This is a guest post by Doug Keenan.
The recent Bishop Hill post “Questions, questions” lists eight Parliamentary Questions that were tabled by Lord Donoughue, pursuant to suggestions in the Bishop Hill Discussion “Questions to suggest to Lord Donoughue”. The eight Questions have now been answered, as shown below. Lord Donoughue happily thanks those who suggested Questions and he would be grateful for ideas on how to proceed further.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Newby on 22 April (WA 358) which stated that "it is the role of the scientific community to assess and decide between various methods when studying various time series", what mechanisms exist within the Government to ensure (1) appropriate oversight of scientific advice, and (2) that scientists advising them are accountable to (a) Ministers, and (b) Parliament. [HL966]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): Every government department has a chief scientific adviser (CSA) who is responsible for ensuring the quality and accuracy of the scientific evidence base provided for policy making and delivery in their department. The Government Chief Scientific Adviser (GCSA) has a cross-government coordinating role in this work.
The GCSA works with the CSAs to ensure departments have effective structures and processes for accessing the relevant science expertise and maintaining the requisite internal capability. The work of the GCSA (along with other scientific issues of Parliamentary interest) is scrutinised by the Commons Science and Technology Committee.
Civil servants have an obligation to provide objective, impartial advice to Ministers, subject to the Civil Service Code1. All CSAs are civil servants for the duration of their appointment and therefore accountable to Ministers, who in turn are accountable to Parliament.
Some departments have a Scientific Advisory Council, comprised of external independent academics, which brings independent external input to supplement CSAs. In many departments, advice on specific issues is also provided by Scientific Advisory Committees. Both types of advisory body are governed by the Code of Practice for Science Advisory Committees (CoPSAC)2. Also, the 'Principles of Scientific Advice to Government'3 define the relationship between independent advisers and Ministers and are included in both CoPSAC and the Ministerial Code.
In developing policy, Government is guided by the scientific evidence. This comprises a wealth of peer-reviewed and published research and reviews thereof. Scientists whose publicly-funded work informs and advises Government are accountable scientifically to their peers and professionally to their institutes and/or professional bodies through their relevant quality assurance processes.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Verma on 22 April (WA 358), whether, on the basis of a driftless third-order autoregressive integrated model, they consider the recorded increase in global temperatures of 0.8 degrees celsius to be statistically significant. [HL967]
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Verma on 21 May (WA 44–5) and the briefing paper by the Chief Scientist of the Met Office, "Statistical Models and the Global Temperature Records", issued on 31 May, which stated that a linear trend model was "less likely to emulate the global temperature time series than the third-order autoregressive integrated model", why the Met Office favours a linear trend model. [HL969]
Baroness Verma: I refer the noble Lord to the briefing paper "Statistical Models and the Global Temperature Records" produced by the Met Office Chief Scientist, which states that the Met Office's assessment of global climate change is not based on assessing the evolution of global surface temperature using statistical models in isolation. As the paper notes, the Met Office does not use a linear trend model to detect changes in global mean temperature change. I would also refer the noble Lord to the Written Answer I gave on 27 March 2013 (Official Report, col. WA 237, 238), concerning statistical models.
With regard to the use of a driftless third-order autoregressive integrated model in assessing statistical significance of the 0.8°C rise in global temperature, I refer the noble Lord to the Written Answers I gave on 21 May (Official Report, col. WA 44, 45) and 12 June (Official Report, col. WA 248) and note further that we do not consider this model to be appropriate.
I am concerned at the expense incurred in relation to the series of questions on this issue and so I invite you to meet with the Department's Chief Scientific Adviser, to discuss these scientific matters.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have carried out any risk analysis to assess any actual or potential losses to the United Kingdom attributable to any failures in the accuracy of climate forecasts. [HL968]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): In 2012, the Government published an assessment of the key risks for the UK arising from current and predicted climate change up to the year 2100 (the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment or CCRA). The CCRA makes use of the UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) that represent a range of possible future changes in UK climate. The range of possibilities takes into account uncertainties in natural climate variability, how the UK's climate may respond to global warming, the future trajectory of emissions, and how these might magnify any regional climate change effects.
The risks were assessed for a range of plausible climate scenarios — presented as a range from a lower to an upper estimate of magnitude — to take account of uncertainty in future climate scenarios. The CCRA did not consider actual or potential losses to the UK as a result of the accuracy of climate forecasts, but it did take account of uncertainty in climate projections.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether the Met Office has set a date by which, in the event of no further increase in global temperatures, it would reassess the validity of its general circulation models. [HL1080]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): General circulation models developed by the Met Office are continually reassessed against observations and compared against international climate models through workshops and peer reviewed publications. The validity of general circulation modelling has been established for over four decades, as evident in the peer-reviewed literature. Such models are further developed in light of improvements in scientific understanding of the climate system and technical advances in computing capability.
Short term fluctuations in global temperature do not invalidate general circulation models, or determine timelines for model development. The long term projection remains that the underlying warming trend will continue in response to continuing increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether there has been an independent audit of the accuracy of the Met Office's recent forecasts of (1) wetter winters, (2) dryer summers, and (3) higher global temperatures. [HL1081]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Lord De Mauley): The methodology for the projections in the summary statements from the UK Climate Projections 2009 (UKCP09) and from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Fourth Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) was peer reviewed prior to launch and has since been followed by further publications in leading journals.
Projections are fundamentally different from forecasts. The Met Office has not issued a forecast for wetter winters or drier summers. Long term projections, such as those included in UKCP09 and IPCC AR4, by their definition cannot be audited for accuracy until the period the projections cover has passed. For UKCP09, time periods are in 30 year slices and the earliest such projections are for 2010-2039.
It is possible to compare the existing projections against results from new climate model studies as these emerge, to check whether or not the projections remain consistent with the latest understanding and capabilities available worldwide. The next opportunity to perform such a check will be provided by the forthcoming publication of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report and the Met Office Climate Programme contains effort to do this.
The Met Office provides an annual forecast on the expected difference, from the long term average, of the world's global average temperature for the year ahead. This is publicly available on the Met Office website. For example, the global average temperature for 2012 fell well within the range forecast by the Met Office on 4 January 2012, which had a most likely value of 0.48 °C above the long term average. The independent body of the World Meteorological Organisation stated that global average temperature in 2012 was 0.45°C above the long term average.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they have co-ordinated a cost-benefit analysis of their policies to introduce wind farms, on- and off-shore, as part of the United Kingdom's national energy generation; whether any such analysis took account of any specified forecast reductions in global temperatures; and, if so, what reductions. [HL1082]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): The Government response to the Renewables Obligation banding review set out our intentions to support onshore and offshore wind under the Renewables Obligation over the period 2013 to 2017. The accompanying impact assessment details the analysis behind these decisions and can be found here:
The modelling for the RO Banding review used the Department's energy and emissions projections. The UK is on track to meet its first three carbon budgets and as such, DECCs energy demand projections are in line with carbon reductions as specified in the first three carbon budgets (to 2022).
DECC's policies are aimed at reducing carbon emissions to contribute towards the UNECCC's goal of limiting global temperature rise to less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
To ask Her Majesty’s Government what estimate they have made of the comparative carbon footprints resulting from converting Drax power station from coal to biomass, including the estimated total costs, in money and carbon, of mining, logging, processing and transporting, and the relative energy outputs and efficiency. [HL1083]
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Energy and Climate Change (Baroness Verma): DECC has analysed the potential contributions from different renewable, low carbon and fossil fuel technologies to develop scenarios of how the UK could cost-effectively achieve its energy and carbon targets in 2020 and beyond. We have not made estimates for individual power stations. However, as outlined in our Bioenergy Strategy, the use of sustainable biomass as a transitional fuel to reduce carbon emissions from current coal power generation is an important decarbonisation pathway.