No, IPCC Climatologists Did NOT Make Sloppy Errors
This headline, from Sunday's Washington Post, is factually inaccurate:
Series of missteps by climate scientists threatens climate-change agendaYou could read the entire article that follows and come away with no idea that there have in fact been zero errors identified in the UN climate change panel's science.
With its 2007 report declaring that the "warming of the climate system is unequivocal," the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change won a Nobel Prize -- and a new degree of public trust in the controversial science of global warming. But recent revelations about flaws in that seminal report, ranging from typos in key dates to sloppy sourcing, are undermining confidence not only in the panel's work but also in projections about climate change. Scientists who have pointed out problems in the report say the panel's methods and mistakes -- including admitting Saturday that it had overstated how much of the Netherlands was below sea level -- give doubters an opening.The "doubters," of course, don't include any credible climatologists. But the article's authors include this bit of he said-she said for balance:
"What's happened here is that there's an industry of climate-change denialists who are trying to make it seem as though you can't trust anything that is between the covers" of the panel's report, said Jeffrey Kargel, a professor at the University of Arizona who studies glaciers. "It's really heartbreaking to see this happen, and to see that the IPCC left themselves open" to being attacked.What the reporters don't tell their readers is that there have been no errors, no typos and certainly no "sloppy citations" in the panel's reports on the science of climate change. Here are the basic facts: the IPCC has three working groups. Working group one evaluates the science of climate change. They've found overwhelming evidence -- irrefutable scientific evidence -- of man-made warming. Working group two is not made up of climatologists. It is an inter-disciplinary group evaluating the human impacts of climate change. Its members are drawn from biological and social scientists. The social sciences simply don't employ the same standards of citation as a physical science like climatology. It's common for social scientists to use so-called "gray" literature -- articles, news reports, reports put out by think-tanks -- while climatologists rely only on peer-reviewed scientific literature. Here's the WaPo again:
Climate researchers say the errors do not disprove the U.N. panel's central conclusion: Climate change is happening, and humans are causing it. Some researchers said the U.N. panel's attitude -- appearing to promise that its results were infallible, and reacting slowly to evidence that they were not -- could undermine the rest of its work... Kargel said he noticed an error in the report of the IPCC's second working group, a research unit, in 2007. The report said huge glaciers in the Himalayan mountains might disappear by 2035. Some glaciers are melting, but they are too enormous to disappear that quickly: "It's physically impossible to kill the ice that fast," Kargel said. He said colleagues regarded the error as too ridiculous to fuss about until recently. Last month, the journal Science printed a letter to the editor that traced the origins of the mistaken data: The U.N. panel seemed to have quoted an activist group's report, not a peer-reviewed study. And, in citing another source, it appeared to have committed a serious typo: The year 2350 had become 2035. Another line that has sparked scrutiny reads, "Up to 40 percent of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation," and links to a report co-written by the World Wildlife Fund. The analysis cited key work by Woods Hole Research Center senior scientist Daniel C. Nepstad, but the link to an advocacy group instead of a peer-reviewed paper infuriated conservatives.Setting aside the fact that just about everything "infuriates conservatives" -- theirs has become an ideology of grievance, after all -- the reporters give an offhand mention that these errors were in the WG 2 report, but don't offer their readers the vital context: these errors weren't made by climatologists. In fact, joining those infuriated conservatives are actual climate scientists. This is froman article in The Guardian that puts the WaPo's shoddy reporting to shame:
Climate scientists who worked on the UN panel on global warming have hit out at "sloppy" colleagues from other disciplines who introduced a mistake about melting glaciers into the landmark 2007 report. The experts, who worked on the section of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that considered the physical science of global warming, say the error by "social and biological scientists" has unfairly maligned their work. Some said that Rajendra Pachauri, the panel's chair, should resign, though others supported him. The IPCC report combined the output from three independent working groups, which separately considered the science, impacts and human response to climate change, and published their findings several months apart... Speaking on condition of anonymity, several lead authors of the working group one (WG1) report, which produced the high-profile scientific conclusions that global warming was unequivocal and very likely down to human activity, told the Guardian they were dismayed by the actions of their colleagues. "Naturally the public and policy makers link all three reports together," one said. "And the blunder over the glaciers detracts from the very carefully peer-reviewed science used exclusively in the WG1 report." Another author said: "There is no doubt that the inclusion of the glacier statement was sloppy. I find it embarrassing that working group two (WG2) would have the Himalaya statement referred to in the way it was." Another said: "I am annoyed about this and I do think that WG1, the physical basis for climate change, should be distinguished from WG2 and WG3. The latter deal with impacts, mitigation and socioeconomics and it seems to me they might be better placed in another arm of the United Nations, or another organisation altogether."
*****On a related note, this one's telling:
For Climate Change (IPPC), was roundly condemned after it emerged that he was an apparent advocate of scary propaganda to frighten the public into believing the dangers of global warming. "Unless we announce disasters, no one will listen," Sir John was supposed to have said in 1994.If you've followed the political debate -- the science is settled, and that's all it is -- you've no doubt seen this quote a million times. It's the smoking gun behind the silly conspiracy theories about climate change being a hoax. Clowns like "Lord Monckton" -- you know, brave truth-tellers -- refer to it constantly. Houghton ostensibly wrote it in his 1994 book, Global Warming, The Complete Briefing. But, if you look for it in his book, you won't find it. That's because he never said anything like this -- it was fabricated by a wing-nut in 2006. The Independent:
In fact, the earliest record of the quote comes not from 15 years ago but from November 2006 when it appeared in a newspaper column written by the journalist Piers Akerman in the Australian newspaper The Sunday Telegraph. Akerman, a controversial right-wing columnist and global warming sceptic, appears to be the first person to use the quote verbatim in an opinion piece criticising the Stern Review, which looked at the economic effects of global warming.Houghton's suing, and good on him.