Modeling deserves a place in climate change debate

A leading climate change scientist has defended the Met Office’s use of modeling in determining the effect of global warming. Speaking at the Climate Change Conference in Cambridge last week, […]

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By Tom Gibson

A leading climate change scientist has defended the Met Office’s use of modeling in determining the effect of global warming.

Speaking at the Climate Change Conference in Cambridge last week, Dr John Mitchell, the Principal Research Fellow at the Hadley Centre said there were misunderstandings over what models can or can’t do for the debate.

After receiving a few jeers from the audience about the Met Office’s modeling, he said: “There are things that we’re uncertain of and those are reported in the open literature. The changes we’ve seen in the last 15 years for example are consistent with the models we’ve been predicting. That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re right in the long term, but they’re certainly within the uncertainties we would expect. I think the problem is that people don’t understand what the limitations are with the models.

“There have been changes in the past and they were bigger but over much longer time and I think the real issue is not is it a good thing to have higher temperatures but it’s the rate at which it occurs and the rate at which we can adapt and that’s something people don’t appreciate.”

The event brought together minds from both camps; those that fear human-produced CO2 is driving climate change and those that are of the view that nothing much is enough concern to warrant expensive policies.

Dr Mitchell was of the view that the relationship between science and politics should remain clear-cut and not influence each other: “My job as a scientist is to do the best science that I can to provide the background for policy- it’s not for me in my current role to advise on policy. Now, as a private citizen that’s a different matter- but I keep these things seperate.”