The Guardian: The UK floods are not just causing misery for thousands of people around the country whose lives and livelihoods have been disrupted. They are also making a few climate change sceptics hot beneath the collar.
No doubt they are finding it an uncomfortable experience to realise that their misleading attempts to inform the public into believing that climate change poses no threat to the UK are now being undermined by the irrefutable evidence provided by the record rainfall and storm surges.
First, Peter Lilley, who juggles his responsibilities as MP for Hitchin and Harpenden with his role as vice-chairman of Tethys Petroleum, had a meltdown earlier this week when he was stopped from badgering a witness at the hopeless mock trial for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that is being held by the House of Commons select committee on energy and climate change.
Lilley’s tantrum was followed by a remarkable display of male chauvinistic indignation from Lord Lawson, who set up the Global Warming Policy Foundation to campaign against the government’s climate change policies.
Lord Lawson was questioned about a new report published by the Met Office and Centre for Ecology and Hydrology about the link between climate change and the recent storms and floods.
The report states: “As yet, there is no definitive answer on the possible contribution of climate change to the recent storminess, rainfall amounts and the consequent flooding.”
However, it also points out: “There is an increasing body of evidence that extreme daily rainfall rates are becoming more intense, and that the rate of increase is consistent with what is expected from fundamental physics.”
In short, it is unlikely to be a coincidence that four of the five wettest years and the seven warmest years on record in the UK have occurred from 2000 onwards.
But Lord Lawson favours his own opinion over assessments of experts. When he was questioned this week about a possible connection between the floods and climate change, he replied: “You’ll see the Met Office’s own report denies it. It is just this Julia Slingo woman, who made this absurd statement, but their own official statement makes it clear there is no proven link whatever.”
In fact, “this Julia Slingo woman” is Dame Professor Julia Slingo, the highly respected climatologist and chief scientist at the Met Office.
Prof Slingo told journalists at a briefing about the report that all of the evidence points to a link between climate change and the recent floods.
However, Lord Lawson is not one to allow his lack of scientific training and expertise to stop him from making pronouncements on climate change, even if he gets a bit testy when confronted by real scientists referring to actual evidence.
His performance on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday was another masterly display of pompous arrogance as he proceeded to lecture Professor Sir Brian Hoskins of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London about what was known and unknown about the influence of climate change on extreme weather.
Lord Lawson claimed “nobody knows” whether there is a link between climate change and the floods and said: “I don’t blame the climate scientists for not knowing. Climate and weather is quite extraordinarily complex, and this is a very new form of science. All I blame them for is pretending they know when they don’t.”
He then went on to erroneously assert: “People who have done studies show that there has been globally no increase in extreme weather events.”
In fact, the IPCC concluded from its review of thousands of scientific papers on the issue that “changes in many extreme weather and climate events have been observed since about 1950”, and listed a number of examples such as a likely increase in the frequency of heatwaves in large parts of Europe, Asia and Australia, and a likely rise in the intensity or occurrence of heavy rainfall in North America and Europe.
Lord Lawson ended the interview by accusing Sir Brian of speculation when he said that measurements showed the recent slowdown in the rise of global average surface temperature over the past 15 years had been accompanied by an increase in the amount of heat absorbed by the deep oceans.
Lord Lawson had apparently not read or ignored the scientific papersthat have documented the evidence to which Sir Brian was referring.
This is unlikely to be the last time that Lord Lawson is called upon by parts of the media to provide a balance between facts and fictions about the causes of the flood crisis. It remains to be seen whether he will be able to keep his cool when confronted with the mounting evidence that global warming is a major contributor.
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