Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson

Background

Conservative politician and former Mayor of London Boris Johnson was appointed the UK’s Foreign Secretary in July 2016 following the Brexit campaign, where he endorsed the official Vote Leave campaign. Johnson has made statements in the press misrepresenting climate science.

Johnson’s career began in journalism working at The Times of London, however he was eventually fired in 1988 for falsifying a quote. Later he became the Telegraph’s Brussels correspondent. From 1994 to 1999 he worked as assistant editor at the conservative-leaning magazine The Spectator, before becoming editor from 1999 to 2005. In 2001, he was elected as the Conservative MP for Henley. Johnson was Mayor of London from 2008 to 2016 and MP for for Uxbridge and South Ruislip since 2015.

At school, Johnson was a member of Oxford University’s exclusive Bullingdon Club, which also had senior Tory politicians such as David Cameron and George Osborne as members. Johnson was also on the board of advisors for the now-defunct right wing think tank The Atlantic Bridge.

Stance on Climate Change

Johnson has flirted with climate science denial over the years. In his Telegraph column in 2013 he said a cold snap in weather casts doubt on the science. Then, writing in the Telegraph in December 2015, he argued recent warm winter weather had nothing to do with climate change. In both these columns he refers to the “great physicist and meteorologist Piers Corbyn” – brother of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and a known climate science denier.

As foreign secretary, when asked his views on President Trump’s intention to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, Johnson told Sky News: “We continue to lobby the U.S. at all levels to continue to take climate change extremely seriously.”

Key Quotes

December 2015

In a Telegraph column entitled “I can’t stand this December heat, but it has nothing to do with global warming: We may all be sweating in the winter air, but remember, we humans have always put ourselves at the centre of cosmic events” Johnson writes:

It is fantastic news that the world has agreed to cut pollution and help people save money, but I am sure that those global leaders were driven by a primitive fear that the present ambient warm weather is somehow caused by humanity; and that fear – as far as I understand the science – is equally without foundation. There may be all kinds of reasons why I was sweating at ping-pong [in December] – but they don’t include global warming.” 

January 2013

In a Telegraph opinion column entitled “It’s snowing, and it really feels like the start of a mini ice age. Something is up with our winter weather. Could it be the Sun is having a slow patch?” he writes the following:

As a species, we human beings have become so blind with conceit and self-love that we genuinely believe that the fate of the planet is in our hands — when the reality is that everything, or almost everything, depends on the behaviour and caprice of the gigantic thermonuclear fireball around which we revolve.”

I am all for theories about climate change, and would not for a moment dispute the wisdom or good intentions of the vast majority of scientists. But I am also an empiricist; and I observe that something appears to be up with our winter weather, and to call it “warming” is obviously to strain the language.” 

I wish I knew more about what is going on, and why. It is time to consult once again the learned astrophysicist, Piers Corbyn. Now Piers has a very good record of forecasting the weather. He has been bang on about these cold winters. Like JMW Turner and the Aztecs he thinks we should be paying more attention to the Sun. According to Piers, global temperature depends not on concentrations of CO2 but on the mood of our celestial orb.”

Of course it still seems a bit nuts to talk of the encroachment of a mini ice age. But it doesn’t seem as nuts as it did five years ago. I look at the snowy waste outside, and I have an open mind.”

Key Deeds

September 2017

On September 27 inside the Foreign Office, Boris Johnson launched a new thinktank to push “the moral case for open commerce”. The Institute for Free Trade (IFT) “sees Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union as a unique opportunity to revitalise the world trading system”, according to its website.

The IFT is based at 57 Tufton Street, sharing an office with the anti-renewables thinktank the Centre for Policy Studies, and next door to many of the organisations DeSmog UK previously revealed to be at the heart of a UK climate science denial network in 55 Tufton Street.

Former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, who gave the 2017 annual lecture at the climate science denying Global Warming Policy Foundation, is on the IFT’s ‘international advisory panel’ and the IFT's president is climate science denying Tory MEP Daniel Hannan.

March 2015

Johnson launched a new “Prosperity for All” project at the Legatum Institute lead by Tim Montgomerie, founder of Conservative Home. As Johnson was reported telling the audience: “It is time to reclaim capitalism as a moral force”.

2007-2008

In the run up to Boris Johnson's May 2008 election as London Mayor, prominent Tory and billionaire hedge fund manager Sir Michael Hintze, a financial backer of the climate science denial group the Global Warming Policy Foundationdonated the following to the politician: £2,000 in December 2007, £2,000 in February 2008, and £1,000 in March 2008.

Photo: Number 10 via Flickr | CC2.0