Owen Paterson isn’t climate sceptic, he’s climate stupid
Saturday 15th February 2014
PETER FROST agrees with at least one Con-Dem Cabinet minister
I’m sorry but I think I’m going a bit soft this week and I’m worried you might think so too.
Not only am I feeling a bit sorry for one Tory Cabinet minister but I am also agreeing with another of his Con-Dem Cabinet colleagues and I’ve also been reading the Daily Mail.
Environment Minister Owen Paterson has been in hospital for an emergency eye operation and I feel sorry for him.
In his absence the Daily Mail has quoted one of his Cabinet colleagues telling us: “Paterson isn’t climate sceptic, he’s climate stupid.”
Of course those of us who have been following Paterson’s career and his many daft utterings on climate change already know all about his stupidity.
Paterson, supposedly the key player in the government’s policies on climate change, including the floods, has consistently refused to accept the facts.
Worse, he has slashed the number of climate change advisers in his department from 38 to just six.
Not just that, but funding allocated for research into climate change and the problems it brings, like the recent floods, has been cut in half.
We also know that Paterson hasn’t had a single briefing on climate change since he became environment secretary in what, we shouldn’t forget, his bosses David Cameron and Nick Clegg promised would be the greenest government ever.
Defra insiders have frequently reported that the minister won’t even look at a document if it includes the phrase climate change.
Last October the Independent reported that Paterson has never been briefed on climate change by the government’s chief scientific adviser Sir Ian Boyd.
Professor David MacKay, the chief scientific adviser at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, offered him a briefing on the subject but the minister refused that too.
This, perhaps, goes some way to explain some of his recent outbursts.
He has made many statements about climate change which are factually incorrect. A recent statement from him, made as the flood waters rose all over the country, accused people of getting very emotional about climate change.
“I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries,” he coolly announced.
Paterson isn’t the only top Tory denying climate change. Former chancellor Lord Lawson has attacked the Met Office’s chief scientist for making what he says are absurd links between the floods and climate change.
Lawson, who has made a career of attacking climate experts, says the Met Office’s recent report showed no proven evidence to associate the floods devastating parts of Britain and global warming.
Ukip’s Nigel Farage has also denied any link. He told flood victims in the flood stricken town of Burrowbridge in Somerset that their problems’ cause was just the weather.
I suppose we should be a tiny bit grateful Farage has sacked his local councillor who pronounced the storms God’s punishment for gay marriages.
So what are the facts that Minister Paterson and his crazy supporters are so keen to ignore?
A few days ago the chief scientist at the Met Office said the evidence suggests the floods are linked to climate change.
Dame Julia Slingo, a professor of meteorology, said: “All the evidence suggests there is a link to climate change,” adding: “There is no evidence to counter the basic premise that a warmer world will lead to more intense daily and hourly rain events.”
The chief scientist pointed out Britain has seen the “most exceptional period of rainfall in 248 years.” She isn’t alone — 97 per cent of climate scientists agree the world is warming and that carbon emissions are to blame.
Today as the worst storms for decades hit Britain and the government has declared a red warning, huge amounts of the country are under water.
More than 5,000 properties have been flooded since the new year.
The army has had to be deployed, while insurance claims for the damage could top £1 billion. Lives, homes and businesses are all at risk.
Yet Paterson got rid of 550 of his employees working for the Environment Agency and was threatening another 1,500 job cuts and further huge funding cuts when he went off sick.
Cameron appointed Eric Pickles to take on Paterson’s role and his first move was to blame the floods on bad advice from experts at the Environment Agency.
Public outrage wouldn’t let him get away with that. Polls showed 64 per cent think the government has handled the floods badly.
Sheffield University’s Professor Richard Ashley, Britain’s leading expert on water and environmental engineering, somewhat unkindly suggested Pickles would be “more use as a sandbag.”
Now even Pickles has admitted that climate change had played a part in the recent storms and floods. In this he was following in the grudging admissions of his boss Cameron.
The Prime Minister has reluctantly agreed that climate change may be partly to blame for recent flooding.
Cameron has donned his wellies to wade through the floods and declare “money is no object” in dealing with the floods — a promise almost immediately qualified by other ministers.
What Cameron needs to do is to buy a bunch of grapes, pop round to see Minister Paterson on his sick bed and tell him not to bother coming back.
The country simply cannot tolerate such a ignorant man with such mad ideas in charge of protecting the environment. Once Paterson has been dealt with we really do need to spend the money we need to on dealing with the current floods.
More importantly, we need to look at the longer-term problems, among them stopping building on flood plains; incorporating water-absorbing surfaces on new housing, retail and industrial developments; proper science-based river management; and sensible flood plain use for both agriculture and wildlife.
Most important of all, facing up to the facts that, like it or not, the way we live, and the way we run the country, is the real cause of climate change.
Read Peter Frost’s blog at www.frostysramblings.wordpress.com.
These powerful photos of Britain’s floods remind us of the devastating force of nature: here.