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.