Sunday, 28 February 2010

U.N. to create science panel to review IPCC

NUSA DUA, Indonesia
Fri Feb 26, 2010 11:29am EST

This news was cited by Richard Black here.

NUSA DUA, Indonesia (Reuters) - An independent board of scientists is to review the work of a U.N. climate panel, whose credibility came under attack after it published errors, a U.N. environment spokesman said on Friday.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) accepted last month that its 2007 report had exaggerated the pace of melt of Himalayan glaciers, and this month admitted the report had also overstated how much of the Netherlands is below sea level.
The report shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with former U.S. Vice President Al Gore, and has driven political momentum to agree a new, more ambitious climate treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol.
The remit and process of the review panel would be disclosed next week, said Nick Nuttall, spokesman for the U.N. Environment Programme, on the sidelines of a UNEP conference of environment ministers and officials from more than 135 countries in the Indonesian island of Bali.
"It will be a credible, sensible review of how the IPCC operates, to strengthen its fifth report," he said.
"It should do a review of the IPCC, produce a report by, say, August. There is a plenary of the IPCC in South Korea in October. The review will go there for adoption. I think we are bringing some level of closure to this issue."
The latest, fourth IPCC report was published in 2007 and the next is due in 2014.
All options are on the table for the review, Nuttall said, including, how to treat "grey literature" -- a term for academic papers which are not published in peer-reviewed journals.
The IPCC had said that the Himalayas could melt by 2035, but an original source spoke of the world's glaciers melting by 2350, not 2035. The IPCC report had cited the 2035 year from a non-peer reviewed WWF paper, which in turn had referred to a Scientific American article.
Public conviction of global warming's risks may have been undermined by the panel's errors and by the disclosure of hacked emails revealing scientists sniping at skeptics, who leapt on these as evidence of data fixing.
Pachauri told Reuters on Wednesday that the IPCC stood by its main 2007 finding -- that it was more than 90 percent certain that human activities were the main cause of global warming in the past 50 years.
Governments and ministers attending the conference this week in Bali reaffirmed their confidence that manmade greenhouse gas emissions were stoking climate change, said Nuttall.
"There was absolutely no government, no minister of environment who attended that meeting who said that the IPCC was the wrong vehicle for understanding the science of climate change," Nuttall added.
The IPCC's 2007 assessment report on the causes and impacts of climate change was over 3,000 pages long, cited more than 10,000 scientific papers and is policymakers' main data source.
(Additional reporting by Gerard Wynn in London; Editing by Elizabeth Fullerton)

Monday, 8 February 2010

Rising scepticism - a chill wind?

Richard Black (The Reporters)Feb 05, 2010 17:52:20

Over the last few months, a number of British commentators have been trumpeting an increase in scepticism about climate change.

The cold weather (often claimed - incorrectly - to be a hemisphere-wide phenomenon), the University of East Anglia e-mail hack, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's lack of rigour over projections of Himalayan glacier melt, the weak outcome from the Copenhagen summit: all these and more have been proclaimed as factors that are said to be deflecting the public away from climate concern.

An unusually hot summer - and globally, January was the warmest on record, in case you missed it, and El Nino conditions pertain in the Pacific - and fickle opinion might turn again.


Sir David King: IPCC runs against the spirit of science

The science of climate change appears to be under siege.

By Professor David King, former Government chief scientist
Published: 7:30AM GMT 06 Feb 2010
Comments 78 | Comment on this article

Following leaked emails from the University of East Anglia and evidence for sloppy referencing in the IPCC’s 2007 report, the work of thousands of remarkable scientists is now being questioned, not just by the public but also by other members of the scientific community. To understand the implications, it helps to consider how this parlous situation has arisen.

First, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which produced the landmark reports in 2007 showing that climate change is real, and has been at the heart of this storm. Faced with the social need to tell the world what the science says, the IPCC was set up as a means of seeking consensus. My concern has always been that it runs against the normal spirit of science.

In science, people are supposed to rock the boat. If someone challenges your findings, you make measurements, check the arguments, and see if they might be right. Well-established theories such as evolution and relativity have survived this process. The ideas you don’t hear about are the ones that didn’t make it through this ordeal by fire.

If you depart too far from this in your desire for consensus, the consequences can be disturbing. The emails from scientists at the University of East Anglia suggest that certain members of the IPCC felt that the consensus was so precious that some external challenges had to be kept outside the discussion. That is clearly not acceptable.

Moreover, this leads to the danger that people will go beyond the science that is truly reliable, and pick up almost anything that seems to support the argument. The dodgy dossier saying that all ice would vanish from the Himalayas within the next 30 years is an example of that. When I heard Dr Pachauri, the head of the IPCC, declare this at Copenhagen last December I could hardly believe my ears. This issue is far too important for scientists to risk crossing the line into advocacy.

However, it’s not all the IPCC’s fault. Climate scientists have been forced into this corner by a disastrous combination of cynical lobbying and a misguided desire for certainty. 

The American lobby system, driven by political and economic vested interests in fossil fuels, seeks to use any challenge to undermine the entire body of science. The drive for consensus has come to some extent because the scientific community (me included) has become frustrated with this willful misuse of the scientific process.
This is exacerbated because—as the lobbyists know only too well—

people and governments hunger for certainty. The problem is that science doesn’t work that way. Nothing can ever be 100% sure; we use science to draw conclusions about how probable it is.

When cigarette manufacturers paid lobbyists to try to discredit the scientific theory that smoking causes lung cancer, they used the argument that it wasn’t a proven fact. Well it wasn’t then, and nor will it ever be, but would you now bet against it? We have built many successful enterprises by going with the balance of probabilities that science deals us. And in the case of climate change, the scientific probability that the world is warming, and that humans are the chief cause, is overwhelming.

That’s why I believe that this set of so-called scandals will be little more than a temporary setback to the state of climate science. For one thing, there are more than 3000 pages to the IPCC’s 2007 report. Lobbyists have thrown an enormous amount of effort at discrediting this and have so far come up with very little—and nothing that touches the foundations of the problem. Of course the Himalayan glaciers will not vanish overnight, and the report should never have suggested that they would. But if they continue at their present rate of melting, they will be around for a mere 300 years. That’s still a pretty short span on humanity’s timescale, and the run-up to that loss will make life very uncomfortable for the many hundreds of millions of people who depend on the water they provide.

What’s more, this is only one manifestation of a very broad and robust set of evidence. We know from thermometers and satellites that temperatures have risen at least 0.8C. There is now massive monitoring of the loss of land ice around the planet, including the ground-breaking double satellite gravitational measurements. We have robust data on rising sea levels, the acidification of our oceans, and the spectacular multidimensional details of how climate has changed in the past.

Given all this evidence, it’s ridiculous to say this that human-induced climate change isn’t happening, absurd to say we don’t understand why, and any suggestion that we have nothing to worry about is like making a very bad bet.

Enough already. Instead of vainly trying to pretend that the waters are not rising, let’s get on with the opportunities for innovation and wealth creation that this climate challenge brings. We in the UK have a fantastically strong science base, but in the past few decades manufacturing has fled our shores and we have been steadily losing our ability to capitalize on science. Now is the time to turn that around.

We know that we need to decarbonise our economy, so let’s do it. Let’s work to create a new, smart manufacturing sector in this county that is fit to tackle the carbon challenge while stimulating our economy back into growth.

New errors in IPCC climate change report

The United Nations panel on climate change is facing fresh criticism today as The Sunday Telegraph reveals new factual errors and poor sources of evidence in its influential report to government leaders.

Researchers insist the errors are minor and do not impact on the overall conclusions about climate change.
However, senior scientists are now expressing concern at the way the IPCC compiles its reports and have hit out at the panel’s use of so-called “grey literature” — evidence from sources that have not been subjected to scientific ­scrutiny.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Climate scepticism 'on the rise' - BBC poll

BBC graphic (Image: BBC)
The number of British people who are sceptical about climate change is rising, a poll for BBC News suggests.
The Populus poll of 1,001 adults found 25% did not think global warming was happening, an increase of 10% since a similar poll was conducted in November.
The percentage of respondents who said climate change was a reality had fallen from 83% in November to 75% this month.
And only 26% of those asked believed climate change was happening and "now established as largely man-made".
The findings are based on interviews carried out on 3-4 February.
In November 2009, a similar poll by Populus - commissioned by the Times newspaper - showed that 41% agreed that climate change was happening and it was largely the result of human activities.
BBC graphic (Image: BBC)

"It is very unusual indeed to see such a dramatic shift in opinion in such a short period," Populus managing director Michael Simmonds told BBC News.

Global Warming Policy Foundation

Climate Change sceptics site