What really happened on Any Questions held at ‘eco loon central’ on Friday Night?

Following ‘the rowdiest’ Any Questions in programme history held at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth – complete with anti badger culling and anti wind turbine protests – James Delingpole wrote a blog, published in the online Daily Telegraph, attempting to clarify his side of the story.

As someone who works at CAT, my take on the evening was unsurprisingly a little different: the real shock of the programme was not the anti wind farm cheering or right wing loon James Delingpole! It was something a whole lot more sinister. Secretary of State for the Environment Owen Paterson was asked if he agreed with James Delingpole’s opinion that climate change was anti-scientific, ideological nonsense. His response might come as something of a surprise given this man’s role in the UK government. Apparently the climate and temperature have not changed in the last 17 years. Jaws dropped in disbelief, and Peter Hain managed to splutter a reply: “and this i s the minister for the environment.”

It was always going to be a lively programme: from the moment word got out that Any Questions was happening in Machynlleth both pro wind farm and anti wind farm groups started ringing up for tickets. The news that Owen Paterson was going to be on the panel excited everyone, and when James Delingpole was announced it seemed like a BBC set up. Bring two wind turbine hating public figures to Europe’s leading eco centre, pitch them against socialist, republican, Welsh nationalist Leanne Wood, and well, let’s see what happens.

Earlier on in the afternoon a small but vocal group of people dressed as badgers had started a demonstration in the car park. A brief blockade of ‘badger killing’ Owen Paterson’s car followed, but all in all it was a good-natured affair. Those ‘desperately earnest and well meaning’ volunteers, so well described by James Delingpole in his blog, did their jobs of showing people to their seats and generally being welcoming and polite.

As the evening began, the atmosphere was electric. Encouragement from BBC warm up man Peter Griffiths and then Jonathan Dimbleby for audience participation was perhaps not necessary, given how the evening unfolded. The audience were opinionated, lively and more than willing to respond to answers from Leanne Wood, Peter Hain, Owen Paterson and James Delingpole.

There were a lot of interesting moments, much cheering, some booing. It was a pleasure to host the event at the Centre for Alternative Technology, not that we imagine that BBC Any Questions will be coming back in the next 40 years!

But those few words, buried amongst the cheering, booing and angry badger man’s outburst, stand out in my mind as the most disturbing revelation by BBC Any Questions on Friday night. Cabinet Minister for the Environment – not Welfare, Education or Defence – clearly stated “The real question is: is climate change influenced by man made climate change? The climate, the temperature has not changed in the last 17 years.”

Unbelievably, the UK has a Secretary of State for the Environment who believes that climate change is not happening; you couldn’t make this stuff up. It‘s absurd that as the level of carbon emissions in the atmosphere reaches 400ppm, as people around the world struggle in the face of adverse climatic conditions, as India bakes and Central Europe floods, as think tanks and NGOs advise that climate change will cause food shortages, political instability and rising sea levels, the Secretary of State for the Environment for the UK can sit glibly in front of an audience, on national radio, and say that climate change is not happening.

What’s more, when asked if local protests against wind farms should be able to stop developments from going ahead, he responded with a clear message that from now on landscape, topography and heritage should take precedent over national energy targets. Leanne Wood’s valuable point that this should be rolled out to include all energy generation stations was a little lost on him. For him it’s the wind turbines that are the problem.

It was shocking what happened on Friday night at BBC Any Questions. Any illusions of “greenest-ever” governments or intentions to tackle climate change and reduce carbon emissions in the UK were shattered into pieces.

I thought that James Delingpole was going to be the right wing loon on the Any Questions programme on Friday night, but I was mistaken: it was Owen Paterson. The problem is that his ramblings are not confined to the back pages of the Daily Telegraph – he is a cabinet minister and he is responsible for the environment.


  • John McCreesh

    Paterson was nearly right: The temperature has not changed in the last 15 years. We have to accept the data, even if it runs the danger of fuelling climate change deniers.

    • Bridget McKenzie

      The data shows that the warming has been (temporarily) absorbed by the ocean, and there are other contributory factors. We have to accept the data, all of it, in all its complexity and keep explaining it.

  • CATmedia

    But the climate and temperature have changed and continue to change fairly rapidly http://www.skepticalscience.com/graphics.php?g=47

  • Paterson is a danger to the Environment. A fox hunting, badger killing, bee killing, gm Crops supporting fracker.

  • Dan Hodson

    Surface temperate is not the whole picture however, there is evidence that the deep oceans have been taking up the ‘missing heat’. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/grl.50382/full#grl50382-sec-0007 the climate system is more than just global mean surface temperate.

    • Lost Transport

      There is extrapolation that the deep oceans are taking up the energy (“missing heat”) expected to be added to the Earth’s energy budget as part of its climate system. However you should be aware Dan that we don’t measure the deep ocean temperatures thereby providing a convenient black box for assumptions. Satellite data and the Argo project show no warming of surface ocean temperatures.

      The pause in surface temperatures is suggested to be caused by ocean oscillations from your link. However by increasing the role of ocean oscillations in reducing surface temperatures means that we need to increase their significance during the warming period between the mid-70s and mid-90s also therefore reducing the contributing role of CO2 during this period. Ocean oscillations both warm and cool surface temperatures – you can’t have the yin without the yang here.

      If you’re going to argue that ocean oscillations are important to understanding what is occurring in the 21st century then you are arguing that CO2 plays a less significant role in surface air temperatures.

  • andy perry

    onshore windfarms and pv roof installations don’t work,they are inferior tech driven by corruption fuelled by EC grants..switch your lobbying to TIDAL LAGOONS and hotwater tubes for roofs,get smart get informed this tech works…pv roofs and windfarm corrupt grants mean the rich get paid for rubbish tech and the poor pay for it…join the good and clever gals guys and children TIDAL LAGOONS and hot water roofs are the way to go..c’mon you owe it to our lovely planet..onshore windmills ADD to global warming..get smart get clever..TIDAL LAGOONS…did you get that..TIDAL LAGOONS….love peace and understanding xoxox

    • Andy, I’m energy modeller for CAT’s Zero Carbon Britain project, I spend a lot of time looking at all renewable energy options.
      Briefly, the issue is: Tidal lagoons are great in the locations where we can build them, but the total potential of this technology is much smaller than that of offshore wind. In a nutshell: There are lots more places where we can build offshore wind turbines than where we can (usefully) build tidal lagoons, see

      • andy perry

        dear Tobi,off shore windfarms are viable,its the ‘lets build five on a welsh hill’ far from population encouraged by ‘corrupt’ money,and with the problem of cabling the power thats dodgey,onshore really needs pump up water stores to make sense…I’m surprised you think we are short of tidal lagoon [and tidal race] locations,..I think for example instead of a Severn barrier the same amount of electricity could be produced by Tidal Lagoons[TL] for half the cost,also you can’t outsource[exporting pollution and making a mockery of our minimum wage laws] a TL unlike wind turbines and pv ..i think the Severn barrier is projected to generate a sixth of our energy needs,TLs are not so restricted and could perhaps produce a third from the Bristol channel alone[you would know much more about the reliability of these figures than me]..then there are the add ons besides the morality of keeping the tech and jobs here..such as shellfish farming birdlife and leisure…as an old time hippy it’s taken a very long time for me to fall out of love with onshore windfarms..when i say they add to pollution it’s because i think they need pump up stores to actually be reliable,or we’re stuck with kick in gas and oil stations…for smaller off grid situations such as the scottish isles they’re great,for a cumbrian or welsh hillside they’re a useless honeypot of EC driven corruption…these blanket solutions are anti democratic anyway as ‘locally’ solutions have a unique quality….rememember the glorification of equality is one of the philosophical evils of our time,as the basic quantum equation teaches us, everything in the universe is different everywhere all the time….thats what makes it all so wonderful,the stunning detail…love peace and understanding..

        • Andy, a single tidal lagoon can obviously produce more than a single wind turbine, and tidal will hopefully make a contribution, but overall the potential for wind is a lot bigger than for tidal. But it’s not either-or, we’ll need both.
          And both wind and tidal are intermittent/variable in output, so with both we need some form of backup at times when supply doesn’t meet demand. Tidal is predictable over centuries whereas with wind predictability is only really high over time frames of a few hours. But a few hours is enough to activate backup generation, so that’s not really an issue. In the short term, neither wind nor tidal will allow us to mothball many coal/gas power stations, but they will help us burn a lot less coal/gas. In the long run we can hopefully use synthetic gas or biogas for backup.

        • Tobi Kellner
      • andy perry

        ps Tobi,did not mean to click on the thumbs down arrow,apology

      • Tobi Kellner
    • Tobi Kellner
  • Why mention James Delingpole no less than seven times in this article?
    Did he say more than 14 words during the program?

    If he is the face (voice) of “the right wing loon”, they are a tongue tied bunch, or have little to say, or both.

    Which is a pity. I would have thought the right wing loons would have been more articulate, at least vocal, in their arguments.

    • Kim

      because he called me an arm pit hair plaiting, yogurt weaving, yurt dewlling, mung bean eating eco loon!

    • Tobi Kellner
  • CATmedia

    A little more about the science to refute owen patersons claims….”the world is still warming”


  • charlesx

    Eco loon central indeed. Owen Paterson was quite correct to state that the temperature hasn’t changed in the last 17 years. Anyone can look this up and check. Clearly this fact has not filtered through to eco-loon central yet.

    I agree with you that it is remarkable that he said it. At last we have a politician who can see through the hype of the eco-loons who are bombarding him with disinformation, and get down to the facts.

  • Daniel May

    It might be helpful if CAT knowledge could clearly show here in response
    how and why the climate is in fact continuing to warm, instead of just
    bemoaning the ignorance. Has the warming stalled? Obviously enough people ‘generally’ are
    somewhat confused, not least due to the fact that they cant keep up with
    conflicting opinion. It is ignorant for CAT to ignore mass confusion,
    as that mass votes in the loons like this what make the decisions. Might be
    helpful if CAT could summarise categorically, instead of simply suggesting we should
    look elsewhere for the evidence