24 February 2010

UK climate scientists fight back

This list of UK climate scientists backing the underlying science of manmade climate change is impressive. And this piece by Dr Vicky Pope at the Met Office which was published in The Times is worth reading:

"For Britain’s climate science community, the past few months have come as a profound shock. First we had the so-called “climategate” scandal, where e-mails leaked from the University of East Anglia (UEA) showed apparent attempts to thwart Freedom of Information requests.

"More recently we have had a series of reports suggesting that “key” sections of assessments of climate change science by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were in error.

"It all makes a profound contrast to the situation up until last November when the global consensus on climate change science seemed stronger than ever. For scientists, climate research was based on powerful computer models backed by a wealth of real-world evidence. Nothing was certain — in science it seldom is. But we could say with a high degree of certainty — and people believed us when we said it — that the world was warming and the consequences were likely to be serious.

"What has changed over the past few months? Certainly not the science.

"Yes, there have been mistakes emerging, and the “climategate” e-mails demonstrate that scientists are human. They do not call into question the robustness of the surface temperature record produced by UEA. There are two other independent data sets that show clearly that global-average temperature has increased over the past century and this warming has been particularly rapid since the 1970s.

"The more substantive mistake in the IPCC report that Himalayan glaciers were melting so fast that they would vanish by 2035 has been dealt with swiftly and clearly by the IPCC. Some claim that there are more mistakes and in fact, in a subject that is so complex and rapidly evolving, that is likely.

"But all those questions have been about the impacts of climate change — perhaps one of the most difficult areas to judge. What has not been called into question is the basic science.

"The key finding that “warming is unequivocal and very likely due to man’s activities” remains robust. The basic physics tells us that increasing greenhouse gases cause global warming and we are likely to pay a heavy price if we keep emitting them.

"The big difference then, is not in the physics of climate change but the public’s perception of what climate research is all about.

"That means it is a communications problem and the blame for that has to lie at least in part with the scientists and in part with the way that science is reported."

Dr Vicky Pope is Head of Climate Change Advice at the Met Office