Monday, February 15, 2010

IPCC ex-chairman Robert Watson calls for review of climate change mistakes

THE UN body that advises world leaders on climate change must investigate an apparent bias in its report that resulted in several exaggerations of the impact of global warming, according to its former chairman. Robert Watson said that all the errors exposed so far in the report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) resulted in overstatements of the severity of the problem.

Professor Watson, currently chief scientific adviser to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said that if the errors had just been innocent mistakes, as has been claimed by current chairman Rajendra Pachauri, some would probably have understated the impact of climate change.

The errors have emerged in the past month after simple checking of the sources cited by the 2500 scientists who produced the report. The report falsely claimed that Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035 when evidence suggests that they will survive for another 300 years. It also claimed that global warming could cut rain-fed North African crop production by up to 50 per cent by 2020. A senior IPCC contributor has since admitted that there is no evidence to support this claim. The Dutch Government has asked the IPCC to correct its claim that more than half the Netherlands is below sea level. The environment ministry said that only 26 per cent of the country was below sea level.

Professor Watson, who served as chairman of the IPCC from 1997-2002, said: "The mistakes all appear to have gone in the direction of making it seem like climate change is more serious by overstating the impact. That is worrying. The IPCC needs to look at this trend in the errors and ask why it happened."

He said that the IPCC should employ graduate science students to check the sources of each claim made in its next report, due in 2013. "Graduate students would love to be involved and they could really dig into the references and see if they really do support what is being said."

He said that the next report should acknowledge that some scientists believed the planet was warming at a much slower rate than has been claimed by the majority of scientists. "We should always be challenged by sceptics," he said. "The IPCC's job is to weigh up the evidence. If it can't be dismissed, it should be included in the report. Point out it's in the minority and, if you can't say why it's wrong, just say it's a different view."

Dr Pachauri has not responded to questions put to him by The Times, despite sending a text message saying that he would do so.

Professor Watson has held discussions with Al Gore, the former US Vice-President, about creating a new climate research group to supplement the work of the IPCC and to help restore the credibility of climate science. He said that the scheme to create what he called a "Wikipedia for climate change" was at an early stage but the intention was to establish an online network of climate science research available to anyone with access to the internet and subject to permanent peer review by other scientists. He said that the project would allow scientists to "synthesise all of the observational record in real-time, not every 5-7 years like the IPCC".

He rejected concerns that the project would undermine the IPCC's authority. "It would have to be done so it was complimentary and not a challenge to the IPCC," he said. A spokesman for Mr Gore's office in Nashville, Tennessee, declined to comment on the project.

Meanwhile, a member of the inquiry team investigating allegations of misconduct by climate scientists has admitted that he holds strong views on climate change and that this contradicts a founding principle of the inquiry. Geoffrey Boulton, who was appointed last week by the inquiry chairman, Sir Muir Russell, said he believed that human activities were causing global warming.

Sir Muir issued a statement last week claiming that the inquiry members, who are investigating leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia, did not have a "predetermined view on climate change and climate science".

Professor Boulton told The Times: "I may be rapped over the knuckles by Sir Muir for saying this, but I think that statement needs to be clarified. I think the committee needs someone like me who is close to the field of climate change and it would be quite amazing if that person didn't have a view on one side or the other." [These guys don't seem to be able to keep their story straight. The Muir Russell FAQ states: "Professor Geoffrey Boulton has expertise in fields related to climate change and is therefore aware of the scientific approach, through not in the climate change field itself." So is he a climate science expert or is he not? He seems to say he is but Muir-Russell says he is not]


Another laughable appointment to an "impartial" climate inquiry

Only 24 hours after another panel member quit, questions emerged over Professor Geoffrey Boulton because of his previous views that climate change is caused by human activity. The investigation was set up to look into whether scientists at the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU) covered up flawed data.

But some have cast doubt on whether the inquiry results can be trusted if Prof Boulton, general secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, remains on the panel. The leading geologist was one of five people chosen by former University of Glasgow principal Sir Muir Russell to carry out the high-profile investigation. A statement released at the launch of the inquiry on Thursday said none of the panel members had a "predetermined view on climate change and climate science". It added: "They were selected on the basis they have no prejudicial interest in climate science."

However, The Scotsman can reveal that only a few months ago, Prof Boulton, from the University of Edinburgh, was among a number of scientists who, in the wake of the climategate scandal, signed a petition to show their confidence that global warming was caused by humans. And for at least five years, he has made clear his strong views on global warming. He has given interviews and written articles – including in The Scotsman – that have spelled out his firmly held beliefs.

In one article for Edinburgh University, he wrote: "The argument regarding climate change is over." And for 18 years, he worked at the University of East Anglia (UEA) – the establishment at the centre of the scandal.

Last night, on being questioned by The Scotsman, Prof Boulton insisted he was a "sceptical scientist" prepared to change his views "if the evidence merited".

The controversy follows the resignation of another panel member, Dr Philip Campbell, editor-in-chief of Nature magazine, just six hours after the inquiry launch. He stepped down after it emerged he had given an interview to Chinese radio about the climategate scandal, defending the behaviour of the scientists at the CRU.

Dr Benny Peizer, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a think tank which claims the debate on climate change has become distorted, called for Prof Boulton to step down, too. He said: "Prof Boulton obviously is a very distinguished geologist. The problem is, he is a very outspoken campaigner on this issue and he's given talks calling for galvanising public opinion. He also worked at the very institution that he is now going to be investigating. That, we think, is a conflict of interest."

He said he was "speechless" about why Prof Boulton and Dr Campbell had been appointed in the first place. "It looks like a shambles and it looks like the chairman of this panel hasn't really thought this through," he said. "Everyone must have told him (Sir Muir] that it's a very contentious issue and he should make sure the panel members have no bias at all." He added that he thought it was "impossible" that Prof Boulton could remain in post.

The UEA, one of Britain's leading climate-change research centres, helps compile a global temperature record published by the Met Office. This data is used by the government to justify its targets for cuts in carbon emissions. The university appointed Sir Muir in December to head an inquiry into a series of allegations over manipulated data.

Prof Boulton said he had been open about having worked at the School of Environmental Sciences at UEA between 1968 and 1986. "Since then, I have had no professional contact with the University of East Anglia or the Climatic Research Unit," he said. He added that he had "declared my current view of the balance of evidence: that the earth is warming and that human activity is implicated. These remain the views of the vast majority of scientists who research on climate change in its different aspects".

But he added: "As a sceptical scientist, I am prepared to change those views if the evidence merits it. They certainly do not prevent me from being heavily biased against poor scientific practice, wherever it arises."

A spokeswoman for the inquiry said Sir Muir was "completely confident each member has the integrity, expertise and experience to complete the task."


A secretive inquiry

The more things change .... Comment below from Nigel Lawson

As the first person to call for an independent inquiry into 'climategate', I regret that what has been announced today is defective in a number of ways. The inquiry will wholly lack transparency, with the hearings held in private, and no transcripts to be published.

The terms of reference, while better than nothing, are inadequate in a number of ways, not least the failure to include the question of the efforts made by CRU scientists to prevent the publication of papers by dissenting scientists and others, contrary to the canons of scientific integrity. And the objectivity and independence of the inquiry is seriously called into question by the composition of Sir Muir Russell's team, in particular the Editor in Chief of Nature, who has already published an editorial on the matter strongly supportive of the CRU scientists and accusing their critics of being 'paranoid'.


Some big backdowns from Phil Jones

He admits that there has been no global warming since 1995 and that the Medieval warm period may have been worldwide

The academic at the centre of the ‘Climategate’ affair, whose raw data is crucial to the theory of climate change, has admitted that he has trouble ‘keeping track’ of the information. Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers. [Rubbish! They are computer files, not papers]

Professor Jones told the BBC yesterday there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is ‘not as good as it should be’. The data is crucial to the famous ‘hockey stick graph’ used by climate change advocates to support the theory.

Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now – suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon. And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant’ warming.

The admissions will be seized on by sceptics as fresh evidence that there are serious flaws at the heart of the science of climate change and the orthodoxy that recent rises in temperature are largely man-made.

Professor Jones has been in the spotlight since he stepped down as director of the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit after the leaking of emails that sceptics claim show scientists were manipulating data. The raw data, collected from hundreds of weather stations around the world and analysed by his unit, has been used for years to bolster efforts by the United Nation’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to press governments to cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Following the leak of the emails, Professor Jones has been accused of ‘scientific fraud’ for allegedly deliberately suppressing information and refusing to share vital data with critics.

Discussing the interview, the BBC’s environmental analyst Roger Harrabin said he had spoken to colleagues of Professor Jones who had told him that his strengths included integrity and doggedness but not record-keeping and office tidying. Mr Harrabin, who conducted the interview for the BBC’s website, said the professor had been collating tens of thousands of pieces of data from around the world to produce a coherent record of temperature change. That material has been used to produce the ‘hockey stick graph’ which is relatively flat for centuries before rising steeply in recent decades.

According to Mr Harrabin, colleagues of Professor Jones said ‘his office is piled high with paper, fragments from over the years, tens of thousands of pieces of paper, and they suspect what happened was he took in the raw data to a central database and then let the pieces of paper go because he never realised that 20 years later he would be held to account over them’.

Asked by Mr Harrabin about these issues, Professor Jones admitted the lack of organisation in the system had contributed to his reluctance to share data with critics, which he regretted. But he denied he had cheated over the data or unfairly influenced the scientific process, and said he still believed recent temperature rises were predominantly man-made.

Asked about whether he lost track of data, Professor Jones said: ‘There is some truth in that. We do have a trail of where the weather stations have come from but it’s probably not as good as it should be. ‘There’s a continual updating of the dataset. Keeping track of everything is difficult. Some countries will do lots of checking on their data then issue improved data, so it can be very difficult. We have improved but we have to improve more.’

He also agreed that there had been two periods which experienced similar warming, from 1910 to 1940 and from 1975 to 1998, but said these could be explained by natural phenomena whereas more recent warming could not.

He further admitted that in the last 15 years there had been no ‘statistically significant’ warming, although he argued this was a blip rather than the long-term trend.

And he said that the debate over whether the world could have been even warmer than now during the medieval period, when there is evidence of high temperatures in northern countries, was far from settled. Sceptics believe there is strong evidence that the world was warmer between about 800 and 1300 AD than now because of evidence of high temperatures in northern countries. But climate change advocates have dismissed this as false or only applying to the northern part of the world.

Professor Jones departed from this consensus when he said: ‘There is much debate over whether the Medieval Warm Period was global in extent or not. The MWP is most clearly expressed in parts of North America, the North Atlantic and Europe and parts of Asia. ‘For it to be global in extent, the MWP would need to be seen clearly in more records from the tropical regions and the Southern hemisphere. There are very few palaeoclimatic records for these latter two regions. ‘Of course, if the MWP was shown to be global in extent and as warm or warmer than today, then obviously the late 20th Century warmth would not be unprecedented. On the other hand, if the MWP was global, but was less warm than today, then the current warmth would be unprecedented.’

Sceptics said this was the first time a senior scientist working with the IPCC had admitted to the possibility that the Medieval Warming Period could have been global, and therefore the world could have been hotter then than now.

Professor Jones criticised those who complained he had not shared his data with them, saying they could always collate their own from publicly available material in the US. And he said the climate had not cooled ‘until recently – and then barely at all. The trend is a warming trend’.

Mr Harrabin told Radio 4’s Today programme that, despite the controversies, there still appeared to be no fundamental flaws in the majority scientific view that climate change was largely man-made.

But Dr Benny Pieser, director of the sceptical Global Warming Policy Foundation, said Professor Jones’s ‘excuses’ for his failure to share data were hollow as he had shared it with colleagues and ‘mates’. He said that until all the data was released, sceptics could not test it to see if it supported the conclusions claimed by climate change advocates. He added that the professor’s concessions over medieval warming were ‘significant’ because they were his first public admission that the science was not settled.


World may not be warming, say scientists

The significance of this article lies principally in the fact that it was written by Leaky Jonathan and published in "The Times" of London. Journalists are now beginning to smell blood in the water. Are we seeing the beginning of a feeding frenzy?

The United Nations climate panel faces a new challenge with scientists casting doubt on its claim that global temperatures are rising inexorably because of human pollution.

In its last assessment the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said the evidence that the world was warming was “unequivocal”. It warned that greenhouse gases had already heated the world by 0.7C and that there could be 5C-6C more warming by 2100, with devastating impacts on humanity and wildlife. However, new research, including work by British scientists, is casting doubt on such claims. Some even suggest the world may not be warming much at all.

“The temperature records cannot be relied on as indicators of global change,” said John Christy, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a former lead author on the IPCC. The doubts of Christy and a number of other researchers focus on the thousands of weather stations around the world, which have been used to collect temperature data over the past 150 years. These stations, they believe, have been seriously compromised by factors such as urbanisation, changes in land use and, in many cases, being moved from site to site.

Christy has published research papers looking at these effects in three different regions: east Africa, and the American states of California and Alabama. “The story is the same for each one,” he said. “The popular data sets show a lot of warming but the apparent temperature rise was actually caused by local factors affecting the weather stations, such as land development.”

The IPCC faces similar criticisms from Ross McKitrick, professor of economics at the University of Guelph, Canada, who was invited by the panel to review its last report. The experience turned him into a strong critic and he has since published a research paper questioning its methods. “We concluded, with overwhelming statistical significance, that the IPCC’s climate data are contaminated with surface effects from industrialisation and data quality problems. These add up to a large warming bias,” he said.

Such warnings are supported by a study of US weather stations co-written by Anthony Watts, an American meteorologist and climate change sceptic. His study, which has not been peer reviewed, is illustrated with photographs of weather stations in locations where their readings are distorted by heat-generating equipment. Some are next to air-conditioning units or are on waste treatment plants. One of the most infamous shows a weather station next to a waste incinerator. Watts has also found examples overseas, such as the weather station at Rome airport, which catches the hot exhaust fumes emitted by taxiing jets.

In Britain, a weather station at Manchester airport was built when the surrounding land was mainly fields but is now surrounded by heat-generating buildings.

Terry Mills, professor of applied statistics and econometrics at Loughborough University, looked at the same data as the IPCC. He found that the warming trend it reported over the past 30 years or so was just as likely to be due to random fluctuations as to the impacts of greenhouse gases. Mills’s findings are to be published in Climatic Change, an environmental journal. “The earth has gone through warming spells like these at least twice before in the last 1,000 years,” he said.

Kevin Trenberth, a lead author of the chapter of the IPCC report that deals with the observed temperature changes, said he accepted there were problems with the global thermometer record but these had been accounted for in the final report. “It’s not just temperature rises that tell us the world is warming,” he said. “We also have physical changes like the fact that sea levels have risen around five inches since 1972, the Arctic icecap has declined by 40% and snow cover in the northern hemisphere has declined.” [He should look out his window]

The European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts has recently issued a new set of global temperature readings covering the past 30 years, with thermometer readings augmented by satellite data.

Dr Vicky Pope, head of climate change advice at the Met Office, said: “This new set of data confirms the trend towards rising global temperatures and suggest that, if anything, the world is warming even more quickly than we had thought.”


A ride in Big Brother's Audi

THE AUDI MOTOR COMPANY'S IDEA of an environmentally-correct America, to judge from the TV commercial it spent several million dollars to air during the Super Bowl, is one in which homeowners could be arrested for using incandescent light bulbs, customers choosing plastic bags at the supermarket would be mandhandled by the Green Police, and anyone tossing an orange peel into his kitchen garbage pail might suddenly find himself in the beam of a searchlight, hearing a voice bark through a loudspeaker: "Put the rind down, sir! That's a compost infraction!"

It's also a place where highway traffic would back up at an "eco-roadblock," but a motorist driving a "green" car like Audi's A3 TDI would be waved right through the checkpoint.

Of course, the notion of an environmental police state terrorizing citizens for not being sufficiently "green" is just parody meant to be laughed at. Or is it? On its website, Audi USA earnestly describes its Green Police as "caricatures" created to "help" consumers "faced with a myriad of decisions in their quest to become more environmentally responsible citizens." And what better way to "help" them than with scenes of ruthless Greenshirts handcuffing hot-tubbers whose water is too warm, or raiding the home of residents who threw a used battery into the wrong trash bin?

"Green has never felt so right," proclaims Audi's dystopian ad. Others agree. David Roberts, who writes for the environmental webzine Grist (and who has called for putting global warming skeptics on trial like Nazi war criminals), says the "thrill" of the ad "turns on satisfying the green police." The commercial makes sense, he writes, only "if it's aimed at people who acknowledge the moral authority of the green police -- people who may find those [environmental] obligations tiresome and constraining . . . but who recognize that living more sustainably is in fact the moral thing to do."

On Twitter, San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom expressed his approval more concisely: "That 'green police' Audi commercial hits home." He would know. Under a composting ordinance Newsom signed last year, throwing orange peels, coffee grounds, or greasy pizza boxes in the trash is now illegal in San Francisco, and carries fines of up to $500 per violation.

There was a time when Americans were thought capable of deciding for themselves what to do with their coffee grounds or whether to carry their groceries home in paper or plastic bags. It isn't only in San Francisco, and it isn't only when it comes to "green" issues, that such mundane or personal choices are being subjected to government coercion. One thin slice at a time, liberties we once took for granted are replaced with mandates from above. Instead of leaving us free to choose, Big Brother increasingly makes the choice for us: on trans fats. On gambling. On smoking. On bicycle helmets. On health insurance.

In Massachusetts, the Boston Globe reported last week, new regulations will soon require thousands of restaurant workers to undergo state-designed training on handling food allergies, and every restaurant menu will have to be revised to include a new message: "Before placing your order, please inform your server if a person in your party has a food allergy." In Pennsylvania, the Reading Eagle notes that it is illegal for volunteers to sell pies or cookies at a charity bake sale unless the treats were "prepared in kitchens inspected and licensed by the state Agriculture Department." In Oregon, an eight-year-old boy was suspended from his public school on Monday because he came to class with a tiny plastic toy gun from his G.I. Joe action figure.

It isn't to evil dictators with a lust for power that Americans have been slowly surrendering their autonomy. It is to well-intentioned authorities who genuinely believe that freedoms must be circumscribed for our own good. At the White House on Tuesday, First Lady Michelle Obama announced what The New York Times called "a sweeping initiative . . . aimed at revamping the way American children eat and play -- reshaping school lunches, playgrounds, and even medical checkups -- with the goal of eliminating childhood obesity."

Nothing in the Constitution allows the federal government to take charge of "revamping the way American children eat and play." It is only our passivity that makes such an encroachment possible. This used to be the land of the free. Is it still?



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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