THE United Nations climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.
It based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny — and ignored warnings from scientific advisers that the evidence supporting the link too weak. The report’s own authors later withdrew the claim because they felt the evidence was not strong enough.
The claim by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), that global warming is already affecting the severity and frequency of global disasters, has since become embedded in political and public debate. It was central to discussions at last month’s Copenhagen climate summit, including a demand by developing countries for compensation of $100 billion (£62 billion) from the rich nations blamed for creating the most emissions.
Ed Miliband, the energy and climate change minister, has suggested British and overseas floods — such as those in Bangladesh in 2007 — could be linked to global warming. Barack Obama, the US president, said last autumn: “More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent.”
Last month Gordon Brown, the prime minister, told the Commons that the financial agreement at Copenhagen “must address the great injustice that . . . those hit first and hardest by climate change are those that have done least harm”.
The latest criticism of the IPCC comes a week after reports in The Sunday Times forced it to retract claims in its benchmark 2007 report that the Himalayan glaciers would be largely melted by 2035. It turned out that the bogus claim had been lifted from a news report published in 1999 by New Scientist magazine.
This severe weather proposition is one particularly amenable to shoddy science, as all-too-often folks try to portray statistical events at the tails of the normal distribution as evidence that the mean and/or standard deviation of the distribution is shifting. The current lawsuit blaming oil and coal companies for Katrina is one such example.
I personally was involved in a fracas over another shoddy analysis that was most definitely not peer-reviewed in the recent US Global Climate Change Impacts (or synthesis) report, where the report attempted to use a faulty metric of electrical grid disturbances as evidence of increased severe weather. My original criticisms were here and here and my response to the authors’ response was here.
By the way, the evidence is growing that much of much of the IPCC report did not come from real peer-reviewed work, but from advocacy pieces by groups such as the WWF (which seems to practically be running the IPCC from the number of citations).
Well it turns out that the WWF is cited all over the IPCC AR4 report, and as you know, WWF does not produce peer reviewed science, they produce opinion papers in line with their vision. Yet IPCC’s rules are such that they are supposed to rely on peer reviewed science only. It appears they’ve violated that rule dozens of times, all under Pachauri’s watch.
Anthony has a specific list of citations culled by Donna Laframboise from the IPCC reports, but I am sure the list will grow as folks poke and prod the report again. These two citations in the IPCC were particularly laugh-inducing:
- Jones, B. and D. Scott, 2007: Implications of climate change to Ontario’s provincial parks. Leisure, (in press)
- Jones, B., D. Scott and H. Abi Khaled, 2006: Implications of climate change for outdoor event planning: a case study of three special events in Canada’s National Capital region. Event Management, 10, 63-76
My sense that if we really trace the sources, we will find that most of the IPCC report rests on the work of 10-20 guys.