There’ll be a shit storm tomorrow about Boris’s apparent conversion to Delingpole/Brooker climate change denial, but in reality it’s business as usual – he’s trolling both sides while having no real position, as he’s done before on, oo, hundreds of things, selective schooling being one that springs to mind. If you think Boris is on your side, he’s conned you.
Here’s the back end of his latest chickenfeed column in the Telegraph, which for the third time reaches for the opinions of one Piers Corbyn, who apparently can tell the future, and rather than warming up, apparently London’s getting snowier and snowier! Skis on, chaps!
I am speaking only as a layman who observes that there is plenty of snow in our winters these days, and who wonders whether it might be time for government to start taking seriously the possibility — however remote — that Corbyn is right
However, this wasn’t always Boris’s opinion. Here’s the first paragraph-and-a-bit of Boris’s foreword [PDF] to London’s Climate Change Adaptation Strategy:
Our climate is changing, with London already experiencing warmer, wetter winters, hotter, drier summers and higher incidences of more extreme weather. To preserve and enhance our quality of life and maintain our status as a leading global city, we must adapt to manage these climatic shifts, which will result in increasing risk of floods, drought and heat waves.
Climate change is no distant threat.
The only thing we can really take away from this exercise in trolling the weak in the head is what we usually take, Boris is much more comfortable in a world where the car is the aspiration of all decent people, air travel increases year on year, the economy works the way neoliberal economists say it works and the planet more or less sorts itself out regardless of what we do to it – there’s a little psychological tell-tale of the latter in even this carefully crafted non-opinion piece:
As a species, we human beings have become so blind with conceit and self-love that we genuinely believe that the fate of the planet is in our hands
Unfortunately for Boris, 7 billion industrious, innovative humans burning fossil fuels laid down over millions of years in a couple of centuries are having an effect and the best way to find out what the effect is is to use scientists, plural, not one pet you wheel out when necessary. Usually he’s very keen to praise humanity’s ingenuity, but in this where it might challenge opinions straight out of his formative years in the early 80s a form of cognitive dissonance kicks in.
Additionally, he appears to have forgotten what country he spent half his childhood in:
I remember snow that used to come and settle for just long enough for a single decent snowball fight before turning to slush; I don’t remember winters like this
Let’s see, he lived in New York (which gets very severe winters) until the age of 5, so we’re talking the years 1969 onwards here. By the time he might have grown out of snowballing we might at a stretch be talking late 1970s, just before the string of cold winters in the 1980s. The winter snowfalls for those years will be a matter of public record (if I was playing argumentum ad I remember I’d point out that the coldest temperature I’ve ever experienced in the UK was -15 in the early 1980s in Suffolk, probably 1982 when I was seven and in prime snowballing form). Here’s a quickly found Met Office report on UK climate trends:
“[T]there has been a strong downward trend in the number of days with snow cover at 0900 since 1961. The strongest trend has occurred in southern England (Map 9), where there are now about 75% fewer days with snow cover compared to 1961. Northern England has also experienced a very significant downward trend. The negative trend is present in all seasons, but is most significant in the autumn period, although absolute decreases are greatest in the winter, which is the season in which the most snow occurs.The 1980’s were a particularly snowy period for the UK, as well as the start of the 1960’s, with 1962/63 being the snowiest season for England and Wales. The decreases are weaker but still significant for most districts when starting from 1963/64, to avoid skewness introduced by the high values of 1962/63.”
So Boris was a child, in England, of snowballing age, during a comparatively non-snowy period in the middle of a 45 year decline in snow cover in south eastern England which has seen the number of days with snow on the ground reduce by 75%. Colour me unsatisfied with the level of respect shown to the evidence – when you start preferring your own memories over the historical record, you lose climate change arguments.
As for Piers Corbyn, Boris’s
Tim Fenton nailed him very firmly back in 2010 with this little nugget:
Corbyn’s apocalyptic forecast for December 2010 – the one he got largely right – was made on November 29, when the cold snap had already started.
It’s unlikely, one suspects, that Boris would devote three columns to a prediction made by mainstream scientists being backed up by the evidence, even though this happens really quite often. I’m tempted to make a comparison with the modus operandi of fortune tellers here.
[Note: since the Met Office report goes up to 2004/5 it is possible there's a subsequent significant trend reversal here, but that doesn't matter for debunking Boris's argument - the number of days with snow cover in south eastern England has fallen substantially over his lifetime, contrary to what his faulty memory is apparently telling him]
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