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Off with all their heads

CLIMATE CHANGE has passed Through the Looking Glass with Alice. The Red Queen is berating us to believe "six impossible things before breakfast."

This week a group of scientists from the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton gave a warning that a weakening Gulf Stream will make Britain like Canada, with a cooling of 1C over the next couple of decades, leading to a deeper freeze later. Global warming, of course, is to blame, as melting ice caps reduce the salinity of Arctic waters, preventing them from sinking and driving the ocean conveyor belt.

Clearly researchers in Southampton need to talk to each other. In October a different lot, writing in the Journal of Applied Ecology, were busy employing computer models to calculate that fly and bluebottle populations would rise by nearly 250 per cent as Britain warmed some 2-3C, leading to more dire infections transmitted by insects.

In June we were informed by experts at a Royal Horticultural Society conference that vast swaths of Britain would turn into a Van Gogh landscape, our native woods replaced by Mediterranean horrors such as walnuts, sweet chestnuts, kiwi fruit, olives and sunflowers as temperatures soar by 3-6C. "It’s already happening – you can see fields of sunflowers," Professor Jeff Burley of Oxford University announced.

Likewise in June, the redoubtable Baroness Young of Old Scone, chief executive of the Eeyore-like Environment Agency, ever in its boggy place, intoned: "Climate change and the issues that surround it are the biggest challenge – and that flows through to some real pressure points for people in the future in terms of their water supply and their risk of flooding" – basing everything, inevitably, on warming.

In reality, nobody has a fog what will happen. This is Virtualia, not the UK. During the last year, global warming has been predicted to lead to wetter winters, drier winters, another ice age, blazing-hot Mediterranean summers killing thousands, greater biodiversity and less biodiversity.

Hence the impossible things to believe from the Today programme before breakfast. But I’m with Alice: "There’s no use trying," she said. "One can’t believe impossible things."

Philip Stott is Emeritus Professor of Biogeography at the University of London

Philip Stott