Former Environment Secretary: climate change forecasts are “wildly exaggerated”

The Tory MP and former cabinet secretary Owen Paterson voices his highly sceptical views on climate change and energy.

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The former Environment Secretary, Owen Paterson, who lost his job in the government’s summer reshuffle this year, will call climate change forecasts “consistently and wildly exaggerated” in a speech today. Although he accepts the “main points of greenhouse theory”, he will question the consensus about how urgent the situation is:

Over the past 35 years, the earth’s atmosphere has warmed nothing like as fast as forecast, and over the last 18 years it has not warmed at all, according to some sources.

The Conservative MP’s sceptical views on global warming are no secret, and he could hardly contain his distaste for onshore wind farms even when serving in the cabinet. He has since referred to the environment lobby as the “Green Blob”, in an echo of Michael Gove’s mockery of critics in the education profession when he was Education Secretary.

Paterson is now clearly using the freedom provided by his relatively new seat in the backbenches to unleash the extent of his belief that government energy policy will “fail to keep the lights on”.

He is delivering a speech to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the think tank thought to be a hub of climate change denial headed by arch sceptic and former Chancellor Nigel Lawson.

Paterson will condemn the government’s “blind adhesion” to carbon emissions targets, and call for the Climate Change Act’s legally-binding target to be suspended:

The 2050 target commits us to a huge expansion of electricity generation capacity, requiring vast investment.

Instead, Paterson is expected to champion fracking, combined heat and power plants, and “small modular nuclear reactors”.

He will add that it was “complete nonsense” that he was unable to repeal the hunting ban when in cabinet.

This intervention is significant because Paterson represents a Tory voice far away even from the alleged “green crap” of post-husky David Cameron. On the party’s right wing, Paterson speaks for a number of Conservative MPs, and voters, disgruntled with the leadership in general. Its commitment to the 2008 Climate Change Act means politicians like Paterson can tell horror stories to rural voters about wind farms, other renewable energy sources and the cost to the taxpayer of a government attempting to be environmentally friendly.

There was some chatter at Conservative party conference about Paterson being a potential stalking horse for the Tory party leadership, possibly ready to spring into action if the party loses the Rochester and Strood by-election in November. Although this is just a rumour, Paterson is certainly clearly differentiating himself from the party leadership he once served.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.