Michael Gove decides that experts are actually extremely useful after all

Written by David Singleton on 26 November 2018 in Diary

The former Vote Leave campaigner appears to have had a Damascene conversion.

Michael Gove was widely ridiculed during the 2016 EU referendum campaign, when he boldly declared that British people were no longer interested in experts.

Appearing on Sky News, the senior Brexit campaigner refused to name any economists who backed Britain’s exit from the EU, saying that "people in this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms".

So what to make of the Gove’s big speech at the launch of the first major update of climate projections in nearly 10 years?

The environment secretary began by heaping praise on an expert from organisation with an acronym.

“I want to begin on a personal note. I am fortunate… to work alongside some of the most gifted, dedicated and impressive public servants in the country.

“Given the strength in depth of the departmental team, and their willingness to work so hard for the common good, it is invidious to single any one out. But there is one individual, and one team, to whom I, and we all in this country, owe a special debt. And that is to professor Ian Boyd, Defra’s chief scientific adviser, and his team…

“There are few people more adept at assessing the evidence, deploying reason to make sense of it and applying the lessons for public policy with real rigour than Ian and his team. I want to take this opportunity today to put on record how profoundly grateful I am for his leadership.”





Later on in the speech, Gove spoke about the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change into the impact it is having on the natural world. The final report makes clear that a 1.5˚C warming limit is still within reach if nations can act together. Gove called it “an impressive display of international collaboration”. But how exactly was this impressive report compiled?

“They assessed over 6,000 scientific papers and received 42,000 expert comments,” enthused Gove.

Just in case nobody had not clocked his Damascene conversion, the former Vote Leave campaigner finished with an ode to experts. Acronyms or no acronyms.

“Throughout history, the endeavour and imagination of scientists has redefined the limits of what is possible, and it is only by heeding scientific warnings more keenly than ever before and supporting scientific research more strongly than ever before that we can safeguard our planet and our species’ survival.

“Scientific knowledge is, always, a good in itself. In that sense, there can never be too much information. The more we know, the greater our ability to shape events for the better. But also the heavier the responsibility to act.

“When it comes to climate change we now, thanks to the efforts of the UK’s scientists know more than ever before the urgency of acting. Which is why not just I, but future generations, are so much in their debt.”




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