Archive for the ‘policy’ Category

Electoral reform in the UK?

May 9, 2015

We had a General Election in the UK this week. We use a first-past-the-post system in our General Elections, which isn’t particularly representative.

I’m not going to say too much about this but I thought it was interesting to see how many votes each party received in relation to the number of parliamentary seats they got…

Party Seats Votes Votes per seat
Conservative 331 11,334,920 34244
Labour 232 9,347,326 40290
Scottish National Party 56 1454436 25972
Liberal Democrat 8 2,415,888 301986
Democratic Unionist Party 7 184260 26323
Sinn Fein 4 176,232 44058
Plaid Cymru 3 181,694 60565
Social Democratic & Labour Party 3 99809 33270
Ulster Unionist Party 2 114935 57468
UKIP 1 3881129 3881129
Green Party 1 1157613 1157613



Update Places to do something about it: Electoral Reform Society; Avazz.

Spectator Climate Debate

March 22, 2011

The Spectator have organised a debate about climate change on Tuesday 29 March at the Royal Geographical Society, London, SW7 (1800-2030hrs).

The motion is:

The global warming concern is over. Time for a return to sanity.

The number of people in the UK who do not believe in global warming has doubled in the last two years, according to a poll from the Office for National Statistics. Does this represent an alarming success in a war against science? Or the common sense of a British public who can see the claims of the climate alarmists dissolve before their eyes?

My first impression was: £30 a ticket!?! You must be joking.

My second was the unbalanced make up of the “for” and “against” speakers:

The “for” panel is made up of a politician (with a chemistry degree), an ex-politician and a social anthropologist. The latter two now represent the same organisation.

The “against” panel constitutes a climate physicist, a science writer (with a physics PhD) and an ex-Government Chief Scientific Adviser (academic career in physical chemistry).

What are they actually going to be debating? I don’t see enough of an overlap between the panels (one very political, the other very scientific) for there to be much room for constructive debate.

In fact, I’m quite surprised that it is the Spectator that have organised this event. Given their previous on climate issues, these panels look skewed towards the case for climate change.

By this, I mean that the “for” panel looks a bit limited and homogeneous – if they stray too far into scientific territory they’ll be in danger of looking out of their depth. By contrast, the “against” panel are more diverse and have much more up-to-date experience on the key issues (climate science, science communication and science informing policy).

I assume it’ll end up just being a lot of rhetoric about “climategate”-this and “hide the decline”-that but I’ll be very interested to read reports after the event.

Climate Change Question Time (or Climate Science goes to the City)

November 26, 2010

I initially though I had the wrong address for this event. In the shadow of the Swiss Re gherkin and the Lloyds building, I wandered into the Willis Tower and was surprised not to be asked to leave. Then, my second surprise, I saw the registration desk for Climate Change Question Time.

It turns out that the event, organised by the Knowledge Transfer Network in Industrial Mathematics, was aimed largely at City types, particularly the insurance industry. That said, there were some big names in policy circles and high-level representatives from most of the big climate science groups within a short-ish train ride from London (Reading, Imperial, Cambridge, Oxford, UEA, BAS, Southampton and, of course, Brunel ;)).

It was interesting stuff though I expect what most people took away from the meeting was that Tim Palmer really (really) wants a massive computer and he doesn’t care who pays for it.

I’ve no idea how successful it was as a networking event between the financial sector and academia. I spoke to one old boy from Lloyds who seemed well into risk associated with weather events. His point of view was that he couldn’t do anything with current climate projections. I guess the second problem here is that the climatological data that was so useful to him in the past is going to become equally useless in a changing climate. I suppose the challenge for the insurance industry is to recognise the point where low-resolution, uncertain climate projections become more useful than historic data that no longer represents the background climate. Hmm, that sounds like a project…

Anyway, rather than a full meeting report, what I want to share here were a few (probably slightly paraphrased) quotes from some of the panel members. I’ll give a little context where necessary. Here goes:

Tim Lenton: Don’t fall in love with your model.

Whilst the results of a model projection give you enormous ability to understand processes within the model, you mustn’t forget that the model is not the real world.

Tim Palmer: If God exists, he isn’t a climate modeller.

…because the two key scales to successfully modelling global climate are those relating to baroclinic instabilities (on the order of 1000s km) and convective instability (10s km). Achieving this is not easy.

Vicky Pope: Low climate sensitivities (below 2°C) look unrealistic from latest model runs.

As cloud processes have improved in Earth system models, it looks like it is the lower end of the IPCC climate sensitivities that will be affected most.

Alan Thorpe: Parameterisations are not dirty.

…in response to a question about “tuning” climate models.

Abyd Karmali: We use yesterday’s science to inform today’s policy that drives tomorrow’s financial markets.

Adair Turner: Achieving 80% emissions cuts in the UK by 2050 is still possible.

John Beddington: Identifying and monitoring signatures of tipping points is essential.

Ralph Cicerone: The public think that a “climate model” is a [physical] toy.

Just for completeness, here’s a little run down of the contributors to the two session:

The scientific uncertainties and their implications
Tim Lenton (University of East Anglia)
Tim Palmer (University of Oxford, and the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting)
Vicky Pope (Head of Climate Change Advice, the Met Office)
Alan Thorpe (Chief Executive, Natural Environment Research Council)
Chair: Jonathan Leake (Science & Environment Editor, The Sunday Times)

Policy in the face of the uncertainties
Sir John Beddington (Government Chief Scientific Adviser)
Ralph Cicerone (President, National Academy of Sciences of the USA)
Abyd Karmali (Managing Director, Global Head of Carbon Markets, Bank of America Merrill Lynch)
Lord Adair Turner (Chairman, Financial Services Authority, and Committee on Climate Change)
Chair: Oliver Morton (Energy and Environment Editor, The Economist)

The future of the Met Office and climate data

November 18, 2010

There’s an interesting Sky News blog post here discussing the future of the Met Office and its climate data:

But from the Treasury’s perspective, it must be encouraging that there is a willingness to think radically about t the ways in which publicly-owned assets such as data and real estate might be reorganised to generate returns for taxpayers.

This is a bit worrying from a climate perspective for a couple of reasons:

1) after the UEA CRU email episode this does not seem like the way forward for data openness.

2) the Met Office, and particularly its climate research wing the Hadley Centre, are real world leaders. I can’t see how “part privatisation” would not jepodise that position.