RDN on LBC on AGW, Met Office & PMQs
I had an interesting outing on Iain Dale’s LBC show yesterday, invited to comment on the Met Office’s apparent disavowal of David Cameron’s remarks in Prime Minister’s Questions on the recent storms and possible, likely or probable links to climate change. I remarked, perhaps a little casually, that the Met Office’s tune – I should perhaps have emphasised tone – had changed somewhat. Once quite the cheer-leader for what one might disparagingly call alarmism, it now seems to emphasise uncertainty.
I should have read round the matter before opining, perhaps. The Guardian‘s report of the incident does indeed seem to set the Met Office against Mr Cameron. But it isn’t clear that the Met Office was actually saying that the PM was wrong. It was stressing that bad weather sometimes happens and that no specific event can be linked to climate change, even if a storm – say – fits a general pattern of what’s possible or likely.
I do think it is fair to say that the Met Office PR work has become more sensible over the years, and I certainly did feel that five or ten years ago it was a little crude, and more so than it is now.
As to Mr Cameron’s assertion that he felt that anthropogenic climate change was probably some sort of a player in recent extremes, well that is almost uncontroversial amongst alarmists and Lomborgian (or Northian) sceptics alike, with only outright deniers disagreeing. I imagine the Met Office agrees with his remarks.
But what to do? Mr Cameron bigged-up adaptation (dealing with the consequences of climate change) and mitigation (attempting to deal with its causes) alike. He suggested that the UK’s carbon limitation policies were valuable, a proposition which is highly debatable.
As to adaptation: it seems likely that if we press on with a good bit of new house-building, as we should, then we need to be very clever in waterproofing developments, and to retro-waterproof large areas too. There is very little in these matters which cannot be achieved by the creative use of the JCB and instant river banks and so on.
Of course, Mr Cameron is not a fount of wisdom. Even one’s ideal of a traditional Tory running an old-school government was first and foremost a politician and Mr Cameron is positively Blairite in his devotion to weather-vaning. So there may well be an element of recalibration here: the government has talked of scrapping “green crap” and must now sent out reassuring signals to those who rather like it, or who positively understand that there is something to the green agenda.