Sunday, 1 December 2013

Science-based policy

Round about the time that the government, after two false starts, finally embarked on an evidence-based approach to cigarette packaging, the Independent drew attention to the continued shunning of serious scientific advice by Owen Paterson, the Secretary of State at the Department for the Environment. Mr Paterson was appointed by David Cameron to replace Caroline Spelman at DEFRA last year. The Independent comments:
At the time, Tory MP and environmentalist Zac Goldsmith noted that the appointment was “odd”, and that if the Conservatives wished to retain their green credentials, then it would have been better to appoint someone who didn’t dismiss environmentalism as a left-wing issue.

A year on, Goldsmith’s view hasn’t changed. At his party’s conference in Manchester, he joked to a fringe meeting that Paterson had recently said there could be advantages to climate change.

Goldsmith said : “This is a huge step forward. As far as I know he previously didn’t think global warming was happening. Matt Ridley has famously claimed there would be a 'net global benefit to human or planetary welfare' from global warming up until temperatures increased 2.2C from 2009 levels.

In step with his brother-in-law
[Matt Ridley, of Northern Rock fame], Paterson has stressed the positive rather than the overall negative effects from global warming. He recently said: “Remember, for humans, the biggest cause of death is cold in winter, far bigger than heat in summer.”

In addition to his brother-in-law, Mr Paterson seems to rely on informal advice given him by a network of other climate change sceptics, rather than his chief scientific advisor, Professor Ian Boyd. The Independent is calling for DEFRA to "open its books" on all the sources of advice given to its ministers.

Just how much Mr Paterson is divorced from settled scientific conclusions on global warming is exposed by this response to his performance on AQ earlier this year.

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