The effects of climate change have been “consistently and widely exaggerated” in scientific forecasts, Owen Paterson, the sacked environment secretary, has claimed.
In a speech to climate sceptic think tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation (GWPF) on Wednesday, Mr Paterson will say that there is “considerable uncertainty” over the extent to which carbon dioxide emissions will cause global warming.
“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,” he will say, claiming “many policymakers have still to catch up with the facts”.
Mr Paterson argues that the UK should scrap the Climate Change Act,which binds the UK to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions, and pursue an alternative energy strategy.
While in office he was widely regarded as a climate sceptic and his comments are likely to be seized upon as confirmation of that.
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has calculated a finite “carbon budget” that can be burnt before it becomes likely that global warming will exceed 2C above pre-industrial levels.
Beyond that threshold the effects of climate change are forecast to become more dangerous.
The IPCC analysis suggests that about half the “carbon budget” has been exhausted and the rest could be used up within three decades if the world keeps burning fossil fuels at the current rate.
It says that a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be likely to lead to warming of between 1.5C and 4.5C.
The GWPF, run by Lord Lawson of Blaby, the former Chancellor, has backed rival analysis suggesting that if global carbon dioxide levels double then the increase in global temperatures will be less than the 2C.
Mr Paterson will say: “I readily accept the main points of the greenhouse theory. Other things being equal, carbon dioxide emissions will produce some warming. The question always has been: how much? On that there is considerable uncertainty.”
“I also note that the forecast effects of climate change have been consistently and widely exaggerated thus far.”
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “Experts agree that man-made climate change is one of the most serious threats this country and this world faces, and we are investing in renewables, nuclear and home-grown gas to combat it. Not doing so would be catastrophic.”