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The IPCC is not infallible (shock!)

Filed under: — group @ 19 January 2010 - (Italian)

Like all human endeavours, the IPCC is not perfect. Despite the enormous efforts devoted to producing its reports with the multiple levels of peer review, some errors will sneak through. Most of these will be minor and inconsequential, but sometimes they might be more substantive. As many people are aware (and as John Nieslen-Gammon outlined in a post last month and Rick Piltz goes over today), there is a statement in the second volume of the IPCC (WG2), concerning the rate at which Himalayan glaciers are receding that is not correct and not properly referenced.

The statement, in a chapter on climate impacts in Asia, was that the likelihood of the Himalayan glaciers “disappearing by the year 2035” was “very high” if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate (WG 2, Ch. 10, p493), and was referenced to a World Wildlife Fund 2005 report. Examining the drafts and comments (available here), indicates that the statement was barely commented in the reviews, and that the WWF (2005) reference seems to have been a last minute addition (it does not appear in the First- or Second- Order Drafts). This claim did not make it into the summary for policy makers, nor the overall synthesis report, and so cannot be described as a ‘central claim’ of the IPCC. However, the statement has had some press attention since the report particularly in the Indian press, at least according to Google News, even though it was not familiar to us before last month.

It is therefore obvious that this error should be corrected (via some kind of corrigendum to the WG2 report perhaps), but it is important to realise that this doesn’t mean that Himalayan glaciers are doing just fine. They aren’t, and there may be serious consequences for water resources as the retreat continues. See also this review paper (Ren et al, 2006) on a subset of these glaciers.

East Rongbuk glacier 1921 and 2008East Rongbuk glacier just below Mt. Everest has lost 3-400 ft of ice in this area since 1921.

More generally, peer-review works to make the IPCC reports credible because many different eyes with different perspectives and knowledge look over the same text. This tends to make the resulting product reflect more than just the opinion of a single author. In this case, it appears that not enough people with relevant experience saw this text, or if they saw it, did not comment publicly. This might be related to the fact that this text was in the Working Group 2 report on impacts, which does not get the same amount of attention from the physical science community than does the higher profile WG 1 report (which is what people associated with RC generally look at). In WG1, the statements about continued glacier retreat are much more general and the rules on citation of non-peer reviewed literature was much more closely adhered to. However, in general, the science of climate impacts is less clear than the physical basis for climate change, and the literature is thinner, so there is necessarily more ambiguity in WG 2 statements.

In future reports (and the organisation for AR5 in 2013 is now underway), extra efforts will be needed to make sure that the links between WG1 and the other two reports are stronger, and that the physical science community should be encouraged to be more active in the other groups.

In summary, the measure of an organisation is not determined by the mere existence of errors, but in how it deals with them when they crop up. The current discussion about Himalayan glaciers is therefore a good opportunity for the IPCC to further improve their procedures and think more about what the IPCC should be doing in the times between the main reports.

Update: This backgrounder presented by Kargel et al AGU this December is the best summary of the current state of the Himalayas and the various sources of misinformation that are floating around. It covers this issue, the Raina report and the recent Lau et al paper.

1,804 Responses to “The IPCC is not infallible (shock!)”

  1. 551
    Ray Ladbury says:

    First, the carbon that is going into the atmosphere is overwhelmingly of fossil origin–as we know from the decreasing C-13/C-12 ratio. Second, almost all the CO2 in the crust is going to be contained in carbonate rocks, and is stable unless it is heated significantly. Most CO2 release is associated with volcanism.

  2. 552
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Bill says:
    24 January 2010 at 10:19 AM

    re #510. From the latest GISS data, it looks as if warming is regional, a bit like the MWP ?”

    Showing that Bill has never seen the picture of MWP temperatures.

    Bill, that was one year.

    That is weather.

    Climate + Variability.

    Add up the last 30 years and divide by 30.

    And you’ll find it isn’t all that regional after all…

  3. 553
    gary thompson says:

    i’ve been looking at the GISS maps section and changing the variable. i first off use a smoothing radius of 250km which makes more sense to me and i’ve changed the based period to 1970-1980. if you do that, the 2009 map shows considerale cooling on the US, Europe and most of Russia with the only areas showing increased temps in the artic and Africa. changing the base period makes a big difference (obviously) and changing the smoothing radius to a make the weather station have less of an effect makes for a more meaningful representation.

    why has the base period quoted by most of the literature always been 1951-1980? that was a relatively cool time for the globe and might seem to skew the data for today.

    [Response: Trends don’t depend on the baseline. Plot those instead. -gavin]

  4. 554
    dhogaza says:

    The most damaging element of the debate on CO2 in the atmosphere is the suppression of skeptical viewpoints. Once an organization or individual engages in a one sided study of a topic and actively works to silence skeptics, then science in no longer taking place.

    Oh, Lord, someone else who thinks that those who claim the earth is only 6,000 should be able to sit at the dinner table along with scientists …

    Science is no longer taking place if every point of view isn’t treated as being equally valid. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

  5. 555
    mircea says:

    Completely Fed Up says: 24 January 2010 @ 8:13 AM

    “They [Simulations] are PROOFS of the scientific models of aerodynamics, mica.Just like climate modesl are TOOLS not proofs, but PROOFS of the scientific models of climatology.”

    No, Sir. The proofs come from measurements through experiment and observations plus logic. What you call proofs are results.

    Ray Ladbury says:24 January 2010 @ 8:31 AM
    “That’s pretty impressive validation. I’d say that’s at least 90% confidence, wouldn’t you?”

    I don’t know but I do not see any reasons not to believe the guys working on those simulations. But they know well why they talk about confidence (probability) and not tolerances when they present their results.
    Please see my comment 472 and the link provided by Doug Bostrom (href =

    As Andrew said (474) validation it’s a complicated issue. Please see my comment 482 for more.

    It looks Pachauri will resign soon. I’d say that’s at least 90% confidence, wouldn’t you? :-)

  6. 556
    CM says:

    Frank Giger (#459) said: “ of the fourth assessment links the spreading and increase of malaria in Africa since the 1970’s to CO2 emissions”

    That’s such nonsense we have to assume you either haven’t read it, or you don’t know how to read. Or you just like wasting our time.

    The reference to the 1970s says malaria incidence has increased at some sites in East Africa and goes on: “It has yet to be proved whether this is due solely to warming of the environment.” Let alone to CO2-driven global warming. The section goes on to say things like “… Thus, while climate is a major limiting factor… many non-climatic factors … may alter or override the effects of climate … There is a shortage of concurrent and detailed long-term historical observations of climate and malaria … and the evidence on the role of climate change is unresolved.”

  7. 557
    robert says:

    robert says: 23 January 2010 at 12:46 PM

    “Any calculations or modeling of the effects on atmospheric circulation or weather patterns from removing large amounts of energy from the atmosphere…”

    It’s not being removed, just moved.

    It is indeed being removed, converted to other forms, and returned in the form of heat.
    The question still remains whether calculations and or modeling have addressed the removal/movement of large amounts of energy from atmospheric circlation by large numbers of windmills?

  8. 558
    ChrissyStarr says:

    Re: Comment by Completely Fed Up (24 January 2010 @ 10:16 AM) You said “Please tell us which projects costing millions were undertaken solely or mainly from the idea that the Himalayas were going to be gone in 2035? Got any? Even one? How about any that cost thousands, then? No?”

    Well, here’s a good one- Rajendra Pachauri’s Energy and Resources Institute (TERI). One grant, from the EU, totalled £2.5m and was designed to “to assess the impact of Himalayan glaciers retreat”. Another grant received this month from the Carnegie Foundation for £310,000 was specifically given to aid research into “the potential security and humanitarian impact on the region” as the glaciers began to disappear. This grant’s abstract stated “One authoritative study reported that most of the glaciers in the region “will vanish within forty years as a result of global warming, resulting in widespread water shortages.”

    That is a good one, you must admit! And, Dr Syed Hasnain, the scientist that supposedly made the bogus claim is the head of the glaciology unit at TERI…LOL!!!!! Please read the article

    Pachauri is toast.

  9. 559
    David Horton says:

    “how large quantities of greenhouse gasses simply “seep” out of the crust through processes like diffusion and tiny cracks.” Is this a new one to make up for the “optimum temperature” and “I did notice was that your “GLOBAL warming” was CHANGED to CLIMATE CHANGE. I wonder why?” and “CO2 is not toxic” and “MWP disproves global warming” old timers peppered through this thread? I must say the quality of deniers seemed to have fallen on RC. Are they simply wearing out?

  10. 560
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Doug S says: 24 January 2010 at 11:02 AM

    True, and how excellent that nobody has demonstrated a case for the actual existence of such a horrific scenario.

    Jonatan says: 24 January 2010 at 11:26 AM

    We’re not headed in this direction by any chance, are we?

  11. 561
    Edward Greisch says:

    489 Jim Bullis, Miastrada Co.: There is no nuclear “waste”. It is perfectly good fuel that is being wasted. For political reasons. The US recycled fuel in the old days. France still does. 4th Generation reactors use it up. Chernobyl and 136 other Soviet-built reactors didn’t or still don’t have containment buildings.
    Don’t recite any more propaganda that the coal industry taught you. Talk about glaciers.

  12. 562
    David B. Benson says:

    Doug Bostrom (476) — If I had my druthers, nobody would burn coal. Terrible stuff. I don’t have my drutherss so I have looked into CCS somewhat. It may prove to be a cost-effective way to burn up the rest of the minable coal without CO2 emissions. If effective, the same can then apply to burning natgas. More, it wcould be used with biomass burners to provide carbon-negative energy sources, a good thing; IPCC AR4 WG3 report opines so as well.

  13. 563
    David B. Benson says:

    Jonatan (544) — It happens in the form of methane, possibly of biological origin. You might start by reading about the formation of methyl cathrates.

  14. 564
    Edward Greisch says:

    492 ccpo: Food is the critical element. It is easier to find substitutes and other sources for rare earth metals than it is to find substitutes for food. With the Space Elevator, we will mine asteroids. We can also re-engineer how we transport ourselves or travel less, as in telecommuting. Just try not eating at all. Food is required regardless of the technology you happen to use. Lack of food is the one thing that causes an immediate and certain collapse of civilization. If there is no food, people no longer go to work. They wander off in search of food.
    China is likely to have a food shortage due to shifting winds and melted glaciers that will put China at the mercy of the US and Canada.

  15. 565
    EL says:

    Ray Ladbury

    “Second, do you have any idea how tiring it is to keep hearing “Oh, it’s all too complicated,” even as climate science continues to elucidate Earth’s past and present climate and its predictions continue to be confirmed? Dude, Arrhenius predicted we’d warm the climate with pen and paper! “

    Do you know how tiring it is to see politics and science mixed? From an outsider, the climate science community appears to be on the brink of self destructing. People are claiming a certainty in a religious sense instead of a scientific one.

    In addition, the Himalayan glacier problem was no small issue as some seem to suggest; instead, it was very major.

    Lal “last night admitted [the scary figure] was included purely to put political pressure on world leaders.”

    Should I even go into the grants that have been awarded for this nonsense?

    There absolutely zero defense for this.

  16. 566
    ghost says:

    RE: 542 ” The most damaging element of the debate on CO2 in the atmosphere is the suppression of skeptical viewpoints.”

    You and the rest of the misguided/under-informed have that concept all wrong. Hansen, Gavin, Raypierre, Eric, Barton, Tamino, and the thousands of scientists practicing in the field are professional scientists. That makes them the MOST skeptical people on the planet! They don’t become convinced by casual anecdotes or half-baked radio talk show propaganda. Those whom you lament as ‘muzzled skeptics’ in fact are not doing the hands-on work, but merely are PR conduits for the extractive industries and carbon producing countries. They, and perhaps you, remind me of the TV commercial depicting Bob Uecker yelling from the baseball stands “He missed a tag!” Unhappy with, or seeing their incomes threatened by, the work of the true researchers, the only thing they can do is to cry “they cheated!” from the stands. This is big-kid stuff; drop the Animal House attitude and engage the evidence put together by the biggest skeptics ever–the real working scientists.

  17. 567
    Gilles says:

    Radge Havers :”If you knew anything about proofing long documents, you’d know that mistakes occasionally get by even professional proofreaders and even after multiple passes using techniques like reading backwards, reading out loud in pairs, and running drafts past designers (notoriously inept readers) and multiple (often harried) authors.”

    How, really, do you think that it is THIS KIND of mistake ?

    what do you think of that :

    “Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the UN agency which evaluates the risk from global warming, warned the glaciers were receding faster than in any other part of the world and could “disappear altogether by 2035 if not sooner”.

    Today Ramesh denied any such risk existed: “There is no conclusive scientific evidence to link global warming with what is happening in the Himalayan glaciers.” The minister added although some glaciers are receding they were doing so at a rate that was not “historically alarming”.

    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.”

    Ramesh said he was prepared to take on “the doomsday scenarios of Al Gore and the IPCC”.

    “My concern is that this comes from western scientists … it is high time India makes an investment in understanding what is happening in the Himalayan ecosystem,” he added.

    The government report, entitled Himalayan glaciers (pdf), looks at 150 years’ worth of data gathered from the Geological Survey of India from 25 glaciers. It claims to be the first comprehensive study on the region.

    Vijay Kumar Raina, the geologist who authored the report, admitted that some “Himalayan glaciers are retreating. But it is nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing to suggest as some have said that they will disappear.”

    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.”

    Do you think that Pachauri’s statements are “mistakes occasionally get by even professional proofreaders and even after multiple passes using techniques like reading backwards, reading out loud in pairs, and running drafts past designers (notoriously inept readers) and multiple (often harried) authors ” ????

    he seemed to be quite confident in what he said only two months ago. So do you have a (convincing) explanation for that ?

  18. 568
    Mal Adapted says:

    The most damaging element of the debate on CO2 in the atmosphere is the suppression of skeptical viewpoints. Once an organization or individual engages in a one sided study of a topic and actively works to silence skeptics, then science in no longer taking place. What is taking place is political advocacy and that has no place inside any American institutions of science or education.

    What makes you think that’s happening?, Doug S.? Where is it taking place? “Skeptical” arguments are still published in refereed venues, and authoritatively refuted in the same venues. The stolen CRU emails convey irritation with so-called “skeptics” grinding non-scientific axes, and complaints that peer-review hasn’t been sufficiently rigorous in a few cases. There’s no evidence that any scientifically credible viewpoint has been suppressed. If you know of any skeptical scientific arguments that aren’t just recycled denier talking points, let’s hear them. If you can support them with evidence, they’ll be taken seriously. Any claims,skeptical or otherwise, that can’t be supported by evidence have no place in any “institution of science or education,” in America or elsewhere.

    “The most damaging element of the debate on CO2 in the atmosphere” are the insistent claims that the expert community suppresses any scientific “viewpoints”. That’s nothing more than political advocacy.

  19. 569
  20. 570
    Gilles says:

    completely fed up : Please tell us which projects costing millions were undertaken solely or mainly from the idea that the Himalayas were going to be gone in 2035?

    did I say “solely or mainly” ?
    I said it was an argument to found these projects, so I cannot imagine it is a mere typo in a report.

    “And how many facts were included in the report?

    Out of those, what are the percentages?

    0.001% failure rate?

    You wish you were that accurate, Gilles

    Unfortunately, as I said, I think it is “very likely” that ALL scenarios in SRES are wrong at least for oil production – even in a BAU picture. Strange for a report aiming at encompassing the whole possibilities of future .

    I don’t know how much is true in WGI. If it is 99,999 % true, being mainly a review of research works, it would mean that climatology has the absolute record of accuracy and reliability. Which would surprise me indeed (given the fact that fundamental quantities like climate sensitivity is not known with an accuracy better than 50 % for instance).

    But maybe that’s like religions : they all pretend to be true, although they are all mutually incompatible. So sometimes it is argued that they must be true “on average” ? meaning that the fact that every culture has a religion is enough to prove the existence of God .. hemmmm …

  21. 571
    pough says:

    Jimbo @ 495 wrote:

    What I did notice was that your “GLOBAL warming” was CHANGED to CLIMATE CHANGE. I wonder why?

    Not only that, but I predict that quite soon now they’ll change the name of the “International Panel on Global Warming” to the “International Panel on Climate Change”! They’re just waiting for a time when other news will drown out the story. That’s my prediction. Remember you heard it here first!

  22. 572
    Stephen Pruett says:

    Wow! Lots of comments on this. I agree that this one mistake is not a big deal. Also, I think some of the climategate emails that are being interpreted as damning could equally well be discussions about what the writers regarded to be bad science.

    However, there are enough messages showing that the East Anglia group and colleagues all over the world did some very inappropriate things and viewed their role, in addition to scientists, as propagandists.

    Most alarming to me is the refusal to make data available to others on request. I have read here that GISS and NCDC data are available online, but Ian Harrris’s struggles with one East Anglia data set (which is a part of the NCDC data, right?) indicates that the data might be in terrible condition and not reliable. The question I have is whether the community can make available the raw data, any programs used to modify the data (even, if they are “trivial” because mistakes in a processing program could affect the whole data set), records on deletion of stations (with reasons specified), and records on the reason for and formulas used to adjust data (for example, if a station was moved from a low altitude to a higher altitude location)?

    I expect this question will yield some unfriendly replies. However, the climate research community needs to know that these revelations are not just fodder for the rabid skeptics, they have moved many of us who were believers into the camp of uncertainty. I think there are many people in this category. The only way I can imagine convincing them is to provide the items mentioned above or even let the IPCC plus scientifically respected agnostics or non-believers (with regard to AGW) independently and in a blinded manner review and re-analyze the data. I think Dr. D’Aleo’s rhetoric sounds a bit extreme, but it also seems strange that the number of stations has decreased so much and that grids are commonly filled using data from relatively distant sites. If you (the climate research community) are as confident as you seem of the data and interpretation, I would think you would be the first to embrace such an endeavor.

    I would suggest the energy and anger of the climate research community could be better spent confirming the validity and interpretation of the data and making the “audited” and annotated data freely available, than by attacking skeptics. Otherwise, the numbers in the “uncertain” camp will continue to grow and we will be unlikely to see any serious climate change legislation.

  23. 573
    Leighton says:

    I wanted to offer a comment on the original article. It is not as though anyone thought the IPCC was infallible. So the headline ought to be classed as snarky or maybe the type of argument known as “straw man.” While no one thought the IPCC was infallible, its propagandists (you know who you are) sure wanted everyone to think that the IPCC’s findings and conclusions are as reliable as science can get. What I’ve learned about the glacier boo-boo demonstrates far more than the mere fallibility to which all flesh may be heir. It demonstrates a genuinely outrageous sloppiness, which does and will often serve as the hallmark of the partisan, whose test is not “is it true?” but rather “does it serve?”

  24. 574
    ccpo says:

    “The most damaging element of the debate on CO2 in the atmosphere is the suppression of skeptical viewpoints. Once an organization or individual engages in a one sided study of a topic and actively works to silence skeptics, then science in no longer taking place. What is taking place is political advocacy and that has no place inside any American institutions of science or education.

    Comment by Doug S — 24 January 2010 @ 11:02 AM”

    This little screed is utterly dishonest. If there were any legitimate debate, you’d be correct, but you are claiming a false premise. If, for example, we were asked to continue debating whether the Earth is flat, all know that is a waste of time and none would criticize labeling Flat Earthers as anything other than propagandists or, frankly, a bit cracked.

    Sadly, this situation is no different. The debate on what to do about Global Warming would be a good example of what you say IF there was suppression going on (there isn’t), but the debate about Green House theory, the effects of CO2 and whether we are warming or not? There is no debate, so your screed is just that, a screed. You are denying facts, data and observations. You are the Flat Earther in this scenario, and what is wrong is to knowingly claim facts are nothing but fairy dust and assist in pushing civilization to the brink of destruction.

  25. 575
    Kris says:

    #549, Ray: The graph shows temperature in central Greenland. The data is taken from the URL below, table 1. No processing was applied, except for recalculating the dates.

    #501, Edward: Coal contains: [half of the periodic table]

    Not sure what you are getting at. I am very well aware what the coal contains, as my office is about 2 km straight line from the coal powered plant, and less than 10km away from a coal powered steel mill. I have enough sulfur in the air, that on a bad day if I leave samples with metallic silver on a table overnight, in the morning they are neatly covered with silver sulfide. So, I am all for eliminating it. I am however stronly opposed to the Copenhangen idea that instead of using money for replacing the coal infrastructures with nuclear or renewables, one should pay for the privilege of producing CO2. It would simply inflate the operating costs to the point that no money is left for the investment in carbon-neutral energy production. A much simpler idea would be to simply legislate that from, say, 2020 all new power generating blocks have to be carbon neutral. The older installations would be gradually phased out, and the cost would be nicely spread over 50 years of so.

    “you need on the order of 100 MILLION TIMES as much coal as uranium. That means the coal mine has to be 100 million times larger than the uranium mine”

    Um, no. The coal gives you about 20MJ/kg, while natural uranium gives you 443000MJ/kg (, this is 22 thousand times, not 100 million times. (Enriched uranium has 8 times better energy yield, but you need 5 kg of natural uranium to produce 1 kg of enriched fuel). Next, a very good uranium ore contains at most 1000 ppm of uranium, so you have to mine 1 ton of rock to get 1 kg of fuel. That means that the uranium mine can be about 20 times smaller than the coal mine. Which seems about right.

  26. 576
    ccpo says:

    As I argued on the previous thread, Johnno is perfectly right. The argument of coal is not valid, because conventional reserves of coal are not able to produce any of the catastrophic scenario that media describe so easily.

    Comment by Gilles — 24 January 2010 @ 5:44 AM

    False. There are a number of errors in this reasoning.

    1. Coal is not the only source of GHGs.

    2. This is a complex system in which feedbacks reinforce initial conditions.

    3. The amoung of GHG’s we have in the air and seas is already leading to feedbacks that may *already* have us past the point of no return. We are seeing effects from the increases in GHG’s that just a few years ago were not expected for decades or centuries. This tells us our understanding of the system is inadequate, but to the dangerous side, not the safe side. Sensitivity – when considered as all effects counted together – is higher than we thought. Very recently published research supports this.

    4. You assume YOUR assumptions about coal are correct.

    5. You are ignoring tipping points. 5. You are, intentionally, it would seem, relying on assumptions about safe levels of CO2 that are very, very out-of-date. The 350 number has already been passed and observations show that we are having effects now not expected until we hit 450/550/650. The only way your argument works is if 550 or more is safe.

    I tell you now, it isn’t.

  27. 577
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    <denialist>Hasnain? Isn’t that a Muslim name?</denialist>.

    More on point, after reading John Nelson-Gammon’s piece and Deltoid’s piece that it was a combination of journalistic “telephone”, which seems to lead back to Fred Pierce at New Scientist magazine, and a rather inexplicably lazy attitude on the part of the section author.

    As Deltoid points out, there was a comment on the SOD saying that the statement needed to be referenced and providing several suitable references in journals such a Journal of Climate and Nature. The author’s reply was a rather inexplicable “was unable to get a hold of suggested references”. Crikey! one of the papers was published in Nature for god’s sake! Now maybe the author of this section, apparently Murari Lal, should have been a wee bit more diligent in chasing down suggested sources instead of relying on Indian Government web sites, it might have saved some embarrassment both to him and the IPCC.

    BTW, Syed Hasnain appears to have not been an author of this section, even though Watt’s and McIntyre are trying to spin some sort of conspiracy out of this…

  28. 578
    ccpo says:

    Edward Greisch — 24 January 2010 @ 4:15 PM

    It’s a complex system, so anything is possible. Personally, I see a fairly global food crunch coming. There are problems with weather/climate, population, erosion, GMO seeds, water, and, not least, fertilizers.

    We have a *systemic* problem based in complexity and over-population. It is not going to be pretty no matter how you look at it. Space elevator? I don’t think there’s going to be time for that.

  29. 579

    The most damaging element of the debate on CO2 in the atmosphere is the suppression of skeptical viewpoints

    I hear this same argument from religious creationists especially young Earth creationists all the time. Nobody here is suppressing, censoring or otherwise preventing you from expressing your dissenting opinion. On the contrary, we welcome any crackpot theories you may have, and would be thrilled to hear them right now.

    Give it your best. It will be entertaining if anything.

  30. 580
    Rattus Norvegicus says:

    gar thompson @553. I don’t know the exact reason for the choice of 1951-1980, but I suspect that it was the most recent 30 year baseline period when the first GISS analysis was done in the early 1980’s. The obvious reason for continuing to use it is that printed maps from past periods are directly comparable. The advent and widespread use of the web since the mid to late 1990’s (yes, youngsters, it is that new) has made that less important, but it is reasonable given the amount of legacy data out there.

  31. 581
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Off topic, but:

    The Space Elevator is an absolute fantasy–physically impossible.

  32. 582
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Mircea says, “It looks Pachauri will resign soon. I’d say that’s at least 90% confidence, wouldn’t you?”

    That is a matter of utmost indifference. Science depends on facts, not individuals. If you understood science you would see why character assassination is not a long-term winning strategy.

    As to the rest of your post… huh? Want to try again in complete sentences?

  33. 583
    johnny says:

    There appears to be a difference between being fallable, and deliberately including an unsubstantiated claim to inflience policymakers?

  34. 584
    ccpo says:

    “I did notice was that your “GLOBAL warming” was CHANGED to CLIMATE CHANGE. I wonder why?”

    I love this one. First, the term’s been around since the 80’s, I think I read on RC recently, but moreso because it was popularized by the BuCheney administration to reduce the impact of the discussion. That is, they wanted to make ACC seem less threatening.

    Ironic the Flat Earth crowd now use BuCheney distortions to support their own claims against ACC.

  35. 585
    ferocious says:

    In response to 460:
    RealClimate -gavin 1-23-2010

    “But you completely misunderstand the nature of what is being predicted. It is not the short term trends – the demonstration was not to demonstrate that models are wonderful, but rather that this is not an interesting test. – gavin’

    From your presentations, and the IPCC reports, it is very difficult to see what is being predicted. Any parameterized model, just on basic principles, cannot be presumed to be accurate outside of the range used to set the parameters.

    Just an example from you own analysis: “As you can see, now that we have come out of the recent La Niña-induced slump”. If the low temps recorded in 1999-2000 are due to La Nina, what is the cause of the low temps in 2007-2009. That average is actually a bit lower than the ensemble prediction compared to the El Nina cooling.

    I keep going back to Dr. Hanson’s original model back in the 1960’s, which he updated in 2006. The closest prediction is still scenario C, which presupposed stringent reductions in CO2 emissions. That makes the most robust prediction over the last 50 years that global warming predictions are getting smaller and smaller. Since CO2 production has not been reduced to any significant degree the models have been consistently coming down in their predictions of temperature increase.

    [Response: This is simply confused. Hansen’s (note spelling) model prediction was published in 1988, and the forcings that were closest to observed was scenario B (which is some 10% higher than actual forcings turned out to be, and there is nothing in how that projection has turned out that was made that indicates that climate sensitivity is less than we generally think. See the last post on this for more discussion. – gavin]

    So, predict some long term trends. Pick one of you models, use the current parameters, set the initial conditions to your best estimate of conditions 450,000 ybp, and run it. If the results parallel the paleo record for temperatures, ice extent,CO2, estimated average global temperatures(in 1000 yr increments), and follows the changes in climate within a few thousand years for each glaciation it will prove that you have a reasonable model.

    Keep in mind, stone age technology could predict astronomical movements to a couple parts per thousand. Newtonian physics refined this to parts per million. Einstein improved it to parts per billion. That is the strength of a model based on good understanding of the basic physics.

  36. 586
    Steve Smith says:

    It doesn’t matter that AGW is real. The IPCC is now proven to be politically motivated first and a scientific body second. Exaggerated alarmism has buried all the good work that the honest scientists had compiled. A reputation is something you can never recover once lost. Kinda like Rachel Carson, the alar people, the new ice agers, the ozone holers and the acid rainers. Too bad AGW is true. A few nuts may have just doomed the human race. The boy cried wolf was eventually honest.

  37. 587
    Lyle says:

    RE # 150. In Texas the opposition is to transmission lines not wind farms. Most of the land in the wind farms is private ranch land. You offer a rancher 5k a year to put a turbine on land that would at best support 1/2 a cow a year and he says where do I sign for such free money. In Snyder Texas the recent wind farm was pushed thru by local ranchers who saw how further south the ranchers were getting free money and said I want some. California is different because so much of the land is federal so city dwellers have some say in the matter. For a while today Texas was at 18% wind power on the Texas Grid. Many city dwellers should be given the choice freeze in the dark or allow renewable developments, sort of like the feel in Texas during the carter energy crisis, that the Northeast should be left to freeze in the dark for their nimby ideas. In West Texas there is no scenery to spoil its flat to rolling ranch land.

  38. 588
    Mike Flynn says:

    Hi all.

    For once, I think I am not OT.

    A mistake based on a misreading? Who cares?

    Here’s a couple.

    The Guardian newspaper (which once printed itself as the Grauniad), many years ago many years ago had Queen Victoria “p-iss over Westminster Bridge” – to the delight of the cheering multitudes, I believe.

    Similarly, the Cork Examiner survived the Royal wrath after printing the caption “Queen Victoria p-issing over Patricks Bridge” under a picture of the Royal carriage on the Bridge.

    Hopefully unintentional, possibly even true!

    Live well and prosper.

  39. 589
    paul says:

    The whole world of the IPCC is crashing down. Far from being an isolated mistake of ‘proofreading’, it appears now that AR4 is riddled with errors and citations from non PEER REviewed studies. It appears that WWF documents were cited no less than 15 TIMES.

    It also appears a section on African drought repeated in AR4 is based on fallacy, not fact. The genie is out of the bottle, and the fact RC is still attempting to portray this latest scandal as minor is testament to the cluelessness of the editors. You should be at the forefront of throwing out the IPCC people responsible for such crap, yet you try to defend them. That says everything.

  40. 590
    ferocious says:

    re #456 I’ll form my own opinions Hank. The IPCC was formed as an organization with a political purpose:

    The following is a quote from UNEP on its purpose and the purpose of the IPCC(a product of this treaty).

    “The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC or FCCC) is an international environmental treaty produced at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), informally known as the Earth Summit, held in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992. The objective of the treaty is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.[1]

    (1)The ultimate objective of this Convention and any related legal instruments that the Conference of the Parties may adopt is to achieve, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Convention, stabilization of greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent gerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system. Such a level should be achieved within a time-frame sufficient to allow ecosystems to adapt naturally to climate change, to ensure that food production is not threatened and to enable economic development to proceed in a sustainable manner.

    UN General Assembly Resolution 44/224.
    International co-operation in the monitoring, assessment and anticipation of
    environmental threats and in assistance in cases of environmental emergenc
    The General Assembly,

    Convinced that one of the main global problems facing the world today is
    the deterioration of the environment,”

    In summary, the UNEP had determined, in 1992, that greenhouse gases constituted a danger to the climate system, and the purpose of the convention(and hence the IPCC) was to stabilize levels of greenhouse gases “at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference”. This is pretty clearly a document with a political purpose, and is the basis for all the IPCC’s follow on work.

    At the time, the UN had data that showed ~.3 deg. C increase in global temperature over 20 years as a basis for this view. So, taking a short term weather event is appropriate as a basis for long term policy development and the basis for assigning human CO2 emissions as the major cause of global warming. Keep in mind, the same data also shows a larger increase from 1910 to 1940, which is clearly before any significant increase in human CO2 emissions. This is pretty thin evidence to base a world-wide CO2 reduction policy. The evidence since, based on the continuing global temperature evidence is not much clearer. The chart in IPCC AR4, p. 253, shows basically the same thing, ending at a later date(2005): two thirty year periods with comparable increases in temperature. This graph also uses an extremely misleading technique, comparing trends over widely different periods, to claim that global warming is accelerating. There is no scientific basis to compare a 150 yr, 100 yr, 50 yr, and 25 yr. trend. A more rational reading of this graph shows a small increase over 40 years, a dramatic 10 yr drop starting in 1900, a moderate 30 year rise, another dramatic 10 yr drop starting in 1940, some steady temps over 30 years, followed by moderate another increase over 25 years.

    If 30 years is the dividing line between “climate” and “weather” we are stuck with 1(one!) marginally long enough piece of climate data showing global warming that has been ascribed to human causes. I’d suggest we go back to the original meaning of climate, the traditional Köppen-Geiger climate classification scheme.(Google Koppen climate).

    Yes glaciers melt, sometimes it’s hot, sometimes it’s cold, some places the tree line is going up, others it’s going down, the anchovies quit coming to California in 1910, we don’t really understand the climate, we can’t accurately predict when it will change. The climate models need to come up with a sound scientific basis to explain the various climates that right now occur across the globe. If they can predict those starting from 450,000 years ago we might have a handle on climate change.

    [Response: very interesting, except that IPCC was formed prior to UNFCCC, and its first report was in 1990. – gavin]

  41. 591
    Radge Havers says:

    Gilles @ 567

    Meh. As concerns the IPCC document, the 2035 date is a minor embarrassment. The rest is just a side show. So far, nobody that I have heard has actually demonstrated that the overall summarization of the science is flawed and that the concept of AGW needs to be dumped.

    If you find something to that effect, I want to hear it because I’m tired of thinking about it. That said, so much counterfeit emotion and conspiratorial innuendo is a pretty low standard for evaluating science and is not sufficient to make me drop it. In fact, it only annoys me and makes me grumpy.

  42. 592
    Doug Bostrom says:

    ferocious says: 24 January 2010 at 8:47 PM

    It does not sound as though you’ve read much about the actual models you’re speculating over. Here’s a place to do so:

  43. 593
    Doug Bostrom says:

    imapopulistnow says: 24 January 2010 at 12:30 PM

    Are you complaining about politicization, or celebrating it? It’s impossible to tell from your post, which is all about politics.

  44. 594

    “Madhav L Khandekar
    A former research scientist from Environment Canada
    and is an expert reviewer for the IPCC 2007 Climate Change Documents.

    I don’t care who you are. You know the drill. Where is your peer revewed evidence? Peer review and published papers is how science has been done since the 1600s and you know it. Otherwise people with personal agendas can push their political opinions without evidence to try to enact political changes…such as the example of “There is no solid evidence that smoking tobacco hurts you.”

    Dr. Richard Lindzen, PHd has all sorts of credentials and his evidence has not held up for a decade in the open world-wide juried, peer reviewed journals. You should be ashamed of yourself. You know this is not how science is done and has not been done since the 1600s.

    Your actions are an embarrassment.

    So publish your evidence that holds up over time. That is how science is done and you know it very well. The IPCC is scientific and honestly includes contrarians whose work-doesn’t-hold-up-over-time so all points of view are represented.

  45. 595
    Septic Matthew says:

    530, Completely Fed Up: It is also recovered in 7 months.

    That’s good to know. I’ll remember it.

  46. 596
    Wtmusic says:


    Let’s throw in the $7B taxpayers paid to wind producers between 2002-2007
    in the form of the $.015/kWh PTC (Production Tax Credit – also a subsidy) and redo the math:

    $11.2B / 26.1B kWh = $.42/kWh (wind) vs $.25/kWh (nuclear)

    Nuclear is a bargain.

  47. 597
    Gilles says:

    As I argued on the previous thread, Johnno is perfectly right. The argument of coal is not valid, because conventional reserves of coal are not able to produce any of the catastrophic scenario that media describe so easily.

    Comment by Gilles — 24 January 2010 @ 5:44 AM

    False. There are a number of errors in this reasoning.

    1. Coal is not the only source of GHGs.

    The main difference between the routes opened to us lies in the coal. All the other can be only marginally changed, and don’t influence significantly the GHG final effect.

    2. This is a complex system in which feedbacks reinforce initial conditions.

    You may know-or not- that strongly coupled non linear system do often exhibit spontaneous limit cycles that are generally very poorly understood. You may know – or not – for instance that the 11 -year solar cycle is still a mystery in the models of sun. May be it proves it’s anthropic ?

    3. The amoung of GHG’s we have in the air and seas is already leading to feedbacks that may *already* have us past the point of no return. We are seeing effects from the increases in GHG’s that just a few years ago were not expected for decades or centuries. This tells us our understanding of the system is inadequate,

    you said it. Well, any reasonable scientist would deduce that the models are inaccurate, but in this case , it casts doubts on all their predictions. If you do astrology, and it happens that something worse than what you have predicted happens, would you deduce that ALL your predictions are underestimated and that evrything will go worse ?

    but to the dangerous side, not the safe side.

    this has no scientific justification. You speak like an animist, believing that nature knows what is dangerous and safe for mankind. The only thing you can say is that our models are inaccurate. Period.

    Sensitivity – when considered as all effects counted together – is higher than we thought. Very recently published research supports this.

    Figures ?

    4. You assume YOUR assumptions about coal are correct.

    MY assumptions are the OFFICIAL proved reserves, even in IPCC reports. All the extra coal is POSSIBLE – and the example of oil shows that possible is mainly unreachable economically.

    The only way your argument works is if 550 or more is safe.

    which level do you think we can REASONABLY reach, given all political and economical constraints ?
    I tell you now, it isn’t.

  48. 598

    Steve Smith #586: Ah, you want to have your cake and eat it. Don’t want to believe what the scientists are telling you, but just on the off-chance that they may be right (as you damn well know they are), you want to blame them for your own stupidity too.

    Learn to take some responsibility dude. Nature frowns on stupid.

  49. 599
    Edward Greisch says:

    575 Kris: I don’t care how the politicians do it as long as all coal fired power plants get replaced by non fossil fuel sources of electricity by the end of 2015. [Natural gas is a fossil fuel too.] A simple edict banning coal for electricity and banning conversion to other fossil fuels would be fine with me. I didn’t invent cap-and-trade.
    The bad news is that we can’t wait 50 years for the conversion to happen. Mother Nature is arbitrary, fickle and violent. She isn’t going to be nice to us just because we are such cute creatures. See: “Climate Code Red” by David Spratt and Philip Sutton. Per “Climate Code Red”, we need ZERO “Kyoto gas” emissions RIGHT NOW and we also need geo-engineering because we have already gone way beyond the safe CO2 level of 300 to 325 ppm. We are already at 455 ppm equivalent and we have tripped some very big tipping points. We aren’t dead yet, but the planet needs critical intensive care if we humans are to have a chance of survival. If the conversion is not completed in time, be terrified. I am terrified already. That is why I comment here.
    Other books: “With Speed and Violence”. “Six Degrees” by Mark Lynas. “Under a Green Sky” by Peter D. Ward. “The Vanishing Face of Gaia” by James Lovelock.

    Energy from uranium: 385 Million electron volts per fissioning atom.
    Energy from coal: Something like 1 electron volt per electron shared, or less. 1 carbon atom has 4 electrons to share with 2 oxygen atoms, 2 each. That’s 4 electron volts of energy.
    The ratio is about 100 million to 1.
    We are ignoring overburden removal and a lot of other costs for coal. For uranium mining, consider in situ leaching. The U238 is not to be wasted because it should be bred into reactor fuel and used as reactor fuel.

    Sulfur in the coal is the least of your worries. You are being poisoned slowly. Would you call it murder, since you are the victim?

  50. 600
    Edward Greisch says:

    581 Ray Ladbury: See
    I once owned stock in this defunct company. It is possible with carbon nanotubes or diamond nanowire. It is just that we are having trouble producing defect free carbon nanotubes in the required length or diamond nanowire at all.