Media 'knock the confidence of Met Office scientists'
The boss of the Westcountry-based Met Office has told how "bruising" criticism of its support of climate change can knock the "self-confidence" of scientists.
John Hirst, chief executive of the Met Office, was giving evidence to MPs in Parliament as part of a probe into the public's understanding of global warming.
The Exeter-based weather bureau boasts the Hadley Centre, one of the world's leading research departments on long-term changes to climate.
But the organisation is often at the eye of the storm when sceptics take issue with the notion that climate change is man-made.
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Gary Streeter, Conservative MP for South West Devon, recently argued the Met Office's failure to forecast Britain's summer heatwave raised questions over predictions that humans are responsible for global warming.
As part of the Parliamentary inquiry, the Science and Technology Select Committee asked whether media coverage over climate change was "fair".
The Met Office is at the vanguard of scientific consensus that argues human activities are causing the planet to warm.
Mr Hirst told MPs: "It's a free Press and people can express themselves as they wish. Sometimes it's bruising. And sometimes it impacts the self-confidence of some of our scientists. That said, we seek to stay resilient in the face of some of this and bounce back."
The chief executive went on that the consequences of the science can be "quite serious", and that there are "interests ... to challenge that science".
He added the Met Office was "very happy" for its research to be challenged but "sometimes that strays into combativeness that is difficult to deal with on a scientific basis".
But he added it made scientists "more determined" to be "robust and objective". And he made a fierce defence of its research showing warming is very likely due to an increase in greenhouse gases caused by human activity.
He said: "Climate change is not a philosophy or a religious conviction or a question of metaphysics. It is a physical phenomenon observed scientifically.
"The consequences of the science are quite important for the world. So it is inevitable we will take a view.
"Some of the extreme views at either end get more exposure than the body of opinion in the middle. It's less newsworthy."
The Met Office, which relocated to the region ten years ago, employs about 1,200 staff at its Exeter headquarters.