Sir: Weather and climate science is not an emotional or political issue — even though emotions and politics run high around it, as illustrated in Rupert Darwall’s article (‘Bad weather’, 13 July). However, it is important that opinions are rooted in evidence, and the article contains numerous errors and misrepresentations about the Met Office and its science. Here are a couple of points.
The assertion of the Met Office’s ‘forecast failure’ is just wrong. The Met Office is beating all of its forecast accuracy targets. We are consistently recognised by the World Meteorological Organization as one of the top two most accurate operational forecasters in the world. While no forecaster can be 100 per cent accurate, we are at the forefront of weather and climate science and are working to ensure the UK stays a leader in this field.
The Met Office did not ‘brace’ the UK for a ‘decade of soggy summers’. This is a misrepresentation of science from the University of Reading, which scientists made clear at the time should not be taken as a forecast. The Met Office provides impartial advice based only on evidence from world-class research which has been subjected to the rigour and challenge of peer review. Our scientists share those findings as they are, so people can make informed decisions — and form opinions.
John Hirst, Met Office Chief Executive
Sir: Rupert Darwall is right about the Met Office, which has become an arm of the evangelical environmentalists. It accepted the Anthropogenic Global Warming hypothesis from day one and refuses to change direction, even though many highly qualified climate scientists have become sceptical. Not a single circulation model predicted the 15-17 year hiatus in global mean surface temperature. Yet CO2 emissions have increased year on year. It’s possible that the models contain false assumptions about a positive feedback mechanism in which warming from CO2 leads to more water vapour in the atmosphere (water vapour is a more aggressive greenhouse gas than CO2).
This feedback parameter is very difficult to measure, and the guess might be incorrect. In the view of most sensible scientists, the hiatus has lasted long enough to falsify the hypothesis. The Met Office’s approach is no different to that of the scientifically illiterate Ed Davey: kill dissent and shout down dissenters — no matter how well qualified they might be.
Sir: Sam Leith, in his review of both the Hurd/Young and Leonard biographies (Books, 13 July), wonders about the nature of Benjamin Disraeli’s attack on O’Connell. In 1835, during a by-election, the Irish Catholic leader in the Commons, Daniel O’Connell, referred to Disraeli (not then an MP) as ‘the worst possible type of Jew’. Dizzy, in an open letter to the Times, replied: ‘Yes, I am a Jew, and when the ancestors of the right honourable gentleman were brutal savages in an unknown island, mine were princes in the Temple of Solomon.’ A clear case of Daniel finding himself in the lion’s den.
Not so simple Simón
Sir: In his lazy, dismissive review of Simón Bolívar (Books, 29 June), Byron Rogers manages to patronise the author, Marie Arana, as ‘an American mother who does her best’ with the book (she also happens to be a past literary editor of the Washington Post and leading Peruvian novelist). The whole of Latin American history he dismisses as ‘horror and humbug’; and he describes Bolivar’s life as if it were a Gilbert and Sullivan opera in pirate costume, not an epic, complicated struggle that liberated a continent.
For centuries the British have cultivated the ‘leyenda negra’ or ‘black legend’, portraying the Spanish occupation of South America as more brutal than it was. The idea that ‘no Christian nation has ever trailed such a shameful colonial past’ ignores what the Belgians did in the Congo among many others; nor was the British record on slavery and occupation in the Caribbean impeccable.
Latin America now has phenomenal economic growth and considerably more racial tolerance than other areas of the globe, or for that matter Europe. Soon they will be the ones patronising us.
Sir: I am sure the good people of Blackpool and Ellesmere Port will have their own opinions on Charles Moore’s comments on shale gas (The Spectator’s Notes, 13 July) but here in the Vale of Glamorgan, we are also threatened. It is not so much the visual blight that alarms us, although that is potentially awful, but so far none of the exploration or extraction organisations has given a satisfactory response to what will happen to the millions of gallons of toxic chemicals that will need to be disposed of after the ‘fracking’ process has taken place.
Even in America, with its seemingly limitless spaces where dumping of noxious liquids can be accommodated, they are having doubts about the long-term damage. Martyn Hurst
Llysworney, Vale of Glamorgan
Consolations of age
Sir: Toby Young (Status Anxiety 13 July) should be patient. One day he will discover that the benefits of old age outweigh so many anxieties and ailments. Not many weddings, a few christenings and a diminishing number of funerals of one’s contemporaries.
So eat, drink and reflect on life’s curiosities, such as how Edward Scissorhands managed to urinate safely.