A cabinet minister who previously denied global warming has said she did not fully “understand” climate change until her own part of the country was hit by serious flooding.
International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan has been under scrutiny after historic tweets unearthed last month revealed she believed “global warming isn’t actually happening”.
Ms Trevelyan told the Conservative Party conference that she did not find climate change to be a “particularly urgent issue” at the time she posted the tweets disputing the science.
“Ten, 12 years ago, I wasn’t particularly focused on it … I wasn’t a politician, it wasn’t even on my radar at that point,” the recently-promoted minister said on Monday.
Despite warnings from climate scientists a decade ago, Ms Trevelyan said: “There was this narrative, and there was a very strong voice that was raising it, but for the rest of us getting on with our lives it didn’t really seem a particularly urgent issue, if I’m honest.”
Ms Trevelyan said changes in weather patterns which brought flooding to the north east – along with learning about the science behind climate change – had helped change her mind on the threat.
The Berwick upon Tweed MP told a conference fringe meeting: “I think like so many … the complexity of an IPPC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report, if you’re not tuned into it is a little bit terrifying.”
She added: “But actually that broadening out of that understanding to a much more explanatory narrative and, of course, seeing the impact. The exponential curve that we talk about, and that I now understand much better, I can see.
“York flooded, Morpeth flooded near where I live. It was a ‘one in a 100-year event’ – but then it flooded again five years later. That’s a bit odd. We are seeing again and again in places where there haven’t been these extreme weather impacts, they are happening again and again.”
In the messages sent between 2010 and 2012, Ms Trevelyan was found to have approvingly quoted the work of groups which have rejected the mainstream scientific consensus.
She stated that one such group had provided “clear evidence that the ice caps aren’t melting after all, to counter those gloom-mongers and global warming fanatics”.
In one tweet, backing a campaign against wind farms in 2012, she said: “We aren’t getting hotter, global warming isn’t actually happening.”
Labour’s shadow international development secretary Emily Thornberry pounced on the remarks, with the tweet: “At least the last Trade Secretary only hired climate change deniers…”
She was referring to Ms Trevelyan’s predecessor Liz Truss, who hired former Australian PM and climate sceptic Tony Abbott as a UK trade envoy.
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