Today’s appalling GDP figures, showing a decline of 0.5% in the last quarter of 2010, are being spun by George Osborne to suggest that December’s bad weather was responsible for a statistical blip. The ONS has actually said that the weather is a “significant factor”.
It’s a fairly desperate piece of spin – we’re told that the numbers would have been flat without the weather problems – and is made all the worse by the fact that the Con Dem cuts have only started to have their effect. It certainly begs all sorts of questions about the UK economy’s resilience in the face of what, in European terms, was far from extreme weather.
But there’s a deeper problem here. Osborne appears to be saying that a short-term climate event of, to be honest, relatively limited impact, can have a profound effect on the economy. The logic is clearly that even on the terms on which conventional economics wants to conduct the debate, the impact of long-term climate change is huge. It’s difficult to see any member of this administration saying that in terms – and climate change denial has long been endemic on the Tory right – but it’s the inescapable logic of Osborne’s excuse-mongering.
So will the coalition now place climate change at the heart of its policy-making?