Monday, February 01, 2010

Another IPCC meltdown: They based Alpine claims on a hearsay student dissertation and magazine article

The United Nations' expert panel on climate change based claims about ice disappearing from the world's mountain tops on a student's dissertation and an article in a mountaineering magazine. The revelation will cause fresh embarrassment for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which had to issue a humiliating apology earlier this month over inaccurate statements about global warming. The IPCC's remit is to provide an authoritative assessment of scientific evidence on climate change.

In its most recent report, it stated that observed reductions in mountain ice in the Andes, Alps and Africa was being caused by global warming, citing two papers as the source of the information. However, it can be revealed that one of the sources quoted was a feature article published in a popular magazine for climbers which was based on anecdotal evidence from mountaineers about the changes they were witnessing on the mountainsides around them. The other was a dissertation written by a geography student, studying for the equivalent of a master's degree, at the University of Berne in Switzerland that quoted interviews with mountain guides in the Alps.

The revelations, uncovered by The Sunday Telegraph, have raised fresh questions about the quality of the information contained in the report, which was published in 2007. It comes after officials for the panel were forced earlier this month to retract inaccurate claims in the IPCC's report about the melting of Himalayan glaciers. Sceptics have seized upon the mistakes to cast doubt over the validity of the IPCC and have called for the panel to be disbanded.

This week scientists from around the world leapt to the defence of the IPCC, insisting that despite the errors, which they describe as minor, the majority of the science presented in the IPCC report is sound and its conclusions are unaffected.

But some researchers have expressed exasperation at the IPCC's use of unsubstantiated claims and sources outside of the scientific literature. Professor Richard Tol, one of the report's authors who is based at the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin, Ireland, said: "These are essentially a collection of anecdotes. "Why did they do this? It is quite astounding. Although there have probably been no policy decisions made on the basis of this, it is illustrative of how sloppy Working Group Two (the panel of experts within the IPCC responsible for drawing up this section of the report) has been. "There is no way current climbers and mountain guides can give anecdotal evidence back to the 1900s, so what they claim is complete nonsense."

The IPCC report, which is published every six years, is used by government's worldwide to inform policy decisions that affect billions of people. The claims about disappearing mountain ice were contained within a table entitled "Selected observed effects due to changes in the cryosphere produced by warming". It states that reductions in mountain ice have been observed from the loss of ice climbs in the Andes, Alps and in Africa between 1900 and 2000. The report also states that the section is intended to "assess studies that have been published since the TAR (Third Assessment Report) of observed changes and their effects".

But neither the dissertation or the magazine article cited as sources for this information were ever subject to the rigorous scientific review process that research published in scientific journals must undergo. The magazine article, which was written by Mark Bowen, a climber and author of two books on climate change, appeared in Climbing magazine in 2002. It quoted anecdotal evidence from climbers of retreating glaciers and the loss of ice from climbs since the 1970s. Mr Bowen said: "I am surprised that they have cited an article from a climbing magazine, but there is no reason why anecdotal evidence from climbers should be disregarded as they are spending a great deal of time in places that other people rarely go and so notice the changes."

The dissertation paper, written by professional mountain guide and climate change campaigner Dario-Andri Schworer while he was studying for a geography degree, quotes observations from interviews with around 80 mountain guides in the Bernina region of the Swiss Alps. Experts claim that loss of ice climbs are a poor indicator of a reduction in mountain ice as climbers can knock ice down and damage ice falls with their axes and crampons.

The IPCC has faced growing criticism over the sources it used in its last report after it emerged the panel had used unsubstantiated figures on glacial melting in the Himalayas that were contained within a World Wildlife Fund (WWF) report. It can be revealed that the IPCC report made use of 16 non-peer reviewed WWF reports.

One claim, which stated that coral reefs near mangrove forests contained up to 25 times more fish numbers than those without mangroves nearby, quoted a feature article on the WWF website. In fact the data contained within the WWF article originated from a paper published in 2004 in the respected journal Nature. In another example a WWF paper on forest fires was used to illustrate the impact of reduced rainfall in the Amazon rainforest, but the data was from another Nature paper published in 1999. When The Sunday Telegraph contacted the lead scientists behind the two papers in Nature, they expressed surprise that their research was not cited directly but said the IPCC had accurately represented their work.

The chair of the IPCC Rajendra Pachauri has faced mounting pressure and calls for his resignation amid the growing controversy over the error on glacier melting and use of unreliable sources of information. A survey of 400 authors and contributors to the IPCC report showed, however, that the majority still support Mr Pachauri and the panel's vice chairs. They also insisted the overall findings of the report are robust despite the minor errors. But many expressed concern at the use of non-peer reviewed information in the reports and called for a tightening of the guidelines on how information can be used.

The Met Office, which has seven researchers who contributed to the report including Professor Martin Parry who was co-chair of the working group responsible for the part of the report that contained the glacier errors, said: "The IPCC should continue to ensure that its review process is as robust and transparent as possible, that it draws only from the peer-reviewed literature, and that uncertainties in the science and projections are clearly expressed."

Roger Sedjo, a senior research fellow at the US research organisation Resources for the Future who also contributed to the IPCC's latest report, added: "The IPCC is, unfortunately, a highly political organisation with most of the secretariat bordering on climate advocacy. "It needs to develop a more balanced and indeed scientifically sceptical behaviour pattern. The organisation tend to select the most negative studies ignoring more positive alternatives."

The IPCC failed to respond to questions about the inclusion of unreliable sources in its report but it has insisted over the past week that despite minor errors, the findings of the report are still robust and consistent with the underlying science.


Ten facts conveniently brushed over by the global warming fanatics

The following article appeared in a Left-leaning major Australian newspaper -- replying in part to some dishonest smears against Viscount Monckton elsewhere

1. The pin-up species of global warming, the polar bear, is increasing in number, not decreasing.

2. The US President, Barack Obama, supports building nuclear power plants. Last week, in his State of the Union address, he said: To create more of these clean energy jobs, we need more production, more efficiency, more incentives. And that means building a new generation of safe, clean nuclear power plants in this country.

3. The Copenhagen climate conference descended into farce. The low point of the gridlock and posturing at Copenhagen came with the appearance by the socialist dictator of Venezuela, President Hugo Chavez, whose anti-capitalist diatribe drew a cheering ovation from thousands of left-wing ideologues.

4. The reputation of the chief United Nations scientist on global warming is in disrepair. Dr Rajendra Pachauri, the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is being investigated for financial irregularities, conflicts of interest and scientific distortion. He has already admitted publishing false data.

5. The supposed scientific consensus of the IPCC has been challenged by numerous distinguished scientists.

6. The politicisation of science leads to a heavy price being paid in poor countries. After Western environmentalists succeeded in banning or suppressing the use of the pesticide DDT, the rate of death by malaria rose into the millions. Some scholars estimate the death toll at 20 million or more, most of them children.

7. The biofuels industry has exacerbated world hunger. Diverting huge amounts of grain crops (as distinct from sugar cane) to biofuels has contributed to a rise in world food prices, felt acutely in the poorest nations.

8. The Kyoto Protocol has proved meaningless. Global carbon emissions are significantly higher today than they were when the Kyoto Protocol was introduced.

9. The United Nations global carbon emissions reduction target is a massively costly mirage.

10. Kevin Rudd's political bluff on emissions trading has been exposed. The Prime Minister intimated he would go to the people in an early election if his carbon emissions trading legislation was rejected. He won't. The electorate has shifted.

None of these anti-commandments question the salient negative link between humanity and the environment: that we are an omnivorous, rapacious species which has done enormous damage to the world's environment. Nor do they question the warming of the planet.

What they do question is the morphing of science with ideology, the most pernicious byproduct of the global warming debate. All these anti-commandments were brought into focus this past week by the visit of the Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, better known as Lord Christopher Monckton, journalist by trade, mathematician by training, provocateur by inclination.

Last Wednesday a conference room at the Sheraton on the Park was filled to overflowing, all 800 seats sold with a standing-room only crowd at the back, to see the Sydney public appearance of Monckton, a former science adviser to Margaret Thatcher. At the end of his presentation he received a sustained standing ovation.

Monckton is the embodiment of English aristocratic eccentricity. His presentations are a combination of stand-up comedy, evangelical preaching and fierce debating. Almost every argument he makes can be contested, but given the enormity of the multi-trillion-dollars that governments expect taxpayers to expend on combating global warming, the process needs to be subject to brutal interrogation, scrutiny and scepticism. And Monckton was brutal, especially about the media, referring to all this bed-wetting stuff on the ABC and the BBC.

There has also been a monumental political failure surrounding the global warming debate. Those who would have to pay for most of the massive government expenditures proposed, the taxpayers of the West, are beginning to go into open revolt at the prospect.

Last week the Herald reported that Monckton told a large lie while in Sydney. On Tuesday it reported: He said with a straight face on the Alan Jones radio program that he had been awarded the Nobel, a claim Jones did not question. The Herald repeated the accusation on Thursday. It was repeated a third time in a commentary in Saturday's Herald.

In 2007 the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shared the Nobel Peace Prize with the former US vice-president Al Gore. The prize committee, in citing its selection of the IPCC, said: Through the IPCC … thousands of scientists and officials from over 100 countries have collaborated to achieve greater certainty as to the scale of [global] warming. Thousands of people were thus collectively and anonymously part of the prize process.

So what lie did Monckton tell about the prize? Despite the gravity of the accusation, the Herald never published the offending remark. Here, for the record, is what he actually said:

Monckton: I found out on the day of publication of the 2007 [IPCC report] that they'd multiplied, by 10, the observed contribution to sea-level rise of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheet. By 10! I got in touch with them and said, 'You will correct this.' And two days later, furtively, on the website, no publicity, they simply relabelled, recalculated and corrected the table they'd got wrong.

Alan Jones: But this report won a Nobel Prize!

Monckton: Yes. Exactly. And I am also a Nobel Prize winner because I made a correction. I'm part of the process that got the Nobel Prize. Do I deserve it? No. Do they deserve it? No. The thing is a joke.


IPCC ignored scientists in favour of Greenie hysterics

And the Greenie misrepresentation of the facts was deliberate too. They too knew what the science really showed

THE United Nations climate panel ignored warnings by leading scientists not to publish false claims that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035. One warning, in 2006, a year before the report was published, came from Georg Kaser, an Austrian glaciologist who was a lead author on another section of the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He said: “I sent warnings to the IPCC telling them the claim about Himalayan glaciers melting by 2035 was false.”

Another warning came from Gwyn Rees, a British hydrologist who oversaw a £300,000 study funded by the UK government in 2001 to assess the claims about rapid melt. His findings were published in 2004 — three years before the IPCC report — and also showed there was no risk of rapid melt. Rees said: “The sheer size and altitude of these glaciers made it highly unlikely they would melt by 2035.”

The new revelations follow a report in The Sunday Times this month which forced the IPCC to retract its claim that the glaciers in the Himalayas might be gone by 2035.

They raise more questions about why the IPCC ever took the claim seriously. It means the UN panel ignored scientific publications rejecting the rapid-melt theory in favour of claims that had been reported only in the non-scientific media and in a report by WWF, a conservation pressure group.

The saga began with Syed Hasnain, the Indian glaciologist who issued the first warnings about rapid glacier melt in media interviews in 1999. He now works for The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in Delhi, which is run by Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC. It was those claims that prompted Britain to fund the study by Rees — who recruited Hasnain to help lead it. Rees, a water resource scientist at the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, a government research centre, said Hasnain had signed up to the study’s conclusions. These stated that any suggestions the region’s glaciers might soon melt “would seem unfounded”.

Hasnain was also in the audience at a seminar sponsored by the EU in 2004 where Rees gave a presentation suggesting there would be some glacial melt, but nothing on the scale suggested by Hasnain. His closing slide read: “It is unlikely that all glaciers will vanish by 2035!”

That same audience also included representatives from WWF who were compiling their own report on glacier melt. Despite Rees’s warnings, they later decided to include Hasnain’s claims in their report, published in 2005, from where they were picked up by the IPCC.


IPCC outdid the Greenies in its extravagant and unfounded claims about the Amazon

A STARTLING report by the United Nations climate watchdog that global warming might wipe out 40% of the Amazon rainforest was based on an unsubstantiated claim by green campaigners who had little scientific expertise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in its 2007 benchmark report that even a slight change in rainfall could see swathes of the rainforest rapidly replaced by savanna grassland.

The source for its claim was a report from WWF, an environmental pressure group, which was authored by two green activists. They had based their “research” on a study published in Nature, the science journal, which did not assess rainfall but in fact looked at the impact on the forest of human activity such as logging and burning. This weekend WWF said it was launching an internal inquiry into the study.

This is the third time in as many weeks that serious doubts have been raised over the IPCC’s conclusions on climate change. Two weeks ago, after reports in The Sunday Times, it was forced to retract a warning that climate change was likely to melt the Himalayan glaciers by 2035. That warning was also based on claims in a WWF report.

The IPCC has been put on the defensive as well over its claims that climate change may be increasing the severity and frequency of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods. This weekend Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, was fighting to keep his job after a barrage of criticism.

Scientists fear the controversies will be used by climate change sceptics to sway public opinion to ignore global warming — even though the fundamental science, that greenhouse gases can heat the world, remains strong.

The latest controversy originates in a report called A Global Review of Forest Fires, which WWF published in 2000. It was commissioned from Andrew Rowell, a freelance journalist and green campaigner who has worked for Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and anti-smoking organisations. The second author was Peter Moore, a campaigner and policy analyst with WWF. In their report they suggested that “up to 40% of Brazilian rainforest was extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall” but made clear that this was because drier forests were more likely to catch fire.

The IPCC report picked up this reference but expanded it to cover the whole Amazon. It also suggested that a slight reduction in rainfall would kill many trees directly, not just by contributing to more fires. It said: “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. It is more probable that forests will be replaced by ecosystems that have more resistance to multiple stresses caused by temperature increase, droughts and fires, such as tropical savannas.”

Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at Leeds University who specialises in tropical forest ecology, described the section of Rowell and Moore’s report predicting the potential destruction of large swathes of rainforest as “a mess”. “The Nature paper is about the interactions of logging damage, fire and periodic droughts, all extremely important in understanding the vulnerability of Amazon forest to drought, but is not related to the vulnerability of these forests to reductions in rainfall,” he said. “In my opinion the Rowell and Moore report should not have been cited; it contains no primary research data.”

WWF said it prided itself on the accuracy of its reports and was investigating the latest concerns. “We have a team of people looking at this internationally,” said Keith Allott, its climate change campaigner.

Scientists such as Lewis are demanding that the IPCC ban the use of reports from pressure groups. They fear that environmental campaign groups are bound to cherry-pick the scientific literature that confirms their beliefs and ignore the rest. It was exactly this process that lay behind the bogus claim that the Himalayan glaciers were likely to melt by 2035 — a suggestion that got into another WWF report and was then used by the IPCC.

Georg Kaser, a glaciologist who was a lead author on the last IPCC report, said: “Groups like WWF are not scientists and they are not professionally trained to manage data. They may have good intentions but it opens the way to mistakes.”


Muir-Wood's climate change study was ‘misused’ in the Stern report

This weakness in the Stern report has been noted elsewhere but it is interesting to see Muir-Wood saying the same. The response from Stern is astounding, however

LORD STERN’S report on climate change, which underpins [British] government policy, has come under fire from a disaster analyst who says the research he contributed was misused.

Robert Muir-Wood, head of research at Risk Management Solutions, a US-based consultancy, said the Stern report misquoted his work to suggest a firm link between global warming and the frequency and severity of disasters such as floods and hurricanes.

The Stern report, citing Muir-Wood, said: “New analysis based on insurance industry data has shown that weather-related catastrophe losses have increased by 2% each year since the 1970s over and above changes in wealth, inflation and population growth/movement. “If this trend continued or intensified with rising global temperatures, losses from extreme weather could reach 0.5%-1% of world GDP by the middle of the century.”

Muir-Wood said his research showed no such thing and accused Stern of “going far beyond what was an acceptable extrapolation of the evidence”.

The criticism is among the strongest made of the Stern report, which, since its publication in 2006, has influenced policy, including green taxes.

Muir-Wood’s study did show an association between global warming and the impact and frequency of disasters. But he said this was caused by exceptionally strong hurricanes in the final two years of his study.

A spokesman for Stern said: “Muir-Wood may have been deceived by his own observations.” [Whaaaat???]


Green/Left dream of global government not likely to happen

EVERYONE is blaming everyone else for the failure of the Copenhagen climate conference but British Prime Minister Gordon Brown blames something else: "The lack of a global body with the sole responsibility for environmental stewardship." This idea for getting around pesky governments and voters is shared by many European and some developing countries. Last September, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy wrote to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, saying: "We must make use of the momentum provided by Copenhagen to make further progress toward the creation of a world environmental organisation."

But the momentum stopped dead at Copenhagen because not all nations have the same priorities. Those struggling to fight poverty are unsympathetic to green nagging from Europeans. Before proposing yet another huge international bureaucracy, fans of a WEO should look at the present one. The UN Environment Program was set up as "the environmental conscience of the UN system" after the first UN Conference on the Human Environment, in Stockholm in 1972, to publicise problems and co-ordinate policy globally, regionally and within the UN.

But UNEP is a weak institution, with a small staff and budget - just over US$270 million in 2006-07. That may sound a lot but by UN standards it is paltry. The UN Food and Agriculture Organisation gets about US$900m ($1.01 billion) a year and the UN Development Program about US$5 billion.

Governments do not want an autonomous international body to interfere in politically sensitive national issues. A great deal of that resistance comes from the developing world, starting at the Stockholm meeting in 1972.

Developing countries demanded that the Earth Summit in 1992 shift from focusing on the environment to "sustainable development", a concept that includes economic growth.

The proliferation of multilateral environmental agreements introduced by rich countries in past decades - with more than 700 in force today - has put an increasing economic burden on developing countries while they have made clear they want more emphasis on economic and social goals.

A world environmental organisation would be modelled on the World Health Organisation. But the US, Russia, India and China have already made clear they will not join such a body, while Canada is keeping an eye on things in a UN working group without making any commitment.

Most developing countries jumped on the Copenhagen bandwagon knowing that a successful deal would grant them more foreign aid and technology-transfer without requiring emission cuts from them. They had everything to gain and little to lose. But for economies just escaping mass poverty, such as China and India, the story is different: they faced demands for huge cuts and refused a deal.

British climate change minister Ed Miliband denounced the "impossible resistance from a small number of developing countries, including China, who did not want a legal agreement". But that "small number" will only grow as more developing countries follow China and India down the road of economic growth, the single best defence against climate threats.

Under a WEO, these few defiant nations would multiply into dozens. For example, South American nations want credits for forest conservation under a climate treaty but they have always rejected demands to sign a global treaty against deforestation. Environmental problems are so diverse that any global diktat will generate endless grounds for complaints, exceptions and disputes, especially from poor countries desperate for growth.

A good thing too. It is not clear why rich nations should have a right over Amazonian rainforests or Pacific coral reefs.

Brown says: "Never again should we face the deadlock that threatened to pull down those talks." But what he calls deadlock is national sovereignty.

No global bureaucracy will overcome the basic problem haunting UNEP, Copenhagen and international co-operation today: political hostility to top-down, one-size-fits-all solutions. As US delegate to Copenhagen Jonathan Pershing said: "The UN didn't manage the conference that well," adding diplomatically, "I am not sure that any of us are particularly confident that the UN managing the near-term financing is the right way to go."

The failure of Copenhagen shows that rich countries need to respect poor nations' need for growth if they want co-operation for a greener planet. The rich must replace their posturing and restrictions with positive policies for growth and adaptation to climate change.



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