Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt
Much in the spirit of the Fraser Institute’s damp squib we reported on last year, S. Fred Singer and his merry band of contrarian luminaries (financed by the notorious “Heartland Institute” we’ve commented on previously) served up a similarly dishonest ‘assessment’ of the science of climate change earlier this year in the form of what they call the “NIPCC” report (the “N” presumably standing for ‘not the’ or ‘nonsense’). This seems to be making the rounds again as Singer and Heartland are gearing up for a reprise of last year’s critically…er…appraised “Conference on Climate Change” this March. Recently some have asked us for our opinion of the report and so we’ve decided we ought to finally go ahead and opine. Here goes.
The fact that the very title of the report summary (“Nature, Not Human Activity, Rules the Climate“) itself poses–at best–a false dichotomy is not an auspicious start. The fact that the fonts and layout are identical to the real IPCC report is another indication that this isn’t quite on the level (and reminiscent of the infamous fake PNAS paper that accompanied the first ‘Oregon Petition’).
Reading the table of contents, the report has eight chapters (in addition to an introduction and conclusions chapter). Five of these, quite remarkably, have titles which are simply untrue. The remaining three chapters pose loaded questions which are disingenuous and misleading, if not outright dishonest, with ‘answers’ provided by the authors. In fact this is such a massive regurgitation of standard contrarian talking points and discredited canards, it’s obvious that reviewing this would be a herculean task (which is presumably the point – if you can’t convince people with actual science, bludgeon them).
However, precisely because most of these points have been made before, there exists a large body of work pointing out the flaws already. So instead of regurgitating these counterpoints, we will simply link to an index of these rebuttals. As some of you may know, we have a set up a resource to do precisely this; the RealClimate Wiki. Let’s see how this works…
Chapter 2 “How much of modern warming is anthropogenic” throws out the standard, itself now discredited, “the hockey stick is discredited” claim, and adds in the old favorite “CO2 doesn’t lead it lags”. We also get ‘observations and model predictions don’t match’, ‘the warming doesn’t coincide with the greenhouse gas increases’, and of course ‘the instrumental record isn’t reliable’. Naturally, we were a bit disappointed not to encounter the granddaddy of all contrarian talking points, But they predicted global cooling in the 1970s!.
On to chapter 3, “Most of Modern Warming is Due to Natural Causes”. The short answer to the title of the chapter is, of course, “ummm, no, its not”. The chapter draws in equal parts from the twin canards that its all just natural cycles, and ‘its the sun!.
If you’re growing impatient for model-bashing, no fear; there’s a whole chapter for you (Chapter 4: “Climate Models are Not Reliable”), which offers up the usual mix of straw man descriptions of how climate models actually work, and red herrings about supposedly missing feedbacks and processes. Fortunately, RealClimate wiki provides some one-stop rebuttal shopping.
The falsely-titled chapter 5 (“The Rate of Sea-Level Rise is Unlikely To Increase”) rests upon incorrect claims that sea level rise projections are exaggerated, and or that the IPCC supposedly lowered their projections of future sea level rise. Chapter 6 (“Do Anthropogenic Greenhouse Gases Heat the Oceans?”), if we take it literally, asks a rather embarrassing question (‘No grasshopper! The greenhouse gases are ‘gases’. They heat the atmosphere and surface and a warmer atmosphere transfers some of that heat to the ocean below. You still have much to learn.’). Chapter 7 (“How Much Do We Know About Carbon Dioxide in the Atmosphere?”) answers the question it asks with the usual nonsense about how the increase in CO2 is probably natural, or that we can’t trust the CO2 record, and that CO2 isn’t rising as quickly as projected anyhow. And chapters 8 and 9 offer the requisite disclaimer for contrarians that, even after you’ve debunked everything they’ve said so far, and come to the inescapable conclusion that anthropogenic climate change is (1) real, and that (2) future changes will be profound if we continue with business as usual, ‘it will be good for us anyway’..
In concluding, We’d like to level with our readers. Some of us thought that the “NIPCC” report was so self-evidently nonsense that we shouldn’t even give it the benefit of any publicity. But it does give a great opportunity to give the RealClimate ‘wiki’ a test ride. We hope to expand this resource in the future, and we’d actually welcome some additional outside help. (In fact, much of it is already due to some dedicated volunteers. Thanks!). So if you have a desire and the time to help organise this effort, drop us a line and we’ll set you up.