If AGW is wrong, then we can still create a world where we do less damage to the environment, pollute less, use fewer natural resources. (What a catastrophe). If on the other hand they are right and we gt it wrong, we are helping to create a world which is less hospitable to human life, and in which our children will be fighting wars over water with diminishing natural resources and ever increasing pollution levels. This presumably would be OK

    Love the Hewitt pic on your blog though!

  4. mens sana


    “No I don’t. The burden of proof (and I mean proof in the legal rather than the mathematical sense) lies with the AGW proponents who are proposing massive changes to the way we live”

  5. William

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that correlation is besides the point, particularly when the AGW side is making claims based on it!

    I have read your linked documents, and these don’t seem to add much to the argument. The 800 year lag seems to remain a problem, but the AGW side have a theory to explain it. (Which is where we got to on our last exchange on Ellee’s site). It’s up in the air as far as I can see.

  6. Mens Sana said:

    BH if the reverse is true then you need to explain why temperatures are rising.

    No I don’t. The burden of proof (and I mean proof in the legal rather than the mathematical sense) lies with the AGW proponents who are proposing massive changes to the way we live.

    In answer to your request for a properly peer reviewed document to support my case, the obvious answer is Svensmark’s paper (reported here
    I don’t think it’s online. This was published in Proceedings of the Royal Society A.

  7. William Connolley

    Antarctica: mass gain is limited because all thats happening is you’re getting a bit more precip from the warmer air. That cant lead to anything dramatic – less than 1 mm/yr on sea level change. By contrast, the mass loss from ice sheet collapse *could* be very large – 5m, say, but over a timeframe thats very hard to quantify. The chances of it occurring over 1 century are “slight” – but thats handwaving.

    CO2 and T: all this correlation stuff is besides the point. No-one does attribution of climate change that way (apart from the solar folk, but thats because they have nothing better). CO2 radiative forcing can be worked out from basic physics stuck into climate models. As for the corelation stuff: see the “ice cores” section of

    How attribution is *actually* done is rather more comlex… provides some hints.

  8. mens sana

    BH if the reverse is true then you need to explain why temperatures are rising. All I ask is that you point me to one properly peer reviewed scientific document which suggests that that is the case. I can point you to several hundred suggesting the reverse. Of course scientists can be wrong, but they are less likely to be wrong than armchair commentators

    For me the most convincing piece of circumstantial evidence is that the current atmospheric CO2 concentration is 25% higher than it has EVER been (in the last 1/2 a million years or so, anyway). The temperature now is only at the upper limit of what has been experienced over the same period. If rising temperature caused rising CO2, you might expect that the temperature would be leading the CO2 and not the other way around.

    I am perfectly prepared to believe that there is a vicious circle of CO2 and temperature rise which is why the rises seen over history seem to be very precipitate, but it’s all the more reason to try and break the cycle. Unless you’ve got any good ideas for cooling the globe with ice I’d suggest to you that we tackle the thing we can change, which potentially is atmospheric CO2..

  9. Mens Sana

    There is a correlation, yes. But since temperature leads CO2 rises, the causality is most likely to be the “wrong way round” for your statement that “global warming is real” to be true.

    What is the overwhelming circumstantial evidence of the causal link that you talk about?

  10. mens sana

    are any of these facts disputed:

    1) there is a correlation between global temperature and atmospheric CO2 levels

    2)Atmospheric CO2 levels are higher than they ahve ever been

    3)Human activity (in a number of forms, from deforestation to keeping cattle to industrial emmissions) contributes significantly to Atmospheric CO2 levels

    You can tie yourself up in arguments over the mass of antarctica as long as you like, but the truth is that global warming is real, and is closely correlated to carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

    There may or may not be a causal link-it is rather difficult to prove, though I believe the circumstantial evidence to be overwhelming. However if there is causality we have a duty to address it. If there isn’t then we won’t make any difference, but we are unlikely to make the world a worse place to live in

  11. oops..

    to point to the loss of the Larsen B, but not to the overall growth in the mass of the ice pack.

  12. William Connelly said:

    “Antarctica: well it is shrinking (in terms of area, a bit, as a few ice shelves fall off) but gaining in terms of total mass (probably). However… there is cause for concern in that the mass gain is limited and in global terms small; the mass loss is potentially large (although unlikely to be so on a century-type timescale).”

    Could you explain (or point me to an explanation) of this. Why is the mass gain limited and the mass loss potentially large?

    Do you agree that it is scaremongering to point to the

  13. Hellooo…. Just wanted to say “Hi”. Hope you are doing well….

  14. Welcome back Ellee! I’ve missed your blogging! Despite trying to write an essay myself, blogging is far more interesting…

    There is no way I could stop blogging for an entire week!

  15. Good to see you back Ellee. I do think though Lemar would have been more entertaining. I heard what Gore had to say on Capitol Hill last week. It was full of emotion, but not any facts. Although I am sure he is willing to fly around the world – for a fee – and tell us all what we need to do. He is a powerful actor and uses all the skills at his command. One does wonder if he had been like this in 2000, would he have made it to the White House?

  16. The climate changed here yesterday! A southern wind arrived…it wasn’t hot air…a cooler change came with it.

    Good to have you back, Ellee. 🙂

  17. mens sana

    Ellee I listened to Al Gore tonight in Cambridge and was very impressed, having started the evening with a somewhat sceptical outlook (occidental petroleum, private jets etc etc).

    It is interesting to hear those who doubt that climate change is happening and/or that it is manmade-I have not yet heard one decent bit of scientific evidence to that effect. All we have is anecdotes which could happily come out of the mouths of a Washington motor industry lobby group.

    All the proper scientific evidence point the other way, and to those who think that this is all part of some liberal anticaplitalist agenda which has somehow bought the favours of every reputable climatologist in the world I just ask the question “have you ever considered that they might be right”

    If they are right then we have a duty to act, and the solution has to be a political as wel as a technological one and has to involve the developing world. If they are not right then we will still improve our energy efficiency and reduce pollution-can that be a bad thing?

    And to those who say we can’t make a difference, I have to tell them that we certainly can’t if we don’t try, and no-one ever built a business with that attitude

    So yes Al may not be personally a good role model for us in terms of green behaviour, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t right!

  18. JaneJill, Actually, I could have had a very nice chat with Sir Alex, not just about horse racing, a sporting interest I also share with him. But my husband has just won us a visit to one of Man U’s executive boxes so I shall be there with all the WAGS soon (most likely next season now). That should make an interesting post.

    And also, my young son is a Man U fan and hero worships Sir Alex, grumpy old man that he is, and I had to come home and tell my lad that in fact Sir Alex is a miserable so and so and didn’t want to give his mum the time of day. Give me Al any day, even though he is all beefcake, we talk the same language and he seems much more fun too.

  19. Make that ‘hairdryer’

  20. The ‘hairdyer’ could probably power a few wind turbines himself.
    Nice chap.


    It is very nice to see you back – I did feel a bit bereft not to have you there, on your pages- now doesn’t that sound pathetic.
    I cannot think of many people in the limelight who appear ( I only say “appear”) as rude, arrogant and charmless as the football club manager whom you probably approached very graciously and pleasantly.
    Al Gore may not have a great pedigree re Environmental issues, but I don’t think that precludes him from developing a passionate interest. I have new interests every few months ( not that they benefit society in any way)and , for a time, I become very involved..enough about that. I would love to believe in a politician, or in a campaigner, ANY campaigner, but I am so wary of the distortions we read in every paper ; do people EVER start with the right intentions (and then let power corrupt) or is it always a case of being out for Numero Uno? By the way Newmania, I love the idea of Gore being “hugley” – good with polar bears? (sorry, I have many more typos than you ever do ) Finally, there is no harm in trying to avoid waste just in case… Elle, don’t let up.

  22. Alas Elle, the world we live in
    We all want to get there (somewhere) fast
    but are not willing to wait for better public transport or alternative fuels to catch up

    We all dread the thought of ‘inflation’
    but house prices to rise faster than wages

    We all want better health care & housing
    and we want it at all costs, even if sometimes it means denying others access to the same?

  23. I think they’re putting a windmill in the dugout. Should power most of South Manchester.

  24. *jealous*

    I’d have loved to go along to that, but only found out about it when it was already sold out 🙁

    I’m afraid Sir Alex wouldn’t be leading the way if he got a wind turbine installed – his neighbours Man City are already having one put in.

  25. Possibly he thought you were a journo, Ellee. Welcome back indeed. You mention Michelle Tempest, which is interesting. I can’t get much response from that quarter, myself.

  26. William Connolley

    Antarctica: well it is shrinking (in terms of area, a bit, as a few ice shelves fall off) but gaining in terms of total mass (probably). However… there is cause for concern in that the mass gain is limited and in global terms small; the mass loss is potentially large (although unlikely to be so on a century-type timescale).

    Elle the temperature has risen on Mars in similar proportions to those on Earth over similar time. – this is nonsense. There are no measurements of global T on Mars. Its a garbled version of the observation that the Martian S polar cap has shrunk a bit over the last 3 (martian) years. See

  27. Glad to have you back, Ellee.

    Ferguson isn’t one prone to give interviews, especially to the BBC. He may also have known that you were not the strong Labour supporter that he is, and wouldn’t want to talk with ‘the enemy’.

    There is already a wind turbine ant Manchester United; it’s in operation when Ferguson gives one of his players the ‘hairdryer treatment.’.

  28. Welshcakes, it is good to be back too, though time is limited this week due to other commitments I am catching up on. I’m sorry about the climate change fatigue, but not surprised. That’s why I wrote it along the lines of Sir Alex to lure readers in. If people are unable to believe politicians, and they are puzzled by conflicting scientific advice, then how is this issue going to be resolved? Unless voluntary actions can make a significant difference, then it has to be legislated and fiscal measures – carrots and sticks.

  29. electro-kevin

    We could start by banning fashion – a totally wasteful activity which renders perfectly usable items obsolete on a whim. For that matter what an awful lot of energy is put into ironing which serves no useful purpose. Let’s feel the fibre of the intelligentsias’ fabric before they start clamping down on the lower orders.

    And as for Sir Alex Fergusson, he seems like quite an unapproachable man to me and you were brave to try, Ellee. He would save a lot of energy if he gave up chewing gum and stopped jumping up and down.

  30. Glad you’re back, Ellee. Love the spring flowers at the top. Sorry but I am fed-up with environmental stuff and am cynical about Al. There are people here banging on about rubbish recycling when they have four cars per family!

  31. richard ward

    Elle the temperature has risen on Mars in similar proportions to those on Earth over similar time.

    What has caused the increase in temperatures on Mars?

    It wasn’t the activity of people.

    Neither is it the activity of people that is affecting the temperature on Earth.

    The true cause for temperature changes on both planets is the activity of the Sun… and there is nothing any of us can do about it.

    Politicians gleefully taking the opportunities to to introduce so-called “green” taxes should beware. Truth will out. A disgruntled and falsely taxed electorate will not forgive them if they do attempt to Milliband and Brown us all.


  32. electro-kevin

    It would appear that our Government has already decided on which experts to believe – the Chancellor’s budget was laced with Greenist terminology.

    My dubiety is not so much that we are in the midst of an earth changing event or to question the veracity of the scientists, nor is it to do with why our government are doing so much unilaterally – my doubts are more to do with why the government is doing so little:

    If the fault is really ours (which wouldn’t surprise me) or if our unilateral efforts would make a fig of difference (which I very much doubt) then why has the reaction of this most proactive of governments been so feeble ?

    I would suggest that Tony Blair wants his legacy and that Gordon Brown is clearly strapped for cash and wants our readies; neither would risk the public backlash that would ensue from the enforcement of measures that truly sincere Global Warmists are advocating.

    This must surely be an all or nothing issue.

  33. Good article in the New States,man this week by a Green activists saying what we all know that his feelings about the despoilation of the earth predated any knowledge of the “Science”.
    It would help if the Greens were honest about there willingness to misuse science

  34. Sorry Ellee, I’m not sure which other study you are referring to.

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that a bit has fallen off the Larsen B ice shelf. This is not inconsistent with the study I refer to showing that, overall, Antarctica is growing. Bits fall off it all the time. The question I think you need to ask is why Mr Gore chose to concentrate on the local phenomenon rather than the continent-wide one. I would call this misleading, but I’m sure you can make up your own mind about this.

    The other thing to say is that to ask which set of scientists should be believed is a false dichotomy. The public can reasonably conclude that the science is too uncertain and wait until the scientists have sorted it out among themselves.

  35. David Allen

    “Which experts do you believe?”
    Ellee, in this case we can believe both of them, the ‘science’ is not contradictory _ but we can still distrust Mr Gore. I don’t doubt that the Larsen-B ice shelf broke up _ but, overall, ice-mass at the antarctic is apparently increasing and tending to REDUCE sea-levels. Why does Mr Gore choose to tell only half the story?
    That said, the places where we need (extra) snowfall and the retention of glaciers are on those continents where people actually LIVE, so that we have rivers and lakes of fresh water that people can use. It would be no consolation to be told ‘The good news is that sea levels won’t rise and flood coastal cities _ but the bad news is that the Nile, Ganges and Danube will dry up and most of the earth will turn to desert.”

  36. so which experts do you believe?

    Tha ones who are not talking up a problem that directly effects their ablity to aquire funding ?..Sounds like a good start.

    Does he really claim that the snows of Kilimanjaro are disappearing due to global warming ?( It isn`t true as he well knows )

  37. Michelle, Thanks for your award, I consider it a great honour. I hope you enjoy the presentation this evening. I could have joined the training session, but work commitments make it impossible.

    BH, This study was based on firm scientific research too, so which experts do you believe?

  38. You cannot doubt his sincerity and commitment to tackling climate change and spreading the message globally.

    Oh you would be suprised what you can doubt with a little effort. As we know his own lifestyle is hugley wasteful and what else was he going to do?Retired politicians like Kinnock and Gore usually manage to get on some gravy train or other.I didn`t like him before and I do not now.

  39. See this survey of the overall size of the Antarctic ice sheet, which was published by the Royal Society at the end of last year:

    “72% of the Antarctic ice sheet is gaining 27 ± 29 Gt year-1, a sink of ocean mass sufficient to lower [authors’ emphasis] global sea levels by 0.08 mm year-1.”

    An Al Gore anecdote about a particular ice shelf is pretty meaningless when set against a proper scientific survey wouldn’t you say?

  40. Simon, I would say the speech presented facts in a way to make you think, it was not over the top, I always believe that dramatic facts and data don\’t need dressing up, eg, increased floods and weather disasters throughout the world, including heavwaves, how temperatures have risen globally. None of his statements have been disproved, they are all based scientificially, our 6th largest lake in the world dring up, our glaciers melting, rising sea levels.

    He mentioned the Larsen-B ice shelf in the Antarctic, which was about 150 miles long and 30 miles wide and scientists thought would remain stable for at least another century. But in 2002, it completely broke up within 35 days. This is continuing to happen and, as Sir DAvid King said, one of Tony Blair\’s advisor\’s, \”the maps of the world will have to be redrawn\”.

    I imagine his training workshops today will go into much more scientific detail, the presentation was kept simple to kept essential info across to the public, and it was very powerful and though provoking, though I doubt nothing new was said for the experts.

    He made it quite clear that individuals, as well as nations, should take responsibility, that he was there to pass on this message to us and we must pass it on to others. The actions taken over the ozone layer shows that intervention and action can work.

  41. Welcome back Ellee! So, was Gore speech emotive,full of facts, over the top, balanced etc?
    How did you find it? Did you come away thinking “oh dear we are in a hopeless position” or ” we can make a difference”

    I am curious to know! :o)

  42. “Gold”. I think I’ve managed tin!

    Welcome back Ellee

  43. Glad you had a good time and I’m certainly looking forward to attending the speech. On my blog today I awarded you with a gold thinking blog award. Great to have you back blogging. Michelle


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