Tuesday 28 December 2010

Turned out nippy again, hasn't it?

Let us be clear on one thing: “the Met Office no longer issues long-range forecasts for the general public”.

It says so on their website, explaining that they have reached this strategic decision “following public research”. Though I think what they actually mean is public derision, after the “barbecue summer” they cheerfully predicted for 2009 turned out to be chiefly memorable for floods.

So the press reports that appeared back in October, suggesting that the Met Office was predicting “an unusually mild and dry winter” were not their official word at all, but merely some journalists’ interpretation of the probability maps churned out by their new £33 million supercomputer.

All clear?

It’s a shame, really, because if the Met Office had indeed forecast a mild winter it would have been a sure signal to go out and invest in rock salt, heating oil, woollen combinations, snow shovels and sledges. Rather as a “buy” note from me, in my years as an investment analyst, could be taken as a reliable indicator that the time had come to unload the stock concerned at almost any price.

But the fact that they did not make any such prediction sadly rules them out as a scapegoat for Spanish-owned BAA’s decision to spend twice as much on its chief executive’s salary as it did on snow-clearing equipment for Heathrow this year.

We don’t need to waste money on all that nonsense any more, do we? Haven’t you heard of global warming?

Similarly, the end of the Cold War provided a brilliant excuse to scrap all those strategic reserves of food and rescue equipment that had been kept topped up in the event of a nuclear holocaust. Not going to happen now, is it?

Well, we may sincerely hope not. But the one thing we can say with absolute certainty is that life is uncertain. The weather constantly changes and is full of surprises. International relations and the obsessions of fanatics are similarly fluid. If I had lapsed into a coma for the last 40 years I would now be coming around to think that at least all those worries about the forthcoming Ice Age had proved to be well founded.

There is no shortage of serious scientists prepared to deride as a crank the long range forecaster Piers Corbyn of Weather Action, who claims that global warming is over, CO2 levels have nothing to do with temperature levels and that the chief driver of our climate is solar activity.

Clearly a wild eccentric, then, but for the slightly troubling fact that his long range forecasts have proved more accurate than the Met Office’s did, when they deigned to make them. Now they have given up on that, while Mr Corbyn has been banned by the bookies from betting on his own predictions. What does that tell us about their respective levels of self-belief?

I have no idea whether the planet as a whole is getting warmer; all I can say with confidence is that I am not. And I know that large numbers of well-rewarded public servants are flying around the world at my expense for regular junkets at agreeable resorts like Cancun (always strangely ignoring the attractions of, say, Sunderland) to agree on the need to force me to cut back on my carbon emissions by paying much more for my energy.

While others are pocketing lots and lots of lovely money from my taxes to help erect huge and largely useless wind turbines or to generate power from rotting vegetation.

Still, at this of all times I suppose it ill behoves us cynics to sneer at others’ deeply held religious beliefs. So since I forgot to mention it last week, I hope that you have all enjoyed a suitably restrained winter holiday and wish you the very greenest of recycled New Years.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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