OTHER DISCIPLINES AND DISSIDENT VOICES
18. A key question in our inquiry has been whether
the Government has been fully advised of potential alternative
explanations of climate change; and specifically, whether it is
sufficiently aware of dissident voices who maintain that the uncertainties
are too great to conclude that climate change is to a significant
extent man-made. The Minister was confident that Government was
obtaining a full range of advice: "this is an area where
the quality and range of advice which I am getting is extremely
high. I do not have suspicions about what I am not being told,
as I do occasionally in other areas.".
On the other hand, there appears to be a sense among some scientists,
particularly geologists and biologists, that they are excluded
from what might be termed the Hadley Centre and IPCC coterie who
advise the Government. The Geological Society of London questioned
the extent to which Government seeks the views of a broad range
of scientists in addition to the advice given by its appointed
advisers and consultants.
The Government must ensure that it receives advice on climate
change from all relevant scientific disciplines.
19. The Government must also ensure that it is
aware of the views of independent scientists, who may dissent
from the consensus view of climate change. While we have no
wish to throw doubt on the strong consensus that climate change
is man-made, we believe that, in Dr Shackley's words, "it
is vital that alternative explanations are constantly scrutinised
and encouraged into the debate".
Dissidents sometimes turn out to be right in at least some of
what they say. Professor Bowen, though cautious in his words,
strongly conveyed his belief that dissenting views were not being
sufficiently heard by Government, or by the IPCC.
As we have seen, the range of views explored in the full reports
of the IPCC are not reflected in the policymakers' summaries.
We believe that there needs to be some rethinking of
the mechanisms by which Government gets its advice. Clear and
transparent channels should be available through which scientists
who hold dissenting views can readily communicate their ideas
to policymakers and can have confidence that they have been heard.
20. A way for the Government to ensure that it is
aware of all currents of advice on climate change - and to demonstrate
that it is not overly dependent on the Hadley Centre - would be
to create an advisory committee of eminent scientists drawn from
a wide range of interests and disciplines. In general, we believe
that there are too many advisory committees in existence, and
that more should be created only if there is a clear need and
obvious benefit. In the case of climate change, we believe that
such a committee would be justified. It should be made clear in
its terms of reference that its role is not to duplicate the work
of the IPCC, but to advise Government on UK policy on climate
change. We envisage that the new committee should have a different
role from the former Inter-Agency Committee on Global Environmental
Change or its replacement, the Global Environmental Change Committee,
which we discuss in paragraph 23 below, being advisory rather
than co-ordinating in purpose (though by bringing scientists of
different disciplines together, it would clearly assist co-ordination).
It could usefully be asked to comment on policy options as well
as to advise on the science. It should be clearly independent
of Government, and be chaired by an academic scientist. In order
to underline this independence, and to build on the work that
the Royal Society is already doing in this field, it might be
that the new committee could be jointly established by Government
and by the Royal Society, perhaps along the US National Academy
of Science/National Research Council model. Accordingly, we
recommend that the Government establish a new independent advisory
committee to advise Government on the science of climate change
and on policy options.
The research base
21. As the Institute of Biology states, "scientific
advice can change as more questions are asked and detailed information
provided by researchers".
It is the role of the Research Councils to ensure that the UK
science base is robust enough to be able to answer questions from
policymakers on issues of topical importance. NERC has the lead
role in promoting climate research, undertaking or funding a wide
range of programmes studying past and natural climate change,
as well as anthropogenic climate change and its impacts..
The ESRC has funded two major programmes (the Global Environmental
Change (GEC) Programme based at the University of Sussex, and
the Centre for Social and Economic Research on the Global Environment
(CSERGE) at the University of East Anglia and University College
London) as well as individual research grants.
The EPSRC is involved with NERC and ESRC in funding the new Tyndall
Centre, as part of its £30 million a year commitment to sustainable
development. The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research
Council (BBSRC) has funded research, focusing on the effects of
climate change on microbes, plants and animals, and its impact
According to BBSRC's memorandum, the Research Councils seek to
co-ordinate their work through a Cross-Council Group on Climate
Change (CCGCC), but we understand that it was set up in 1998 and
has not met since 1999.
As Sir John Houghton told us, "putting ... things together
into a coherent and sensible national research programme is still
a difficulty, because different subjects are addressed in different
ways, by different Research Councils".
There is also concern that the implications of research findings
may not always be communicated effectively to policymakers.
The recently established Royal Society Global Environmental Research
Committee has made a promising start in representing the views
of the academic community and in indicating research directions
which need to be pursued.
22. In addition to the research supported by the
Research Councils, in their own centres and at universities, Government
Departments commission research directly. For example, the DETR
funds the UK Climate Impacts Programme, based at the Environmental
Change Institute at Oxford University.
The Minister suggested that the Research Councils dealt with the
"strategic science", while the DETR dealt with "policy-driven
but the division of responsibility is not entirely clear. There
is some concern that Government Departments pursue independent
research agenda, without sufficient co-ordination with other Departments
or the Research Councils. According to the BBSRC, "Government
Departments tend to commission their own studies and it is unclear
how much cross-fertilisation there is".
23. This concern has been heightened by the winding
up of the Inter-Agency Committee on Global Environmental Change
(IACGEC), which until recently was responsible for "high
level co-ordination of UK research on climate change and other
global environmental issues".
The IACGEC, which was chaired by Professor Sir Richard Southwood,
Professor of Zoology at Oxford University, has been replaced by
the Global Environmental Change Committee, chaired by Dr Fisk,
the Chief Scientist at the DETR, apparently on the advice of the
Chief Scientific Adviser.
Dr Fisk told us that it was thought appropriate to replace IACGEC
with something less bureaucratic and more directed to organising
coherence with policy outcomes.
We can see no reason for more than one committee co-ordinating
research on climate change, and suggest that the new Global Environmental
Change Committee be given a chance to prove itself in this role.
We envisage that this co-ordinating committee would have an administrative
role, overseeing the co-ordination of research and research funding,
quite different from the advisory role of the independent committee
we recommend in paragraph 20 above.
24. Research on climate change is, of course, being
carried out world-wide. The UK is a major contributor to a number
of international research activities within the World Climate
Research Programme and the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme.
Co-ordination of international research in this area is clearly
vital, to ensure both cost-effectiveness and cross-fertilisation
of ideas. The Research Councils co-operate internationally through
the International Group of Funding Agencies.
The IPCC process plays a useful part in ensuring that scientists
are aware of work carried out in other countries.
25. Witnesses have suggested that there are some
areas of importance to climate change which are at present under-researched.
The Institute of Biology argues that research on ecosystem function,
and on the response of ecosystems to environmental changes, has
been neglected; and, in particular, that more research is needed
on the way carbon is sequestered.
The Institution of Professionals, Managers and Specialists (IPMS)
suggests that there are areas of work related to climate change
which are at present insufficiently researched and funded by government.
They cite, as an example of this, the impact of climate change
on the transmission of disease among farm animals and pets by
We recommend that the Government reconsider the adequacy of the
current research programme on the biological effects of climate
change, and its funding, and ensure that it is properly integrated
with other climate change research.
26. The Minister was confident that the UK "had
one of the most effective research programmes on climate change
anywhere in the world".
We share this confidence, though we believe it could be more effective
still. We are not convinced that the UK's national research
programme on climate change is sufficiently coherent overall or
that it has the required breadth in all areas. The research
programme must do more than meet policymakers' current needs for
information: it must try to anticipate the advice required in
7 The Reports on the three earlier case studies were:
First Report, Session 1998-99, Scientific Advisory System:
Genetically Modified Foods, HC 286; Third Report, Session
1998-89, Scientific Advisory System: Mobile Phones and Health,
HC 489; Third Report, Session 1999-2000, Scientific Advisory
System: Diabetes and Driving Licences, HC 206. Back
Press release, No. 1 of Session 1999-2000, 22 November 1999. Back
See Fifth Report of the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs
Committee, Session 1999-2000, UK Climate Change Programme,
HC194; Fourth Report of the Environmental Audit Committee, Session
1997-98, Climate Change: UK Emission Reduction Targets and
Audit Arrangements, HC 899; Second Report of the Environmental
Audit Committee, Session 1998-99, Climate Change: Government
Response and Follow-up, HC 88. Back
Third Report of the Science and Technology Committee, Session
1996-97, The Natural Environment Research Council and Research
into Climate Change, HC 81; and Government Response (Second
Special Report, Session 1997-98, HC 306). Back
Evidence, p 74, paragraph 3.1. IPCC's Third Assessment Report
suggests 0.6 ± 0.2º C. Back
Evidence, p 1, paragraph 1. Back
IPCC Second Assessment Report, Climate Change 1995. See
Evidence, p 39, paragraph 24. Back
It was agreed that the industrialised countries would reduce their
total greenhouse gas emissions by 5.2% from 1990 levels by the
period 2008-2012. Back
COP1 met in Berlin in March 1995. COP2 met in Geneva in July 1996.
COP4 met in Buenos Aires in November 1998; COP5 in Bonn in October
1999. For details, see www.unfccc.de . Back
See www.ipcc.ch . Back
Evidence, p 37, paragraph 9. Back
For detail of IPCC's working practice, see Evidence, pp 3-7. Back
Evidence, p 24, paragraph 9. Back
Evidence, p 6. Back
Q 23. Back
Evidence, p 24, paragraph 8. Back
Q 11. Back
Q 64. Back
Q 140. Back
See Chairman's Report of the OECD Edinburgh Conference on the
scientific and health aspects of genetically modified foods, OECD
Q 142. Back
Q 75. Back
Evidence, p 37, paragraph 13; p 73, paragraph 1. The Hadley Centre
is named after George Hadley, an 18th Century scientist who proposed
a simple model of the Earth's atmospheric circulation. Back
Most of the models used now for global climate prediction are
fully coupled (ocean/atmosphere) general circulation models (GCMs).
Although simpler models may be used for more regional/local studies,
the trend is to use the ever increasing power of computers to
embed finer scale models within GCMs. Back
Eg Evidence, pp 56, 67-68; Q 113. Back
Evidence, p 2, paragraph 7. Back
Evidence, p 38, paragraph 19. See also Evidence, p 64, paragraph
Evidence, p 38, paragraph 18; p 78, paragraph 6.14. For details
of the CMIP, see www-pcmdi.llnl.gov/cmip . Back
Qq 99, 105. Back
Q 132. Evidence, p 51. Back
Q 134. Back
Eg Evidence, pp 22-23, paragraphs 2-5; p 56, paragraph IV. Back
Q 75. Back
The Hadley Centre has an annual income of £11m: £8 m
from DETR; £3 million from MoD; and £0.3 million from
the European Commission. See Evidence, p 73, paragraph 1.1. Back
Qq 128, 130. Back
Qq 129, 130. Back
Evidence, p 38, paragraph 16. Back
Evidence, p 37, paragraph 9. Q 35. Back
Q 119. Back
Q 134. Back
Q 123. Back
Qq 122-124. The Tyndall Centre is named after John Tyndall, the
19th Century scientist who was one of the first to identify the
natural greenhouse effect. Back
For details, see www.tyndall.uea.ac.uk . Back
Evidence, p 70, paragraph 7; Q 124. Back
Evidence, p 70, paragraph 7. Back
Q 150. Back
Evidence, p 57, paragraph 5. Back
Evidence, p 24, paragraph 10. Back
Q 83. Also Qq 64, 84, 113. Back
Evidence, p 67, paragraph 8. Back
See Evidence, pp 69-72. Back
Evidence, pp 84-89. Back
Evidence, pp 60-61. Back
Evidence, p 61, paragraphs 12 and 14. Back
Q 10. Back
Evidence, p 54, paragraph 5. Back
Evidence, p 41, paragraph 42. Back
Q 155. Back
Evidence, p 63, paragraph 29. Back
Evidence, p 36, paragraph 2. Back
Q 156. Back
Q 157. Back
Evidence, p 40, paragraph 34. Back
Evidence, p 61, paragraph 14. Back
Evidence, p 67, paragraph 7. Back
Evidence, p 54, paragraph 4. Back
Q 155. Back