Met Office boss received death threats

The head of the Met Office has revealed that he has received death threats from climate change sceptics.

John Hirst, the organisation's chief executive, made the revelation during a talk to climate scientists and economists about the organisation's work.

Discussing the furore over the "Climategate" data-fixing controversy and the much-criticised "barbecue summer" prediction made by the Met Office in 2009, he disclosed the threats while talking about the problems faced by television scientist and climate change sceptic Johnny Ball, who revealed in February that he had been the subject of a hate campaign.

"I wrote to Johnny Ball because he had received death threats and it might not surprise you that I get some death threats as well," he told the audience at the University of Exeter.

So I wrote to him and said: 'I get death threats too, it's crazy. Why don't we talk, because if we can take some of this small 'p' politics out of this conversation we might do a service to the world.'

"He might have a different point of view from me, his point of view might be valid, but only by talking about stuff in a calm and sensible way will we be able to take the politics out."

During the light-hearted talk at the University's Environmental Protection and Sustainability Forum, he highlighted a comment piece by Mr Ball, the father of BBC Radio 2 DJ Zoe Ball, on February 22 this year in the Daily Mail, headlined "Beware the global warming fascists", which told how he had been "mocked, vilified, besmirched" and even booed off stage over the last decade for being a climate change denier.

An economist and former senior executive with ICI who joined the Met Office in 2007, Mr Hirst said that as a result of his writing to Mr Ball, the pair are to meet this week to discuss their differences.

In a wide-ranging talk Mr Hirst admitted the Met Office had played a part in the "barbecue summer" furore, because of its failure to translate scientific language into something the man or woman in the street could understand.

"We are used to getting jokes about the barbecue summer and people saying 'you're bloody useless'," he said.

"The best thing we can do is keep talking because it is very important. Without talking there is no progress."

The Climategate controversy surrounded claims from climate change sceptics that Met Office researchers manipulated evidence to support a theory of man-made global warming, something the Exeter-based organisation strenuously denied.

The claims were based on emails and other material, stolen from servers at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit and posted online.

A Met Office spokesman confirmed Mr Hirst had received death threats made in a number of "unsavoury emails", but said they were "isolated incidents" and the organisation had not felt it necessary to involve the police.

"Emotions can run high at both ends of the climate change debate," he said.

"It is not confined to the Met Office. Around the time of Climategate there were many instances of people involved getting unsavoury emails."