UK Climate Minister Slams Media And ‘Blinkered’ Deniers: ‘It’s The Science, Stupid’

Edward Davey is the UK’s Secretary of State for Energy & Climate. On Monday he gave a blistering speech at a Met Office Climate Services event held at London’s Institute of Physics.

He slammed the climate science deniers and those in the media who enable them:

Of course there will always be uncertainties within climate science and the need for research to continue….

We make progress by building on what we know, and questioning what we don’t.

But some sections of the press are giving an uncritical campaigning platform to individuals and lobby groups who reject outright the fact that climate change is a result of human activity.

Some who even deny the reality of climate change itself.

This is not the serious science of challenging, checking and probing.

This is destructive and loudly clamouring scepticism born of vested interest, nimbyism, publicity seeking contraversialism or sheer blinkered, dogmatic, political bloody-mindedness.

This tendency will seize upon the normal expression of scientific uncertainty and portray it as proof that all climate change policy is all hopelessly misguided – from pursuing renewable energy to emissions targets themselves.

By selectively misreading the evidence, they seek to suggest that climate change has stopped so we can all relax and burn all the dirty fuel we want without a care.

This is a superficially seductive message, but it is absolutely wrong and really quite dangerous.

Hear! Hear!

The whole speech is worth reading, but the part on the science bears repeating:

The physics is clear: greenhouse gas emissions trapped in the atmosphere have direct consequences: increasing temperatures; less ice and snow; sea levels rising; more risk of extreme weather. To name but a few.

Forecasts of the rate at which the world will warm in the future may differ – but all the traffic is in one direction.

The decade between 2000 and 2010 was the warmest in the global temperature record – warmer than the 90s, which was warmer than the 80s, which was warmer than the 70s.

And if we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere at the rate we are now, this will continue and will get worse.

On emissions and on such greenhouse gas emissions, I agree with what Oxford’s Professor Myles Allan wrote last week in the Mail on Sunday:

“As almost everyone agrees, they still have to come down.”

And how do we know all this to be true?

To coin a phrase, “it’s the science, stupid.”

It’s what the evidence tells us.

It’s the science, stupid.

48 Responses to UK Climate Minister Slams Media And ‘Blinkered’ Deniers: ‘It’s The Science, Stupid’

  1. Raul M. says:

    SOS Clinton is in the hospital again. It must be difficult for a leader to admit that particulate warming of ~30% of
    The total is a great concern for herself. But now that her doctor has told her that it is a great concern for her personal health, she may be expected to stay out of the plane for awhile. I don’t think that her doctor should try to change her relationship with nature for there isn’t a way out of her dependence on nature for good health.
    Better to adhere to the facts and telecommute.

  2. Merrelyn Emery says:

    I’ve given up hope that the hard core deniers will shut up. On Monday night, Bill McKibben had to deal with one of our worst from the LNP on Q & A (ABC national TV). The majority of the audience was barracking for Bill which confirms opinion polls that the deniers have lost a lot of ground in Oz over the last couple of years, ME

  3. catman306 says:

    Didn’t it take more than 25 years before the general public started to understand the dangers of cigarette smoking? That’s too long when it might already be too late to deal with fossil fuel carbon pollution.

    Can America borrow Edward Davey for about 10 years? He doesn’t mince words.

  4. Dave S. Nottear says:

    Wow, that is really good to see.

    (Who was our Secretary of Energy again?)

    Re. “It’s the science, stupid.”

    I like that, but more and more I am getting the impression that the majority of people think “science” is “just your opinion.” And that all opinions on the subject are equal.

    So, I am not sure “It’s the science, stupid” will register. I’ll try it the next “Intelligent Design” come up, just to see if it will make any difference ;)

  5. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Climate has a couple of advantages over smoking. People didn’t see the mass deaths of smokers but everyday now, they see disasters piling up around the world. Smoking is also a highly addictive and pleasurable activity while the rapid uptake of renewables shows that using energy from FFs is not addictive or pleasurable. That means there is no personal reason to avoid understanding the connections and it should, and is, growing much more rapidly, ME

  6. BobbyL says:

    The media loves controversy and the deniers have taken full advantage of that. They know the big lie works. The controversy over evolution which should have ended many decades ago has been kept alive so we should not expect the arguments over global warming to end in the lay media. To think that an overwhelming amount of scientific facts can end the controversy is a mistaken notion.

  7. Jeff Huggins says:

    One Degree of Separation

    Most readers here will be familiar with the idea of “six degrees of separation”, so I won’t repeat it here.

    Instead, my point here is this:

    While we tend to focus in many of these discussions on the understanding of the average citizen, and the (very real) problem of poor media coverage of climate change, which limits and confuses the public’s understanding, we don’t talk much about the fact that specific people who care about climate change know specific public leaders directly and well, or at least know someone well who knows them, and what could be done via those networks to get our leaders off their duffs to do something about climate change.

    For example — and a very relevant example here — forget talking about six degrees of separation; if my understanding is correct, there is only ONE degree of separation between a key leader and influence at CAP and the very next (presumably) Democratic nominee for president, or at least the presumed front-runner at this point, Hillary Clinton. John Podesta, I assume, and perhaps others at CAP, know Hillary directly, or at least I assume they do. If there is not ONE degree of separation between CAP’s senior-most leaders and Hillary Clinton, for example, at most there are two degrees of separation.

    So, while we all like to consider the poor media coverage and the deleterious influence of that on public understanding, we should do much more in the way of asking (and demanding answers to) questions such as this: “If John Podesta knows Hillary and Bill directly, why the H_ll can CAP not play and more vital and (more importantly) EFFECTIVE role at prompting real progress?” And related questions. You get the idea.

    How many (oodles!) postings have we read about the (admittedly) terrible coverage of the NY Times and other media, regarding climate change, over the last four, five, six years? But how many times have we had an open post and open discussion of this sort of question: “Why doesn’t Joe encourage and prompt CAP leadership or recent-past leadership, including and especially John Podesta, to prompt Hillary (and why not Bill too!) to take a clear and strong stand regarding climate change and begin to Lead the public dialogue about it?” Get it? — Joe to John to Hillary and Bill. Tell us, please, how Hillary would rule regarding KXL if she were president today; or (better yet) prompt and encourage her to tell us; or (at least) pose the question to her, privately and publicly.

    Although I agree that the media deserve criticism, I am beginning to think that we should PUBLICLY ask many more questions, and have much more discussion, about these types of strategies that involve one, two, or three “degrees of separation” between very specific people — real people with real names. In my view, we are talking about those types of things far too little.

    I’ll ask the direct question here: Will you, Joe, make a post explaining (in your words) how all this works or doesn’t work today, and then — more importantly — open up a free and honest dialogue and debate about what might be done to begin to prompt better progress using these types of approaches?



  8. Brooks Bridges says:

    Wonderful words to salt away. Refreshingly blunt from a politician.

    Question: He goes on later to say:
    “Our main challenge is to agree (to) international actions that will reduce emissions enough to avoid really dangerous climate change, keeping global temperature rise to no more than 2 degrees above pre-industrial levels.”

    He then says: “And to meet this scenario, we need to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 50% by 2050, with greater cuts for the developed world, where per capita emissions are highest. ”

    The “we” in this case is the entire world. “with greater(?) cuts in the developed world”

    My question is: How much per year would this be for the developed world? And starting when? I fear the answer.

    I will try to research this but if someone knows the answer, please let me know.

  9. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Brooks, I believe it’s the exponential function. Assuming a peak in 2015, which leaves 35 years until 2050:

    (1 – perAnnum)^35 = 1 – totalReductiobn

    For the entire world: A totalReduction of 50%, the perAnnum is 1.96%
    For a developed world totalReduction of 60%, the perAnnum is 2.58%
    For a developed world totalReduction of 75%, the perAnnum is 3.88%

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    MSM denialism has nothing to do with ‘controversy’ and everything to do with ideology. Where there is a question involving elite interests, say in the sanctioning, subversion, invasion by jihadi murderers and coming destruction and partition of Syria, the MSM is in 100% Groupthink mode. All articles attack Syria, falsely portray the conflict as a ‘civil war’, falsely assert that murderous Sunni fundamentalists are only now entering the fight, and suppress totally every story that puts the ideological narrative in question, and a brief sojourn in the real ‘Free Press’ on the web, shows that there are scores such stories. Similarly with reporting on China, Russia and Iran-near 100% bias and uniformity of opinion, and no ‘controversy’ whatsoever.

  11. Merrelyn Emery says:

    Brooks, the last agreement was that action on the new agreement (2015) should start in 2020, ME

  12. Superman1 says:

    “confirms opinion polls that the deniers have lost a lot of ground in Oz over the last couple of years”. As evidenced by the strong action the Australian government has taken to reduce its world-leading exports of coal and any further exploitation of newly-found fossil reserves. Oh, wait…

  13. Superman1 says:

    How do these numbers comport with what one of his boys, Anderson, is publishing? Anderson’s numbers show about 10% per annum reduction in CO2 emissions is required to meet the 2 C ceiling. I haven’t seen those numbers challenged. Both sets of numbers are fiction, since even Anderson admits 1 C should be the real target, and both sets are based on models that do not include all the major positive feedback mechanisms.

  14. fj says:

    Yes, science change is clear and much more important is that the world must act immediately to stop it with the greatest amount of urgency.

  15. fj says:

    In this regard, Obama must stop Keystone XL immediately and start action to stop accelerating climate change.

  16. fj says:

    Obama must make action on climate change a wartime scale effort of prime importance

    All other acts of governance must be comply.

  17. Stephen W says:

    These are encouraging and hard-hitting words but our governments here in the UK seem to do little to match them as Caroline Lucas, our only Green Party MP pointed out today:

    The refusal of the majority of Lib Dem and Conservative MPs to back a 2030 decarbonisation target in the Energy Bill today raises serious questions about the huge influence wielded over the Coalition by the fossil fuel industry – and exposes the complete failure of political leaders to recognise that the green economy is our best route out of recession.

    It’s also deeply worrying that sensible amendments proposing to examine the huge costs involved in new nuclear power were overwhelmingly rejected.

    Given our government’s obsession with roads over trains (we have the highest train fares in Europe), a reliance on gas and a CCS implementation that actually works, GDP growth and air travel expansion then slashing the support for solar installations and screwing around with the limited grants available for home insulation it will be interesting to see what they do to actually support Davey’s fine words.

  18. Superman1 says:

    You have it exactly right. Notice how the Amen Corner here becomes ecstatic over fiery words from a politician, but overlooks the lack of action in the past, on the books, or planned for the future relative to the all-out effort actually required to avoid the cliff.

  19. Martin Lack says:

    It is a great shame that, despite having people such as Ed Davey in government, the UK Parliament yesterday rejected amendments to the new Energy Bill that would have required the UK government to set carbon reduction targets by April next year. In so doing, the UK has now:
    – failed to honour promises made in the Climate Change Act;
    – failed to act on the advice of its own scientific experts;
    – failed to dismantle the subsidies that support fossil-fuel production;
    – failed to provide certainty for investors in renewable energy (at any scale); and
    – failed to take a lead to encourage other countries also to work towards a sustainable future.

    I therefore think John Ashton, a former Foreign Office climate expert, was right to conclude recently that no-one who has voted for this new Energy Bill can be considered to be taking the threat of anthropogenic climate disruption seriously.

  20. Martin Lack says:

    Hi Stephen. I have been fortunate enough to be able to watch key bits of the debates both yesterday and Monday. In both, Caroline Lucas spoke eloquently and dealt with interventions from ‘sceptics’ brilliantly by describing the intervention (rather than the ‘sceptic’) as “ignorant”. My only criticism would be that she tried to say too much and therefore spoke too fast.

  21. BobbyL says:

    Are you saying the MSM denies climate change? That doesn’t seem to make any sense. It reports on what the deniers are saying but that isn’t denialism. That’s reporting.

  22. Martin Lack says:

    Dennis, Thanks for explaining the math.

    If we are to avoid an ecological catastrophe, global emissions need to be reduced to near zero as soon as possible.

    Clearly the latter is never going to happen. However, even worse, exponential functions being what they are, the annual reduction rapidly becomes implausible when you move the goalposts.

    For example, I think I am correct to deduce that 10% annual reduction would be required in order to achieve an 80% reduction over 15 years from 2015 to 2030.

  23. Brooks Bridges says:

    Thanks for the math Dennis,

    Those numbers sound, to understate, hard. It sounds like some heavy magic is required to reverse present trend by 2015 and go negative by amounts you show.

    I need to goma (get off…) and do some digging and such. I’d like to see some of stuff from Anderson’s video on Emporer’s clothes compared with Robert H. Socolow’s wedges stuff. Then like to see whole thing related better to Joe the plumbers world, e.g., if we get to 4 deg C in 2050 it means NYC will be having heat waves of 120+ deg F.

    An app to let you vary key numbers and give scenarios would seem doable.

    Also a future headlines feature for different scenarios. “Yesterday Cat 5 Hurricane Inhofe came ashore at Miami Beach… (By 2020 all hurricanes above Cat 3 coming ashore will be renamed for prominent climate change deniers.)

  24. Lore says:

    I would have loved to hear that speech come out of President Obama’s mouth.

  25. Brooks Bridges says:

    Thanks ME. Two years.

    That would match nicely with first ice free September in Arctic ocean.

  26. Raul M. says:

    Thanks Martin for writing on your website. The chart on wet bulb temperatures is nice .Psychrometric chart from Wikipedia.

  27. Superman1 says:

    Martin, if you adopt my worldview that the global electorate could, for the most part, care less about climate change and especially making the sacrifices required to avoid the cliff, and that they elect the governments and politicians who reflect their disinterest, then you will find little in the actions of these governments and politicians that will be unexpected or disappointing. It is only when your expectations are unrealistic that disappointment sets in.

  28. Superman1 says:

    For example, if Obama were truly interested in taking a strong stance on climate change, he would have long ago rejected the Keystone pipeline, and made a fiery speech when he did. Even though I believe acceptance or rejection of the pipeline is irrelevant in the larger picture, a strong and immediate stance would have sent a strong message.

  29. Superman1 says:

    In about 1964, when I was still a grad student, I saw ‘The Organizer’, with Marcello Mastroianni. In the middle of a rousing organizing speech (which to this day tingles my skin when I recall it), one of my classmates, a Welsh Lefty, jumped up, pumped his fist in the air, and cheered on the speech. That’s the kind of rousing speech we should be hearing from our politicians about climate change, with no waffling or delaying for time, but they know that’s the last thing most of the electorate wants to hear.

  30. Gingerbaker says:

    I would suggest that the more one engages with deniers about the science, the more the science will be an issue. Which is not where we want the discussion to be, it is where the other side wants the discussion to be.

    Where we want to be doing is changing policy, and here we can actually thank the right-wing propagandists for they have shown us how to get the job done.

    And that is to argue strategically. This means moving the Overton window. If you want the right to accept a useful compromise, that means you must seriously and repeatedly make the argument for policy way, way to the left of that compromise.

    As an example, why not start a serious discussion for nationalization of the fossil fuel industry? They have not been acting in the national interest for decades, they have blown their chance to be responsible citizens and we should take them over.

    Or, to flog my pet position, why not argue for a national public utility, which would install large-scale renewable energy only, and offer the resulting electricity for no charge?

    Stop arguing the science – the science is proven. Deniers and naysayers should be dismissed as scoundrels. Anybody who questions the science should present a scientific paper or shut up.

    And let’s start talking radical policy.

  31. Dennis Tomlinson says:

    Agree with your numbers Martin. I also agree that numbers like 80% reduction by 2030 are closer to what’s needed to avoid catastrophe (not speaking from expertise, but from the reading of those who are). I’ve also read that the first 20% to 25% could be achieved by conservation only – not requiring any reduction in living standards (albeit costly to the bottom lines of many deserving companies).

  32. prokaryotes says:


    Ed Davey on energy bill and government carbon target

  33. Gingerbaker says:

    “…hey know that’s the last thing most of the electorate wants to hear….”

    Why do you keep saying that? Poll after poll (and blog post after blog post by Joe, here) show that the vast majority of Americans want action on AGW.

  34. Superman1 says:

    “not requiring any reduction in living standards”. Anderson shows that altering the supply will not get the required reductions in the near term, and will drive us over the cliff. Correcting his numbers for inclusion of positive feedback mechanisms, and temperature ceilings outside the danger zone, it is clear that only the most stringent emission standards have any hope of avoiding the cliff.

  35. James says:

    97% of the top climate scientists agree that our climate is warming, and that most of the recent warming is due to carbon pollution.

  36. Superman1 says:

    These polls have the same credibility as the posters who claim we can make a painless transition to renewables with no sacrifices necessary. There are two polls I believe: the 0.01% of Americans who attended the February climate rally vs the 33% who watched the SuperBowl, and the millions of climate action types who couldn’t be bothered to vote in the 2010 election and allowed the Deniers to take over the House. I guess they were too busy responding to pollsters!

  37. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Oh, they probably will, but ‘Actions speak louder than words’, particularly in the ‘Great Dissembler’s’ case.

  38. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Are you joking? How do you get that idiocy from what I said? And, yes, large sections of the MSM do publish straight denialism, or partial denial, often while smugly, sanctimoniously and hypocritically feigning ‘acceptance’ of the science. The Australian, the very centre of hardcore denialism and vigorous opposition to renewable energy in this country, used to openly boast of its aim to become ‘carbon-neutral’.

  39. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s the ‘degrees of separation’ amongst the ruling elites that count. There are one or two of those, at most.

  40. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Lucas is just stating ‘the bleeding obvious’. In the sham UK ‘democracy’ real power is, as it has always been, wielded by the rich. They control politics totally, and the public are bystanders. The 31% turn-out for the local elections recently shows how many realise that. Elite wealth is based on fossil fuels and financial manipulation, so decarbonisation is out of the question. The UK vies with the USA as the most unequal regime in the OECD, with the worst social parameters, and it is only going to get much, much, worse. But at least you are world-leaders in exterminating defenceless animals, as the coming, pointless, but illuminatingly savage, slaughter of badgers shows yet again.

  41. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    I was in the UK during the 2010 election. Just before the election there was a leak of some sort of survey of opinion amongst ‘Young Tories’, the archetypal ‘young fogies’ who, with their future selves, the ‘senile delinquents’ make up much of Toryism and the English ruling caste. It revealed that these chaps were quite mad, extremists along US Tea Party lines, and viciously anti-Green.
    The Right, I believe, are engaged on a project, a sort of mass experiment, to see just how rapidly and deeply can a group devolve and just how quickly the frontal cortex can be rendered redundant and replaced by a hypertrophied ‘reptilian brain’ stoked up on pure malice, greed and arrogance. Believe me, our Antipodean knuckle-draggers could give any Northern Hemisphere auto-lobotomisers a real run for their money.

  42. Raul M. says:

    An interesting thing about emmissions is that they have already been emitted. So if emmissions are reduced then the emmissions are pulled from the air. To follow the emmissions to the oceans; well there, no there isn’t much way to reduce those emmissions yet. But as you may have guessed, they were speaking of the future.

  43. Stephen W says:

    Yep, our governments always seem determined to be world leaders in something or other …

  44. Martin Lack says:

    Thanks Dennis. It is little wonder that libertarian economists don’t want to accept the nature of reality but reality does not change just because you refuse to acknowledge it.

  45. Martin Lack says:

    The decision not to include Carbon Targets in our Energy Bill will be of irrational equivalence to Obama approving the KXL pipeline in the USA.

  46. Martin Lack says:

    Thanks for taking a look around, Raul.

  47. Martin Lack says:

    Thanks for that video, prokaryotes. Very interesting (window-dressing). However, it remains a shame that Michael Fallon (Energy Minister and climate sceptic) chose to try and discredit Tim Yeo (former Environment Minister and advocate of Target setting now) in the Energy Bill debate.

  48. Superman1 says:

    There’s an old saying ‘Justice delayed is justice denied’, which can be expanded to the blog world as ‘posting delayed is posting denied’. It can be further expanded to the Keystone decision because, even though I believe the pipeline is not that important in the larger picture, an immediate hard-hitting Presidential response could convey a strong interest in starting to protect the climate. The long-term waffling means that even a rejection of the pipeline won’t send much of the message that could have been sent.