Posted 17th July 2010
Below is correspondence with the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in response to a letter to the new Science Minister, David Willetts, calling for a thorough, independent, public inquiry into the science behind the claims of impending climate catastrophe. Although the letter to David Willetts was written following the general election, the DECC’s response only arrived shortly after publication of the Muir Russell Report, the third report into the leaked documents and emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU):
Subject: Response to your Query : – Ref:DWOE000187405 – Climate science and scientific integrity
Dear Mr Menzies
Thank you for your email dated 4 June to the Science Minister David Willetts. As your enquiry is about climate change it has been passed to the Department of Energy and Climate Change for a reply. I apologise for the delay.
Since submitting your enquiry to Mr Willetts, you have probably become aware of the conclusions of a third investigation into the CRU leaked documents. Like the other two reviews mentioned in your e-mail, the investigation chaired by Sir Muir Russell found no evidence of scientific malpractice by CRU scientists.
The alleged absence of pronounced warming in the tropical mid-troposphere is claimed by some as evidence of flawed climate models and that greenhouse gases cannot be the main cause of observed surface warming. In reality there is no strong evidence for a systematic inconsistency between observed and modelled temperatures for the tropical troposphere, mainly because there is too much uncertainty in the observational measurements.
Considered in isolation, pronounced warming in the tropical mid-troposphere is a theoretical expectation resulting from water vapour feedback and should occur regardless of the agent that is causing global warming. As is made clear by the IPCC (Chapter 9 of the Working Group 1 Report, www.ipcc.ch), the unique signature of warming due to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations is warming of the surface and troposphere, combined with simultaneous cooling of the stratosphere. The latter effect is being observed from satellite measurements.
Your email also suggests that the temperature trends from 1940 to 1979 and from 1998 to the present are a further reason to question the reliability of climate models. Contrary to what Peter Taylor says in his book, it is well known that sulphate aerosols created in the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion were a major influence on the small cooling trend from 1940, although uncertainties remain over the scale of the effect. Even so, when all possible factors are taken into account, models can quite accurately reproduce the 1940 to 1979 trend as shown in Chapter 9 of the above mentioned IPCC report.
The temperature trend since 1998 is understood to result from natural climate variability, combined with reduced solar irradiance during the downward part of the solar cycle after its 2001 maximum. Also, of course, the period since 1998 is too short an interval on which to draw conclusions about long term trends or on the reliability of climate models.
In summary, the evidence for human caused warming stems from long understood basic physics and from the recently observed warming pattern, which cannot be explained by natural factors alone; the ‘hockey stick’ graph is largely irrelevant in this respect and certainly irrelevant to future climate change. Furthermore, the consistency of the conclusions reached by the three separate CRU investigations is clear evidence of the integrity of the science produced by that institution.
Finally, you quite rightly indicated in your email that climate science is a complex and challenging issue, which needs continued research. The Department of Energy and Climate Change is funding a programme of climate science and related research to inform Government policy on mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change.
I hope you find this helpful.
DECC Correspondence Unit
Dear Ms Forberg
Thank you for your response.
The various investigations, to which you refer, were superficial and lacked independence and transparency. The Commons Select Committee Inquiry failed to probe the email leaks fully, left investigation of the science to the Oxburgh review, and relied on the Muir Russell panel to investigate possible wrongdoing at CRU.
The Commons Committee’s findings are difficult to reconcile with the written evidence it received. Its findings were carried by three votes to one on all the issues of substance, the dissenter being the only committee member with science qualifications, Graham Stringer MP. Following the Muir Russell report, Stringer claims parliament was misled on several counts and says Russell’s review was inadequate and, contrary to the Committee’s request, wasn’t independent.
The Oxburgh panel allowed the University of East Anglia to select papers for review which meant the contentious papers (the subject of the leaked CRU documents and emails) were excluded. It failed to take evidence from those who had sought to replicate CRU’s work; the provision of data and methodologies to allow others to replicate your work is the foundation of scientific method. Oxburgh did not reassess the science, and now says it was never in his remit. “The science was not the subject of our study,” he confirmed in an email to Steve McIntyre of Climate Audit. Stringer has referred to the Oxburgh Report as a whitewash.
The Muir Russell report contrived to avoid finding against CRU, the bulk of the report being written by Geoffrey Boulton who had a close personal connection with the accused and is an advocate of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) theory. Russell didn’t attend the interview with Dr Phil Jones. It is evident, that the panel hadn’t read the leaked documents and emails (or chose to ignore their contents) and didn’t ascertain what files and emails were deleted, to thwart FOI requests. The former Information Commissioner, Richard Thomas, told the Commons Select Committee that there is prima facie evidence that CRU has breached the Freedom of Information Act.
There is undoubtedly strong evidence of a discrepancy between the models’ predictions of ‘hot spots’ in the tropical troposphere and observational measurements by radiosonde, whatever uncertainty you claim for the observational data which are real rather than contrived. Claiming uncertainty for the absence of a carbon signal in the observations does not in any way validate the CO2 warming theory nor does cooling in the upper troposphere. Studies show reduced reflective cloud cover, during the warming period in question, which is a far more rational explanation for increasing global temperatures. Which specific section of Chapter 9 of the Working Group 1 Report shows observational data verifying “the unique signature of warming due to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations is warming of the surface and troposphere” to which you refer? There is no measurable evidence of positive feedback in the greenhouse mechanism, on the contrary, the feedbacks are mildly negative.
You state “it is well known that sulphate aerosols created in the atmosphere from fossil fuel combustion were a major influence on the small cooling trend from 1940?” Your qualification of that claim demonstrates that it cannot fully account for the cooling. Pacific decadal oscillations, probably related to solar influences are a more likely cause. Peter Taylor adduces scientific evidence based on climate science papers to reach his conclusions. To claim something is “well known” is not proof and is condescending. Please advise which section of Chapter 9 shows the “models can quite accurately reproduce the 1940 to 1979 trend.”
Your acceptance of natural variability as the cause of recent cooling is, at least, a step in the right direction but I recognise that 10 years is insufficient to make predictions of future temperature changes. Nonetheless, in so far as there is no observable evidence to support the AGW theory, natural variation remains the most likely cause of recent warming and, some studies suggest we are heading for a period of cooling. Solar cycles are not the only factor; fluctuations in solar magnetism and galactic cosmic rays alter the percentage of reflective cloud cover which in turn regulates how much energy reaches the earth’s surface.
I acknowledge “basic physics” suggests energy absorption by CO2 but only at certain frequencies and its effect is logarithmic, ie. the first 20 parts per million (ppm) have a significant effect but it diminishes rapidly as concentrations increase. At the current 389 ppm, CO2’s influence is negligible. Historically, CO2 concentrations have been significantly higher without evidence of runaway climate catastrophe. For the previous 650,000 years, variations in CO2 concentrations lagged temperature change by around 800 years. The increase in CO2 concentrations, over the last 200 years, is mainly as a result of warmer oceans releasing CO2 into the atmosphere; fossil fuel emissions account for about 3% per annum. To say “the ‘hockey stick’ graph is largely irrelevant” is disingenuous when it has been used extensively to persuade us that “human induced” climate catastrophe is imminent. It features prominently in Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” and the Met Office used it in its “Guide to Climate Change” widely distributed last autumn.
By their own admission, none of the investigations, to which you refer, have investigated the science underpinning the AGW theory. The UK, and others, are committing $billions to misguided science and public policy, the effects of which are potentially disastrous. Climate science funding needs to be directed to explore real causes of climate change and to develop responses to meet the challenges ahead. The AGW theory is discredited and the UK government needs to establish a public, independent inquiry into climate science taking evidence from those on both sides of the debate rather than the blinkered, one sided approach we’ve witnessed so far.