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IPCC errors: facts and spin

Filed under: — group @ 14 February 2010 - (Czech) (Svenska)

Currently, a few errors –and supposed errors– in the last IPCC report (“AR4”) are making the media rounds – together with a lot of distortion and professional spin by parties interested in discrediting climate science.  Time for us to sort the wheat from the chaff: which of these putative errors are real, and which not? And what does it all mean, for the IPCC in particular, and for climate science more broadly?

Let’s start with a few basic facts about the IPCC.  The IPCC is not, as many people seem to think, a large organization. In fact, it has only 10 full-time staff in its secretariat at the World Meteorological Organization in Geneva, plus a few staff in four technical support units that help the chairs of the three IPCC working groups and the national greenhouse gas inventories group. The actual work of the IPCC is done by unpaid volunteers – thousands of scientists at universities and research institutes around the world who contribute as authors or reviewers to the completion of the IPCC reports. A large fraction of the relevant scientific community is thus involved in the effort.  The three working groups are:

Working Group 1 (WG1), which deals with the physical climate science basis, as assessed by the climatologists, including several of the Realclimate authors.

Working Group 2 (WG2), which deals with impacts of climate change on society and ecosystems, as assessed by social scientists, ecologists, etc.

Working Group 3 (WG3) , which deals with mitigation options for limiting global warming, as assessed by energy experts, economists, etc.

Assessment reports are published every six or seven years and writing them takes about three years. Each working group publishes one of the three volumes of each assessment. The focus of the recent allegations is the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), which was published in 2007.  Its three volumes are almost a thousand pages each, in small print. They were written by over 450 lead authors and 800 contributing authors; most were not previous IPCC authors. There are three stages of review involving more than 2,500 expert reviewers who collectively submitted 90,000 review comments on the drafts. These, together with the authors’ responses to them, are all in the public record (see here and here for WG1 and WG2 respectively).

Errors in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4)

As far as we’re aware, so far only one–or at most two–legitimate errors have been found in the AR4:

Himalayan glaciers: In a regional chapter on Asia in Volume 2, written by authors from the region, it was erroneously stated that 80% of Himalayan glacier area would very likely be gone by 2035. This is of course not the proper IPCC projection of future glacier decline, which is found in Volume 1 of the report. There we find a 45-page, perfectly valid chapter on glaciers, snow and ice (Chapter 4), with the authors including leading glacier experts (such as our colleague Georg Kaser from Austria, who first discovered the Himalaya error in the WG2 report).  There are also several pages on future glacier decline in Chapter 10 (“Global Climate Projections”), where the proper projections are used e.g. to estimate future sea level rise. So the problem here is not that the IPCC’s glacier experts made an incorrect prediction. The problem is that a WG2 chapter, instead of relying on the proper IPCC projections from their WG1 colleagues, cited an unreliable outside source in one place. Fixing this error involves deleting two sentences on page 493 of the WG2 report.

Sea level in the Netherlands: The WG2 report states that “The Netherlands is an example of a country highly susceptible to both sea-level rise and river flooding because 55% of its territory is below sea level”. This sentence was provided by a Dutch government agency – the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, which has now published a correction stating that the sentence should have read “55 per cent of the Netherlands is at risk of flooding; 26 per cent of the country is below sea level, and 29 per cent is susceptible to river flooding”. It surely will go down as one of the more ironic episodes in its history when the Dutch parliament last Monday derided the IPCC, in a heated debate, for printing information provided by … the Dutch government. In addition, the IPCC notes that there are several definitions of the area below sea level. The Dutch Ministry of Transport uses the figure 60% (below high water level during storms), while others use 30% (below mean sea level). Needless to say, the actual number mentioned in the report has no bearing on any IPCC conclusions and has nothing to do with climate science, and it is questionable whether it should even be counted as an IPCC error.

Some other issues

African crop yields: The IPCC Synthesis Report states: “By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.” This is properly referenced back to chapter 9.4 of WG2, which says: “In other countries, additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-2020 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003).”  The Agoumi reference is correct and reported correctly. The Sunday Times, in an article by Jonathan Leake, labels this issue “Africagate” – the main criticism being that Agoumi (2003) is not a peer-reviewed study (see below for our comments on “gray” literature), but a report from the International Institute for Sustainable Development and the Climate Change Knowledge Network, funded by the US Agency for International Development. The report, written by Morroccan climate expert Professor Ali Agoumi, is a summary of technical studies and research conducted to inform Initial National Communications from three countries (Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and is a perfectly legitimate IPCC reference.

It is noteworthy that chapter 9.4 continues with “However, there is the possibility that adaptation could reduce these negative effects (Benhin, 2006).”  Some examples thereof follow, and then it states: “However, not all changes in climate and climate variability will be negative, as agriculture and the growing seasons in certain areas (for example, parts of the Ethiopian highlands and parts of southern Africa such as Mozambique), may lengthen under climate change, due to a combination of increased temperature and rainfall changes (Thornton et al., 2006). Mild climate scenarios project further benefits across African croplands for irrigated and, especially, dryland farms.” (Incidentally, the Benhin and Thornton references are also “gray”, but nobody has complained about them. Could there be double standards amongst the IPCC’s critics?)

Chapter 9.4 to us sounds like a balanced discussion of potential risks and benefits, based on the evidence available at the time–hardly the stuff for shrill “Africagate!” cries. If the IPCC can be criticized here, it is that in condensing these results for its Synthesis Report, important nuance and qualification were lost – especially the point that the risk of drought (defined as a 50% downturn in rainfall) “could be exacerbated by climate change”, as chapter 9.4 wrote – rather than being outright caused by climate change.

Trends in disaster losses: Jonathan Leake (again) in The Sunday Times accused the IPCC of wrongly linking global warming to natural disasters. The IPCC in a statement points out errors in Leake’s “misleading and baseless story”, and maintains that the IPCC provided “a balanced treatment of a complicated and important issue”. While we agree with the IPCC here, WG2 did include a debatable graph provided by Robert Muir-Wood (although not in the main report but only as Supplementary Material). It cited a paper by Muir-Wood as its source although that paper doesn’t include the graph, only the analysis that it is based on. Muir-Wood himself has gone on record to say that the IPCC has fairly represented his research findings and that it was appropriate to include them in the report. In our view there is no IPCC error here; at best there is a difference of opinion. Obviously, not every scientist will always agree with assessments made by the IPCC author teams.

Amazon forest dieback: Leake (yet again), with “research” by skeptic Richard North, has also promoted “Amazongate” with a story regarding a WG2 statement on the future of Amazonian forests under a drying climate.  The contested IPCC statement reads: “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation; this means that the tropical vegetation, hydrology and climate system in South America could change very rapidly to another steady state, not necessarily producing gradual changes between the current and the future situation (Rowell and Moore, 2000).”  Leake’s problem is with the Rowell and Moore reference, a WWF report.

The roots of the story are in two blog pieces by North, in which he first claims that the IPCC assertions attributed to the WWF report are not actually in that report. Since this claim was immediately shown to be false,  North then argued that the WWF report’s basis for their statement (a 1999 Nature article by Nepstad et al.) dealt only with the effects of logging and fire –not drought– on Amazonian forests. To these various claims Nepstad has now responded, noting that the IPCC statement is in fact correct. The only issue is that the IPCC cited the WWF report rather than the underlying peer-reviewed papers by Nepstad et al. These studies actually provide the  basis for the IPCC’s estimate on Amazonian sensitivity to drought. Investigations of the correspondence between Leake, scientists, and a BBC reporter (see here and here and here) show that Leake ignored or misrepresented explanatory information given to him by Nepstad and another expert, Simon Lewis, and published his incorrect story anyway. This “issue” is thus completely without merit.

Gray literature: The IPCC cites 18,000 references in the AR4; the vast majority of these are peer-reviewed scientific journal papers. The IPCC maintains a clear guideline on the responsible use of so-called “gray” literature, which are typically reports by other organizations or governments. Especially for Working Groups 2 and 3 (but in some cases also for 1) it is indispensable to use gray sources, since many valuable data are published in them: reports by government statistics offices, the International Energy Agency, World Bank, UNEP and so on. This is particularly true when it comes to regional impacts in the least developed countries, where knowledgeable local experts exist who have little chance, or impetus, to publish in international science journals.

Reports by non-governmental organizations like the WWF can be used (as in the Himalaya glacier and Amazon forest cases) but any information from them needs to be carefully checked (this guideline was not followed in the former case). After all, the role of the IPCC is to assess information, not just compile anything it finds.  Assessment involves a level of critical judgment, double-checking, weighing supporting and conflicting pieces of evidence, and a critical appreciation of the methodology used to obtain the results. That is why leading researchers need to write the assessment reports – rather than say, hiring graduate students to compile a comprehensive literature review.

Media distortions

To those familiar with the science and the IPCC’s work, the current media discussion is in large part simply absurd and surreal. Journalists who have never even peeked into the IPCC report are now outraged that one wrong number appears on page 493 of Volume 2. We’ve met TV teams coming to film a report on the IPCC reports’ errors, who were astonished when they held one of the heavy volumes in hand, having never even seen it. They told us frankly that they had no way to make their own judgment; they could only report what they were being told about it. And there are well-organized lobby forces with proper PR skills that make sure these journalists are being told the “right” story. That explains why some media stories about what is supposedly said in the IPCC reports can easily be falsified simply by opening the report and reading. Unfortunately, as a broad-based volunteer effort with only minimal organizational structure the IPCC is not in a good position to rapidly counter misinformation.

One near-universal meme of the media stories on the Himalaya mistake was that this was “one of the most central predictions of the IPCC” – apparently in order to make the error look more serious than it was.  However, this prediction does not appear in any of the IPCC Summaries for Policy Makers, nor in the Synthesis Report (which at least partly explains why it went unnoticed for years). None of the media reports that we saw properly explained that Volume 1 (which is where projections of physical climate changes belong) has an extensive and entirely valid discussion of glacier loss.

What apparently has happened is that interested quarters, after the Himalyan glacier story broke, have sifted through the IPCC volumes with a fine-toothed comb, hoping to find more embarrassing errors. They have actually found precious little, but the little they did find was promptly hyped into Seagate, Africagate, Amazongate and so on. This has some similarity to the CRU email theft, where precious little was discovered from among thousands of emails, but a few sentences were plucked out of context, deliberately misinterpreted (like “hide the decline”) and then hyped into “Climategate”.

As lucidly analysed by Tim Holmes, there appear to be a few active leaders of this misinformation parade in the media. Jonathan Leake is carrying the ball on this, but his stories contain multiple errors, misrepresentations and misquotes. There also is a sizeable contingent of me-too journalism that is simply repeating the stories but not taking the time to form a well-founded view on the topics. Typically they report on various “allegations”, such as these  against the IPCC, similar to reporting that the CRU email hack lead to “allegations of data manipulation”. Technically it isn’t even wrong that there were such allegations. But isn’t it the responsibility of the media to actually investigate whether allegations have any merit before they decide to repeat them?

Leake incidentally attacked the scientific work of one of us (Stefan) in a Sunday Times article in January. This article was rather biased and contained some factual errors that Stefan asked to be corrected. He has received no response, nor was any correction made. Two British scientists quoted by Leake – Jonathan Gregory and Simon Holgate – independently wrote to Stefan after the article appeared to say they had been badly misquoted. One of them wrote that the experience with Leake had made him “reluctant to speak to any journalist about any subject at all”.

Does the IPCC need to change?

The IPCC has done a very good job so far, but certainly there is room for improvement. The review procedures could be organized better, for example. Until now, anyone has been allowed to review any part of the IPCC drafts they liked, but there was no coordination in the sense that say, a glacier expert was specifically assigned to double-check parts of the WG2 chapter on Asia. Such a practice would likely have caught the Himalayan glacier mistake. Another problem has been that reports of all three working groups had to be completed nearly at the same time, making it hard for WG2 to properly base their discussions on the conclusions and projections from WG1. This has already been improved on for the AR5, for which the WG2 report can be completed six months after the WG1 report.

Also, these errors revealed that the IPCC had no mechanism to publish errata. Since a few errors will inevitably turn up in a 2800-page report, obviously an avenue is needed to publish errata as soon as errors are identified.

Is climate science sound?

In some media reports the impression has been given that even the fundamental results of climate change science are now in question, such as whether humans are in fact changing the climate, causing glacier melt, sea level rise and so on. The IPCC does not carry out primary research, and hence any mistakes in the IPCC reports do not imply that any climate research itself is wrong. A reference to a poor report or an editorial lapse by IPCC authors obviously does not undermine climate science. Doubting basic results of climate science based on the recent claims against the IPCC is particularly ironic since none of the real or supposed errors being discussed are even in the Working Group 1 report, where the climate science basis is laid out.

To be fair to our colleagues from WG2 and WG3, climate scientists do have a much simpler task. The system we study is ruled by the well-known laws of physics, there is plenty of hard data and peer-reviewed studies, and the science is relatively mature. The greenhouse effect was discovered in 1824 by Fourier, the heat trapping properties of CO2 and other gases were first measured by Tyndall in 1859, the climate sensitivity to CO2 was first computed in 1896 by Arrhenius, and by the 1950s the scientific foundations were pretty much understood.

Do the above issues suggest “politicized science”, deliberate deceptions or a tendency towards alarmism on the part of IPCC? We do not think there is any factual basis for such allegations. To the contrary, large groups of (inherently cautious) scientists attempting to reach a consensus in a societally important collaborative document is a prescription for reaching generally “conservative” conclusions. And indeed, before the recent media flash broke out, the real discussion amongst experts was about the AR4 having underestimated, not exaggerated, certain aspects of climate change. These include such important topics as sea level rise and sea ice decline (see the sea ice and sea level chapters of the Copenhagen Diagnosis), where the data show that things are changing faster than the IPCC expected.

Overall then, the IPCC assessment reports reflect the state of scientific knowledge very well. There have been a few isolated errors, and these have been acknowledged and corrected. What is seriously amiss is something else: the public perception of the IPCC, and of climate science in general, has been massively distorted by the recent media storm. All of these various “gates” – Climategate, Amazongate, Seagate, Africagate, etc., do not represent scandals of the IPCC or of climate science. Rather, they are the embarrassing battle-cries of a media scandal, in which a few journalists have misled the public with grossly overblown or entirely fabricated pseudogates, and many others have naively and willingly followed along without seeing through the scam. It is not up to us as climate scientists to clear up this mess – it is up to the media world itself to put this right again, e.g. by publishing proper analysis pieces like the one of Tim Holmes and by issuing formal corrections of their mistaken reporting. We will follow with great interest whether the media world has the professional and moral integrity to correct its own errors.

PS. A new book by Realclimate-authors David Archer and Stefan Rahmstorf critically discussing the main findings of the AR4 (all three volumes) is just out: The Climate Crisis. None of the real or alleged errors are in this book, since none of those contentious statements plucked from the thousands of pages appeared to be “main findings” that needed to be discussed in a 250-page summary.

PPS. Same thing for Mike’s book Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming, which bills itself as “The illustrated guide to the findings of the IPCC”. Or Gavin’s “Climate Change: Picturing the Science” – which does include a few pictures of disappearing glaciers though!

Update 24 March: Simon Lewis has made an official complaint to the Press Complaints Commission about Leake’s Amazon story.

Update 29 March: IPCC Chairman Rajendra Pachauri has published an interesting article in the Guardian.

601 Responses to “IPCC errors: facts and spin”

  1. 301
    Jerry Steffens says:

    #277 E A Barkley

    “the data indicate no crisis – although a variety of computer models still do.”

    There are two reasons for this:
    (1) The model scenarios assume that greenhouse-gas concentrations will continue to increase.
    (2) Thermal inertia, which pushes much of the effect of current emissions well into the future.
    Because of the latter effect, future climate problems can become inevitable well before they are apparent in the data. Compare it to a car heading toward a wall; at some point, a collision is inevitable no matter what the driver does.

  2. 302
    Ron Taylor says:

    AxelD, for you reality is obviously whatever the public currently thinks. For scientists, it is whatever the evidence shows. Thank you very much, but I will go with the scientists. Good God, man!

  3. 303

    Re: ‘fine-toothed comb’: this should be ‘fine-tooth comb: fine-tooth, a. Of a comb: having fine and closely-set teeth. 1839 H. MALCOM Trav. I. ii. 37 Friends who wish to make little presents to the Karen Christians, might send fine-tooth combs . . 1935 ‘N. BLAKE’ Question of Proof xi. 221 We’ve been over the whole ruddy caboodle with a fine tooth comb.’ [OED]

    That’s all the value I can add to this very intelligent conversation: thanks for a most enlightening post, as always!

  4. 304
    Ray Ladbury says:

    skwiself says “And I, along with the rest of the world, who have had it up to here with people like you, am tired of you and your buddies denigrating our intelligence and integrity for well over a decade…”

    Actually, I’ll just sit back and watch, you’re doing a great job of looking like an idiot all by your lonesome. Carry on, Dude!

  5. 305
    Ray Ladbury says:

    SJ@281, You are late to the party. We have already noted that the IPCC underestimates the severity of several threats (e.g. melting of the cryosphere, sea-level rise, etc.).

    Has it ever occurred to you that the reason The Economist and the Times take the editorial position they do is because they’ve looked at the evidence? Did it ever occur to you to look at the evidence?

  6. 306
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas Bjurström says “However, the IPCC has recurrently stated being free of errors and objectivity for the last twenty years.”

    OK, Andreas, show me one place where the IPCC said it was free of errors and 100% objective. I certainly hope that not everyone in your field has as elastic an attitude toward facts as you do.

  7. 307
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    @274 Tim Jones, thanks for the reply, I appreciate your comments and serious attitude (in sharp contrast to the political troll “Completely Fed Up”).

    My point with referring to Bolin was to establish the causal chain. A response to: “Aspersions on the IPCC from a gang of tinfoil hats were coming down long before …”. Climate scientists such as Bolin (or Schneider and others) has been advocating climate policy since the early 1970´s. Thus, science comes first. Science set the stage. The reaction of the sceptics follows long after. Climate policy advocates has been very persistent in building the concensual view by way of the authority of science as objective knowledge producer. The IPCC triggers was set some 25 years ago (at the mid 80´s).

    I guess I am concerned on the reaction of sound people and that science ought to speak truth in an inclusive way. Politically motivated tin foil hats (skeptics as well as believers) are not my cup of tea. Pachauris initial reaction to Himalayagate was “shut up, the IPCC is always true” and this was later changed, after intense pressure, to the official statement “shut up, the IPCC is always true, with one exception”. I do not like this attitude. It is too close to tin foil hatting. Narrowminded. Dishonest. Presumptuous. Political. Tactical. Authoritative. More humbleness and honesty will be beneficial since most people are not tin foil hats. The debate is far too polarized. The IPCC are partly to blame. That was sort of my contribution to the debate here at realclimate, the audience of the hard natural scientist climate believers.

    Science is the reason to why climate change is a policy issue today. The IPCC is instrumental to climate politics. The IPCC make many tactic decisions in relation to politics. The IPCC is a hybrid of science and politics. It is beside the point to quote formal IPCC statements of the role of the IPCC. Yes, the IPCC state to have no prescriptive role. Yes, this is one instance where the IPCC is not honest. The IPCC knows that this is a lie. For example, read the various statements by Pachauri in media, he is rather explicit with the fact that policy outcomes concerns himself as well as the IPCC. I like such honesty, yet he betrays the IPCC by being honest on this issue, as they do not play the game of honesty regarding the actual role of science in relation to policy.

    #2 is actually a weak claim, from the viewpoint of sociology of science, or any science that studies the empirical reality of science. It is similar to claims such as; science is a social activity, peer review includes censorship of opinions, reseachers are not disinterested, truth and power are related. From the viewpoint of the natural science, this is atrocious statements. Yet, the social sciences have sound empirical data on many issues that natural scientists refuse to admit since it violates their worldview. Reconciliation is therefore very hard. That is why we had, and still have, the so called science wars.

    I see your point on the tinfoil hat US politics (my point of departure are different due to my professional interests and the Swedish political context). I agree partly. Let me rephrase my statement: The presumptous attitude of the IPCC are serving the sceptics and controvercy but not the truth. If the IPCC had been more humble, the sceptics spin based on a single error would cause limited damage. It is futile to convert a tin foil hat with scientific facts, yet you can prevent severe impact on sound people. Moreover, I think one needs to discuss the political tinfoil hat problem in isolation, to avoid confusion.

    [Response: We’ve been watching you carry on with these arguments based in your personal impression of the behavior of various groups and individuals for some time now. I have one question for you: Do you believe that scientists have the ability to discriminate between different possible causes of the observed temperature changes over this past century or not? –Jim]

  8. 308
    John Peter says:

    #260 Ray Ladbury

    Thank you for taking he time to respond to my post #243. It really isn’t just one paper, I asked the same question about the Kim/Ramanathan 2007 paper in #166.

    “I looked at a recent paper by Kim and Ramanathan
    (J. Geophys. Res., 113, D02203, doi:10.1029/2007JD008434. or
    http://www-ramanathan.ucsd.edu/publications /Kim_Ram_jgr113_2007JD008434.pdf.

    It seemed to me they got pretty good results for
    aerosols/clouds with a Monte Carlo model.

    Assuming the K/R work holds up, how do other modelers
    incorporate such improvements in their own work? It
    would seem that other model groups should try to use
    K/R’s results to change their models and lower the
    IPCC uncertainty in climate sensitivity, whatever.”

    I am a newbie trying learn about Climate Science so I appreciate all the help I can get. FWIW, in my scientific\engineering world when we made progress on an important key technical problem, we would have the programmers get it into their code ASAP. Regardless of the size of their applications.

    I do not detect the same sense of urgency in your wait and see responses and suggest that may be one of the reasons for public discomfort with IPCC.

  9. 309
    Ricki (Australia) says:

    Having just come to the report and not read all the comments, it strikes me as insufficient to have an IPCC report only every 7 years! We need to have them every 3 years with official updates published no more than 12 months apart.

    The rate of development of our climate science far out-strips 7 years. Can’t we put aside some resources to monitor just the most drastic environmental shift in the history of civilisation?

    Ricki

  10. 310
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Comment by Don Shor — 15 February 2010 @ 7:43 PM

    No, you miss the point. Pielke’s assertion was not some vague innuendo noting that Pachauri is on the boards of certain organizations, etc.

    Pielke’s accusation was specifically that Pachauri was in the process of negotiating a collaboration having to do with glacier research with various parties even as Pachauri was defending the IPCC Himalayan glacier assessment.

    Here are Pielke’s words:

    “IPCC Chairman Pachauri was making public comments on a dispute involving factual claims by the IPCC at the same time that he was negotiating for funding to his home institution justified by those very same claims.”

    Pielke termed this– in his words– a “classic and unambiguous case of financial conflict of interest”.

    So Pielke has accused Pachauri of a specific case of financial misdealing, not simply an bad odor.

    However, if you bother to look you’ll see the case he cites is not at all unambiguous, not as Pielke states it. Unless Pielke can produce a chronology showing when Pachauri was negotiating collaboration against when Pachauri was discussing the Himalayan matter, Pielke is showing no convincing evidence for his assertion.

    If you look at the date of the announcement of the collaboration in question it’s a stretch to imagine that Pielke’s assertion is correct. The unlikely timing of the matter is what attracted my attention to Pielke’s claim. Without more information about the chronology of the activities the case as Pielke states it reeks of conjecture. So the onus remains on Pielke to make his case properly, which he has not as of this moment.

    Yet, on this very thread, Pielke himself adopts a rather superior attitude concerning unsupported conjectures and the like. It’s that double standard that has me annoyed.

    As I said upthread, it’s quite easy for Pielke to clear this up, or that is to say if he had the confidence to make the claim it ought to be. All he need do is produce the chronology I mentioned, authoritatively sourced.

    A kind of science, if you will. Hypothesis, investigation, conclusion. Easy enough, right?

  11. 311
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “They’re under such incredible economic pressure that they’re grasping for anything to capture more eyeballs” – whomever

    Then suing them for slander should be even more potent a course of action that Jones should take.

  12. 312
    John Peter says:

    With the sovereign debt problems in the developed world, isn’t funding the really serious problem with Climate-gate? Regardless of what the committees find re Jones and Mann, their fund raising capabilities will surely suffer.

    john peter

  13. 313
    Vendicar Decarian says:

    “50.A climate-education branch of the IPCC would simply be dubbed ‘the propaganda arm’. It might do more harm than good.” – Gould

    It would indeed do more harm. Any body that takes on that roll would be castigated by the denialists. I have seen the UCS referred to as a “collection of communist dupes” by these denialists.

  14. 314
    John E. Pearson says:

    295 skiwisef sez:

    “You’d think that errors would be at least somewhat evenly distributed, wouldn’t you? Some of them overstating, some of them understating. But no, apparently understatement is not all the rage in the scientific community. ”

    The folks who have combed AR4 for errors the past few years are looking for overstatement. Overstatement is what they report.

  15. 315
    Norman says:

    Can anyone explain this chart to me?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NOAA_sea_level_trend_1993_2010.png

    How can one part of the same ocean (maybe a couple hundred miles away) be rising at different rates? Wouldn’t the nature of liquid quickly establish and equilibrium state even if melt water were pouring in at the rising parts? Maybe I just don’t understand the chart.

  16. 316
    Thomas Black says:

    Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

    The fallout from the IPCC Himalayan glacier situation gets stranger and stranger.
    [edit]

    [Response: Strange doesn’t even begin to describe it…]

  17. 317
    Septic Matthew says:

    292, BPL: If they’re construing things so that TSI is a greater influence than CO2, I’ll bet the farm their model is too elaborate to be statistically meaningful.

    That’s a possibility. However, actual climate dynamics are too complex to be understood intuitively, and any adequate model will be elaborate. Their model does not seem to be too elaborate for the parameters to be estimable and testable. The paper has not been published, apparently ( I couldn’t find it at the Nature web page). Hopefully they’ll make lots more details available when they do publish it.

  18. 318
    Eli Rabett says:

    315, ocean currents.

  19. 319
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Norman says: 15 February 2010 at 10:48 PM

    “How can one part of the same ocean (maybe a couple hundred miles away) be rising at different rates? ”

    Helps to remember that local sea level is dependent to a certain extent on barometric pressure, wind as confounding factors. When you’re talking millimeters, relatively small forces over a large area make a difference.

  20. 320
    Don Shor says:

    310 Doug Bostrom
    “IPCC Chairman Pachauri was making public comments on a dispute involving factual claims by the IPCC at the same time that he was negotiating for funding to his home institution justified by those very same claims.”

    Dr. Hasnain’s 2035 glacier claim was called into question by Dr. Kaser in 2006 (“so wrong that it is not even worth dismissing”). Dr. Kaser notified the IPCC before the 2007 publication. Dr. Cogley of Canada also rejected the claim. Surely Dr. Hasnain, who was hired by Dr. Pachauri in 2008, was aware that leading glaciologists had criticized his conclusion.

    The EU High Noon project was announced in May 2009.
    The 2035 claim was cited as TERI applied for, and received, $500,000 from Carnegie and 3 million Euros for the High Noon contract.

    The claim that most glaciers in the region “will vanish within 40 years as a result of global warming” was provably part of the Carnegie contract application.

    The claim was cited at the launch of the High Noon contract. Pachauri spoke at that event, and Hasnain was present at the conference. The claim was cited again as TERI announced the Carnegie grant on Jan. 15 of this year.

    So we have the individual who was the source of the original error working closely with Dr. Pachauri, allowing the claim to be used repeatedly as TERI sought contracts, and not making any effort to correct the information.

    I think it is safe to assume that the president of TERI was involved in negotiating for the contracts. It probably wouldn’t take long to find examples of his public utterances supporting the 2035 claim. Certainly he is ultimately responsible for what was submitted on his company’s behalf to procure contracts. Finally, when the issue of Himalayan glaciers became controversial, Dr. Pachauri rejected the criticism in strident terms.

    At best, Dr. Pachauri and Dr. Hasnain disagreed with, experts rejecting the claim. So they continued to use it. Unfortunately, their decision to use it led to financial benefit for their company. They used alarmist rhetoric that had no factual basis to their financial advantage. What do you call that?

  21. 321
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Norman #315:

    How can one part of the same ocean (maybe a couple hundred miles away) be rising at different rates? Wouldn’t the nature of liquid quickly establish and equilibrium state even if melt water were pouring in at the rising parts?

    Yes that is true in general, but the world ocean is continually in a state of disequilibrium due to a number of causes. And the ocean is huge compared to these deviations in sea level. The ‘biggie’ is El Nino/La Nina in the equatorial Pacific, the change over the reporting period of the chart. This is due mainly to temperature changes throughout the ocean volume.

    In the North Atlantic we see some ‘bubbles’, presumably meso-scale variability in the Gulf Stream area. These are eddies living for several months, having a temperature different from the surroundings and even containing their own ecosystems. Again, we see the resultant over seventeen years, so there’s a lot of smearing out going on. One important factor that keeps these eddies alive is the Coriolis force of the Earth rotation, a bit the same way that high and low pressure areas are kept alive in the atmosphere (Buys-Ballot).

    I suspect that what we see around Antarctica is also due to changing ocean currents. But I suspect also artefacts from the satellite orbit (the vertical striping).

    Doug #319: it says on the main page that the inverted barometer correction (effect of air pressure on sea level) has been applied.

    Impressive picture. Don’t want to see the price tag :-(

  22. 322
    Tim Jones says:

    Re:296 skwiself says: 15 February 2010 at 8:00 PM
    ‘”I, along with many other regular readers of this site, am thoroughly sick of increasingly vicious personal attacks on climate scientists, mostly ill-informed and often malicious.'”

    S: “And I, along with the rest of the world who have had it up to here with people like you, am tired of you and your buddies denigrating our intelligence and integrity for well over a decade.”

    How sir, do you presume to speak for the rest of the world?

  23. 323

    […] Climate Change has a good run down of the latest spin, looking at many incidents in detail. They conclude: Overall then, the IPCC assessment reports reflect the state of scientific knowledge very well. There have been a few isolated errors, and these have been acknowledged and corrected. What is seriously amiss is something else: the public perception of the IPCC, and of climate science in general, has been massively distorted by the recent media storm. All of these various “gates” – Climategate, Amazongate, Seagate, Africagate, etc., do not represent scandals of the IPCC or of climate science. Rather, they are the embarrassing battle-cries of a media scandal, in which a few journalists have misled the public with grossly overblown or entirely fabricated pseudogates, and many others have naively and willingly followed along without seeing through the scam. It is not up to us as climate scientists to clear up this mess – it is up to the media world itself to put this right again, e.g. by publishing proper analysis pieces like the one of Tim Holmes and by issuing formal corrections of their mistaken reporting. We will follow with great interest whether the media world has the professional and moral integrity to correct its own errors. […]

  24. 324
    Leo G says:

    My suggestion for what it is worth, break the report into two parts, published 3 years apart.

    Reasons –

    i) get the hard science away from the social aspects

    ii) – it seems that there is too much stuff happening, when trying to get all 3 aspects out together, that not enough time is available for cross referencing.

    iii) – Information overload with just one volume!

  25. 325

    @Global Sceptic

    Everyone who posts here has a motivation, a reason, for posting. What is your motivation? Do you have oil or coal investments? Do you have fears? or a vendetta against someone? What is the point in this oppositional behavior?

    Most of us here are motivated to solve these problems. You seem to be motivated to squelch the conversation entirely. The problems we face are very complex and take thousands of brains all over the world giving this problem their full attention. They are getting paid to solve problems with research money from governments, grants, and research institutions. All of them are a risk of losing credibility as their livelihoods depend on accuracy in their research.

    Who is paying you to call them liars?

  26. 326

    Ken Grayling says:

    “””I’d like to see an end to this bickering and have someone forget for a moment about the effect of gases measured in parts-per-million and analyze the effect of water vapor (the big greenhouse gas) in the atmosphere, with some predictions/projections.”””

    You *are* kidding me, right? I hope you’re kidding me. Here’s some scientific food for thought about the “ooooh”, the big, the bad, the water vapor that you had better know…

    Does water vapor exist where it is cold….ooops N O P E. Strike one….the biggest desert on Earth for a lack of precipitation is…Antarctica. Wow…you didn’t see that one coming did you?

    1) Water vapor is not a greenhouse gas (basically) where it is missing (basically) where it is cold…like at the poles or high up in the atmosphere where the action happens. BUMMER MAN. Strike two. You didn’t know this?

    2) Water vapor is vibrating in the ranges of 400-500 wavenumber cycles per centimeter and at around 1500 wavenumber cycles per cm. Most of the Earth’s heat/long wave/IR frequency is vibrating at around 700 cycles per centimeter…far away from water vapor. BUT where carbon dioxide is vibrating near this frequency. DOUBLE BUMMER MAN. Strike three. This means that CO2 is interacting more with the Earth’s frequencies than water vapor in some aspects.

    3) Water vapor does not border the atmospheric window where heat normally is released like a safety valve. CO2 does and actually closes off part of the atmospheric window when you add more…not water vapor! OUCH, Strike four!

    5) Water vapor only lasts about a week if humans add more. CO2 lasts for thousands of years if humans add more…OH Wow, BUMMER, MAN!

    6) Water vapor amount is effectively limited by temperature…so only so much extra water vapor can be added..(“Cold air holds less water vapor”). You can add as much CO2 as you want and it just moves higher in the atmosphere and holds more overall heat in so you get warmer and you can’t really saturate it…so DRILL BABY, DRILL!!! OUCH!!! Strike five!

    7) The really tricky part of the atmosphere that controls the Earth’s temperature is at the top part of it…where it is too cold for water vapor to exist or be effective as a greenhouse gas! But increasing CO2 is there! YEEEEOW!!! Strike six!

    8) So you add tons of water vapor…and you need a hotter atmosphere to “hold all that water vapor, now.” So you get more clouds…Some clouds make you cooler…some make you warmer. But in the past the Earth had searingly high average temperatures…and clouds or not…many, many times (Cambrian, Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Permian, Jurassic, Cretaceous, Tertiary).

    Dude, I can keep on going. Water vapor only basically increases in amount when the temp increases and is effectively absent where it is needed to be the critical greenhouse gas at the top of the atmosphere…and is limited by temperature to the amount you can get.

    You can add all the water vapor you want…and you might get soggy…but the water vapor will go back into the oceans.

    You add too much CO2…and you are dead, dead, dead…burned, fried, and crispy- YEE HAW!!!(but no one seriously thinks it would come to that any time soon on Earth)…just real, real, real, real fast changes…in almost everything…maybe in the space of a person’s lifetime….just probably not yours, but maybe your grandkids’…

  27. 327
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Don Shor says: 15 February 2010 at 11:56 PM

    “I think it is safe to assume…”

    Is it? How much elasticity is there in safe assumptions, particularly when they involve character assassination?

    Thanks but no thanks, I’d prefer to hear from Dr. Pielke Jr. himself, with a timeline showing the state of negotiations as Dr. Pachauri was responding to the Himalayan matter, and of course we’d need to know that the 2035 claim was on Dr. Pachauri’s mind during earlier parts of putting together the arrangement. Failing that, Pielke is engaging in unsupported conjecture.

    In sum, I don’t find your argument persuasive, certainly to the standard required for flinging accusations of corruption.

  28. 328
    ccpo says:

    Goran,

    The scare story is that people such as you are trying to scare people out of their money by keeping things as they are to keep lining the same deep pockets while leaving most of the planet destitute, dessicated and perhaps unable to sustain civilization as we know it.

    FACT: Arctic sea ice MASS down over 80%.

    If that doesn’t scare you, you need a brain transplant.

    Cheers

  29. 329
    ccpo says:

    noel says:
    15 February 2010 at 11:43 AM

    Yeah, that TERRIBLE Al Gore who is turning all his profits over to charity vs. Exxon, et al., who are putting 10’s of billions in their own pockets – and those of denialist mouthpieces.

    Distort much?

  30. 330
    mondo says:

    Norman at #315.

    A very good question. And as yet, nobody has given you one of the important factors. The tide stations themselves can either rise or fall over time due to geological factors. Local subsidence (due in some cases to groundwater withdrawal) or emergence (due to reaction to the loss of glacier loads for example) can introduce confounding factors that you are seldom told about.

    You are right, in that on average, if sea level is rising due to ‘global warming’ it should rise, at least averaged over time) constantly all around the world. That this is not the case is telling you that something else is going on.

  31. 331
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “so wrong that it is not even worth dismissing”

    So he didn’t dismiss it then…?

  32. 332
    ccpo says:

    Speaking of strange, you know what I call denialism in all it’s horrific glory? sui-genocide.

  33. 333
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    [Response: We’ve been watching you carry on with these arguments based in your personal impression of the behavior of various groups and individuals for some time now. I have one question for you: Do you believe that scientists have the ability to discriminate between different possible causes of the observed temperature changes over this past century or not? –Jim]
    Jim, yes, I am certain that this is possible.
    My posts are only in part personal impressions, I base my statements on empirical social science studies (qualitative and quantitative) and social theories and my own research (interviews, text and quantitative bibliometrics). Is this of no credibility for you?

  34. 334
    AxelD says:

    To those of you who believe that a scientific paper trumps a press report (Ray @258, CFU @263, Didactylos @266, yada, yada): it seems impossible to make you see that what the science actually says is inconsequential compared with what the government and the public thinks it says.

    cer’s comment @297 is particularly revealing: “So if I’ve understood you’re [sic] reasoning correctly, you’re arguing that a handful of newspaper quotes from two UK government scientists (only one of whom is actually a climate expert) are enough to invalidate a technical report authored by hundreds of independent scientists working in universities and research institutes around the world? Interesting logic, but fortunately that’s not the way science works.

    Isn’t that charming? No, cer, but it’s the way the world works, and that’s where the rest of us live, not in that academic ivory tower where you believe there’s a shining scientific truth that’s being held back from the masses by evil right-wing media. cer, those two government scientists, whatever their qualifications, are the ones who will steer government policy and messaging on climate. Now do you start to see your problem?

    “The longest suicide note in history” was the phrase used to describe the UK Labour Party’s left-wing 1983 election manifesto. The mood of the country was completely set against the policies advocated, but the party leaders were too wedded to their shining truth to adapt to what was acceptable. And the inevitable happened – electoral disaster.

    Climate science communication is beginning to read – no, is reading – like the new longest suicide note in history. There is certainly more publication here in RC of dissenting voices than in the past, but the same RC voices howl down anyone who tries to assert a dissenting view (you know who you are.) This does not help your case. You’re the ones who’re editing and clarifying your suicide note.

    It’s quite obvious that you have to find a new model for communicating with the public. But your obsessive absorption in the purity of “the science” makes you blind to this. Several times I’ve offered climate science a way out of the blind alley you’re trapped in, but you’re too hubristic to listen. But, to repeat myself: disband the IPCC and replace it with a much smaller panel of climate scientists who aren’t discredited. Add some sceptics who can bring statistical rigour and wider views of the science, for instance, and will bring balance. Christy, Lindzen, McIntyre are obvious names, and the public may begin to trust pronouncements from a more obviously balanced panel. That’s a start, at least. But I can hear the shrieks of protest already!

    PS. Out of the electoral shambles of the 1983 Labour Party manifesto emerged (eventually) New Labour that junked its old left-wing shibboleths, radically changed its policies and leaders, and became highly electable. It went on to win power, and is still (just) in power after nearly 14 years. Might that change your minds?

  35. 335
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    @306 Ray Ladbury
    I think the IPCC statement of 20 January 2010 does a pretty good job in suggestion that there is only one error in the assessment, or rather half an error, the confession is not straightforward. I will not use Pachauris media statements since that would make my case to easy ….

    I skimmed through the IPCC web for a few minutes. Some examples that shows IPCC claim objectivity: Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective ….
    Technical Papers are prepared on topics for which an objective … perspective is essential.
    Comprehensiveness, objectivity, openness and transparency ….
    presents a comprehensive, objective and balanced view of the subject matter…
    provide objective information ..
    It can hardly be questioned that IPCC see research and assessment for policy as objective. Most social sciences stopped believing in the possibility of objective knowledge production some 40 years ago. I am also knowledgeable of many empirical studies that demonstrate that science is not objective. That is why I am having a hard time accepting the IPCC statements on theory of science. The IPCC statement of objectivity are intended to build credibility and authority rather than to be true and well-informed. A more objective statement  that acknowledge the subjectivity of science is needed.

  36. 336
    Ray Ladbury says:

    John Peter says, ” Regardless of what the committees find re Jones and Mann, their fund raising capabilities will surely suffer.”

    Wanna bet? This is an important problem. There aren’t that many people out there with the experience and ability to make progress. What is more, all this has done is elevate the profile of Jones and Mann. A cut in funding will be perceived as political retribution.

  37. 337

    Norman #315: another factor in local sea level variation is air pressure.

  38. 338
    El Cid says:

    You really need to work this into a somewhat briefer op-ed and submit it to the Washington Post, etc, which is today filling up its pages with an article on how the ‘controversy’ has disassembled the consensus.

  39. 339
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I skimmed through the IPCC web for a few minutes. Some examples that shows IPCC claim objectivity: Review is an essential part of the IPCC process, to ensure an objective ….”

    And review IS an essential part of the IPCC process. And the reason for it is to ensure an objective… (why did you cut the rest out?

    “Technical Papers are prepared on topics for which an objective … perspective is essential.”

    And are you saying that an objective perspecive ISN’T what’s wanted?

    And where does this say “we are 100% objective and only use 100% reliable sources”?

    They DO say they use the best sources available.

    You keep missing out lots of words. Smells like quote mining.

  40. 340
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “334
    AxelD says:
    16 February 2010 at 5:26 AM
    it seems impossible to make you see that what the science actually says is inconsequential compared with what the government and the public thinks it says.”

    Because what “the public” (actually, you and several dittos) think isn’t real. Reality is what happens even when you don’t believe it.

    That you don’t believe AGW makes no difference to what happens to the earth under increasing anthropogenic CO2 levels.

  41. 341
    Dennis says:

    Andreas Bjurström —

    “Climate scientists are our new priesthood that tells us how to live our lives, what is right and wrong, and we all obey … ”

    Comments like “our new priesthood” tell me that it is YOU who injects bias into the science, not the scientists themselves. I expect natural scientists to provide me with the truth of the natural sciences. Anything beyond that is not science, and at that point they are nothing more than citizens expressing an opinion, for which they have every right.

    “By [putting social science on the back burner] the IPCC is acting as a policy advocate, the very thing that the IPCC claim to not be doing.”

    I see it as quite the opposite. Are there specific actions or publications by the IPCC what you can point to in support of this assertions of the IPCC “acting as a policy advocate?” (Apologies in advance if I misstated what you mean.)

  42. 342
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    @339 Completely Fed Up, (thanks for a serious post by the way)
    I am saying that 1) an objective perspective is only possible when dealing with simple singular facts 2) that climate change is not a simple issue, but rather a post normal issue where facts – values – politics – science – uncertainty – policy are complex and equally important. It is not sound to reduce climate change to physics and economics as the IPCC tend to do.

    Realclimate state that “the vast majority of these are peer-reviewed scientific journal papers”. This is not true. 60 % is not the vast majority of references. Realclimate confused working group 1 (where this is true) with the full report where the statement is false.

    Yes, review is an essential part of the IPCC process, yet review is NOT objective and objectivity was the issue. We have the journal article review (about 60 % of the IPCC material is peer review journal articles). Then the IPCC review process, which is both a scientific and a political review process in several steps. Climategate shows that at least a few very influential reviewers are willing to use the peer review process as an political tool to control policy outcomes. peer review is not perfect and not objective.

    (I cut out words simply to make the post short.
    No, I will not do an extensive study of this issue for you. And I will not work many hours to prove beyond doubt various claims by sceptics either. It is futile. My brief quantitative content analysis was good enough for me. Do your own, and prove me wrong, it it is not good enough for you.

  43. 343
    noel says:

    Check out how much Gore invested in green industry related companies. You can’t really say what’s the difference between “putting your money where your mouth is” or “putting your mouth where you money is”. And Gore was just one example. The discussion was about BBC’s ties with green industry. Gavin said that suspecting journalists of favoring AGW because their pension fund would benefit is ridiculous. Then he should add that suspecting skeptics to be skeptics just because they have ties with oil companies is equally ridiculous.
    I can’t really tell in an objective way which companies are “evil” and which are “good”. As far as I know, oil companies are responsible (directly or indirectly) for most of the technology and civilization you see around you. If you’re gonna call them “evil” or whatever, you’d better be ready to give up everything they built for you. I’m not sure what green industries have done, except waste a lot of money on unfeasible projects.
    We don’t NEED any alternative energy sources. Start reading on the recent developments of shale gas extraction. We have enough of that to last for a few hundred years.

  44. 344
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    @341 Dennis,
    “I expect natural scientists to provide me with the truth of the natural sciences.”
    You expect too much! Truth is not pure and simple. The natural scientists serve you with many things besides facts and truth. You are free to be fully uncritical, to invest all your trust that the natural scientists will guide us well, to be a servant is rather pleasant, I guess …

    “our new priesthood” was intended as an description of the societal role of climate scientists in Sweden. How you delimit science is not so interesting for me. More interesting is how climate scientists are molding our society (perhaps not the US, yet, still denialist trapped). Scientists in the public debate are not mere citizens, they are super-citizens, their expertise gives them authority and political power, they use this to reinforce their value preferences and political agendas, and to marginalise viewpoint that they do not like. yet, we do not scrutinize this, as media always do with politicians, at least not in Sweden, there is no controversy, no debate, not sure if I prefer the infected US debate or the simplistic swedish concensus. All this is of importance, especially in the swedish culture with a new priesthood … Don´t you agree? Whereas your problem lies in the tin foil hats, yes, that is a problem as well.

  45. 345
    Tim Jones says:

    Perhaps the goofies turning this forum into the theatre of the absurd by suggesting balancing out the IPCC to reflect the fox guarding the hen house will suggest these guys as well.

    Oil Giants Demand Open Market for World’s Dirtiest Fuel
    http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2010/02/15-0
    February 15, 2010 by The Guardian/UK
    Oil Groups Mount Legal Challenge to California’s Tar Sands Ban
    by Terry Macalister

  46. 346
    sillypoem says:

    A couple errant numbers culled from graphs
    diminish credibility for all
    despite the thousand earnest working staffs
    who labor on as ten dudes take the fall.
    The self of science dashes this debate,
    and did for every other throughout time.
    A populist insurgence could deflate
    the strongest data set or warming clime.
    First Galilei posits Earth as joint
    among the globes, and then gets sent to bed.
    For years a spark meant witchcraft till the point
    when Gilbert gave it name and Tesla said
    that power could transmit through tiny wires
    and light the world afire in dead of night.
    Preach evolution freely to the choirs
    but don’t expect your speech to sway the right.
    It’s not a game of proof you play right now,
    you’re mired in emotions. Still, don’t bow.

  47. 347
    SecularAnimist says:

    AxelD wrote: “… it seems impossible to make you see that what the science actually says is inconsequential compared with what the government and the public thinks it says.”

    It’s true that you have been unsuccessful in persuading other readers to join you in your fantasy world where “reality” consists of ExxonMobil-funded, so-called “right wing” propaganda, and actual evidence is “irrelevant” and “inconsequential”.

    So why don’t you just give up and go away? Please?

    Deluded, propaganda-addled individuals who imagine that scientific reality is “inconsequential”, i.e. is without consequences, are in for a very rude awakening.

  48. 348
    Leo G says:

    Are there any papers comparing a historic time of high volcanic activity climate changes to todays?

    Would this not demonstrate that rapid rise of CO2 can cause rapid temperature rises?

    Still getting the replies about CO2 lags from the ice core data posted elsewhere….

  49. 349
    Didactylos says:

    AxelD: you still don’t get it, do you?

    Science is around forever. Reality doesn’t change.

    But public perception is as fickle and fleeting as a summer breeze.

    Yes, we would like the tide of public perception to flow with the science. But we aren’t going to lie, distort or play politics to make that happen. Doing that would be absolutely fatal to public trust.

    You keep saying you are providing a solution, but that’s a plain lie. You think climate science is a matter of belief, and you don’t yourself believe in it. Thus you are supremely unqualified to say anything at all on the subject. If we were stupid enough to follow your advice, scientists really would deservedly lose the trust of the public.

    Instead, we will stick to the science, and the truth as science can discover it. And the media will blow this way, and that way, and the intelligent members of the public will take it with a liberal seasoning of salt as they always have.

    Of course, we will get better at communicating science. We have no rose-tinted spectacles. Scientists don’t enjoy being taken for a ride and having their statements reversed by irresponsible bloggers playing at journalist. But this is about being more media-aware, not about dirty tricks or giving deniers any shred of legitimacy.

    But if we need to know how ignorant you are, AxelD, we just have to look at all the sceptics who have already contributed to the IPCC. But again, this is fact – and you don’t care about that, do you?

    You are just making noise, like those geniuses clamouring for “the data” while drowning in the data they already have.

  50. 350
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Andreas Bjurström@335,
    That is not claiming that the scientists are objective or that the product is 100% objective–merely that the process is set up to promote the goal of objectivity. And, indeed, given that they cited pretty much every quasi-credible publication by a skeptical scientist and reviewed all of the posited alternative mechanisms, I would contend that the process worked well. The climate science community agrees, by the way–over 90% thought the IPCC reflected the state of research well or very well.

    Andreas: “Most social sciences stopped believing in the possibility of objective knowledge production some 40 years ago.”

    Physics had you beat by at least 40 years–even more if you count Ernst Mach. That does not mean we should abandon objectivity as a goal or that an attempt to reach an objective conclusion is not valuable. And it sure as hell doesn’t mean that all science reduces to a matter of opinion!

    I have read a lot of sociological studies of science. Most of them are crap, frankly, because they do not take into account the motivations of scientists and the incentive structure of science. Overwhelmingly, the strongest motivation for scientists is understanding their subject. There is simply no way you could pay someone enough to get them to dedicate 20 years of your life as an undergrad, grad student, post doc and assistant prof. And God knows it’s certainly not power or prestiege. You do it because you want to know something about the Universe–or at least your little specialty in that Universe.

    And science rewards such an attitude. The reason why scientific fraud is so rare is because falsifying research means you will know less about your field of study–it will impede progress. Science is also unforgiving of such breaches. You falsify data, your career is over. Period.

    What is more, science has also found a very good way to keep big egos in check. Scientists are extremely ambitious and competitive. However, if a scientist gets a reputation as a self-promoter, his career will suffer as a result. There is a very strong emphasis on sublimating ones immediate ambition in the hopes of building ones influence down the line.

    Ultimately, objectivity is replaced by consensus–but it is consensus of those who are most strongly motivated to have knowledge of the subject that is as objective as possible. Is it political? You bet! I’ve been privy to at least three rivalries where a Nobel Prize was at stake. You want to talk about intense lobbying… But in the end, the prizes went to those who had done the best work.

    I don’t think you will find many scientists who have thought deeply about the matter who will contend that science is objective. However, it is undeniable that in terms of delivering reliable understanding of natural phenomena, no other human endeavor comes close. That seems to baffle a lot of social scientists. Maybe it’s because they never thought to ask the scientists.