Memorandum submitted by the Economic and
Social Research Council (ESRC)
1. The Economic and Social Research Council
is a research funding agency, established by Royal Charter. Our
mission is to promote and support high quality basic strategic
and applied research in the social sciences, which meets the needs
of users and beneficiaries. Over 65 per cent of our investments
are guided by themes that reflect scientific and national priorities.
These themes are reviewed regularly and are developed in consultation
with academics, learned societies and research users in business,
government and the voluntary sector.
2. At present, the ESRC has nine themes,
one of which is Environment and Sustainability. Under this theme,
two major investments that encompass issues of climate change
have been funded over the past 10 years. These are the Programme
on Global Environmental Change (GEC) co-ordinated at the University
of Sussex and the Centre for Social and Economic Research on the
Global Environment (CSERGE) at the University of East Anglia and
University College London.
3. The ESRC has funded a considerable volume
of high quality research that has acquired national and international
recognition for its contribution to the understanding issues relating
to climate change.
4. A list of the specific research grants,
programmes and centres related to climate change research may
be found in Annex 1. The focus of the research at CSERGE has been
to examine the inter-relationships between social and economic
factors and the resulting climatic changes, rather than on specific
climate models. However, CSERGE note the relative shortfall of
research on "regional" scale predictions, in particular
the uncertainty of the magnitude of climate change impacts on
this scale. A complete listing of the projects and outputs derived
from CSERGE may be found in their detailed response to the Committee's
concerns at Annex 2.
5. The GEC Programme has supported a broad
range of research related to climate change. Topics include examining
government regulations and economic instruments, transportation
challenges and renewable energy impacts on climate change. One
specific award to Robin Grove White and colleagues at the University
of Lancaster supported under the GEC Programme and recorded in
Annex 1 has addressed uncertainty with specific reference to the
use of climate change models. Notable conclusions of this work
include: "the common relative ordering of different climate
modelswhich champions global climate models as the "ultimate"
climate modelis not fully justified by scientific arguments
alone, at least not for the simulation and projection of future
climate change . . . the mutual reinforcement of particular scientific
and policy approaches . . . will also raise questions about the
relative merits of alternative scientific methods and styles .
. . the definition of "good science" has held back some
of the alternative approaches which could be further developed
and used profitably in the widening climate science and policy
domain." (Quotations from Shackley et al, Uncertainty,
Complexity and Concepts of Good Science in Climate Change Modelling:
Are GCMs the Best Tools?, Climatic Change 38 pp 159-205, 1998).
6. The ESRC in partnership with the Natural
Environment Research Council and Engineering and Physical Sciences
Research Council, will be investing in a new Climate Change Centre
this year which will provide new options for examining the interdependencies
between the natural, social and economic environments.
7. The focus of ESRC-funded research has
been on the economic and social contributions toand consequences
ofclimate change, including the implications of scientific
uncertainty, as noted above. However, the ESRC is not in a position
to comment directly on alternative scientific explanations of
climate change trends.
8. ESRC funded research has contributed
considerably to government policy at both national and international
levels. These contributions have been made in publications, commissioned
research and reports, submissions to inquiries, and through politician
and official participation in numerous workshops and seminars
organised by CSERGE and the GEC Programme. Many different communication
methods have been used according to the audience. Full details
of the outputs from CSERGE, for example are listed in Annex 2.
9. Of particular note are the contributions
by CSERGE to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (both
in 1995 and the current work) and its advisory role to the United
Nations Environment Programme.
10. The Department of Environment, Transportation
and the Regions have provided funding directly to CSERGE to develop
scenarios which would assist regional and national policy-making.
In addition, regionally based policy makers have participated
in workshops to evaluate proposed socio-economic and climate scenarios
in the East Anglia region and important contributions have been
made to work on a European level. Paragraph 12 in Annex 2 gives
11. The GEC Programme has been actively
involved in making submissions to several parliamentary Committees.
In 1999 these included the Environment Committee's Inquiry into
the UK Climate Change Programme and the Environmental Audit Select
Committee Inquiry into the UK Sustainable Development Strategy
12. The GEC Programme also published a Special
Briefing in 1997 entitled "After Kyoto: Making Climate
Policy Work" which was disseminated to almost 4,000 interested
academics, government agencies as well as non-governmental organisations.