Last week Prince Charles hosted an event at St James Palace for a forest scientists organisation that he founded in 2007, where he lambasted climate change sceptics and corporate lobbyists. He claimed the actions and words of these groups are turning the Earth in to a “dying patient” and says not enough is being done to combat the problem. The prince has been outspoken on the subject of climate change in the past and has also lobbied Government ministers on the issue.
While it is fair to say that there will be a huge number of climate scientists and members of the public who will wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments of Prince Charles on this important issue and I include myself in that group, should we not ask why we care what the prince has to say?
Let’s not forget, Prince Charles is not a climate scientist or any kind of expert on the issue, he does have a degree from Cambridge, a BA in History, nothing related to climate change. There is obviously nothing wrong with a non-expert expressing an opinion about such an important topic, the problem is that the prince is no ordinary non-expert, he is one that people tend to listen to.
On this particular issue you could argue that the overwhelming majority of the scientific community would agree with what the Prince of Wales believes and therefore it’s no bad thing that he is exploiting his royal influence. However, I fear that’s a short term view, because for every issue where he makes a valid point, there’s another where he espouses complete nonsense, just like the rest of us.
The point I’m trying to get at is, rightly or wrongly, people listen to Prince Charles and other members of the royal family on issues they are not in a position to offer a qualified opinion. We have seen Prince Charles in the past use his position to promote scientifically unproven homeopathic medicine. The Prince’s Foundation for Integrated Medicine was revealed to have lobbied the Department of Health to remove criticism of homeopathy from the NHS Choices website. Another high profile instance of the prince using his royal connections was with the Qatar royal family, interfering in the Chelsea barracks redevelopment, to the outrage of many high profile architects.
The climate change comments also come at a very significant time for the prince, as he begins to take on a more pronounced role, adopting duties usually carried out by the Queen. It had been expected that as the prince took on a more prominent role he would begin to rein in his personal views, due to the apolitical position the monarchy is expected to take.
When any other individual spouts their opinion about medicine, architecture or climate change at a dinner party or down the pub, two or three of their friends will nod and laugh politely and then forget what they just said, some may even take their advice or adopt that view too. But when Prince Charles talks about one of these issues, thousands or even millions of people sit up and take note. The only difference is, is that Charles was born in to a family where everyone listens to what you say, while the rest of us were not. I would expect none of you to take medical advice from your local butcher or tips on the stock market from a doctor, because, except in exceptional circumstances they are not experts in these fields, just how Prince Charles is no expert on climate change. So if Prince Charles wants to tell us what it’s like to be the next in line to the throne, we’re all ears, he is the bona fide, number one specialist. But as for the rest he can keep it to himself.