Climate change challenge tops list of issues – UK Chief Scientific Advisers

December 31, 2007 at 5:07 am | Posted in Britain, Cambridge University, Chief Scientist, Climate change, Imperial College London, Oxford University, UK | Leave a comment

“By far the most important issue is climate change.”

Sir David King – outgoing Chief Scientist

There are some immense challenges coming and clearly climate change is the biggest. We need to develop science and technology solutions to mitigating this problem as soon as we can

Professor John Beddington – incoming Chief Scientist

There are different ways of achieving goals, but the overriding number one priority for Her Majesty’s Government does not change as the handover from one chief scientific adviser to another takes place next week. This is not an issue solely for scientists, nor for governments, nor for residents of Britain. It is an issue for each and every one of us to address in our own way, wherever we are, to the best of our ability.

Climate change mission for chief scientist

By Clive Cookson, Science Editor, Financial Times

Published: December 31 2007 02:10 | Last updated: December 31 2007 02:10

After seven years in one of the most high-pressure jobs in government, Sir David King will on Monday hand over his role as chief scientist to John Beddington, a population biologist at Imperial College London.

The chief scientist can adopt a higher public profile than most civil servants – and Sir David took the opportunity to press what he saw as the rational scientific case on controversial issues ranging from foot-and-mouth disease and genetically modified crops to climate change and nuclear power.

By far the most important issue, he says, is climate change. It was top of his personal agenda when he became chief scientist – though his first year in office was dominated by the battle against foot-and-mouth – and Whitehall insiders give Sir David credit for stiffening Tony Blair’s resolve as prime minister to press for international action against global warming. His remark early in 2004, shortly before a visit to the US, that climate change was a much more important threat than international terrorism made a particular impact on American public opinion.

Sir David, 68, moves to Oxford University next month to take charge of the new Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, with a mission to help find private sector solutions to climate change.

But he will retain his research lab at Cambridge University, where he has been professor of physical chemistry since 1988. “I have spent every Friday there while I have been in government,” he says. “Chief scientific adviser is a wonderful job but I’ve needed my research to keep sane – and my precondition for taking the Oxford position was to carry on with it.”

His successor Prof Beddington, 61, has been professor of applied population biology at Imperial College since 1991. His appointment further strengthens the Imperial’s scientific links with government.

… and you can read more about our incoming Chief Scientist in today’s report, Climate change mission for chief scientist.


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