Met Office report — leaked or Leaked?

The Met Office released another climate report yesterday, containing its latest set of projections, CP18.

But the day before, an article about what the report would say was published in the Sunday Times, written by their environment editor Jonathan Leake.  The Sunday Times article is quite clear and precise about what the report is going to contain. The headline is

Rising seas threaten to engulf 1.7m homes, Met Office warns

and it goes on to include the following details (the article is behind the Times paywall, but you can register and get two articles per week).

The Met Office warns tomorrow that climate change and rising sea levels will threaten more than 1.5m homes, turn farmland into marsh and wash away beaches by the end of the century.

Its UK Climate Projections report forecasts that the seas around Britain are likely to increase by 3-4ft by 2100, inundating low-lying land, putting 1.7m homes at risk and destroying many holiday beaches.

Towards the end of the article, there are specific quotes from the report:

“Sea-level rises, increased river flows and more-frequent, more-intense storm surges are all possible effects of climate change,” the report will say. “This poses flooding risks to several areas of the UK, particularly along the Thames estuary.”

There is one cheerful note — global warming is at least delivering better summers. “Warm spells have more than doubled in length — from 5.3 days in 1961-90 to 13.2 days in 2008-17,” it will say. For Britain at least, climate change may have one upside.

A very similar article, containing much of the same material, appeared in the Mirror, which cites the Sunday Times and seems to be largely a cut-and-paste from Leake’s article.

So it appeared to be the case that Jonathan Leake had somehow got hold of the Met Office report a day before it was published. Otherwise, he could not have known all of these specific details of what was going to be in the report. Surely someone at the Met Office must have leaked it to him beforehand, or leaked some snippets from it? Surely if Leake was merely speculating about what the Met Office might say, he wouldn’t include such specific points and direct quotes, would he?

The plot thickens if you actually try to look at the report to see what it says. Firstly, there isn’t a single Met Office report that you can look at, just a mess of web pages and pdfs, for example this, this, this and this.  But despite scouring these pages, I’ve found nothing consistent with what Jonathan Leake claims is in the report. There’s nothing about 1.7 million homes being inundated, as claimed in the Sunday Times headline. It does not say that sea level rise of 3-4 feet is likely. Here is the relevant graphic, which shows that a rise of over a metre is a small possibility (95th percentile) in the most extreme scenario (RCP 8.5). Certainly not “likely”.

And what about that quote on more-intense storm surges? Well, this isn’t in the report, but it turns out to be a quote from a Met Office web page written in 2012!

I questioned Leake about this in the comments under his article and on twitter. He didn’t reply under the article, and on twitter he wrote a short evasive reply and then deleted it.

So it appears most likely that the Met Office report was not leaked, but “Leaked”.

[Thanks to Shub, Richard Betts, Tamsin Edwards and Arthur Dent for helpful comments.]


  1. “it appeared to be the case that Jonathan Leake had somehow got hold of the Met Office report a day before it was published”

    Thanks for an interesting note. My first thought is that, while it’s normal and perfectly proper to pass copies to the press before formally publishing a report, it’s equally normal and proper to impose an embargo and for the hacks to respect it. Call me cynical but I find it hard to believe that the Met Office would be so amateur as accidentally to forget to impose an embargo and/or that Leake would be so amateur as deliberately to breach one or, come to that, fail to check whether one was intended.

    IOW, assuming you’re correct to suggest that the report was Leaked (and I’m sure you are), the Met Office seems prima facie to have been complicit in the deliberate misrepresentation of the contents.

    Gosh. That’s a first, surely.


  2. To clarify, “Leaked” is an attempt at a pun. I no longer think that the Met Office leaked the report to Leake. I think he made it all up. Nothing matches. It took me a while to come to this view, as I couldn’t believe that a journalist from a reasonably serious paper would just manufacture quotes, given that he would be found out the next day.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. News journos are really secondary PR people
    hence the 2 papers I read on Monday morning both had previews
    I wrote

    Anyone else spot the masses of pre-PR for Gove ?

    Most of UK journos are really PR people out to plug material that supports their agendas and suppress that material that doesn’t.

    Yorkshire Post pg8 ‘In a speech at the Science Museum Michael Gove will stress”
    The “will” means they are reprting on something BEFORE it happens instead of after
    FFS that’s PR not news !

    Times runs the same Gove preview article
    … turn the page , full page advert for Orsted wind power


  4. ” “Leaked” is an attempt at a pun.”

    which, as a punaholic, I duly got.

    “I no longer think that the Met Office leaked the report to Leake.”

    It had no reason to leak the the documents comprising UKCP18 to anyone. It didn’t occur to me that it had – circulating material to the press before publication but embargoing it to prevent prejudicial comment is, rightly, the norm.

    That’s why, given its perceived importance, I’m suprised that the Met Office seems not to have imposed an embargo before CP18’s formal publication. My take is either that Leake breached an embargo (“inappropriate behaviour” by any reckoning and TBH unlikely) or that the Met, for whatever reason, failed to embargo. The predicatable result was that reporting of CP18 was shaped / dominated by Leake’s nonsense, not by its real content which, God knows, is fatuous enough. The Met’s press office has acted either incompetently or cynically by nudge-winking Leake into creative writing.

    “I couldn’t believe that a journalist from a reasonably serious paper would just manufacture quotes”

    Even “The Sun” sacked an aspiring hack a few years ago for doing just that on a defence-related story.

    “The “will” means they are reprting on something BEFORE it happens instead of after. FFS that’s PR not news !”

    Well, yes and no. The hacks will have received an advance copy of Gove’s speech and in that sense he was accurately reported. It’s commonplace and typically sort of works well enough, Mostly.

    Of course, the fun starts when, for whatever reason, Gove ends up saying something different. Such as “WW3 has just broken out”.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. These alternate futures caused by pre-publication leaks, Leakes, or official pre-press notifications do, as previously noted, get hopelessly entangled when the principal being pre-quoted goes rogue or off-script and the world spins slightly differently on its axis. But it gets even more complex and tangled when the pre-quote, heads-up or leak concerns the future, because then we need to figure out which future has been changed – the future of the pre-leak, the future of the leak, the future of the principal or the principles of Leake.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It’s not necessary to assume he made it up. He could have simply transformed material from the embargoed report so it would be impossible to trace its origin. So if he’s accused of making it up he can say it’s in the report, and if he’s accused of breaking the embargo he can say he made it up.

    Taking a 5% chance of a one metre rise in sea level in London and Cardiff (but not Edinburgh or Belfast) under a wildly unlikely representative concentration pathway and transforming it to 3-4 feet suggests a deliberate effort to hide his source. And blocking you onTwitter is another thing to add to your complaint to the Times for grossly unethical behaviour.


  7. Hi Paul, Jonathan cites “a recent report from the Committee on Climate Change” for the 1.7 million homes statistic. This might be the 2nd Climate Change Risk Assessment maybe? Or another CCC report?


  8. Spot the difference…

    “Today, as we launch the fourth generation of our UK Climate Projections, it is clear that the planet and its weather patterns are changing before our eyes.
    Michael Gove 2018

    “It is clear from today’s report that the British climate as we know it will change significantly. Almost a century of past global greenhouse gas emissions will take their toll in the UK.
    Margaret Beckett 2002

    Sea levels, for example – which we are becoming more accurate at measuring, thanks to advances in instruments and monitoring systems. In the 20th century the oceans rose around 15cm and the rate of increase has since quickened.
    Michael Gove 2018

    “Today’s report illustrates (page 75 ch 6.4) that the rise in the UK average sea level may further threaten some low lying unprotected coastal areas, but that it is the extremes of sea-level storm surges and large waves – that could cause most damage.
    Margaret Beckett 2002

    Even as we take action to slow carbon dioxide pollution now, physics dictates that the climate will keep heating up for decades to come.
    Michael Gove 2018

    “Some of the impacts of today’s report we will not be able to avert. The changes are already locked into the climate system and cannot be reversed.
    Margaret Beckett 2002

    Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – 26 April 2002

    “Increased risk in the UK of droughts, heavy rainfall and floods, could have major consequences for land use, planning, water resources, infrastructure, insurance, tourism and many other sectors across society.

    Top temperatures in summers in the UK may rise to highs of 40 degrees C by the 2080s with many more “very hot” days contrasted by wetter, but warmer, snow-free winters and drier spring and autumn seasons – most probably all triggered, say scientists today, by global warming.

    Snow in Scotland is expected to be reduced in the 2080s, according to the report by between 60 – 90 per cent. Conversely Scotland will see warmer summers.

    Mrs Beckett urged British business to start planning ahead now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, or face the possibility of insurmountable problems running a business in years to come.”

    Liked by 2 people

  9. This speech by David Miliband MP – 19 July 2006, was appropiately named: “The Great Stink: Towards An Environmental Contract ” Audit Commission annual lecture, 2006.

    Click to access DavidMiliband.pdf

    “So the science is increasingly stark. The potential to solve climate change increasingly in our hands. Public awareness and concern has never been higher. The challenge is to translate awareness into action.

    This requires all the familiar tools of behaviour change – information, incentives, role models and making change as convenient as possible. But it requires more than that. If citizens, businesses and nations are to change their behaviour, they must be confident that their actions will be reciprocated.

    Citizens need to know their neighbours are committed and that together their actions will have critical mass. Business need to know that the bar is being raised, but it is being raised for all businesses. Nations need to know that others will follow suit.”

    This is why recycling is such a feel good factor and now the plastics campaigns are part of the same paradigm.

    The following paper was published a short time after Miliband’s speech, in August 2006.

    “To help address the chaotic nature of the climate change discourse in the UK today, interested agencies now need to treat the argument as having been won, at least for popular communications. This means simply behaving as if climate change exists and is real, and that individual actions are effective.

    The ‘facts’ need to be treated as being so taken-for-granted that they need not be spoken.” [the quotes around ‘facts’ are theirs].

    IPPR has been one of Labour’s favourite think tanks and David Miliband was an intern there in the 1990’s. It seems the strategy has been successful, the media do indeed behave as if “climate change”
    in the sense of AGW, is real. Contrary or critical reporting is simply not allowed.

    It is not just the BBC, but state broadcasters around the world, such as France 24 and Australia’s ABC. In the UK. others such as ITV and Sky are similarly onboard.


  10. Richard, well, yes, this is one of the weird inconsistencies about his article. Half way through it he writes

    “Up to 1.7m homes would face flooding, according to a recent report from the Committee on Climate Change”

    But then in the first sentence he incorrectly says that the Met Office will say this, and then this false statement becomes the headline of the article!


  11. Who cares if it’s a Leak(e)
    When it’s all Greek
    To me.

    The Met Office cares
    So produces scares
    For me.

    The scares are not real
    But are produced with such zeal
    Oh sh!t, this is going nowhere……

    Liked by 1 person

  12. There is nothing new in the government report. It has all been predicted before, and long enough in the past to have been disproven. Yet here they are again, predicting the same disasters and the same apocalyptic claptrap. It is actually boring by now. Like watching some seedy televangelist reselling ignorant interpretations of the Bible on TV. And of course reactionary faux journalists parrot the report.
    It is interesting that recycling previously disproven predictions is a tactic that is preferred by tax payer funded entities whose mission is to serve the public and also by media organizations that claim to be fact driven.


  13. The other interesting thing is to read Andy West’s (long) essay on rationalization wiki’s attempt to prevent denialist scum from using the term “CAGW” when talking about the catastrophic changes the climate consensus predicts endlessly in the media, Halls of government and academia.
    It fits in, in a perverse way:
    When consensus predictions about climate are proven wrong, the calls for silencing the skeptics who challenged the predictions increases. When large sums of tax payer money goes to fund study after study that is proven wrong, governments seldom if ever demand audits or investigations. And even more seldom do skeptics get invited to give insights on why they have been proven correct.
    And when obviously recycled ignorance, like this UK Met report, do get published parroting journalists far from out skeptics to provide critical insight on the embarrassing anti-scientific crap, instead brag about censoring skeptics even more thoroughly.


  14. Hunter,

    > There is nothing new in the government report.

    Yes, absolutely, as shown by Dennis Ambler’s quotes. Each so-called new report is virtually identical to the last one. But they keep producing new ones, to keep this fake news in the news.


  15. Paul,
    It is as if their goal is to see how many times they can repeat the same untrue claims in slightly different ways. A factorial function applied bullshit to feed the climate consensus hype industry.


  16. Leake probably got his ‘1.7 million homes’ from a 2015 report by Sayers and Partners LLP commissioned by the CCC. It said that, assuming no population growth and that adaptation continues at current levels, a rise in global mean temperature of 4C from the 1990s to the 2080s would expose 1.7 million coastal homes in the UK to an annual flood risk of 1.3% or greater (once in 75 years or less), up from 860,000 at the moment. Report here:

    The most recent CCC projection (last month) says that, assuming high population growth and that adaptation continues at current levels, a 4C 1990s-to-2080s rise would expose 1.3 million coastal homes in England to a 0.5% or greater annual flood risk (once in 200 years or less). See Table 2.2 here:

    The England-only number by Sayers and Partners LLP looked quite similar: 1.4 million coastal homes (Table 6-3, 690k x 2). The trouble is, that projection assumed no population growth and was an estimate for the much higher 1.3% risk level. So not similar at all. Much, much doomier.

    So CCC’s projections are getting more optimistic.

    We can’t have that. Here’s a new one:

    Assuming a shrinking population (because of all the disease, famine and war that climate change will cause) and reduced adaptation rates (because climate change will ruin the economy), a 4C rise by the 2080s will expose this many coastal homes in the UK to the risk of flooding: zero. That’s because they will all have been dismantled so that their bricks can be used as weapons in the small-scale inter-clan and inter-cult conflicts that will determine ownership of the UK’s scant resources once climate change has plunged the world into post-industrial anarchy, which science says will happen exactly 12 years from now.

    That’ll be £120k plus VAT, please, CCC.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Vinny, thanks for finding that:

    What are the main impacts of future flooding? The number of residential properties exposed to flooding more frequently than 1:75 years (on average) increases significantly in all futures; increasing from 860,000 today to 1.2 million (a 40% increase) by the 2080s under a 2°C increase in GMT, and to 1.7 million (a 93% increase) under 4°C.

    Of course the mystery remains of why Mr Leake thought that was going to be in the Met Office report!


  18. I have gone to bat for Leake in the past. It’s a pity what he did with his Sunday article.

    Science is journalism’s weakness, largely.


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