Boris Johnson and Climate Change

There must be something in this climate change business if good old Boris Johnson, recently elected Mayor of London, has changed his mind about it. Just three years ago Mr Johnson in his friendly, semi-blustering and witty style poured scorn on the whole concept that the climate was changing due to human activity. This conservative politician liken those of us that thought there were very sound scientific cause for climate concern to religious believers, as though perhaps hundreds of thousands of people qualified or learned in science had abandoned their traditional ways of thinking and adopted climate change as a matter of faith, rather than scientific probability.

This is what he wrote two years ago:

“And the fear of climate change is like a religion in this vital sense, that it is veiled in mystery, and you can never tell whether your acts of propitiation or atonement have been in any way successful”.

He missed the point; climate change is a slow process. It is politicians who promise quick cures and fail. Those fighting climate change understand that it is a slow process, and there are no acts of propitiation, but a collection of many strategies each an essential part of the whole means to fight climate change and slow it down.

There are those that support wind farms, solar power, tidal power, nuclear power, biomass but as I understand it each supporter is not arguing that the object of his or her support is the panacea; only politicians do that. Scientists know that we have to use not acts of atonement but as many weapons as we have at our disposal.

It is the politicians that have been sending our soldiers in to fight the battle of climate change with single weapons, not the scientists.

Mr Johnson has changed in the two years since he wrote those words. I have read the whole article that he wrote and it is witty, but at the end of it I could not understand his views on climate change; he mocked those that supported it but covered himself by saying he did not know if it was happening, quoting the weather of centuries ago as though his examples were conclusive or in any way shed any light on the problem.

The change has come about because he has been elected as mayor of London and now has real responsibilities to its inhabitants. The time has come to stop writing words that sound well and witty, but, like all politicians, words that deliberately leave his meaning unclear.

With his election as Mayor of London it is refreshing to see that he has re thought his position on climate change. He now understands that it is a danger and that his duty as Mayor is to protect London from what may well be the effects of even a slight rise in the air temperatures over the next ten or twenty years.

He commissioned a report which has just been published. Its central finding is that London is not terribly well adapted to climate change, because London is likely to have hotter summers and warmer winters with more frequent floods, droughts and extreme weather events. If they happened today London, much of which is close to seal level, could not cope.

The report, which was commended by Mr Johnson, offers some practical and affordable strategies. These include increasing green spaces (which will help keep the city cool in summer and provide run off for flood waters. When the report was published the accompanying press release attributes the following to Mr Johnson:

“We need to concentrate efforts to slash carbon emissions and become more energy efficient in order to prevent dangerous climate change. But we also need to prepare for how our climate is expected to change in the future.”

He has summed up very simply and accurately what we have to do.

I do not think that Mr Johnson is now treating climate change like a religion, in the way he accused many of us doing just two years ago. I do not think he has been converted on the road to Damascus. I think that he has simply understood that his duty is to protect the great city that has elected him to protect it and advance his interests and he deserves much credit for doing so.