Tag Archives: ipcc

More “Settled Science”

From the Times in London via Planet Gore:

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It based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny — and ignored warnings from scientific advisers that the evidence supporting the link too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I personally was involved in a fracas over another shoddy analysis that was most definitely not peer-reviewed in the recent US Global Climate Change Impacts  (or synthesis) report, where the report attempted to use a faulty metric of electrical grid disturbances as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.

Fake but Accurate

I have written a number of times about climate science and post-modernism, where taking the politically correct position and pushing for the “right” government actions is more important than fact-based analysis or the scientific method.  This is a great example of the IPCC acting as just such a post-modernist institution:

The scientist behind the bogus claim in a Nobel Prize-winning UN report that Himalayan glaciers will have melted by 2035 last night admitted it was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.

Dr Murari Lal also said he was well aware the statement, in the 2007 report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), did not rest on peer-reviewed scientific research.

In an interview with The Mail on Sunday, Dr Lal, the co-ordinating lead author of the report’s chapter on Asia, said: ‘It related to several countries in this region and their water sources. We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take some concrete action….

Dr Lal said: ‘We knew the WWF report with the 2035 date was “grey literature” [material not published in a peer-reviewed journal]. But it was never picked up by any of the authors in our working group, nor by any of the more than 500 external reviewers, by the governments to which it was sent, or by the final IPCC review editors.’

In fact, the 2035 melting date seems to have been plucked from thin air.

Of course, IPCC leader Pachauri is unrepentant

Last night, Dr Pachauri defended the IPCC, saying it was wrong to generalise based on a single mistake. ‘Our procedure is robust,’ he added.

It was Pachauri who originally lashed out with these words at folks who originally criticized the Himalayan glacier claim:

However, Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the IPCC, told the Guardian: “We have a very clear idea of what is happening. I don’t know why the minister is supporting this unsubstantiated research. It is an extremely arrogant statement.”…

Pachauri dismissed the report saying it was not “peer reviewed” and had few “scientific citations”.

“With the greatest of respect this guy retired years ago and I find it totally baffling that he comes out and throws out everything that has been established years ago.”…

In response Pachauri said that such statements were reminiscent of “climate change deniers and school boy science”.

A Window Into the IPCC Process

I thought this article by Steve McIntyre was an interesting window on the IPCC process.  Frequent readers of this site know that I believe that feedbacks in the climate are the key issue of anthropogenic global warming, and their magnitude and sign separate mild, nearly unnoticeable warming from catastrophe.  McIntyre points out that the IPCC fourth assessment spent all of 1 paragraph in hundreds of pages on the really critical issue:

As we’ve discussed before (and is well known), clouds are the greatest source of uncertainty in climate sensitivity. Low-level (“boundary layer”) tropical clouds have been shown to be the largest source of inter-model difference among GCMs. Clouds have been known to be problematic for GCMs since at least the Charney Report in 1979. Given the importance of the topic for GCMs, one would have thought that AR4 would have devoted at least a chapter to the single of issue of clouds, with perhaps one-third of that chapter devoted to the apparently thorny issue of boundary layer tropical clouds.

This is what an engineering study would do – identify the most critical areas of uncertainty and closely examine all the issues related to the critical uncertainty. Unfortunately, that’s not how IPCC does things. Instead, clouds are treated in one subsection of chapter 8 and boundary layer clouds in one paragraph.

It turns out that this one paragraph was lifted almost intact from the work of the lead author of this section of the report.  The “almost” is interesting, though, because every single change made was to eliminate or tone down any conclusion that cloud feedback might actually offset greenhouse warming.  He has a nearly line by line comparison, which is really fascinating.  One sample:

Bony et al 2006 had stated that the “empirical” Klein and Hartmann (1993) correlation “leads” to a substantial increase in low cloud cover, which resulted in a “strong negative” cloud feedback. Again IPCC watered this down: “leads to” became a “suggestion” that it “might be” associated with a “negative cloud feedback” – the term “strong” being dropped by IPCC.

Remember this is in the context of a report that generally stripped out any words that implied doubt or lack of certainty on the warming side.

Downplaying Their Own Finding

After years of insisting that urban biases have negligible effect on the the historical temperature record, the IPCC may finally have to accept what skeptics have been saying for years — that:

  1. Most long-lived historical records are from measurement points near cities (no one was measuring temperatures reliably in rural Africa in 1900)
  2. Cities have a heat island over them, up to 8C or more in magnitude, from the heat trapped in concrete, asphalt, and other man made structures.  (My 13-year-old son easily demonstrated this here).
  3. As cities grow, as most have over the last 100 years, temperature measurement points are engulfed by increasingly hotter portions of the heat island.  For example, the GISS shows the most global warming in the US centered around Tucson based on this measurement point, which 100 years ago was rural.

Apparently, Jones et al found recently that a third to a half of the warming reported in the Hadley CRUT3 database in China may be due to urban heat island effects rather than any broader warming trend.  This particularly important since it was a Jones et al letter to Nature years ago that previously gave the IPCC cover to say that there was negligible uncorrected urban warming bias in the major surface temperature records.

Interestingly, Jones et al can really hs to be treated as a hostile witness on this topic.  Their abstract states:

We show that all the land-based data sets for China agree exceptionally well and that their residual warming compared to the SST series since 1951 is relatively small compared to the large-scale warming. Urban-related warming over China is shown to be about 0.1°C decade−1 over the period 1951–2004, with true climatic warming accounting for 0.81°C over this period

By using the words “relatively small” and using a per decade number for the bias but an aggregate number for the underlying warming signal, they are doing everything possible to downplay their own finding (see how your eye catches the numbers 0.1 and 0.81 and compares them, even though they are not on a comparable basis — this is never an accident).  But in fact, the exact same numbers restate this way:  .53C, or 40% of the total measured warming of 1.34C was due to urban biases rather than any actual global warming signal.

Since when is a 40% bias or error “relatively small?”

So why do they fight their own conclusion so hard?  After all, the study still shows a reduced, but existent, historic warming signal.  As do satellites, which are unaffected by this type of bias.  Even skeptics like myself admit such a signal still exists if one weeds out all the biases.

The reason why alarmists, including it seems even the authors themselves, resist this finding is that reduced historic warming makes their catastrophic forecasts of future even more suspect.  Already, their models do not back cast well against history (without some substantial heroic tweaking or plugs), consistently over-estimating past warming.  If the actual past warming was even less, it makes their forecasts going forward look even more absurd.

A few minutes looking at the official US temperature measurement stations here will make one a believer that biases likely exist in historic measurements, particularly since the rest of the world is likely much worse.