What’s wrong with warm weather?

A few days of nice weather does not indicate a ‘climate emergency’.

Rob Lyons


A few discomforts aside, most Brits will have enjoyed the heatwave. Much of the media commentary, however, seemed to view these precious few days of good weather as a portent of doom.

Last week’s sweat-fest featured the highest July temperatures in the UK since reliable records began in 1914. Temperatures in Cambridge hit 38.1 degrees Celsius – only the second recorded instance of the UK experiencing a temperature over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. One provisional reading on Thursday at Cambridge’s botanical gardens may have beaten the all-time UK temperature record of 38.5 degree Celsius (set in 2003 near Faversham, Kent). Records fell elsewhere in the UK, too. On the same day, for example, Edinburgh had its highest recorded temperature, 31.6 degrees Celsius, breaking the record set in 1975.

So, of course, the first question for the media was: ‘Is climate change to blame?’ But as is often stated, weather is not the same as climate. No individual weather event can be put down to rising temperatures due to greenhouse gas emissions. The UK still has a temperate climate and doesn’t get very hot very often. It doesn’t take much for a spell of weather to be called a ‘heatwave’. In London, for example, a heatwave is defined as three consecutive days above a mere 28 degrees Celsius, which many other parts of the world would regard as normal or even cool. Last week’s peak temperatures were newsworthy in Britain precisely because they were unusual.

A report published in December 2018 by the Met Office suggested that 2018’s record-breaking UK summer temperatures were about 30 times more likely than they would be ‘naturally’. But even the Met Office is careful to say that this conclusion is ‘provisional’. It is produced by comparing ‘computer models based on today’s climate with those of the natural climate we would have had without human-induced emissions’. Figuring out what a ‘natural’ climate would be like is educated guesswork at best. Computer models can never offer definitive guides to what might happen to the climate – or to anything else. Such claims may prove to be correct, but they need to be viewed with scepticism.

A more useful piece of perspective was provided by a paper published earlier this month in the journal PLOS One. It compares the temperatures in pairs of cities today with how temperatures might be in 2050 using the estimates produced by the UN climate research body, the IPCC. The authors’ conclusion is that, as a general trend, cities from the northern hemisphere will shift to warmer conditions typical of cities about 600 miles further south: ‘We notably predict that Madrid’s climate in 2050 will resemble Marrakech’s climate today, Stockholm will resemble Budapest, London to Barcelona, Moscow to Sofia, Seattle to San Francisco, Tokyo to Changsha.’

Given that most Brits spend all year saving up to have a week or two in the sun on the beaches in places like Barcelona, and some will be hoping to spend their retirement in even hotter parts of the Med, this is hardly the end of the world. In fact, it sounds great. It is a change that we will have to adapt to, of course, but it is surely something that we can cope with.

Not that coping is something that doom-mongering, climate-obsessed commentators, campaigners and politicians seem capable of. One tweet that struck me was from the former Labour MP, now director of the V&A Museum, Tristram Hunt: ‘As London wakes up from its terrifying “taste of the future” climate emergency, the V&A announces our most recent Rapid Response acquisitions: a series of objects exploring the design identity of the climate…’ As someone who made his name as a historian, it’s odd that Hunt has so little sense of historical perspective on what most people find ‘terrifying’. Seeing Genghis Khan’s horsemen or Nazi Panzers coming over the horizon would be genuinely terrifying. Temperatures that force people to go work in a pair of shorts are only alarming for those not accustomed to the sight of British men’s knees.

Let’s put this ‘terrifying’ taste of the future into perspective. Some people had a few uncomfortable nights’ sleep. There was some transport disruption because the UK’s infrastructure isn’t designed for hot weather. (Or, for that matter, cold weather, wet weather or any other entirely predictable kind of weather.) There was probably a run on electric fans in the shops and a few people might even have considered blowing a few quid on air conditioning (before sensibly deciding not to bother when temperatures dropped back to normal). For some people, unusually hot weather can be a bigger problem. Some older people will have needed extra support and a few will have needed hospital care.

While some might find this ‘terrifying’, anyone working in a reasonably cool building will have carried on as normal, just with one eye on the clock to make sure they could get a perch in the local beer garden before everyone else arrived. Drinking cold lager on a hot, sunny day – the horror! Kids, on their school holidays now, will no doubt have loved it as well.

Around the world, there have been very hot spells in places like Australia, with temperatures that make London’s recent blast of heat seem laughable. But modern, developed countries can adapt and cope perfectly well with the hot weather. Heatwaves, if planned for, are an inconvenience, not a disaster.

The real problem is not the temperature, but the reaction. That short spell of hot weather has been leveraged to crank up the panic about the world’s ‘climate emergency’. But the proposals from climate campaigners like Extinction Rebellion (XR) and by public bodies like the Committee on Climate Change, if implemented, would be far more disastrous than anything the climate is likely to throw at us.

In truth, there is no rational plan for getting to ‘net-zero carbon’ by 2050, let alone 2025, as XR is demanding, just enormous expense to make life worse for everyone in order to postpone rising temperatures for a few short years at most. These proposals include restricting car use to anything but expensive, short-range, slow-charge electric cars in just a few years. This would make life much, much harder in any part of the UK without a reliable and comprehensive public-transport system backed up by plentiful taxis. There are also plans for hugely expensive retrofitting of houses to improve insulation, no doubt making hot spells even more uncomfortable. Achieving ‘net zero’ also means restrictions on flying, gas-powered boilers and much more. We seem to be experiencing a bout of collective, climate-policy heatstroke.

Instead of this mindless climate panic, we should enjoy our brief flirtations with Med-style weather. The only thing we need to do is make sensible, cost-effective contingency plans for a changing climate and learn to adapt to a warmer world.

Rob Lyons is science and technology director at the Academy of Ideas and a spiked columnist.

Picture by: Getty Images.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.


Peter Simmons

11th August 2019 at 12:13 pm

This quite the silliest article on this subject I have seen in a long time, but then I don’t hang about down the dark end of youtube where the sad little no brains encourage each other#s consoiracy theory fantasies.
It seems typical of the ignorant, scienctifically illiterate, fossil-fuel loving boy racer mental midgets who have no understanding of what many have fully understood for decades, and scientists have confirmed many times over. That’s people with brains and several science degrees usually, who are now getting increasingly concerned that they have underestimated the data as global heating speeds up, and still the human species is incapable of restricting it’s selfish little impulses and behaving responsibly. What is Spiked? A platform for the ill-informed, deliberately obtuse vested interests and corrupt fossil fuel lobby? Are there any adults in charge?
From the look of this pathetic article I’m just surprised the ‘author’is able to write complete sentances. Still ‘sun is good rain is bad of the mentally challenged, he hasn’t a clue on the subject any more than the man in the pub, which is really all he is, yet has no hesitation spewing every idiot idea of the numpty crowd who imagine tens of thousands of very well educated scientists across a range of disciplines he hasn’t even heard of are all consiring to scare people and stop them consuming more and more. We can see who they are, obesity is now an epidemic.
He won’t be aware becuse his little braqin won’t have taken it in, but the Arctic is burning, thousands of acres of forest up in smoke because it’s too hot, Siberia and Alaska are the same, massive fires raging, despite never having wildfires. Glaciers all over the planet are melting faster every years and now are thousands of metres back from where they were just decades ago. Heatwaves are becoming normal, floods are becoming normal, as with Northern India which just experienced a year’s worth of monsoon rain in one day, flooding vast areas and killing people, animals and wildlife. And all this pathetic little man can say is let’s enjoy the weather and ignore the doomsayers.
A species unfit to survive, too stupid to be viable. And gathered round this complete load of crap are the usual dim twts like flies round a dog turd. I just hope all of you are flooded out soon, or die with heatstroke, pointless little hominids who didn’t evolve but continued as knuckle dragging mouth breathers.
Spiked brains on a stick, usaing up valuable oxygen but unwilling to do the deceant thing and end their sad lives so t=other more fit species can continue instead of going extinct. Currently thousands are becoming extinct annually, and if any of you had a clue you’d understand that’s serious. But of course you don’t have a clue, all you can do is illustrate how dim you are with your risible comments. Get back to the pub and poison your brains spome more, you have nothing to lose but your stupid pointless lives.

Jonathan Swift

4th August 2019 at 3:49 am

I grew up just west of Chicago, where Winters of -30C were common and so were Summers of +30C.

We loved climate change!

Jerry Owen

30th July 2019 at 8:36 am

Hottest days in the UK
Wales 1990
Scotland 2003
N/I 1976
England 2019 beating it’s previous record in 2003 by 0.03 of a degree.
Proof of global warming. Absolutely not. Further there is a margin of error that has to be taken into account.
We were told it’s the hottest July on record about a week ago , yet the average temp of a month is made up of average daily measurements . How can you say it’s the warmest ever when the last remaining week could record lower temps ?

Jerry Owen

30th July 2019 at 12:06 pm

*0.3 not 0.03 of a degree.

Ed Hoskins

29th July 2019 at 5:59 pm

A response to the passing of Net Zero CO2 emission policy in the UK House of Commons.

When will people realise that any CO2 reduction policy should also be seen in a longer-term context:
· According to reliable Ice Core records the last millennium 1000 – 2000 AD was the coldest of our current Holocene interglacial and the world had already been cooling quite rapidly since before Roman times, in fact since ~1000 BC.
· The modern short pulse of beneficial Global warming stopped ~20 years ago and recent global temperatures are now stable or declining.
· At 11,000 years old, our Holocene interglacial, responsible for all man-kind’s advances, from living in caves to microprocessors, is coming to its end.
· The weather gets worse in colder times.
· The world will very soon, (on a geological time scale), revert to a true glaciation, again eventually resulting in mile high ice sheets over New York.

The prospect of even moving in a cooling direction is something to be truly scared about, both for the biosphere and for man-kind.

Spending any effort, without true cost benefit analysis and full due diligence, let alone at GDP scale costs, trying to stop the UK’s 1% of something that has not been happening for 3 millennia is monumentally stupid.



James Knight

29th July 2019 at 4:16 pm

Some seem to have confused “global” warming with a day of hot weather in Cambridge.

Aidan Condie

29th July 2019 at 3:41 pm

Good article, as you say the problem is the reaction.

One or two points to make:
1. We are coming out of an interglacial, so one would expect temperatures to rise somewhat. And they are, but slowly.
2. Looking at ice core records, boreholes, stalactites and stalagmites, the climate is currently on the cool side. For example for 75-80% of this planet’s life there was no ice at either pole.
3. Whatever the climate is doing, we cannot do much about it. CO2 is 5% of total greenhouse gasses and of that 5% mankind with all its activities (transport, industry, housing, breathing) amounts to 5% of CO2. So mankind is responsible for one quarter of one percent of greenhouse gasses. So how are we meant to control the climate one may ask.
4. There have always been people who thought mankind was the problem: Malthus, Ehlrich, Club of Rome, Friends of the Earth, WWF. The good news, they are always wrong. Bad news, they con gullible politicians and are useful fodder for media on a bad news day. Also the cost you trillions. Oh, and by the way, they want you dead, because you’re the problem.

Puddy Cat

29th July 2019 at 3:21 pm

Like George III observed, the English summer is two days of sunshine and a thunderstorm.

Gerard Barry

29th July 2019 at 2:48 pm

While I, too, quite frequently feel very annoyed by the hype over “climate change”, unlike the author I can’t say that the prospect of the weather in Northern Europe (e.g. London) becoming more like that of southern Europe (e.g. Barcelona) to be very appealing!

alan smithee

29th July 2019 at 2:32 pm

I don’t know how 38c can be thought of as enjoyable?!

Ven Oods

30th July 2019 at 2:53 pm

It means you can drink away your Winter Fuel Allowance. (Mine’s a cold one.)

Jerry Owen

29th July 2019 at 1:57 pm

What a thoroughly refreshing article from Spiked on what is of course ‘weather’, come the dark dismal months of winter and people will be waiting for sun and warmth. People are happier when it is dry warm and light. Houses are cheaper to heat as well, a win win !
Not one ‘climate change’ model has predicted anything accurately. Ever since the first AGW prediction of ‘The Ice age Cometh’ the original climate change scare not one prophecy has come to pass form the AGW cultists.
Just enjoy the weather, climate change is something we can do nothing about.. unless of course someone has the thermostat control for the Sun !

fret slider

29th July 2019 at 12:56 pm

[A few days of nice weather does not indicate a ‘climate emergency’.]

Climate is defined as a trend over thirty years or greater.

Not a single ‘climate scientist’ has corrected any of the ridiculous hype. That should be a cause for concern.

Enjoy the weather, but worry about the, er, so-called impartial BBC

[BBC’s {Editorial} Meeting With Extinction Rebellion]

Working with the anarchists.

Phil Ford

29th July 2019 at 10:11 am

I still remember 1976. Best. Summer. Ever. Sure, we had water shortages, even stand-pipe water rationing (this was down in the southwest), but what an endless summer that was. Until, of course, it ended. And then everyone forgot about it (because reasons) and now every time we have a few unusually hot days it’s declared a Global Climate Emergency, usually by the ever-willing BBC. The dishonesty is breathtaking.

fret slider

29th July 2019 at 1:15 pm

’76 was the year the pubs ran out of beer – even Carlsberg.

Jim Lawrie

29th July 2019 at 7:32 pm

And Group 4 guarding the tatty fields in Scotland, as the farmers sent them all down to England. Except the ones we half inched.

In Negative

29th July 2019 at 9:53 am

Fuckin’ hate summer.

Stephen J

29th July 2019 at 8:24 am

As you suggest, the recommended course of action from the likes of the daft greenies at ER, is to panic and then recommend that we transport our nation back to the 12th century… No hang on that was the Mediaeval warming period… stone age then!

Apparently there is something bad about carbon, the stuff that everything on the planet is made of.

My feeling is that much of what is put down to “climate change” is merely due to centuries of poor management. See Allan Savory as an example of better management and its results.

Supposing that one just examines the way that government runs. It does not do anything, it does not produce anything, and apart from printing money, it doesn’t earn any. In short it is a drain on those that are productive, since it demands their money to run and pay for its noisemakers. It is so dependent on this, that it usually attaches menaces to its demands. Global warming is merely another menacing demand.

One of the things that is noticeable about global warming, is that people are happier, they are happier to hang out, they are happier to just work long enough to get what they need, rather than what they desire, and then have a party.

The thing is that when we move on technologically, we tend to throw the baby out with the bathwater, and reject the good things that we had then. Not everything needs improving. The massive explosion in world human population indicates that as a species we must be doing something right.

Warren Alexander

29th July 2019 at 8:22 am

I invested in hugely expensive technology to mitigate the effects of the couple of days of terrifying heat: I kept the windows open and closed the blinds to keep the sun out. When do I collect my Nobel Prize?

Jerry Owen

29th July 2019 at 2:03 pm

I’m afraid I’m more worthy of the Nobel Prize as not only did I do what you did, I also put some extra beers in the fridge !

Warren Alexander

29th July 2019 at 3:10 pm

Is there no end to man’s ingenuity?

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