UK government asked UEA to create climate ‘headline’

20 Feb

In looking through more of the AR4 references, I came across an old site created by the UK’s Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) about the ‘Indicators of Climate Change in the UK’. The site was created in 1999, and last updated in 2003. I was wandering around the site, marveling at their outdated information, and I found an interesting document. It is entitled:

Review of UK Climate Change Indicators

Contract EPG 1/1/158
June 2003
(Revised Jan 2004)
Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs

It then lists the main contractors and the subcontractors. The University of East Anglia CRU is one of the subcontractors. Here is the rationale in their words for the report:

An update of the current set of UK indicators was also necessary, along with a reappraisal to assess whether :
– the original set of indicators was still appropriate;
– new indicators should be devised;
– indicators should be removed from the set

Ok, so they are determining if the original indicators are valid, whether there should be new indicators, and if some should be removed. They did decide that some needed to be removed based on unavailable data (such as potato yields and salmon populations). Mostly they decided that their indicators were good, and that they needed a new ‘socio-economic’ indicator. Actually, they were told they needed a new indicator by DEFRA. On page 7 (if viewing as pdf):

The Defra publication Foundations for our Future (June 2002) presents a variety of sustainable development indicators. Climate change is considered a cross-cutting theme within the report, and is reflected in two of the indicators :
• Emissions of greenhouse gases (UK emissions indicator); and
• Socio-economic impacts of climate change.

The second of these indicators had not yet been developed and Defra has a commitment to produce an appropriate indicator in time for the first revision of the Foundations for our Future report (publication expected June 2003).
This project explicitly identified a headline indicator of the socio-economic impacts of climate change indicator for inclusion in the report.It highlighted the reasons why this particular indicator was chosen above others, according to a defendable methodology.

So the real reason they are creating a new ‘socio-economic’ indicator of climate change is because they want a ‘headline’ in an upcoming DEFRA publication. The document then notes the actual meeting that took place to determine this new indicator, page 9:

A meeting was held on 27 March 2003 at Defra with the following objectives.

• To indentify and consider the lists of climate change indictors produced by the European Environment Agency, the UK Devolved Administrations, the Environment Agency and other relevant sources.
• To consult with representatives of the UK Devolved Administrations, the EA and UKCIP.
• To elicit views on gaps and weaknesses in the 1999 list of UK Indicators of Climate Change, covering climate, the natural environment, socio-economic and marine indicators.
To consider the headline indictor required for the Defra publication ‘Foundations for our Future’

Spelling errors aren’t mine. Here is what they wrote about the socio-economic indicator:

Headline socio-economic indicator

UEA has considered each of the main socio-economic indicators in the 1999 report.
The meeting considered indicators that the UK ‘can do something about’ such as (i) planning application refusals for building on flood plains, (ii) uptake of guidance for 20% increase in flood risk when making coastal defence plans, eg number of schemes taking this into account, and (iii) number of water management plans that take account of climate change. However, all these indicators presented difficulties in obtaining consistent data which could be interpreted with confidence. It was concluded that the insurance claims indicator met most criteria and was most robust, especially if new data sources could been identified

It doesn’t end there. The document then notes each groups response to specific indicators, and one group responds to the possible socio-economic indicators, page 12:

7. Socio-economic Indicators (Jean Palutikof and co-workers)

– Indicator 12 (insurance claims) might be extended to include claims for flood damage, using Association of British Insurers’ statistics.
– Indicators 13-16 are OK
– Indicator 17 (lyme disease) should stay (despite criticism) but maybe look at European trends and add a new indicator on the number of notified cases of food poisoning.
– Indicator 18 (human mortality) stays.
– Indicator 19 (irrigation water use) stays, but a new indicator might be added on household water use – taking into account the EA indicator and going back before 1992.
– Indicator 20 (percentage potato area irrigated) – there have been no data since 1995, so this may be dropped.
– Indictors 21 and 22 stay.
– Indicator 23 (forage maize) should be dropped.
A new indicator should be sought on the sale of air conditioners; maybe there is a trade association.
A new indicator should be sought on sales of beer and soft drinks

Wow. That seems a bit reaching to me, the sale of air conditioners, beer, and soft drinks? Also, note the recommendation of adding an indicator for increased food poisoning. That comes up again.

The report then moves back into the existing indicators, and on page 28 they show an interesting chart. It is entitled ‘Potential “New” ECN Climate Impact Indicators’. The list contains such things as Frog Spawning date and Bat Activity, and then lists such attributes as climate sensitivity and data availability. Another attribute is worth noting. ‘Public Resonance’ is listed, on a scale of one to three. Some issues are shown to have low public resonance, such as ground beetles, and some high, such as water quality. However one issue, the “Genetic” changes of beetles, does not land on the scale but says: “Low unless hyped up.” Hyped up? Is this a technical term?

This focus on public perception continues. Perhaps the most blatant is on the issue of warm weather crops. In their summary on current indicators, page 63:

Warm weather crops (grapes and forage maize)
These indicators may be showing trends that are unrelated to climate, but they have public resonance and should be retained.

Well, if they have ‘public resonance’ then by all means, retain them. Who cares about their link to climate change? This is a revealing sentence, clearly the perception of impact from climate change is more important than the actual impact. This mindset reveals itself once more. Remember the recommendation for an new indicator of food poisoning? The last section of the report starts by saying (page 64):

11. Headline Socio-economic Indicator of Climate Change

UEA was asked to develop a ‘headline’ socio-economic indicator of climate impacts for inclusion in the DEFRA publication Foundations for our Future, which will undergo its first revision for publication in June 2003.

The UEA was asked by the UK’s government agency DEFRA to create a ‘headline’ socio-economic indicator of climate impacts. This does not seem like un-biased science to me. They are specifically looking for a socio-economic indicator, presumably one which the level of ‘public resonance’ is already high and doesn’t need to be ‘hyped up’. So, what is one of the socio-economic indicators that the report recommends? Page 64:

11.1 Evaluation of potential new indicators

We have considered the possibility of adding an indicator on food poisoning occurrence. This would satisfy criteria related to policy relevance and public resonance. Moreover, the data are readily available. The time series contains three components:
i. an exponentially rising trend over time – by far the dominant influence;
ii. a seasonal cycle, peaking in summer and reaching a minimum in winter; and,
iii. interannual variability linked to temperature fluctuations.
We would only be interested in the third of these. Thus, the series would have to be detrended before it could be used as an indicator, making it difficult to explain to a general audience without being misleading. The long-term rising trend is likely to be due to failures in public and domestic hygiene.

Wait a minute. They are considering the indicator of food poisoning, and yet they admit the ‘long-term rising trend is likely to be due to failures in public and domestic hygiene’. That would seem to exclude the indicator automatically, but again, the link to public perception is far more important than the actual link to climate change. Also, they say that food poisoning would ‘satisfy criteria related to policy relevance and public resonance’. Yes, I’d imagine it would. Scaring people half to death seems to be a requirement for many climate alarmists (melting glaciers cut water supply to 750 million?).

While I cannot find the 2002 ‘Foundations for our Future’ DEFRA publication, I do know DEFRA accepted food poisoning as an indicator of climate change. On this DEFRA webpage, under the Vulnerability to climate change section, they claim:

•Food Poisoning

Cases of food poisoning are likely to increase significantly, by perhaps 10,000 cases annually

I’m not claiming that the previous report led directly to this claim, but the claim must be regarded as suspicious in light of the ‘likely to be due to failures in public and domestic hygiene’ comment. Reading this report gives one the feeling that DEFRA is far more concerned with indicators which resonant with the public than indicators which actually reflect the changing climate.

In defense of the CRU, they issued a response to this review, in which they said:

“Public resonance” isn’t a very scientific reason for keeping things in which are only marginally correlated with climate, unless the other factors can be backed out (e.g. in the case of ozone, presumably we could model out the changing precursor emissions)?

The CRU is right on this one.



Posted by on February 20, 2010 in Uncategorized


Tags: , ,

5 responses to “UK government asked UEA to create climate ‘headline’

  1. Frank

    February 21, 2010 at 6:04 am

    Nice investigation!!

    We linked to you (


    March 17, 2010 at 10:17 am

    Very good work, keep up the truth.


    March 17, 2010 at 10:24 am

    I found a bit more out for you:

    DEFRA (2002c). Foundations for our Future – DEFRA’s Sustainable Development Strategy [online]
    available at: (accessed 29 January 2003)

    The link does not work, but it is part of something called “sustainable development strategy”.

    Good luck.


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