David Cameron’s comments that the recent floods are linked to climate change are not backed up by scientific research, the Met Office has said.
The Prime Minister told MPs in the House of Commons that he “very much suspects” the recent extreme weather is connected to global warming.
However, weather experts believe there is a fundamental distinction between localised weather patterns and climate change, which should be seen globally and over a long period of time.
Owen Paterson, the Environment Secretary, earlier seemed unable to bring himself to endorse his party leader’s view when asked about the comments in the Commons, prompting a roar of laughter on the opposition benches.
The Conservative minister, who is widely viewed as a climate-change sceptic, was asked by Phil Wilson, the Labour MP for Sedgefield: “In PMQs yesterday, the Prime Minister said he very much suspects that the recent abnormal weather events are a result of climate change. Do you agree with the Prime Minister?”
Mr Paterson replied: “What the Prime Minister said is we should look at the practical measures we’re taking, and I entirely endorse his questions.”
He added: “And perhaps you will get after your front bench and see if they will endorse the very ambitious spending plans we have for flood defences, which so far, they have been very, very reluctant to do.”
Wind and rain have plagued the country for weeks as thousands of homes have flooded and wet and windy conditions and brought chaos to roads and transport systems.
More than 100 flood warnings remain in place and they are expected to last the rest of the week.
In response to a question from Tim Farron during Prime Minister’s Questions in which the Liberal Democrat MP suggested the recent weather was a “destructive and inevitable consequence, at least in part, of climate change”, Mr Cameron said: “I agree with my honourable friend that we are seeing more abnormal weather events.
“Colleagues across the house can argue about whether that is linked to climate change or not. I very much suspect that it is.”
But Nicola Maxey from the Met Office said there was a crucial distinction between weather and climate change.
“What happened at the end of December and at the beginning of January is weather,” she said.
“Climate change happens on a global scale, and weather happens at a local scale. Climate scientists have been saying that for quite a while.
“At the moment there’s no evidence to suggest that these storms are more intense because of climate change.
She added: “In real terms we had a low depression over the Atlantic which deepened, which caused the swell, and that combined with the spring tide caused the coastal waves.”
The Daily Telegraph, 9 January 2014