The UK environment secretary, Owen Paterson, has told a fringe meeting at the Conservative party conference: "People get very emotional about this subject [climate change] and I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries."
The UN's climate science panel, the IPCC, said last Friday: "Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia … It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century."
Paterson says: "I think the relief of this latest report is that it shows a really quite modest increase, half of which has already happened. They are talking one to two and a half degrees."
Paterson seems to miss the fact that these temperature rises are averages across the entire planet and will not be spread evenly, so a rise of 1-2.5C is not "modest". Some regions, such as the Arctic, will experience much more extreme rises.
The IPCC report on Friday put the high end of global mean surface temperature rises by 2065 at 2.6C, which is in addition to the 0.75C or so that we've already caused temperatures to rise since the industrial revolution. For comparison, a 4C rise was enough to transform the planet since the last ice age.
Paterson: "Remember that for humans, the biggest cause of death is cold in winter, far bigger than heat in summer. It would also lead to longer growing seasons and you could extend growing a little further north into some of the colder areas."
On farming, Paterson is right in a purely self-interested British sense. Some parts of the world will see farming yields go up as temperatures warm, in particular in the US and Europe. On the other hand, parts of the subtropics, such as the Mediterranean region and parts of Australia, and the low latitudes, could experience declining conditions. The more extreme weather that scientists expect climate change to be accompanied by will bring "significant consequences for food".
On deaths, Paterson is right when it comes to the UK. There are far more deaths caused by our cold weather than by heatwaves – on average across the 2000s, there were 1,974 annual 'heat deaths' compared to 41,408 annual 'cold deaths'. Even with the levels of warming projected by the IPCC, "cold remains the issue even up to the 2050s," says Prof Andrew Watkinson at the school of environment sciences at UEA.
Paterson: "I actually see this report as something we need to take seriously but I am rather relieved that it is not as catastrophic in its forecast as we had been led to believe early on and what it is saying is something we can adapt to over time, and we are very good as a race at adapting."
As temperatures rise, up to 3.6 million people in the UK are expected to be at risk of flooding by 2050 if there is no investment to lessen the threat, according to an analysis of climate change impacts by Paterson's own Department for Farming, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). The flood defences needed to adapt to that will likely cost billions of pounds.
Rising sea levels mean cities across Europe will likely have to build defences similar to the Thames Barrier to protect against sea surges,according to the European Environment Agency. Other forms of adaptation will include changes to farming, such as planting more drought-resistant crops.
But Paterson again appears to be viewing the problem through a narrowly British lens. Developed countries such as the UK may be able to afford such adaptation measures, but poorer ones will be less likely to.
He also ignores the fact that wildlife won't be able to adapt fast enough.A study earlier this year showed that most land animals won't appear to evolve quickly enough to cope with temperatures by the end of the century.