Some of us have been waiting quite a while now, especially since the ‘road tour’ meant to present the Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation starting in Oslo on January 24th this year. The summary for policymakers (SPM) was released already in 18 November 2011 (Kampala) and now the report is finally available (link).
People may have been a little annoyed that references last January were made to a report that was not yet available, and I hope that next time, the IPCC releases the SPM together with the main report. This is apparently a common way of doing things at the IPCC/UN/UNEP level, and I think the common opinion in the science community is that we wish they wouldn’t do it that way.
Perhaps this order of releasing the report was the reason for some disappointing comments I overheard from the people responsible for the ‘road tour’ about a lack of media interest (why would media they come when the big points already were old news?). However, I guess that may not have been a bad thing, since one could get the impression of lacking coordination between different presenters, as some slides were presented several times (which some people may find a bit annoying), perhaps giving a wrong impression of a limited range of new results.
I think the SREX report really provides a useful overview of the state of our knowledge about climate extremes. I’m also sure that a many scholars will scrutinize the report and check its account of all various aspects about extreme events and severe consequences. I already wrote my first comment about the storms when the summary for policy-makers came out.
My first response to the released main report was to turn the pages of the report to topics for which I have particular interests. We have already written several posts here on RealCimate about the type of information we can glean from the statistics of record-breaking events (for instance here, here, and here), and I wonder whether this notion seems to be a bit difficult to grasp for some scholars (here and here). It is a new way of looking at the data, and I notice that even the SRES report (p. 125) makes a statement that puzzles me:
One approach is to count the number of record-breaking events in a variable and to examine such a count for any trend. However, one would still face the problem of what to do if, for instance, hot extremes are setting new records, while cold extremes are not occurring as frequently as in the past. In such a case, counting the number of records might not indicate whether the climate was becoming more or less extreme, rather just whether there was a shift in the mean climate.
I think that this passage reveals a misunderstanding about the use of the record-breaking statistics, and how the number of records can be used to see whether the extreme tails of a statistical distribution is stretched over time. We can rephrase this as testing whether the data are independent and identically distributed (IID), or apply what we call an ‘IID-test’ (link to the Benestad_2008EO410002; an R-package for iid-tests are available here).
Hopefully, this way of looking at extremes will be more appreciated in the upcoming AR5 report.
39 Responses to "The IPCC SREX: the report is finally out."
Edward Greisch says
“why media they come”
Grammar check please.
Pielke, Jr. has already created his “bullshit” button for anyone saying the report be used to attribute the costs of losses (to date) from loaded rolls of the weather dice thanks to climate change.
Seems that if we know in the future that AGW will cause climate extremes that you darn well know will be costly (and the SREX is pretty clear on that), it’s pretty reasonable to attribute at least qualitatively some prior losses from weather extremes to AGW (at least as far back as the AGW signal is identifiable).
Yes – ask him to show his equations and data. -rasmus
Interesting…. you might want to correct a couple of typos in third para (starting “Perhaps…”):
and unless you’re mixing a little Native American syntax into your writing, the question in brackets could be reformatted:
“(why media they come when the big points already were old news?”)
Kevin McKinney says
Thanks! A couple of typos you may want to fix:
“scrubtinize” the report for “scrutinize”
“why media they come” should be “why would the media come”
(Feel free to delete this comment if you prefer.)
I agree, FWIW, that this prolonged release of information is less than optimal.
thanks – rasmus
I am concerned about the blog whats up with that, why is this issue (climate change) such a controversy to them and others?
You should ask him. -rasmus
Jack Maloney says
“There is medium evidence and high agreement that long-term trends in normalized losses have not been attributed to natural or anthropogenic climate change… The statement about the absence of trends in impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change holds for tropical and extratropical storms and tornados… The absence of an attributable climate change signal in losses also holds for flood losses.” –IPCC Special Report on Extremes, Chapter 4
The IPCC is to be congratulated for remarkable clarity in this case!
John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) says
Yea, the SREX Report is here!!! Chris Field sent me a link just yesterday on this. In addition to better context on extremes AR5 will also have additional focus on general and specific security issues.
John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) says
Be easy on Rasmus, he’s a viking and if he did this article in Norse, you would be missing a good post.
And don’t upset the viking, please :)
It’s OK – I’ve got a thick skin;-)
Heins Brull says
“Some authors suggest that a (natural or anthropogenic) climate change signal can be found in the records of disaster losses (e.g., Mills, 2005; Höppe and Grimm, 2009), but their work is in the nature of reviews and commentary rather than empirical research.”
The problems the IPCC has with communicating to the public continue…
It’s called IPCC SREX??? SREX??? Really?? How on earth did that get through?? I know extreme events are a hot topic, but surely this was a mistake…
Dan H. says
I think that the highlighted paragraph is quite clear; a change in the mean will produce more record breaking events. Statistically, this is quite true. If a similar mean is employed, then the increase in 2-sigma events on the one tail will exceed the decrease in 2-sigma events on the opposing tail. Adjusting the mean to reflect the change, will determine if extreme events are occurring more abundantly.
[Response: Oh please. – gavin]
Jan Galkowski says
Extremes are extremes. As Trenberth has recently noted (http://www.cgd.ucar.edu/cas/Trenberth/trenberth.papers/WIREspaper-mockup-2.pdf), given the geophysics, and that observational data cannot be explained without using anthropogenic GHG emissions, the alternative hypothesis ought to be that there is “new physics” at work which prevents the slow cooling otherwise. Counts of “extreme events per interval” are difficult to compare. Try comparing the mathematically related “interarrival time between extreme events”, governed by an Exponential distribution. The null is that the interarrival time is decreasing monotonically, perhaps linearly, perhaps superlinearly. The alternative is that it is increasing.
To take another approach, and casting the problem as a Generalized Linear Model (GLM), assume a prior that has mass on a theoretically derived rate of decrease in interarrival times. Then use observations through a Likelihood Function to generate a posterior, and see where the most probable rates are.
Pekka Kostamo says
#6 Jack: Here we go again. Parsing sentences from here and there, and you can “prove” anything you want. It is a big volume with many sentences.
There is no end and no sense in these kinds of discussions.
Higher temperature means more heat energy moved around in the atmospheric process. More energy means stronger extremes as the process stays the same. Details they (our grandchildren, yours and mine) shall know with high confidence in a hundred years.
In the meantime, there is no reason to believe that more energy in the process means no change or less variability and extremes.
Just to add to this point, I like to stress that scientific debates should avoid becoming dogmatic, and that phrases must be placed in the right context. The whole point is to try to get as close to the truths as possible, not to advocate for a certain position. -rasmus
dennis baker says
The extreme risk is that you fail to address the primary issue that now presents the necessity of adaption!
Adaptation in my mind means adapting infrastructural services to a new energy source to replace the fossil fuel powered electrical generating facilities.
Floyd Earl Smith says
It’s interesting, and a little sad, that the well-attested long-term trends get so little attention for the overall problems of climate change; yet extreme weather, which this report wants to delink from climate change, gets so much.
Kevin McKinney says
“…extreme weather, which this report wants to delink from climate change…”
Huh? That’s not what I get from the report. It’s 500-whatever pages exploring precisely the linkages between these two things; just its existence by itself is a pretty impressive testament to how seriously those linkages are taken. (Especially since the authors aren’t paid for the work!) And there are a great many statements explicitly describing linkages (not surprisingly.) For a more-or-less random example, on p. 235 we find that:
If you’re referring to the sentence quoted above in #6, then let me remind you that’s a high-order consequence, with *lots* of intervening variables between climate change and normalized economic loss.
“Yes – ask him to show his equations and data. -rasmus”
I did on Twitter. Will see if he responds, but seems pretty clear to me he was misrepresenting SREX. Seems to me that if there’s a high degree of certainty about loaded rolls of the Wx dice into the future, you can’t dismiss out of hand, as he has, that said loaded rolls of the dice have been at least a qualitative factor in prior Wx extremes since the AGW signal appeared.
Aaron Lewis says
The composition of the atmosphere affects the weather. All of the weather, all the time.
We have changed the composition of the atmosphere. We are affecting the weather, all of the weather, all the time. And, this goes back as far as people have been significantly affecting the atmosphere. By 1970, there was a clear signature of anthropogenic carbon in the atmosphere. That means some fraction of the energy for the 1974 Super Outbreak of Tornadoes came from AGW.
Honestly, would that outbreak have occurred if the atmospheric concentration had been at preindustrial levels for the decade 1964 to 1973? If the atmospheric carbon had been at preindustrial levels, there would have been less energy available to generate and drive those storms. Without the energy collected by anthropogenic CO2, the storms would have been different.
Thanks Aaron for a more elegant wording of what I was fumbling about trying to say.
Walter Pearce says
Thank you for that, Aaron Lewis. I’ve often wondered why that link between changing the atmosphere’s composition and therefore its properties isn’t made more often and more explicitly to lay audiences. After all, the principle is one we witness and indeed employ on a daily basis, if only to sweeten our coffee or tea.
True skepticism would invoke this principle to ask why changing the atmosphere’s composition wouldn’t change its properties.
Paul S says
Aaron Lewis – As you say, we’ve altered important factors involved in the climate / weather system. Therefore we can be virtually certain this tornado outbreak wouldn’t have occurred exactly as it did if humans hadn’t been around.
However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a similar event wouldn’t have happened at a different time or in a different location. It’s not a simple or obvious thing to suggest that x number of tornadoes extra were caused by human industrial emissions. It’s possible even that this outbreak would have been more extreme had our emissions not been there to damp it somehow (possible a priori, I don’t know anything about this event other than what you’ve said).
Also note that carbon is not the only player here. It’s possible that sulphate aerosols may have been more important, in terms of industrial climate influence, at that time over the US.
Aaron Lewis wrote: “We have changed the composition of the atmosphere. We are affecting the weather, all of the weather, all the time.”
Exactly. We now live on an anthropogenically warmed planet. There is no longer any such thing on Earth as weather that is unaffected by anthropogenic global warming.
So the weather is changing as a result of AGW, now.
And after 30 years or so of changing weather, scientists will be able to look at the records and say, “Oh, look. It’s climate change.”
Will this report be incorporated into the WG1 report? I ask because I wonder if the new research by Trenbeth and others on extremes would be included.
Jack Maloney says
#12: ”#6 Jack: Here we go again. Parsing sentences from here and there, and you can “prove” anything you want. It is a big volume with many sentences. There is no end and no sense in these kinds of discussions.” Comment by Pekka Kostamo
My quotations from SREX aren’t “parsed from here and there”, but clearly related statements regarding the absence of trends in storm, tornado and flood impacts attributable to natural or anthropogenic climate change. I highlight them not to “prove” anything, but simply to inform people who continue to claim otherwise.
“…phrases must be placed in the right context. The whole point is to try to get as close to the truths as possible, not to advocate for a certain position. -rasmus
When denial isn’t possible, “context” is often a defense – especially in forums where brevity makes context difficult. But if you insist on more context, try this:
Most studies of long-term disaster loss records attribute these increases in losses to increasing
exposure of people and assets in at-risk areas (Miller et al., 2008; Bouwer, 2011), and to underlying societal trends – demographic, economic, political, and social – that shape vulnerability to impacts (Pielke Jr. et al., 2005; Bouwer et al., 2007). Some authors suggest that a (natural or anthropogenic) climate change signal can be found in the records of disaster losses (e.g., Mills, 2005; Höppe and Grimm, 2009), but their work is in the nature of reviews and commentary rather than empirical research.
[Response: No-one here is discussing ‘disaster-loss records’, so I’m not sure of the relevance of your quote. Please stick to the topic at hand. – gavin]
Roger Pielke Jr’s response to Rasmus’ suggestion he show his work on Twitter:
Thanks for your interest in my work, all data and equations found here: http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/publications/
Am I correct in assuming this is me being told to go fornicate myself?
Lynn Vincentnathan says
Here’s what my blogging sparring opponent had to say about the report:
This is the same blogger who thinks CO2 lasts shorter in the atmosphere than CH4, bec it is heavier (I tried to explain is was bec CH4 degrades faster), to which David Archer asked of me, “You are spending time reading this person’s wisdom, why?” But I also just googled those quotes and turned up every denialist site imaginable….so they’re making the rounds.
So I’m terribly sorry for what this person says, but I just thought you all should know what the denialists are saying.
Lynn Vincentnathan says
RE #25, I read those quotes in context and came up with my own response:
Toby Thaler says
This is a great set of posts, thank you very much.
Aaron Lewis (#18) is most eloquent; change is well upon us.
Roddy Campbell says
RPJr has posted this comment on his SREX blog post, can you comment?
‘RealClimate is up to their old tricks in disallowing me from commenting at their site, when I simply submitted a comment pointing to my papers. ;-) ‘
Was his comment Off Topic, hence the snip?
Your reCaptcha is really hard btw.
[Response: No idea what he is talking about. I can see no trace of any comment he has left. And for reference, RP Jr has numerous comments on this blog – many of which have been tendentious in the extreme – but very few of which have ever been snipped. But misrepresenting the state of affairs is very much one of his ‘old tricks’. – gavin]
Mike Roddy says
Slightly OT, but the weakest part of IPCC reports has always been forestry. Conferences are imbedded with industry shills, and timber exporters like Canada keep “recalculating” logging emissions to make them look better, while the US won’t even release them. Country forestry conference reports are often contentious and compromised, as exporters seek rule changes, such as HWP sequestration allowances.
By comparison, behavior of the atmposphere is straightforward. The response of biological systems to global warming is almost infinitely complex, and not hard to spin.
The terrestrial carbon cycle is in the hundreds of millions of tons of CO2 per year. Ratios are being altered, as forest mortality is on a steep uptick, something not well reflected in IPCC. And it’s easier to focus on fossil fuel smokestacks than figuring out how to manage global forests.
I hope RC tries to encourage our best carbon forestry people to work on IPCC. They have not been invited, where industry foresters have time (and money) on their hands. This is a critical shortcoming of climate science that needs to be addressed.
Hank Roberts says
Lynn, Gavin, do a web search for some of the stuff being posted; it’s not just single cases of confused individuals posting their own word salad. It’s professional grade PR at work, I think.
That single property loss quote RPJr began passing around shows up hundreds of times, within 24 hours. That’s not because hundreds of people happen to have read 500 pages, understood it well, and picked the same bit to blog about. It’s to shout down any discussion of the actual content.
That’s why it’s filling up blog threads and news stories. It’s being forced.
Look how it spreads: https://encrypted.google.com/search?q=Pielke%2B%22long-term%2Btrends%22%2B%22normalized%2Blosses%22+%22attributed%22+%22natural%22+%22anthropogenic%22+%22climate%2Bchange%22
I keep hoping some communications researcher is watching how these chunks spread.
Lynn Vincentnathan says:
30 Mar 2012 at 11:44 PM
Here is projection of the Atlantic hurricanes probability for the next decade:
it is above normal but no apparent excessive increase on the previous decade.
Unfortunately, observational data do not appear to support this hypothesis.
The hottest planet in the solar system – Venus – with an average temperature of 737ºK has a diurnal temperature range of close to zero, and wind speeds of only 0.3-1.0 m/s.
On the other hand, the coldest planet in the solar system – Neptune – has an average temperature of 72ºK, and the strongest wind speeds in the solar system, ranging from 0-580 m/s.
As any meteorologist will tell you, the weather and its extremes are not driven by temperature, but temperature gradient.
Sources (NASA) here and here
[Response: I’m not sure this general statement can be supported either though. Hurricanes intensity for instance is not driven by temperature gradients. Nor are droughts. More generally, it underlies the point that all extremes are different and that attribution of changes in extremes needs to proceed on a case by case basis. – gavin]
Hank Roberts says
You call _that_ a disaster?
_This_ is a disaster.
“… as the anthropogenic CO2 signal penetrates into ocean interior, the saturation state of carbonate minerals will drop drastically – with undersaturation extending from the ocean floor up to 100–150 m depth in the next century. This will induce massive dissolution of CaCO3 in the water column as well as the sediment, … we project detectable dissolution-driven changes only by the year 2070 in the surface ocean and after 2230 and 2500 in the deep Atlantic and Pacific respectively. We show that different model assumptions regarding dissolution and calcification rates have little impact on future projections. Instead, anthropogenic CO2 emissions overwhelmingly control the degree of perturbation in ocean chemistry….”
Ilyina and Zeebe, GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH LETTERS, VOL. 39, L06606, 6 PP., 2012
Roddy Campbell says
Thanks re 29.
I’m not so sure about your assertion that hurricane intensity is not driven by temperature gradient (warm tropical ocean; cool overlying air), nor about droughts. The main reason for meteorological drought is the diversion of “normal” weather systems by jet streams, which of course are driven by temperature gradients.But I’m glad to see that you acknowledge that there are factors other than increased temperature which could be responsible for these extremes.
Timothy Chase says
Hank wrote, “That single property loss quote RPJr began passing around shows up hundreds of times, within 24 hours.”
Hank, I clicked the link to the Google search you provided, then I did search tools (on the left of the results) and limited the search to the past week. Then I sorted by date.
From 4 days ago, I got:
Climate Conversation Group: Climate change frauds unacceptable (New Zealand)
Richard Treadgold, March 26, 2012
… but the bit that you quote is from a comment in the thread, with the comment by Richard C. dated March 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm.
The next earliest was from 3 days ago:
Roger Pielke Jr.: A Handy Bullshit Button on Disasters and Climate Change (1click indiatimes)
… but I believe the dating from that may be screwy due to its being a feed of sorts.
Roger Pielke Jr.: A Handy Bullshit Button on Disasters and Climate Change
Posted on March 29, 2012
At that point we are seeing it hit an xorte group, rr.com features, Australian Google group, and Jrs blogspot. But nothing else until two days ago.
Forced? In total there were 73 results from the past week. Not five hundred. Last 24 hours? The earliest was from March 29th, apparently.
I understand your frustration, and I don’t doubt that some of this is automated, e.g., syndicated, but I would hesitate to call it “professional grade,” that is, unless you are thinking of Junk Science as professional grade, which I might very well grant you. Other than that, all you need are a few ideologically-driven and therefore dedicated volunteers.
Hank Roberts says
Tim, you may well be right; I’m reacting to seeing the path Pielke–>Revkin–>many
This probably explains what’s going on from RP’s point of view anyhow:
Susan Anderson says
I ran across a suggestion that some parts of the IPCC report are being delayed and wondered if there have been any adjustments in the schedule, exploiting your vast tolerance – has anything changed?
A quick glance at these comments also finds the gem from Aaron Lewis and interesting exchange between Timothy Chase and Hank Roberts, for which I thank you both.
why in tunket is captcha showing a gamma?! What am I aupposed to put in there! (no don’t bother answering … am trying ‘y’ … doubt it does Greek)