Scientific evidence to help us understand climate change
The scientific evidence that the world’s climate is changing is clear and extensive. Nevertheless we need further research to refine our understanding of how the climate system works and how climate will change in coming decades.
Efforts to understand the climate system in detail are an important part of our climate change policy objectives.
Why we need to understand climate change
To save energy with the Green Deal and support vulnerable consumers, we need to understand better what the climate will be like over the lifetime of the policies we set so our measures are as effective as possible.
To maintain energy security and increase the use of low carbon technologies, we need to be able to predict the renewable energy resources that will be available to us in the future. This helps us deploy the right quantity of renewable energy sources, like wind turbines, in the best places.
To reduce the UK’s greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate international climate change, we must be able to demonstrate why action against climate change is important and what the risks are if we take no action. We must be able to back up our position with good evidence from real-world data and scientific analysis, and assess the benefits that different levels of action and investment will have.
To manage our energy legacy responsibly and cost-effectively, we need to know about potential risks posed by the climate in the future and adapt our energy systems accordingly. For example, future sea level rise and the probability of flooding are important considerations when siting major energy infrastructure and changing climate may change the availability of wind energy.
Met Office Hadley Centre (MOHC)
The programme works with research councils and academic centres in the UK and collaborators world wide, to build the scientific evidence that informs our policy and decision making. This includes analysis of observations, computer model predictions of climate change, and assessment of the extent to which human activities have contributed to extreme weather and climate events.
Reports from the programme for its DECC and Defra customers have been published.
DECC Earth Observations Strategy
Observing climate trends and processes in the real world is important for understanding how and why our climate is changing, and for developing better climate models. The DECC Earth Observations Strategy supports:
- the international ‘Argo’ programme, which deploys submersible floats that measure salinity, current velocity and temperature in the ocean down to 2000 metres
- the satellite-based Advanced Along-Track Scanning Radiometer (AATSR) and Jason-3 programmes for measuring sea surface temperature and sea level respectively
- observations at 4 sites (3 in the UK and 1 in the Republic of Ireland), where atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations are measured to monitor trends, verify greenhouse gas inventories and contribute to scientific understanding of the build-up of concentrations in the atmosphere
Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)
We support the NERC in studying the crucial consequences of climate change, including those on ocean acidification and the Arctic environment, which are very likely to impact on the UK in coming decades.
Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change Programme (AVOID)
DECC funds AVOID to provide evidence to inform mitigation and adaptation strategies for avoiding dangerous climate change. This evidence is delivered by a group of leading UK research institutes comprising:
- Grantham Institute for Climate Change
- Walker Institute for Climate System Research
- Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research
We support the assessment of the impacts of climate change to advise on appropriate levels of emission reductions and to underpin adaptation strategies.
We have delivered climate impact assessments for 25 key economies, which were presented at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conference of the Parties in Durban in 2011, and bilateral projects with India and China on impacts and adaptation.
UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
Our scientists support and co-ordinate UK input into the IPCC, a body set up to give governments the most up-to-date assessments of the scientific, technical and socio-economic aspects of climate change. These inform domestic climate policy and the UK position in international climate negotiations.
The UN’s Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the first volume of its 5th Assessment Report on The Physical Science Basis of Climate Change in Stockholm on 27 September.
Other work we’re supporting
- commissioning work into the possible impacts of a changing climate on UK and European wind regimes, solar energy and other renewable energy sources
- working with international partners on forestry projections and the monitoring, reporting and verification needed for climate negotiations
- funding desk-based research into the environmental impacts of geo-engineering proposals to counter climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions
- supporting global research on the governance of geo-engineering and working with NERC and MOHC to identify knowledge gaps in our understanding of the technology