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|Lord Drayson says there is an urgent
need to restate the scientific evidence for global warming and calls
for companies to focus on their environmental obligations.
figures in the manufacturing industry do not accept that human
activities are driving global warming or that action needs to be
taken to prepare for its effects, the UK government's science
minister said today.
Lord Drayson said recent discussions with leaders in the car
industry and other businesses had left him "shocked" at the number
of climate change deniers among senior industrialists. Of those who
acknowledged that global temperatures were rising, many blamed it on
variations in the sun's activity.
Speaking in London to mark the launch of a new centre that will
gather information from satellites to improve understanding of how
the Earth's environment is changing, Lord Drayson said there was an
urgent need to restate the scientific evidence for global warming
and called for companies to focus on their environmental obligations
despite the pressures of the economic downturn.
"There is a significant minority of senior managers who do not
accept the evidence for climate change and don't see the need to
take action," Drayson said. "It really shocked me that those views
are held, and it's not limited to the car industry."
"The industrialists are faced with a very difficult challenge, which
is huge infrastructure investment in existing ways of doing business
and very difficult global economic circumstances.
"The temptation is to say we'll get round to dealing with climate
change once we've fixed all this other stuff. We need to present
them with the evidence to say this can't wait, we need to fix both,"
The new centre will receive £33m over the next five years and will
coordinate research using Earth-observing satellite data at 26
British universities and institutions. Known as the National Centre
for Earth Observation, it will focus on ways to improve climate
change models, sea level rise estimates, flooding forecasts and ways
to predict earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It also hopes to
develop improved weather forecasting software ahead of the London
Olympics in 2012.
A major task for the centre will be to use real-time measurements of
sea ice melting, droughts and atmospheric conditions to hone
computer models that climate scientists use to predict future
warming and its effects.
"Earth-orbiting satellites are revolutionising our understanding of
planet Earth, in terms of how it works and what forces work against
it, not least from climate change. But in order to get more from
that data, to get climate information on 10 year scales, and on
regional scales, we've got to iron out some significant issues we
have with the computer models," said Alan O'Neill, director of the
Some environmental processes are so poorly understood that they
hinder the ability of climate models to make accurate predictions.
The amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from deforestation
in the tropics is so uncertain that estimates range from 0.7 to
2.6bn tonnes a year. Other scientists say that some feedback
processes in the atmosphere are so unclear they do not even know if
they will speed up global warming or slow it down.
The centre was due to take data from Nasa's ill-fated Orbiting
Carbon Observatory satellite, which crashed into the ocean near
Antarctica shortly after take-off last month. The satellite was
designed to bolster understanding of climate change by mapping
levels of CO² in the atmosphere.
Three new Earth observing satellites are scheduled to launch this
year, including the European Space Agency's Goce probe, which by
mapping the Earth's gravity field will reveal details of changes in
ocean currents. Another satellite, Smos, will measure soil moisture
and ocean salinity, with the third, cryosat-2, monitoring the
thickness of continental ice sheets and sea ice cover.