A freedom of information (FOI) request by Carbon Brief has revealed the 11-slide presentation that convinced UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that climate change is real, and caused by humans.
Last year, Boris Johnson revealed he had been on a "road to Damascus" over climate change and its cause but had been persuaded by it since taking office.
“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," he said ahead of the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference. "That was a very important moment for me.”
Through the use of an FOI, Carbon Brief was able to track down the presentation he was referencing, and then get their hands on the content. The talk – given by the government's chief scientific advisor Sir Patrick Vallance – contained slides described as "reasonably vanilla" by chief scientist at the Met Office Stephen Belcher, who Carbon Brief believes also attended the meeting.
The slides – which can be seen here – are as vanilla as described, and appear to be spelling out the basics of climate change. There are slides showing the global difference in temperature relative to 1850-1900, and how it has risen over time, as well as other maps showing the rise of temperature since the 1960s (similar to the video by NASA below).
One slide showed declines in the Arctic sea ice, comparing the ice lost in the last decade to the size of the UK, Ireland, and France. Another showed sea level rises around the UK. In one slide titled "Impacts of a warming world", the Prime Minister was shown the words "flooding and sea-level rise", "heatwaves, health and disease", "wildfires", and "biodiversity", along with images to illustrate these concepts.
At the end of the presentation, Johnson was shown a slide on climate tipping points, highlighting the need to act early. As introductory as the presentation was on climate change, it appears to have impacted the (at time of writing) Prime Minister, as his earlier thoughts on the topic have shown.
“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," he wrote in The Telegraph in 2013, questioning human involvement in climate change.
“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," he wrote more explicitly in 2015. "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.”
The slides which changed a prime minister's mind can be seen here.