UK environment secretary Paterson: Climate change isn’t real

In a bizarre comment during a BBC Radio panel discussion, the conservative British Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson, suggested that climate change is neither real, nor significantly affected by man.

UK minister for the environment Own Paterson via BBC interview.

UK minister for the environment Own Paterson via BBC interview.

What’s worse, Paterson seemed not to understand the crucial difference between “weather” and “climate,” which is a common mistake made by climate-change denialists.  And in so doing, he suggested that the average temperature hasn’t changed in 17 years, and thus, apparently, this is proof that climate change is neither real, nor significantly influenced by man:

[The] Cabinet Minister for the Environment – not Welfare, Education or Defence – clearly stated “The real question is: is climate change influenced by man made climate change? The climate, the temperature has not changed in the last 17 years.”

Here’s the fuller transcript:

Q: Are those concerned about climate change talking anti-scientific green ideological nonsense? What is your answer to that question?

Environment Minster Paterson: I have to take practical decisions. The climate’s always been changing. Peter mentioned the Arctic. I think in the [unintelligible] you can see there were beaches there. [Audience begins to murmur]  When Greenland was occupied, you had people growing crops. We then had a little ice age, then we have middle age warming. The climate’s been going up and down.

The real question, which I think everyone’s trying to address, is ‘is this influenced by man-made activity in recent years.’ And James is actually correct, the climate has not changed, the temperature hasn’t changed in the last 17 years. What I think we ought to be careful of is that there is almost certainly, bound to be, some influence by man-made activity, but I think we just got to be rational [laughter from audience] and make sure the measures that we take to counter it don’t actually cause more damage.

Other panelist: This man is our Secretary of State for the Environment, for goodness sake.

Did you catch all of that? The climate’s always been changing.  The climate’s been going up and down.  The temperature hasn’t changed in the last 17  years.

This is the face of climate change denialism, and it’s occupying the most important seat in Britain on the matter.

(First, a quick correction to Paterson: 97% of studies looking at whether science change is man-made say “yes.”)

To fully appreciate Paterson’s folly, here’s a quick primer on the difference between weather and climate, and why that difference matters.

Weather is what happens each day, or perhaps even each year.  Climate is the overall trend over a long period of time.  For example, here’s a photo of the path taken by a man walking his dog.

Climate vs Weather

Climate vs Weather

If you look at the dog (he’s “weather”), at any one time, he’s traveling north, then south, then north, then south.  The dog is all over the place.  If you just look at the dog at any one time, or even over a short period of time, you’d say “he’s moving south” or “he’s moving north.”  But if you look at the man – and if you look at the long-distance path of the man and the dog (i.e., the “climate”) – you’d say “aha, regardless of the dog’s erratic movements, they’re both clearly heading northeast.”

That’s the difference between weather and climate.

To take a more “real” example, check out the graph below, showing average temperatures over the past 40 years. You can say with perfect honesty that over the past eight years the weather has cooled off, and it may have.  But that’s just a momentary blip – over the past 100 years it’s gotten decidedly warmer, and the long-term chart proves it.  Note how at any one smaller period of time (shown in blue) the trend might be up or down, but over 40 years (in red) it’s clear that the long-term trend is always towards warmer and warmer weather, regardless of the circuitous path the weather “dog” takes.

Scientists look at the actual trend over the long-term.  Denialists look at only a portion of the trend in order to fool you.


So the UK Minister for the Environment, Owen Paterson, just confused weather and climate. Lovely.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • Eric Stacy

    In 1987 National Geographic published a study about climate change stating global cooling would destroy most of the inhabited land by 2010. I think they miscalculated. Now we have “scientists” claiming we are experiencing global warming. Science shows that climate change is nothing but a myth used to push political agendas on the uninformed.

  • klem

    Oops, you called me a name. I win.

  • Wilf Tarquin

    Good lord you’re dumb. My condoleances to your parents.

  • klem

    “Personally I think the effects will be far smaller than frequently
    claimed, precisely because we know it’s been warmer in the past and
    nothing much seems to have happened as a result then.”

    Wow, that comment places you squarely in the climate skeptic camp. You must be a paid shill of Koch Corp, yes?

  • Wilf Tarquin

    Shifting the goalposts.

    You could just look at the graphs on your own source, and watch it rise sharply on the right hand side. The argument isn’t that it’s warmer today than it’s ever been in the past (it isn’t). The argument is that there’s never been such a rapid rise in global temperature as there is right now, and it’s caused by the CO2 and methane humans produce.

    Denying the existence of anthropogenic global warming is just silly. That discussion was settled in the 80’s. It’s proven. Done. The things which are still open to debate is how big it will be, and how big the effects will be. Personally I think the effects will be far smaller than frequently claimed, precisely because we know it’s been warmer in the past and nothing much seems to have happened as a result then.

  • klem

    Well there’s some benefit to the carbonophobes, it reduces the excess world population. Should make them happy.

  • klem

    1. I like that link to NASA you provided. It shows an even longer graph this time, all the way back to all the way back to 1880. Unbelievable. I didn’t know earth history actually went back that far.

    I also didn’t know that they had global temperature satellites back then either, but hey, at least they aren’t cherry picking. That’s the main thing.

    2. How about the following graph, it shows that the planet has been getting colder for the last 8000 years. Of course we can’t rely on that graph, the deniers use it all the time because they cherry pick so much.

    3. See 2.


  • mousebat

    The cost of doing nothing being decreased poverty and disease because of affordable fossil energy and increasing crop yields with less water use.
    The policies put in place at the behest of carbonophobes are killing people now with no detectable benefit, please stop it all now.

  • Wilf Tarquin

    1) No, it is not:

    2) The case that no legislation or taxation should be enacted to reduce CO2 emissions. Most of the lobbying is funded by oil companies, US and foreign.

    3) See 1)

    Have a nice day.

  • klem

    Um, so that lower animated graph with a range from 1973 to 2013, is not considered cherry picking. Holy smokes are you kidding me, really? Lol!

    And what case do denialists build exactly?

    Remember, it’s the alarmists who are making all of the claims for CO2 based climate apocalypse, its up to the alarmists to support those claims (without cherry picking the data, something that alarmists don’t need to do apparently). All the denialists need to do is pick them apart, which is relatively easy and rather fun to do.


  • Wilf Tarquin

    I don’t know if any realists cherry-pick, it would be a strange thing to do considering that we DON’T NEED TO. Unlike denialists we don’t build our case on cherry-picking, and continue to repeat proven falsehoods. Because WE DON’T NEED TO.

  • klem

    Ah those darned climate skeptics, they always cherry pick data. I hate those guys.

    We all know alarmists never cherry pick.

  • klem

    ” You can go ahead and ignore climate, but you can’t ignore the overall impact on society.The cost of doing nothing is always exponentially higher than trying to address it before bad things happen.”

    True, it will be very costly when the ice sheets return to the UK.

  • klem

    Let me guess, members of those scientific cirlces are known as climate scientists.

  • klem

    And I am pleased to know that Americans recognize that.

  • klem

    And let me guess, there is a subsidy available to help them move.

  • klem

    Climate castrophe hjas been a lie from the beginning, its hard to continually maintain a lie.

  • doubting_rich

    Your headline is simply a lie, as is everything you said in the first two paragraphs, which set the tone for the article. Simply reading the passage you quote later in the post shows that these things are lies.

    If you have to lie, then you have lost the argument. Why is it that so often the alarmists are caught our lying?

  • “What’s the problem?” The development of a frontal lobe.

  • Yep, Tocqueville nailed it fairly early on.

  • Graphic_Conception

    Only a question of time before China knocks the US of the top spot. Senate and Congress are already up to speed. Has Guam actually tipped over yet. How is Hank?

  • Graphic_Conception

    Humans did not exist but other primates did. They work pretty much like we do. What’s the problem?

  • Wilf Tarquin

    The lower graph isn’t a joke – that’s actually a common argument from “climate skeptics”. Whenever you hear them talking about there being a “pause” in global warming between two dates, that graph is what they’re talking about.
    Grownups. Who are not joking.

  • Or an elevator in the Empire State building. It is reassuring that a male version of Joan Rivers actually has exquisite taste.

  • True, aristocrat thugs always have a plan.

  • Long range planning for vineyards in CA—-moving up to the Sierra foothills. The cracked pot ignoramuses may be ignoring climate change, but business is taking the science quite seriously.

  • Ninong

    Whatever he’s searching for, he should give his face a rest. It’s had more lifts than Heavenly.

  • JamesR

    I now have the image of someone basically spherical slowly rolling out a window. Thank you!

  • JamesR

    The North Pole called: it wants it’s ice back.

    And the new vineyards in Scotland are happy to hear an obvious customer.

  • JamesR

    Yet notice the two current generations of breeding
    back into that line – they may appear stupid but they have a plan, a
    very long term one LOL.

  • :-)

  • They say that Twinkies can survive a nuclear war. Maybe Calvin is searching for immortality.

  • Well, considering that Paterson is obviously a waste of skin, I suppose that means there’s an excess involved. Perhaps we should congratulate him on his frugality.

  • I never discuss my hobbies in public.

  • lynchie

    did you mean foreskin?

  • Ninong

    Nice try but not the same.

  • Ninong

    Definitely not a double negative but something 70-year-old Calvin Klein should read. I heard he’s back with his 20-something blond boytoy, the ex-porn star who threatened to write a tell-all book about their relationship.

  • dcinsider

    I am always pleased to know that America has not cornered the market on stupidity.

  • I’m staying inside today.

  • True, the basic matrix of the Easter Island civilization collapse still stands.

  • rothfl!

  • Bravo!

  • How about: “and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and
    he that is less than a man, I am not for him.” Beatrice from Much Ado—-

  • Monoceros Forth

    That’s a triple negative! Two wrongs don’t make a right but three do.

  • Yep: Windsors 0, scandals ongoing

  • —–Indeed, those inbred second sons of Germany/Sax/Colberg mutated by the Hapsburg limited gene pool. They aren’t even English as are the Spencers, an ancient family, with centuries of breeding predating these cretin Windsors.

  • Googled it – Twelfth Night:

    By innocence I swear, and by my youth
    I have one heart, one bosom, and one truth,
    And that no woman has, nor never none
    Shall mistress be of it, save I alone.

  • “to stick his head out the window.” To put it politely. I (gag) envision his window in the nether regions where the sun don’t shine. How could he tell?

  • LOL

  • Got it, thanks

  • Ninong

    Can you give me an example of a Shakespearean double negative? I’m curious. I don’t remember any offhand.

  • FLL

    His situation reminds me very much of Margaret’s. She did take advantage of the fact that she could be self-centered, self-serving, arrogant and scandalous (by the standards of the time) and get away with it because she had no national responsibility. You’re right in that the situation of the two are the same. On the face of things, Harry seems kinder than Margaret although only time will show that.

  • Naja pallida

    I don’t know, I think everyone should have at least some inkling of concern in their mind that the last time the planet’s climate had these levels of greenhouse gases, the human race did not exist. We’re quite literally experimenting with our ecosystem every day now, and just crossing our fingers that it works out.

    Even if you want to ignore climate change entirely, everyone should want to improve infrastructure to keep up with our population growth, and reduce costs associated with weather events. Which means generating more reliable electricity. Making sure we have an adequate fresh water supply. Reducing traffic congestion, making sturdier homes that can withstand storms, etc, etc. You can go ahead and ignore climate, but you can’t ignore the overall impact on society. The cost of doing nothing is always exponentially higher than trying to address it before bad things happen.

  • Indigo

    From your keyboard to God’s monitor!

  • Indigo

    It’s a Shakespearean usage. :-)

  • Indigo

    He’s cute but he’s a player like his great aunt Margaret. It’ll become obvious as time goes on.

  • FLL

    Most of the Royal Family are inbreed morons who’ve deliberately avoided a real education. How did Prince Harry slip through the cracks? He must get most of his brains from his mother. In the news:

  • FLL

    According to some circles in politics, there’s only one scientifically valid way to determine if the long-term climate trend has changed: Ask Rush Limbaugh to stick his head out the window.

  • Then there are millions who believe Mrs. God, the Virgin Mary, will intercede, have mercy and all….especially if that little stream dries up at Lourdes.

  • Snork, snork Majored in dead skin! That’s funny.

  • This is part of the reason Great Britain no longer has an empire and is a second rate world power—- a parliament of cretins.

  • Ninong

    Remember “Brownie”? I’m talking about Michael Brown, the Arabian Horse Association manager that George W. Bush appointed to run FEMA during Hurricane Katrina.

    “Brownie” was probably more qualified to run FEMA than Owen Paterson is to be the UK’s minister for the environment. His bio says he “began” his studies at Cambridge, where he “read History at Corpus Christi College” before moving on to “the National Leathersellers College.” He then joined the British Leather Company, eventually becoming Sales Director and then Managing Director. Finally he was President of COTANCE (The Confederation of National Associations of Tanners and Dressers of the European Community).

    Owen Paterson, a History major who became a leather salesman, is David Cameron’s “Brownie.”

  • Ninong


    You have a typo in your first sentence: “…suggested that climate change isn’t neither real, nor significantly affected by man.” Change “isn’t” to “is.”

  • Ninong


    You have a typo in your first sentence: “…suggested that climate change isn’t neither real, nor significantly affected by man.” Change “isn’t” to “is.”

  • Monoceros Forth

    I’m pretty sure I’ve said some version of this in the past but I’ll say it again because sometimes I just like to hear myself talk (or see myself type.)

    I can sort of understand people who might grudgingly accept that, yes, the Earth is warming, but it’s not anything we should worry about. There are a number of variations on this idea–the notion that it’s a natural phenomenon not caused by mankind, or that maybe we are contributing but it’s OK because the consequences won’t be as dire as the doomsayers say, or that even if there are negative consequences the social cost of attempting to combat global warming will be even worse for us. I can even sort of understand the people who just don’t care, either because they’ve got some breezy notion that Life Will Find A Way or because they honestly think it won’t matter cos Jesus is going to come and take them away.

    What I don’t understand are the folks who assert that it’s not happening at all, that it’s all just some lie put about by pinko scientists. Why exactly are they all supposedly lying to us? What are they getting out of it? The more you really examine this idea that climate change is all made up the more bizarre the implications of the idea look: either you have to believe that almost every environmental scientist in the world is so stupid that they don’t know how to interpret their own data, or you have to believe that almost every environmental scientist in the world is party to some vast conspiracy to foist this titanic falsehood upon us because…well, I dunno. The nearest thing I’ve seen to the reason for this ostensible conspiracy is that it’s a way for unscrupulous academics to scam grant money.

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