Convincing Boris on C Change

Revealed: The 11 slides that finally convinced Boris Johnson about global warming (via Carbon Brief)

A scientific briefing that UK prime minister Boris Johnson says changed his mind about global warming has been made public for the first time, following a freedom–of–information (FOI) request by Carbon Brief.

Last year, on the eve of the UK hosting COP26 in Glasgow, Johnson described tackling climate change as the country’s “number one international priority”. He also published a net–zero strategy and told other countries at the UN General Assembly to “grow up” when it comes to global warming.

However, just a few years earlier, Johnson was publicly doubting established climate science. For example, in a Daily Telegraph column published in 2015 he claimed unusual winter heat had “nothing to do with global warming”. And, in 2013, he said he had an “open mind” to the idea that the Earth was heading for a mini ice–age.

Last year, acknowledging his past climate scepticism, Johnson told journalists that he had now changed his mind, largely due to a scientific briefing he received shortly after becoming prime minister in 2019.

Johnson admitted he had been on a “road to Damascus” when it comes to climate science:

“I got them [government scientists] to run through it all and, if you look at the almost vertical kink upward in the temperature graph, the anthropogenic climate change, it’s very hard to dispute. That was a very important moment for me.”

The Sunday Times later reported that this briefing had been given by Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific advisor, and, according to one of the prime minister’s close allies, it “had a huge impact”. Using a FOI request submitted to the UK’s Government Office for Science (“GO–Science”), Carbon Brief has now obtained the contents of this pivotal scientific briefing, which took place on 28 January 2020 inside 10 Downing Street.

Below, Carbon Brief reveals the 11 slides that were used to “teach” Johnson about climate change, as well as the email correspondence exchanged between leading scientists and advisors as they prepared the prime minister’s briefing.[Jump straight to see the 11 slides used in the presentation.]

The emails suggest that some No 10 advisors were suspicious of important aspects of climate science – for example, asking whether UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports were “worth taking note of”.

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