Sunday, February 07, 2010

The climate blunders continue

The Times of London reports another major screw up by the InterGOVERNMENTAL Panel on Climate Change. And they report that a former chair of the IPCC, Robert Watson, "has warned the United Nations' climate panel to tackle its blunders or lose all credibility."

The IPCC claimed that global warming was likely to reduce crop yields in north Africa in half by 2020. The IPCC loves apocalyptic claims like this. This was so popular that IPCC chair, Rajendra Pachauri (who has no credentials in climate science at all), and UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon, have publicly quoted this section of the IPCC report. In addition the IPCC thought the claim was so important that they included it in the IPCC's Synthesis Report, "the IPCC's most politically sensitive publication, distilling its most important science into a form accessible to politicians and policy makers." Among the lead authors of this report os Pachauri himself.

Pachauri wrote: "By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%. Agricultural production, including access to food, in many African countries is projected to be severely compromised.” Pachauri has made this claim publicly in highly reported meetings. The problm is that there is NO verified, scientific evidence for the claim. Watson says that the report shows "no data supporting" the claim.

According to the Times this claim lists as its source a policy paper written by the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The Institute is an environmentalist think tank, not a scientific body and the paper never underwent peer-review. The IPCC had repeatedly claimed that its apocalyptic vision of global warming is based on the science, and the science alone. Yet we have seen a growing body of evidence that the IPCC report is hobbled together using advocacy literature from left-wing, non-scientific sources.

In recent days the IPCC was asked by the ministers of the Dutch government to correct other errors from the report regarding the Netherlands. According to the IPCC report Holland is threatened by global warming because more than half the country is below sea level. While the Dutch are known for reclaiming land from the sea, they haven't been that industrious. The IPCC's report doubled the number.

Apparently an IPCC chart on energy production was also incorrect. In this case they reported on the potential of wave energy. The IPCC claimed the source was a company called Wavegen, note that the source is company, not peer-reviewed literature. But what the IPCC showed in their chart differs significantly from the chart that Wavegen published and Wavegen says they haven't changed the chart they published. But Wavegen also says they aren't the source for the chart as they merely reprinted it. Apparently the IPCC didn't verify the numbers, cited a secondary source for them, and wasn't interested into whether the claims were based on peer-reviewed information or not.

The Telegraph reports numerous other uses of non-peer reviewed literature in order to bolster the IPCC's political agenda including "ten dissertations" by students seeking their degrees. One such "unpublished dissertation was used to support the claim that sea-level rise could impact on living in the Nile delta and other African coastal areas, although the main focus of the thesis, by a student at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, appears to have been the impact of computer software on environmental development."

As for the false claims about the Himalayan glaciers the Yale Climate Media Forum has released a fairly in-depth article outlining precisely how the IPCC screwed up. This report appears to have pieced together all the evidence into a coherent whole. The YCMF says that the controversy was created by the IPCC alone and has "prompted intense, and warranted criticism of the IPCC review process." They do note that the "likely" source for the IPCC's "copied and pasted" claim was "an Indian environmental magazine." Think about that. The IPCC "copied and pasted" information from a magazine, no peer-review included, and reported the claims under the mantle of "peer-reviewed science."

And while Pachauri had been droning on about "one" mistake the reality is the paragraph on glaciers along contained three major errors. The YCMF lists them:

1. The first sentence predicts disappearance (a 100 percent loss) by 2035. The next sentence predicts an 80 percent loss. Nonetheless, the first prediction is made using more confident language. 2. The second sentence begins with “Its,” ungrammatical if it is referring to “glaciers” and unclear otherwise. It’s as if the two sentences were simply copied and pasted from different sources. 3. The approximate area of the Himalayan glaciers is 33,000 km2, so the 500,000 km2 starting figure in the second sentence is off by a factor of 15, and the decreased area predicted in 2035 - 100,000 km2 - is three times greater than the current Himalayan glacier area.

YCMF notes that one reviewer, David Saltz, caught and reported the first two errors but that the IPCC went ahead and published the paragraph unchanged. The third error couldn't have come from the World Wildlife Fund report that was cited originally because those numbers aren't found there. Instead they come from a paper by V.M Kotlyakov, as this blog reported two months ago. Kotlyakov wrote about all "extrapolar glaciers" not just the Himalayan glaciers and, as we reported, he listed the year 2350, not 2035. But when an environmental publication reported on these reports it made errors. And it appears the IPCC merely copied the claims as this publication reported them, errors and all. In other words, the IPCC didn't even bother to look at the science, they merely copied text from environmental publications and reported information as factual, without checking sources, or verifying data.

Climate Science Watch reported on how the IPCC "relied on an err0r-riddle online article when it it discussed the likely state of Himilayan glaiciers in 2035. It did so dispite questions raised by some reviewers." YCMF also shows that the IPCC had a chart on glacial melting which was "directly copied" from the environmental magazine in question. What is a dead give away is that the IPCC copied the chart which had its own internal errors—that is the data in the chart had a mathematical error.

The environmental magazine claimed that Pindari Glacier retreated 2,840 meters between 1845 and 1966. The magazine then said this meant the glacier was retreating by 135 meters per year! Do the math yourself, you will see that it is wrong. Had Pindari retreated 135 meters per year, from 1845 to 1966 (121 years) then it would have retreated 16,359 meters, not 2,840. The magazine had divided by 21 years not 121 years and thus got the wrong result. The IPCC, that paragon of science and peer-review, merely copied its material from this advocacy publication and that meant copying the bad math as well. So, in haste to report disaster, two major numerical errors were made. Someone transposed the year 2350 to 2035 and someone divided 2,840 by 21, instead of 121. And no one bothered to check original sources or verify the math.

Consider the main theory I hold regarding the IPCC and their reports. I do not contend that they intentionally distort or lie about information. I contend that they act precisely as we would expect someone to act who is absolutely convinced they have the right suspect apprehended. I see this similar to how police and prosecutors act when they arrest someone and are absolutely convinced of that person's guilt. If they find contradictory evidence they tend to ignore it. Anything that seems to point a finger at the suspect is emphasized. If they don't ignore exculpatory evidence they will go to great lengths to debunk it but make little effort to verify evidence that points a guilty finger.

Periodically they come across evidence that seems to prove the innocence of the suspect, but they are able to dismiss it, even if they can't debunk it. They convince themselves that "all the other evidence" proves their case. So this one piece that seems to contradict their claims can't be right. They may not know why it is wrong but they know it must be wrong. So they sweep it under the rug, not because they are trying to convict an "innocent" man, but because they are convinced they are convicting a "guilty" man. It is highly unethical either way, but these people are normally not attempting to incarcerate the innocent but tend to honestly believe they are seeking justice.

The scientific process is supposed to reduce the likelihood of this same sort of distortion. But the legal process has safeguards as well, to prevent this from happening, yet it happens all the time. The reason for that is that the process relies upon the investigators voluntarily following the rules. But often investigators see the rules as an obstacle to achieving the "right" goal. So they will selectively ignore, or bend the rules. This is why evidence, which proves a man's innocence, is often hidden from defense lawyers, even though the rules say that shouldn't happen.

We understand the courtroom is supposed to help prevent this by having open debate, with the defense and prosecutors appearing before a supposedly neutral judge and jury. The adversarial system supposedly helps justice come to the forefront. And it usually does, provided everyone plays by the rules. But with the IPCC there is no adversarial system. There are only prosecutors writing the final reports and the judges involved already know the guilty of the suspect before the evidence is heard.

There is an adversarial system in that papers may be published in any one of many journals. But the Climategate emails shows how the clique of warming scientists try to distort that process to guarantee only one side is heard. Even the papers that get published are easily ignored by the IPCC as the prosecutors then seek out papers (and apparently a large amount of non-scientific claims as well) that bolster their own theory. After selecting which evidence is submitted and which is ignored it is passed up a bureaucratic ladder where each new judge or prosecutor has the guilty verdict in their pocket and is just writing up the judgment, not checking the facts and making sure the rules have been followed.

This tendency to have the guilty verdict already written out is the reason that the errors that have been exposed all lean in one direction. All the major errors have predicted dire consequences if the IPCC's political agenda is ignored. So far none of the errors have underestimated catastrophe, only exaggerated it. That is because prosecutors err in their assumptions of guilt, not innocence. And the IPCC is a "scientific" body the same way the district attorney's office is a judicial one. They may be part of the process but they are advocacy bodies meant to achieve a specific goal. The district attorney is out to secure convictions, leaving the verdict up to the court. But the IPCC is acting both as prosecutor and court, and that makes it even more suspect.

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