SUBMISSION FROM THE MET OFFICE
Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from the
We think that the Committee has carried out a thorough
and professional review of how Government is provided with advice
on climate change. As you might imagine, we are very pleased to
note the positive comments about the Met Office's Hadley Centre
work and scientific reputation, the effective communication of
this to Government, and the feeling of the Committee that this
has played a significant part in the UK Government being at the
forefront of international action on climate change.
We are equally pleased to note the praise heaped
upon the IPCC process and its reports, and the recommendation
for it to be adopted as a model for other areas where scientific
issues determine policy. The Committee rightly point out in paragraph
8 that policymakers should not just rely on the IPCC summary reports
but also take into account the full reports. In this context it
should be noted out that, contrary to the message from some of
IPCC's critics, Technical Reports and Summary for Policymakers
are drafted and defended by the Lead Authors of the full report.
Of course, condensing the science into shorter versions means
that less discussion is possible, but the main messages (including
uncertainties) have been preserved, and there is no contradiction
between the two. It is interesting to note that the recent National
Academy of Sciences report on climate change, commissioned by
President Bush, came up with more-or-less the same conclusion.
It is of course for the Government to comment on
the findings of the Committee regarding their sources of advice.
However, there are a few issues or suggestions specifically concerned
with the Hadley Centre which we expressly wish to comment on to
the Committee, and these are attached.
4 July 2001
Comments from the Met Office
1. On a general but important point, we are greatly
disturbed with the use of the word "independent" to
refer to scientists not working in government, for example in
academia, and we regret that the Committee have chosen to use
this term. This implies that scientists
who are civil servants are not independently-minded, and bend
their results to suit government policy. We reject this outright.
There is strong pressure from within the Hadley Centre itself,
and expressly from DEFRA, to publish all significant results in
good journals, exposing them in the process to review by international
peers, and Hadley Centre staff have a strong record in this. Any
implication that Hadley Centre work was censored or controlled
by government would, quite properly, destroy the Hadley Centre's
reputation and credibility and it would be a spent force. Furthermore,
we do not believe that there is any outside perception that this
is the case, and we are pleased to note the Committee's lack of
evidence for this in paragraph 14. Finally, we note the recent
editorial in "Research Fortnight" which points out that,
of course, all scientists are dependent on government for funding,
even those in academia.
2. In paragraph 19, the Committee says that "Government
must also be sure that it is aware of the views of independent
scientists, who may dissent from the view of climate change".
We can say with confidence that government is well aware of a
wide spectrum of views on climate change, as the Hadley Centre
is careful to make this known to government, with a critical assessment.
The key to the involvement of as wide
a range of scientists as possible lies, we believe, in the peer-review
system for scientific publications. Material papers published
in scientific journals are taken account of in our work, irrespective
of their message. For example, there is a continuing debate about
the extent to which changes in the sun's activity could explain
the warming over the last 100 years. Hadley Centre scientists
have looked at the direct result of changes in solar energy, and
keep under review the various theories which propose stronger
independent links (for example, via ozone or via cosmic rays and
Another debate concerns the difference between trends
in temperatures at the surface and those in the atmosphere, particularly
those retrieved from satellite sensors over the past 20 years.
Again, Hadley Centre scientists have not ignored these differences
but have instead played a leading role in investigating them,
in collaboration with, for example, John Christy of the University
of Alabama who openly expresses his doubt about surface measurements.
David Parker of the Hadley Centre was the only non-US member of
the recent US National Academy of Science's study of this issue.
We also think that many alternative views on climate
change are very apparent to government, not least because their
ideas gain an exposure in the media, sometimes out of all proportion
to their credibility. This is not a criticism, we recognise this
is the job of journalists. (We spend a fair amount of effort advising
DEFRA on issues raised in the media, and in sending in responses
to papers, some of which even get published.) However, we suspect
that the nub of the matter is that some of those who put forward
alternative explanations are not so much disappointed by lack
of communication of their ideas as by lack of their uptake.
3. The Committee feel that the Hadley Centre might
benefit from more in-house staff with expertise outside meteorology,
including geology and biology. The Hadley Centre has worked alongside
these communities for many years, and is happy to look at other
ways of doing this. Hadley Centre scientists
are, as the Committee points out, almost exclusively mathematicians
and physicists, because these are the disciplines needed to develop
and utilise complex mathematical climate models. The representations
in the model of processes in the atmosphere, for example, in clouds
and oceans, are of course based on experiments in the real world
which have been parametrised by experimental scientists. So, for
example, the description of how water is apportioned between ice
and liquid has been parametrised as a function of temperature
by experimental cloud physicists. Similarly, the relationship
between ocean di-methylsulphide emissions and ocean temperature
has been derived by experimental oceanographers. Data to validate
the models (for example, heat fluxes in the ocean) are also provided
to us by experimental scientists.
We have taken the view that it is better for those
scientists to work within their community, close to the measurements,
eg from ships or aircraft. We then work closely with them to make
full use of their data or parametrisations in the model. In the
case of cloud and aerosol, for example, some of the recent model
parametrisations have been developed by University of Manchester
and the Meteorological Research Flight.
Similarly, as was pointed out to the Committee, we
have worked extensively with, for example, CEH Wallingford and
CEH Edinburgh, two NERC institutes, on the development and validation
of vegetation models in the climate model. Indeed, one member
of the Wallingford staff spends most of his time in the Hadley
Centre. We are very keen to have further criticism from the ecosystem
community of the schemes in the Hadley Centre climate model, and
for this to lead to improvements through collaboration. However,
because our vegetation and carbon cycle work is already collaborative
with other institutes, we believe that we are not at all "ill
equipped to advise the Government. . . on
the performance of carbon sinks", which is why we did this,
with some success, before and during CoP6 at the Hague.