April 21, 2010

Earth Day 40

Filed under: Climate History

Commentary by Dr. Patrick J. Michaels

Isn’t it fitting that Earth Day, April 22, comes a mere week after the government rakes in all your money? That’s especially true this year, as Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) is readying a bipartisan effort to pick your pocket with a new energy tax to fight dreaded global warming.

In the last year we have seen Climategate, Copenhagen, EPA’s finding that carbon dioxide endangers human health and welfare, and the improbably large number of errors and gaffs found in the latest report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Climategate clearly shows a pervasive attempt to paint, in the words of one of its tree ring experts, Keith Briffa, a “nice, tidy story” about global warming. In the same emails, Phil Jones, Briffa’s boss, wishes for global warming to resume so that he can be proven right. Some objectivity.

But, for all the claims of bias, no one has quantitatively analyzed recent news. In particular, this applies to the errors and misstatements recently uncovered in the last compendium of the IPCC. Is there indeed a pervasive pattern of bias in the organization that claims to represent “the consensus of scientists”? This is certainly comprised of a much larger set of individuals than were found in Climategate.

IPCC divides its reports into products of three “working groups”: Climate science (WG1), effects of climate change (WG2) and mitigation and adaptation to climate change (WG3).

The Lead Author of the WG2 report is Martin Parry, an experienced climatologist, was paid over $500,000 by the British government for his services, not counting other payments to Martin Parry Associates, his consulting firm.

IPCC further divides its reports into topical chapters, such as one on the impacts of climate change on continental areas such as Asia. The lead author on that one was Dr Murari Lal, chairman of the Climate, Energy and Sustainable Analysis Center in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India.

His chapter contained the following statement on the enormous glaciers of the Himalayan Mountains and Plateau: “The likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate.”

The depth of the glacier complex there is up to several hundred feet. IPCC’s supporters first tried to convince everyone that this was a simple typo and that it meant “2305.” In fact, it meant “2035.”

The figure came from a non-refereed (grey literature) document from the World Wildlife Fund, hardly a disinterested party. They cited a non-refereed news article in the very lefty science periodical New Scientist (for comparative purpose the same political niche is occupied here in the U.S. by the popular Science News), which itself cited a non-refereed article by a Dr. Syed Hasnian, from the “Working Group on Himalayan Glaciology.”

So Dr. Lal eventually fessed up, telling the London Sunday Mail on January 24, 2010, that “We knew the WWF report with the 2035 date was from the ‘grey literature’”, but that “We thought that if we can highlight it, it will impact policy-makers and politicians and encourage them to take concrete action.”

How many times has the IPCC Chair, Dr. Rajenda Pauchari told us that the IPCC only does pure science and no politics? Oh well, this is the guy whose own company, TERI, has received untold, very large amounts of money from the UN for “clean development” technology to stop—you guessed it—global warming.

A further question is how Martin Parry, the author of the overall WG2 report, could have possibly let the 2035 figure stand. There is simply no climate scientist on earth who believes the Himalayan glaciers could disappear in 25 years. One is left to conclude that, despite his compensation, he didn’t read it, or at least not closely enough to be gaffed in the nose by the error.

The Synthesis Report of the IPCC is supposed to summarize what is in all the Working Group compendia. On Page 52, it says, concerning African agriculture, “By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.”

Again, a grey literature citation (although a statement often made in public by Pauchari). This paper came from a document from the “Climate Change Knowledge Network.” In contrast, Parry’s own work, paid for by an additional $125,000 from the British government, showed that, a “worst case” scenario was a reduction of “up to 30%” in yields in seventy years (as opposed to 50% in ten).

On Page 547 of the WG2 report we read that the Netherlands are very vulnerable to global warming because 55% of it is below sea level. The grey-literature source for this one is excusable, I guess, because it’s the Netherlands government. The correct figure is 26%.

Then there’s another citation from WWF, stating that “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation.” Two years before this was published, the Amazon experienced one of its driest years in recorded history. Satellites could find little, if any, negative effects on the forest.

Finally, there’s the story of the ice extent in the Southern Hemisphere, which the IPCC repeatedly says shows no statistically significant changes.

Satellites have been monitoring Southern Hemisphere ice extent for more than three decades. The data can be found at the University of Illinois website Cryosphere Today. There is clearly a significant increase in ice extent, significant with a probability by chance of less than one in 10,000. IPCC’s citation for nonsignificance? An unrefereed book chapter by one of the authors of the chapter on global ice. On the other hand, you’ll find several articles in the refereed literature documenting the significant increase.

Seen any news reports about IPCC understating the effects of climate change using grey-literature citations? Don’t think the other side hasn’t been looking, because what has happened is an embarrassment, and a significant one.

I mean “significant”, too. There are at least five errors, all in the same direction. That’s like flipping a coin five times and getting all heads or tails. The chance of this occurring is 0.03, well within the 0.05 boundary used by scientists to determine a significant relationship.

Well, there you have it. The IPCC’s scientists are biased in favor of exaggeration. The public clearly gets this. So, Senator Graham, are you listening?

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