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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. 351
    MNPundit says:

    “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.”

    This is madness. This is why you are losing ground. In a fair world, no it’s not up to you. In the real world? It very well is up to you. Perhaps I’m tainted because I am from America and our media is full of idiots, failed actors, or right-wing wackos none of whom care about or understand the reality of the situation compared to ratings and advertising money. If this is your attitude we are doomed. If scientists want to advance their cause they need to do the research and own up to mistakes yes, but they also need to be out there attacking the deniers in every media venue they can get their hands on.

  2. 352
    Septic Matthew says:

    338, El Cid: 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

    I second the motion.

  3. 353
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Axel D., Just curious, what are your plans for dealing with all of the mountains of evidence that show the planet is warming. Are you going to simply slander every scientist who had a hand in gathering all that evidence. That’s a lot of slander, Axel, even for someone as talented in that direction as you.

    And say you manage to convince the general public that every climate scientist is the anti-christ. What then? Do you outlaw other scientists looking at the data and, voila, coming up with the same evidence all over again?

    See, Axel, that’s the wonderful thing about nature. She doesn’t change her story. You ask her a question, you get an answer. Ask again, same answer. She never gets tired of giving the same answer. Now, if you are particularly dim and don’t listen to what she is saying, sometimes she’ll say it more loudly. And sometimes if you keep ignoring her, she’ll destroy your civilization, but it’s nothing personal, you understand.

    See, Axel, reality is that which doesn’t go away when you stop believing in it. Come on over. I’ll introduce you.

  4. 354
    Tim Jones says:

    Re: 334 AxelD says: 16 February 2010
    “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.”

    I’ve been in government as an advisor myself. I can tell you now that your corner soap box arm waving protestations and advice to the whole of climate scientists makes you look like one of Wackoville’s fruitcakes.

    Does it occur to you that a responsible government official actually reads the science, or staff synopses of it, and likely takes with a grain of salt what the tabloid press twists into sensational newspaper selling headlines? The more shrill the exaggerations the more likely the press report is dismissed as infotainment.

    With respect to government you give too much credit to press accounts of isolated aspects, though at times the press has misled the people with spurious accounts of reality. But this was in lead up to war, for instance, not with an interpretation of a science document everyone has equal access to.

    Nor does one press report define the reality. Most likely the first report, in a hurry to make a deadline gets it wrong. Thus the original report is weighed and measured by different elements of competing press entities through time until, hopefully, a close approximation of the truth is consumed by the public.

    AxelD: “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.”

    I’d say the hubris is rather conspicuously yours. This so much reminds me of the story of the ant crawling up the elephant’s leg with rape on its mind.

    Yada yada

  5. 355
    Jim Galasyn says:

    Andreas Bjurström asks: I base my statements on…my own research (interviews, text and quantitative bibliometrics). Is this of no credibility for you?

    Andreas, you’ll be more credible if you can point us to something you’ve published in the peer-reviewed literature; a Google Scholar search doesn’t turn up anything.

  6. 356

    Although I’ve more or less convinced myself that we’re wasting our time, as the need for massive concerted action is so desperately urgent before we reach the Tipping Point which is so close, and every small advance we make is immediately negated by the well-funded and organised deniers, I will still fight to my last breath against the b*****ds. At least my grandchildren, before they fry or drown in sixty years’ time, will (I hope) reflect that I did my best for them.

    The problem as I see it is that 20% of humans are possessed by such an insatiable desire for power and wealth that their brains have no room for anything other than the ruthlessness required to trample over everyone and everything in pursuit of their objective, another 30% (mainly the “comfortably-off” middle classes of Europe and North America, and to a lesser extent India and China, etc.) are quite happy to believe whatever s**t is fed to them by right-wing media and state propaganda, as they’d rather not think about anything that might suggest drastic changes to their consumerist lifestyle will be required, 45% are busy just trying to survive, which leaves the 5% of us who are not afraid to open our eyes to reality and try to do something about it.

    Still, “better to die on your feet than live on your knees”.

    Steve Boulding, Green Party Parliamentary Candidate for North Shropshire, UK

  7. 357
    Tim Jones says:

    Anthony Watts is hoist on his own petard. The science is right, the skeptic is wrong, and now the press comes round (again) to point that out.

    Scientists dispute climate sceptic’s claim that US weather data is useless
    James Randerson,
    Monday 15 February 2010 16.22 GMT

    “Ex-weatherman Anthony Watts says many US weather stations produce unreliable data because they are located next to artificial heat – but a scientific analysis suggests that, if anything, such stations underestimate warming.

    “It appeared to have shaken the credibility of one of the most important global warming data sets in the world. A blog-inspired campaign by amateur climate sceptics seemed to show that numerous weather stations across the US were so poorly located they could not be relied upon.

    “But a new scientific analysis, using data from the sceptics, has shown that, if anything, the poorly located stations underestimate warming, rather than exaggerating it.

    Climate sceptics distract us from the scientific realities of global warming
    Is the goal of climate sceptics to lead us into greater scientific truth – or merely to sow doubt about the temperature record?

  8. 358
    Mario Nelson says:

    “the current media discussion is in large part simply absurd and surreal.”

    The current discussion is happening DESPITE of the media distortion and manipulation.

  9. 359
    db11 says:

    Ray Ladbury @346

    Really nice encapsulation of the motivations and mechanisms behind the method.

    Andreas Bjurström’s self-evident axiom that individuals (including scientists) can’t be completely objective misses your larger point – that over the long term efforts that produce valid science will win out over self-promotion, self-interest and politics.

    And an individual scientist’s lasting reputation will be largely based on his success in staying focused on his intention of objectively searching for scientific truth and reporting on where it leads – regardless of personal belief, previously published work etc.

    That many fail to consistently reach such a rigorous standard does reveal something significant about human nature, but does nothing to refute the success of science in advancing human knowledge. Thanks for stating it so well.

  10. 360
    db11 says:

    Re my previous comment @ 12:28 (currently in moderation)…

    in reference to Ray Ladbury @ 350 not 346

  11. 361
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Steve #356: Indeed! When all you have is how you lived your life, it doesn’t matter if you cannot get others to change. You CAN get yourself to change.

    If it fails because others did not, that is THEIR doing, not yours.

    DO NOT abdicate your violition to nihilism. You can only change the world if you try.

  12. 362
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    @355 Jim Galasyn,
    Sorry to disappoint you, but I am mere a PhD student, with a bunch of conference papers and a few articles that Im working with or in review, not yet published. Track records is the weapon of the oldies ;-)

  13. 363
    Tim Jones says:

    Will Anthony Watts be hoist on his own petard? So far the science is right, the skeptic is wrong, and now the press comes round (again) to point out that Watt’s hasn’t given up …tilting at windmills. The Guardian (on the web) does a good job of
    linking this story to its precedents and parallel aspects.

    Scientists dispute climate sceptic’s claim that US weather data is useless
    James Randerson,
    Monday 15 February 2010 16.22 GMT

    “Ex-weatherman Anthony Watts says many US weather stations produce unreliable data because they are located next to artificial heat – but a scientific analysis suggests that, if anything, such stations underestimate warming.

    “It appeared to have shaken the credibility of one of the most important global warming data sets in the world. A blog-inspired campaign by amateur climate sceptics seemed to show that numerous weather stations across the US were so poorly located they could not be relied upon.

    “But a new scientific analysis, using data from the sceptics, has shown that, if anything, the poorly located stations underestimate warming, rather than exaggerating it.

    Climate sceptics distract us from the scientific realities of global warming
    Is the goal of climate sceptics to lead us into greater scientific truth – or merely to sow doubt about the temperature record?

    We’re seeing Watt’s keeping the balls in the air for as long as possible. He delays responding an invitation to collaborate on a Journal of Geophysical Research paper for two (2) months then says after he finally accepts that he doesn’t receive a reply and thereby the JGR extends professional discourtesy. G I V E U S A B R E A K , Watts!

    There’s more to all this delay. I’s suggest it’s near criminal intent to defraud and mislead the public in order to allow legislation favorable to his buddies to pass more easily through the congress. The denialists are screaming it’s all about the money. For them, perhaps it is.

  14. 364
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Leo G says:
    16 February 2010 at 10:52 AM

    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?”

    Google PETM

    Permian/Eocene Thermal Maximum (if I’m remembering this right).

  15. 365
    flxible says:

    Jim@355 – maybe because there isn’t much yet ;)

  16. 366
    Completely Fed Up says:

    noel says:
    16 February 2010 at 9:35 AM

    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”.”

    Yes you can.

    One is fraud the other bravery.

  17. 367
    Tim Jones says:

    Sorry, I didn’t realize I had posted # 357 before I had finished the thought. It could be removed if it’s not too inconvenient.

  18. 368

    Co-signing the Open Letter from Dutch scientists regarding climate change and IPCC, received via Prof Turkenburg of Utrecht University:


    Starting today, is possible to express your support to, or to associate yourself with, the OPEN LETTER of 55 Dutch scientists on Climate Change and IPCC:
    – for people from the Netherlands:
    – for people from other countries:

    Note that the possibility to undersign the Open Letter is limited to scientists having the title Dr. or Prof.

    Please distribute this announcement amongst colleagues within your organization or networks.

  19. 369
    Jim Galasyn says:

    From Tim’s link:

    [Dr Scott Hausman] said the NCDC had invited Watts to collaborate on the paper, which appeared in the Journal of Geophysical Research last month, but he declined.

    Watts challenged this account. He said the NCDC director, Dr Tom Karl, wrote to him in September to offer a “joint scientific inquiry”. Watts said he responded nearly two months later to accept the invitation but never received a reply. “The appearance of the Menne et al paper was a bit of a surprise,” he said. “By not bothering to reply to our letter about an offer he initiated, and by not giving me any review process opportunity, [Karl] extends professional discourtesy to my own volunteers and my team’s work.” [Emphasis mine. –Jim]

    You snooze, you lose.

  20. 370

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

    You know there is an actual word, sort of, called “nationcide”.

    It is when a nation consciously decides to commit suicide. As a long-time insider in the climate science world, I personally believe that the United States is committing nationcide.

    We are ignoring unimpeachable science (built up since 1824) that we have to act now to stop human-caused climate change.

    This is because human-caused climate change is like a monster. You can’t see it much yet, but it is already committed to happen because the oceans are hiding it through thermal inertia (it takes them a long time to change because of their huge heat capacity-like how the oceans slow winter from happening and slow summer from happening every year and why it is warmer in Boston in the winter than in Kansas).

    It is looming over us so high you can’t see it for the forest through the trees. This is because the oceans are temporarily absorbing the “biblical proportions” of energy of about 1 watt per meter squared energy imbalance all in 200 years instead of the normal 5000 years.

    Unless we act now, by the time we do anything about it, the oceans (and the long, long lifetime of carbon dioxide of thousands of years) will have committed us to changes of biblical proportions, unless we act now.

    This is because it is a simple matter of energy imbalance first written about for global warming in 1824 by Jean Baptiste Fourier in the peer reviewed Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences. What was true in 1824, is still true today in the 21st century. You can’t change physics. We have to act now before it is too late for incomprehensible changes.

    IPCC 2007 and the peer reviewed body of scientific published studies since 1824.

  21. 371
    ccpo says:

    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.

    Comment by noel — 16 February 2010 @ 9:35 AM

    Who are you reading, Winnie the Pooh? Try Shale is not now, and never will be, your savior. Just shifting infrastructure alone is a humongous issue.

    Wake up. Let the info inform your position, not the other way around.

  22. 372

    Ooops, for 1824 Fourier wrote in the peer-reviewed Annales de chimie et de physique on the Earth’s energy imbalance- “Remarques Générales Sur Les Températures Du Globe Terrestre Et Des Espaces Planétaires”.

    It was in 1827, he reprinted his study in the peer-reviewed Mémoires de l’Académie Royale des Sciences called “MEMOIRE sur les temperatures du globe terrestre et des espaces planetaires.”

  23. 373

    skwiseelf: 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, as you are still doing, are proud of doing, attacks based entirely on your moral presumption and assumption of factual invincibility, and then have the gall to complain about being the target of “ill-informed” and “malicious” personal attacks. Having the shoe on the other foot is never a fun exercise.

    BPL: My experience has been that deniers like you are pretty much uniformly A) ignorant and B) malicious. You know nothing about climatology and refuse to learn. Yet you are constantly telling people who devoted their lives to this science that they’re doing everything wrong. Then there are the constant attacks on climate scientists, and when I say attacks, I don’t just mean insults. I mean attempts to get people fired, indicted, arrested, or even killed. Want a list?

    As a guy with a science degree myself (physics), I am reluctant to accept moral correction from a guy who refers to himself as a “wise elf.” I’m pretty sure there aren’t really any such things as elves. And, BTW, J.R.R. Tolkien was pretty concerned about protecting the environment, conservative though he was.

  24. 374

    AxelD: 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.)

    BPL: That’s because we believe that when it comes to the empirical world, some answers are RIGHT and some are WRONG. It may be bad manners to shout down someone who insists the Earth is flat, that geographers and astronomers don’t know what they’re doing, and that “rounders” are stifling dissent and lying to the public, but those who know better get tired of that kind of idiocy very quickly.

  25. 375

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

    BPL: Where and when was the crucial paper on this published, and by whom?

    Forty years ago it was 1970. My father, Dr. Myron Herbert Levenson, was chairman of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. I never heard him express any opinion to the effect that “objective knowledge production” was impossible, nor refer to such a view on the part of any of his colleagues.

    Are you perhaps mistaking postmodernist English professors and followers of Jacques Derrida for social scientists? Have you heard of the name Alan Sokal? Do you know why so many physical scientists think ideological objections to scientific findings are full of s**t?

  26. 376

    noel: I can’t really tell in an objective way which companies are “evil” and which are “good”.

    BPL: A good criterion might be how many people they’re willing to impoverish, enslave, or kill to increase their profits.

  27. 377
  28. 378

    Steve Boulding,

    Right on. We’re going down, but we’re going down fighting.

  29. 379
    Tim Jones says:

    Here’s the upshot of the emails/IPCC conspiracy to destroy climate scientists credibility. It all comes to a head in a concerted effort to force America’s EPA to reconsider its CO2 endangerment finding.

    Texas, skeptics seek court review of ‘endangerment’ finding (subscription)
    Robin Bravender, E&E reporter
    The state of Texas and a coalition of free-market and global warming skeptic groups are asking a federal appeals court today to review U.S. EPA’s finding that greenhouse gases threaten human health and welfare.

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) and Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples announced that the state is filing a petition with the U.S. Court of Appeals challenging EPA’s endangerment finding.

    “Texas is aggressively seeking its future in alternative energy through incentives and innovation, not mandates and overreaching regulation,” Perry said in a statement. “The EPA’s misguided plan paints a big target on the backs of Texas agriculture and energy producers and the hundreds of thousands of Texans they employ.”

    EPA’s endangerment determination, issued last December, opens the door for broad regulations aimed at curbing mobile and stationary sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Today marks the deadline for petitioners to challenge the finding in the appeals court.

    The legal challenge from Texas immediately drew the ire of state environmentalists.

    “The lawsuit filed by Governor Perry is asking the Environmental Protection Agency to ignore the Supreme Court’s decision in U.S. vs. Massachusetts,” Environmental Defense Fund Texas regional director Jim Marston said in a statement. “Their action invokes memories of a sad time in Texas history from the ’50s, when Texas politicians sought to nullify decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court. Not only is it legally unsound, it puts Texas on the side of the 1950s economy, against the clean energy economy of the future.”

    The state also filed a petition for reconsideration with EPA, asking Administrator Lisa Jackson to review her decision. The state argues that EPA’s finding is legally unsupported because it relies heavily on reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Since the comment period on the endangerment finding closed, “troubling revelations about the conduct, objectivity, reliability, and propriety of the IPCC’s processes, assessments, and contributors have become public,” the petition says.

    EPA yesterday said that the finding followed an exhaustive review of the peer-reviewed science and thousands of public comments submitted in an open and transparent process and expressed confidence that the finding would withstand legal challenge.

    A coalition of conservative think tanks and global warming skeptic groups will also petition the appeals court to review EPA’s finding, according to an attorney representing the groups.

    The free-market think tanks Competitive Enterprise Institute and FreedomWorks are joining the global warming skeptic organizations Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change and Science and Environmental Policy Project in asking the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to review EPA’s endangerment finding, CEI attorney Sam Kazman said.

    “Our focus is basically on the science,” Kazman said, adding that the coalition’s arguments to the court will be similar to those included in previous requests to EPA that the agency reconsider its finding.

    CEI has been a vocal foe of EPA’s endangerment finding since it was proposed last year, arguing that flawed scientific data were used to underpin the determination. The group has repeatedly accused the agency of failing to reconsider the finding in the wake of a controversy last year surrounding a series of e-mails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit.

    Some skeptics point to the e-mails as proof that researchers intentionally withheld climate data and sought to stifle competing theories, while most scientists insist that the content of the e-mails does not upend the scientific consensus that man-made emissions are causing climate change.

    Last week, CEI, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, and the Science and Environmental Policy Project petitioned EPA to reconsider its finding. Citing the stolen e-mails and more recent controversies surrounding reports from the IPCC, the groups argued that the IPCC’s data were based on politics rather than sound science
    (E&ENews PM, Feb. 12).

    Several other opponents of EPA climate rules have already filed petitions with the appeals court. Observers say the court will likely consolidate the petitions following today’s filing deadline
    (Greenwire, Feb. 15).

    Click here to read Texas’ petition to the appeals court.

    Click here to read Texas’ petition to EPA.

  30. 380
    jonesy says:

    Table 10.9 of WGII also has an error that should be acknowledged.

  31. 381
    AxelD says:

    Kind of you guys to so nicely confirm my points. Secular @347 still convinced it’s right-wing plots. And Ray @353 still pointing to his “mountains of evidence”.

    I’ve given up trying show why all your carefully marshalled papers are irrelevant without the right communication. But here’s one last idea that may help.

    I do actually understand the evidence (I’ve a decent degree in physics and experience in computer modelling) but, more importantly, I’ve spent a lot of time in high technology marketing. And I fully understand the tolerance of even well-educated technical people for “mountains of evidence.” You have a few seconds to catch people’s attention, and then you need a well-crafted message to lodge in their minds. You have a few minutes at the most. Well-crafted messages (ideas) will all go to build up a positive brand image.

    The brand image of climate science is badly damaged. That’s indisputable – many high profile AGW advocates are saying it, even if they don’t use marketing language. You had a fairly positive brand image, with 15+ years in the making. And it’s been virtually destroyed in a couple of months. But that’s the thing with reputations – take ages to build up, can be destroyed in an instant. Look at what’s just happened to Toyota. It’ll cost billions just to be able to start rebuilding their brand. Similarly, Perrier water had to spend a fortune (recalled every bottle in the world) trying to rebuild its brand after contamination stories.

    That’s the nature of brand damage. It costs a lot to repair, and you’re not (or your lords and masters are not) prepared to pay the price. Toyota delayed, and made the problem much much worse. I can see the same thing happening here.

    You won’t like what I’m saying, because I’m not talking the only language you’re comfortable with – data, graphs, references. But that makes you the odd ones, not me. Sure, I’ll be in line for the usual barrage of insults du jour. But that’s OK. Just think about what I’ve said – here, and in earlier posts – no matter how unpleasant. In your hearts, you know that much (perhaps not every word – I’m not a climate scientist!) is true.

    Amazingly, something that SecularAnimist said is relevant – “So why don’t you just give up and go away? Please?” He’s right, I’m taking you outside your comfort zones, and that’s hard for some. But I’m wasting my time here anyway, when “there’s none so blind as those who will not see.”

  32. 382
    Completely Fed Up says:

    fixable (#364), I’m getting flashbacks to Calvin and Hobbes. The one where Calvin is writing his school report:

    The dynamics of interbeing and monological imperatives in Dick and Jane: A study in psychic transrelational gender modes.

    His “paper” reads like that.

    At least Calvin knew what he was doing:

    “I realised that the purpose of writing is to inflate weak ideas, obscure reasoning and inhibit clarity.

    With a little practice, writing can be an indimidating and impenetrable fog!”

    Could this dude not have found any easier paper to write?

  33. 383
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Axel “I’ve given up trying show why all your carefully marshalled papers are irrelevant without the right communication.”

    … because I can’t think of one that works …

    !He’s right, I’m taking you outside your comfort zones, and that’s hard for some”

    I feel another rendition of “Brave Sir Robin” coming on:

    Brave Sir Robin ran away – No!
    Bravely ran away, away – I didn’t!
    When danger reared its ugly head
    He bravely turned his tail and fled – No!
    Yes, brave Sir Robin turned about
    And gallantly he chickened out
    Bravely taking to his feet
    He beat a very brave retreat
    Bravest of the brave, Sir Robin

    Axle, we’re uncomfortable with bollocks. And you’ve shown plenty.

    “And I fully understand the tolerance of even well-educated technical people for “mountains of evidence.””

    See, has anyone recently heard Sarah Palin or her supporters about why this nimrod would make a good president for the US: She’s as dumb as the american people who support her. She even admits it. She’s against the “elite”. I.e. those who think and expect you to think too. She can do the right thing just by being a good person.

    Axle is her target demographic.

    Ignorant and proud of it! So proud in fact, that he hates having anything explained.

    Rather like ratbert:

    Ratbert: I’m happier than you because I’m ignorant and ignorance is… uh …
    Dilbert: Bliss
    Ratbert: Oh, great. Now you’ve ruined it.

  34. 384
    Completely Fed Up says:

    jonesy says:
    16 February 2010 at 3:00 PM

    Table 10.9 of WGII also has an error that should be acknowledged.”

    Name ONE ERROR on that table, jonesy.

    Just one.

  35. 385
    Completely Fed Up says:

    skwiseelf: “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…”

    How can you denigrate something that doesn’t exist?

  36. 386
    Arrogance says:

    “It may be bad manners to shout down someone who insists the Earth is flat, that geographers and astronomers don’t know what they’re doing, and that “rounders” are stifling dissent and lying to the public, but those who know better get tired of that kind of idiocy very quickly”.

    Exactly why do you have the higher moral ground here?
    Because AGW zealots have been caught exaggerating stuff over and over again? Same scientist were talking about snowball earth a few decades ago. If you think the science is settled – welcome to the world of more people disbelieving your arrogance. I find it ridiculous that AGW is making man the center of the argument, while Sun is obviously – OBVIOUSLY – one of the main reasons behind climate fluctuations. That is your flat earth argument.

  37. 387
    jonesy says:

    Re: #384 Completely Fed Up said: “Name ONE ERROR on that table, jonesy.”

    The rate for the Pindari Glacier is wrong. It’s a simple math error that the IPCC copied from another source. The IPCC report copied it from the same article that led to the other more popularly cited error. A detailed history of the origin of the Himalayan glacier error is decribed here,
    The Yale Forum on Climate Change » Anatomy of IPCC’s Mistakeon Himalayan Glaciers and Year 2035

    That article was previously linked in this thread.

  38. 388
    Pat Cassen says:

    OK, Axe (#381), you “understand the evidence” and have “spent a lot of time in high technology marketing”. Sounds like the start of a resume. You want a job? Give us a sample of how you would start repairing the brand image. Say, an op-ed in the Washington Post, or a letter to the NY Times, or whatever you think works.

    If we like it, we can use it. If we don’t, you use it. So quit complaining and get to work.

  39. 389
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Ho-hum, still the sound of crickets emanating from Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. with regard to his charge of financial misconduct by Pachauri.

    This can be cleared up with a timeline. Since Dr. Pielke is apparently too busy to follow up his speculation with sound science, let me help him begin.

    Here’s a key claim by Dr. Pielke:

    3. Following the publication of the IPCC report, and the widespread media coverage of the false claim about Himalayan glaciers, Dr. Hasnain joins TERI as a Senior Fellow, where Dr. Pachauri is the director.

    That’s not correct. Here’s some chronological data that is more accurate:

    — Dr. Hasnain joined TERI long before the Himalayan problem became the subject of popular media coverage, in 2008.

    — The first “widespread” media mention of the Himalayan business appears around December 5, 2009.

    — Extensive media coverage of the Himalayan fiasco increased over the next few weeks, peaking in the middle of January.

    — The announcement of the Iceland/Ohio/TERI collaboration was staged in New Delhi, on January 15, and included an appearance by the President of Iceland, a contingent of academics flown in from Ohio plus of course a TERI contingent.

    Letting aside the inaccuracy of Dr. Pielke’s claim with regard to Dr. Hasnain’s joining with TERI, it is hardly likely the New Delhi event was the result of a negotiation process beginning in late November of 2009.

    But perhaps Dr. Pielke has a detailed chronology of the TERI/Iceland/Ohio negotiation process that is more accurate than his statement regarding Dr. Hasnain’s recruitment to TERI.

  40. 390
    Andreas Bjurström says:

    @359 db11,

    I believe that science is self-correcting to some degree, yet lots of wishful thinking in this (Adam Smith, enlighment, liberal discource). What happens, especially over a couple of decades, is that cultures of like-minded individuals creates cultures with like causal beliefs and values, with intense internal communication, internal peer review, etc.
    This blog is a good example of this.

  41. 391
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “Exactly why do you have the higher moral ground here?”

    He has the ***intellectual*** high ground.

    When someone complains about their being treated like a simpleton, when they are ACTING like one, why is there a moral dimension?

    Is there a moral dimension to how you slice your bagel?

    Or do you slice it so as best to make it easy to handle without being flimsy, and let the “moral” dimension go hang?

    PS your handle is very apposite. I suspect you expected it to refer to *others* though, not yourself).

  42. 392
    Doug Bostrom says:

    Tim Jones says: 16 February 2010 at 2:35 PM

    “Here’s the upshot of the emails/IPCC conspiracy to destroy climate scientists credibility. It all comes to a head in a concerted effort to force America’s EPA to reconsider its CO2 endangerment finding.”

    It’s all about whether C02 is or is not a pollutant. If fossil fuel interests lose this battle, it’s a huge defeat for them, they could lose the war.

    That’s why we’re seeing websites extolling the virtues of C02. The flacks have to get this right or they’re probably doomed.

    Of course C02 is a pollutant, if released in excessive amounts. C0 is also a natural constituent of the atmosphere but we’ve bent over backwards engineering vehicles to reduce emissions of C0, because releasing too much of it is polluting. Duh.

    Check the dictionary for definitions of “pollutant”.

  43. 393
    Completely Fed Up says:

    “I find it ridiculous that AGW is making man the center of the argument, while Sun is obviously – OBVIOUSLY ”

    Why obviously – OBVIOUSLY


    It hasn’t changed output in line with temperatures. It is a cooler sun now than it’s been since we’ve had satellites measuring the total solar output at earth radius.

    Yet it’s still the warmest decade.

    Isn’t it far more obvious that it CANNOT be the sun?

  44. 394
    Dan says:

    re: 386. Wow, what absolute rubbish. Please cite *one* “same scientist were talking about snowball earth a few decades ago” (sic). Just one climate scientist! If you did any research at all instead of regurgitated what someone told you to think or say, you would know that decades ago, climate science was in its relative infancy with regards to models. And that we are talking about the contribution from anthropogenic greenhouse gases since the 1970s (four decades ago).

    The scientific debate is long over. It has been held through scientific research and peer-review through peer-reviewed journals and conferences. As is all science. Always has been ,always will be. It’s called the “scientific method”. You should have learned about it in high school science classes. The idea that you know something that literally thousands of peer-reviewed climate scientists around the world do not is the absolute height of arrogance. Every major climate science professional society around the globe agrees about the fact that global warming since the 1970s can not be explained solely by natural sources. It is only when man-made sources of GHGs are considered that the warming since the 1970s can be explained.

    There is no excuse for being so anti-science when the data are easily accessible through links provided here. And there is no excuse for your not even trying to learn. None.

    And “morals” are not the issue here. Science is. Learn about it.

  45. 395
    Tim Jones says:

    Re: 364 Completely Fed Up says: 16 February 2010

    “Permian/Eocene Thermal Maximum (if I’m remembering this right).”

    Three out four anyway. Try Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM).

    Re: 348 Leo G says: 16 February 2010 at 10:52 AM

    Yes, Google PETM Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum

    But the Permian/Triassic extinction probably involved greenhouse gas factors as well.

    Climate Model Links Higher Temperatures to Prehistoric Extinction

  46. 396
    Didactylos says:

    Arrogance: you are misinformed. Very, very misinformed. Start from the beginning, and find out what the scientists actually say.

  47. 397
    David B. Benson says:

    Arrogance (386) — Snowball earth happened a long time ago:
    and there are open questions which remain to this day.

    And while it might appear that variations in solar intensity should be important, careful attention to the physical evidence shows that it is of minor importance; anthropogenic carbon dioxide, methane, etc. is of major importance. Please do read “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:

  48. 398
    Ammonite says:

    Hello Arrogance (#386). Does it strike you as a little odd that thousands of scientists devoting their lives to study, data collection, research paper generation and discussion of ideas amongst themselves for decade after decade have not considered the role of the sun and its influence on climate? Please search RC for entries on the sun and also orbital forcing and its relationship to ice ages. It should provide fascinating reading…

  49. 399
    Tim Jones says:

    Re:386 Arrogance says: 16 February 2010 at 4:13 PM

    “Exactly why do you have the higher moral ground here?

    Exactly because a growing component of what’s called the 6th extinction is climate change. Climate scientists are bending over backwards to keep the world habitable for you, your children and the rest of biodiversity while you’re wasting everyone’s time trotting out of zombie arguments like “scientists fooled us before” (they didn’t) to fool people into complacency.

    But please do as David Benson and others have suggested. There’s plenty of room on the high ground.

  50. 400
    Completely Fed Up says:

    Andreas Bjurström says:
    16 February 2010 at 4:48 PM

    This blog is a good example of this.”

    Indeed it is. A lot of unsupported rhetoric all feeding off each other coming from, for example, Axle, Walt, Arrogant et al.

    All parroting Hannity messages, Limbaugh accusations and Beckian slanders.

    There have been a few good examples of cliques here.

    And you’re one of them.