Boris Johnson, the often-controversial mayor of London, muses in the Telegraph about the unusually heavy snow swirling down on London these days, and whether the weather means the sun is cooling and an ice age is coming:
I remember snow that used to come and settle for just long enough for a single decent snowball fight before turning to slush; I don’t remember winters like this. Two days ago I was cycling through Trafalgar Square and saw icicles on the traffic lights; and though I am sure plenty of readers will say I am just unobservant, I don’t think I have seen that before. I am all for theories about climate change, and would not for a moment dispute the wisdom or good intentions of the vast majority of scientists.
But I am also an empiricist; and I observe that something appears to be up with our winter weather, and to call it “warming” is obviously to strain the language. I see from the BBC website that there are scientists who say that “global warming” is indeed the cause of the cold and snowy winters we seem to be having. A team of Americans and Chinese experts have postulated that the melting of the Arctic ice means that the whole North Atlantic is being chilled as the floes start to break off—like a Martini refrigerated by ice cubes.
I do not have the expertise to comment on the Martini theory; I merely observe that there are at least some other reputable scientists who say that it is complete tosh, or at least that there is no evidence to support it.
Johnson cites the “learned astrophysicist” Piers Corbyn, who predicts (and bets on) long-term weather forecasts. (Corbyn is also known for publicly denying that global warming is a man-made phenomenon.) But according to Mayor Boris, Piers “has been bang on about these cold winters,” saying the sun is going through a weak spell and the earth is unusually cold this winter.
Now, Boris Johnson is a man many talk about as a likely next prime minister of the UK, and as such he isn’t going to thumb his nose at climate science. But he sure is tap dancing on the verge of heresy here.
We have no view about the scientific questions he raises; we claim no expertise when it comes to the effects of sunspots on the weather in London. But when politicians as senior and savvy as Boris Johnson flirt with climate heresy in a country that has prided itself on taking the lead on this issue, the odds against the kind of big global action the global green lobby wants start looking very long indeed.