Tag Archives: Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change

In the front lines of the “climate wars”

Here’s another book to look out for – The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars: Dispatches from the Front Lines. It will be published at the beginning of March .

The author, Michael Mann,  has been a central figure in the “climate wars.” His research into paleoclimate has been a particular target for climate sceptics/contrarians/deniers. And despite their claims that his work was discredited it has in fact been supported and replicated by other climate scientists. It also received endorsement from the The National Research Council of the US National Academies. (See and download Surface Temperature Reconstructions for the Last 2,000 Years (2006) )

Publisher’s description of book

This is how the publisher describes the book:

“In its 2001 report on global climate, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations prominently featured the “Hockey Stick,” a chart showing global temperature data over the past one thousand years. The Hockey Stick demonstrated that temperature had risen with the increase in industrialization and use of fossil fuels. The inescapable conclusion was that worldwide human activity since the industrial age had raised CO2 levels, trapping greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and warming the planet.

“The Hockey Stick became a central icon in the “climate wars,” and well-funded science deniers immediately attacked the chart and the scientists responsible for it. Yet the controversy has had little to do with the depicted temperature rise and much more with the perceived threat the graph posed to those who oppose governmental regulation and other restraints to protect our environment and planet. Michael E. Mann, lead author of the original paper in which the Hockey Stick first appeared, shares the real story of the science and politics behind this controversy. He introduces key figures in the oil and energy industries, and the media front groups who do their bidding in sometimes slick, bare-knuckled ways to cast doubt on the science. Mann concludes with an account of the “Climategate” scandal, the 2009 hacking of climate scientists’ emails. Throughout, Mann reveals the role of science deniers, abetted by an uninformed media, in once again diverting attention away from one of the central scientific and policy issues of our time.”

McCarthyist attacks on science

Henry Waxman, Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives, former chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said this of Michael Mann:

“As one of the nation’s leading climate researchers, no one has felt the brunt of the attacks from politicians and the fossil fuel industry more than Michael Mann. This is his personal account from the center of the maelstrom, documenting the lies and distortions about his work and his heroic efforts to stand up for scientific truth.”

Mann has certainly been one of the most high profile victim of the current McCarthyist attacks on climate science and scientists. This still continues. But he is not the only target. This has become such a problem that A Legal Defense Fund for Climate Scientists has been set up. You can find out more about the fund at its new web site and its recent press release –  Climate Science Legal Defense Fund Gets New Backing. As the press release says:

“The fund is designed to help scientists like Professor Michael Mann cope with the legal fees that stack up in fighting attempts by climate-skeptic groups to gain access to private emails and other correspondence through lawsuits and Freedom of Information Act requests at their public universities.”

The fund will also:

“Educate researchers about their legal rights and responsibilities on issues surrounding their work;

Serve as a clearinghouse for information related to legal actions taken against scientists; and

Recruit and assist lawyers representing these scientists.”

Another important  book to look forward to.

Open letter across the barricade

Here I respond to a letter sent to The Listener by a former scientific colleague, Doug Edmeades. He is now a science spokesperson for local groups which attack the current scientific consensus on climate change as well as attacking local climate scientists.

Doug and I are old mates. In the past we fought together against commercial and bureaucratic attacks on our research. Now we find ourselves on opposite sides of the “barricade.” But I am sure there is enough mutual respect to enable a reasoned discussion of the claims made by Doug about climate change science in his letter.

I have invited him to respond in turn to my comments and hopefully he will be happy that I post his response, at least in part, here.


Hi Doug,

I am responding to claims you made in your recent letter to The NZ Listener reproduced on the Climate Conversation Group Blog (see In a climate of listening). Space limitations clearly prevented you from justifying these  five claims (your refer to them as “facts”). However they are, in my view, either not factual or misleading. I explain why below and welcome your response to my comments.

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Christmas gift ideas: Thinking of our grandchildren

Books are ideal Christmas presents. And as I am spending some time dealing with family business I thought reposting some of my past book reviews over the next few days could be useful am repeating some of my past book reviews.

Climate change is a pressing issue – and one which attracts a lot of politically inspired misinformation. Hansen’s book provides a lot of the science, but also the history of the science..


Book Review: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen

Price: US$16.50*
Hardcover:
320 pages
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA (December 8, 2009)
Language:
English
ISBN-10:
1608192008
ISBN-13:
978-1608192007

Climate change contrarians and deniers love to hate James Hansen. He’s up there alongside Al Gore, Michael Mann and Phil Jones. And of course their hatred is no more justified in Hansen’s case than it is for the others.

Others criticise Hansen for his “activism.” His willingness to warn politicians and the population in general of the dangers we face if we continue with a “business as usual” approach to fossil fuel and CO2 emissions. They suggest this could discredit his science. Scientists must always be objective and should limit their pronouncements to the scientific facts alone.

This is not an old problem for scientists – remember their activism after the first use of nuclear weapons and the beginning of the nuclear arms race. Scientists often confront ethical issues arising out of their work.

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Climategate 2.0 and “toecurling” journalism

It’s the silly season again. Another climate change conference (Durban) – another climategate hoax. This cartoon from crikey (Bitter Climate Science Tryst Shock Scandal Rift Emails Exposed) sums it up.

Credit: Firstdog at crikey

Thanks to: Bitter Climate Science Tryst Shock Scandal Rift Emails Exposed.

“Festering syphilitic repellance!”

And this from one of the most extreme climate change deniers, Telegraph journalist James Delingpole in Climategate 2.0: the most damning email of them all. It’s attacking an email with a Christmas song celebrating the IPCC Nobel prize. We will leave such enthusiastic but naive song writing aside. But it certainly puts Delingpole’s nose out of joint. It’s a bit over the top to describe such attempts at composition as “toecurlingly, . . vile,  reprehensible, stomach-churningly dreadful, . . .festering syphilitic repellance. .” isn’t it!

“The worst, most toecurlingly awful, damning, vile, reprehensible, stomach-churningly dreadful email – the one that shows the Warmist junk-scientists in a light of such festering syphilitic repellance they can never possibly recover is this, the Christmas ditty specially written by Kevin Trenberth in celebration of the Nobel committee’s comedic decision to award the Peace Prize to Al Gore and the IPCC.”

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Truth getting it’s boots on!

Sharon Begley introduced her Newsweek article Newspapers Retract ‘Climategate’ Claims, but Damage Still Done with:

‘A lie can get halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its boots on, as Mark Twain said (or “before the truth gets a chance to put its pants on,” in Winston Churchill’s version), and nowhere has that been more true than in “climategate.”‘

Yes, reaction to the “climategate” scandal and resulting climate denial offensive has been slow coming. Inevitable, I guess, becuase it has required investigation and reporting. We had the Pennsylvania State University inquiry which cleared Michael Mann (see Spinning exoneration of Dr. Michael Mann Into “Whitewash”) and the UK parliamentary and independent Royal Society inquiries which cleared Phil Jones and the Cimatic Research Unit at University of East Anglia (see Climate scientist Phil Jones exonerated and Officially a fake scandal from science perspective).

Now some of the main stream media newspapers are withdrawing articles they previously published misrepresenting the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), climate scientists and climate science in general. The UK Sunday Times published a correction acknowledging they had misreported the “Amazongate” story, had misreported Dr Simon Lewis, a Royal Society research fellow at the University of Leeds and leading specialist in tropical forest ecology. They had in fact changed their story after it had been checked by Lewis and admit their changes “did not give a fair or accurate account of his views.”

Similarly the German Frankfurter Rundschau has withdrawn a story attacking the IPCC over “Africagate.” What is the moral of all this – don’t trust any “climategate” story?

Lies sometimes survive exposure

However, these retractions haven’t come easily. They were the result of shoddy, if not completely biased, journalism and/or editing (see “AmazonGate”: how the denial lobby and a dishonest journalist created a fake scandal and Sunday Times admits ‘Amazongate’ story was rubbish. But who’s to blame?). The Sunday Times retraction only came after Dr Lewis made a complaint to the Press Council which was upheld. And the retractions have taken months to occur. As Sharon Begley says it is just simply psychology that people will often continue to believe a lie even after the truth has arrived.

Well – I guess it helps that these newspapers have published retractions and apologies. But what about all those blogs (including several New Zealand ones) and conservative newspapers and websites throughout the world who faithfully repeated the lie – but remain silent now?

That’s not ethical.

See also:

British Newspaper Apologizes to Climate Scientist – NYTimes.com

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A question of expertise and credibility

In my last post Climate scientist’s register, I mentioned the new paper Expert credibility in climate change. Several other bloggers have described the findings in the paper, particularly the finding that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in the field support the IPCC conclusions and that the “relative climate expertise and scientific prominence of the researchers unconvinced of [the conclusions] are substantially below that of the convinced researchers”.

The paper analysed the publication record of the two groups to get a handle on the expertise and credibility of group members. I have pulled out the data and combined them into the graph below. This summarises the difference in expertise between scientists accepting the IPCC conclusions on human contribution to climate change (convinced researchers = red bars) and those who reject the IPCC conclusions (unconvinced researchers = blue bars).


Briefly, approximately  80% of the unconvinced group had fewer than 20 climate publications while less than 10% of the convinced group had fewer than 20 climate publications. The mean number of publications in the unconvinced group was 60 (median 34) , half that for the convinced group – 119 (median 84).

When the investigation was restricted to the 50 most-published researcher in both groups the mean number for the unconvinced group was 89 (median 68) and for the convinced group 408 (median 344).

Considering citation numbers for each researcher’s most cited paper this was a mean of 105 for the unconvinced group and 172 for the convinced group.  To avoid anomalies when single papers are considered the paper also considers citation numbers for the 2nd to 4th most cited papers for each researcher. The mean for the unconvinced group was 84 and for the convinced group 133.

For more information on methodology and results you can download the paper here – Download “Expert credibility in climate change.”

See also:
Sceptics face yawning credibility gap
New study reaffirms broad scientific understanding of climate change, questions media’s reliance on tiny group of less-credibile scientists for “balance”

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Apologies would be nice

Blimey! This whole climate change issue is so political – you have to be very careful what you say.

Climate scientists, especially, are being quoted out of context, or even misquoted. Remember the distortion of Phil Jones’ comment on the increase in global temperature in the last decade not being statistically significant?

I guess that’s the nature of a political mind set which wishes to find evidence (or distort evidence) to support a preconceived position. Rather than derive a conclusions from the facts. (I might start calling that the “theological” method).

Mike Hulme

The Deep Climate blog discussed a recent distortion of a quote from Mike Hulme, professor of Climate Change in the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of East Anglia (UEA). This was just a warning that it was counterproductive to make excessive claims of consensus. The IPCC reviews of the literature on climate change draws conclusions about the overall picture but this does not mean that every single statement in these reports is signed off by every single author of the papers reviewed, or every single reviewer. (The quote is in his review paper Climate Change: what do we know about the IPCC?)

Seems a quite reasonable comment to me.

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Climate change and the integrity of science

Here is the lead letter published in today’s issue of Science magazine. It’s signed by 255 members of the US National Academy of Sciences

CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE INTEGRITY OF SCIENCE

We are deeply disturbed by the recent escalation of political assaults on scientists in general and on climate scientists in particular. All citizens should understand some basic scientific facts. There is always some uncertainty associated with scientific conclusions; science never absolutely proves anything. When someone says that society should wait until scientists are absolutely certain before taking any action, it is the same as saying society should never take action. For a problem as potentially catastrophic as climate change, taking no action poses a dangerous risk for our planet.

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Thinking of our grandchildren

Book Review: Storms of My Grandchildren: The Truth About the Coming Climate Catastrophe and Our Last Chance to Save Humanity by James Hansen

Price: US$16.50*
Hardcover:
320 pages
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA (December 8, 2009)
Language:
English
ISBN-10:
1608192008
ISBN-13:
978-1608192007

Climate change contrarians and deniers love to hate James Hansen. He’s up there alongside Al Gore, Michael Mann and Phil Jones. And of course their hatred is no more justified in Hansen’s case than it is for the others.

Others criticise Hansen for his “activism.” His willingness to warn politicians and the population in general of the dangers we face if we continue with a “business as usual” approach to fossil fuel and CO2 emissions. They suggest this could discredit his science. Scientists must always be objective and should limit their pronouncements to the scientific facts alone.

This is not an old problem for scientists – remember their activism after the first use of nuclear weapons and the beginning of the nuclear arms race. Scientists often confront ethical issues arising out of their work.

Continue reading

The climate change denial industry

Book review: The climate denial industry and climate science – a brief history of attacks on climate science, climate scientists and the IPCC by Cindy Baxter
Publisher: Greenpeace International (24 March, 2010)
Number of pages: 25
Publishers description: This report describes 20 years of organised attacks on climate science, scientists and the IPCC. It sets out some of the key moments in this campaign of denial started by the fossil fuel industry, and traces them to their sources.
Download Document

Anyone interested in the current “climategate” clamour will find the report interesting. It’s a must read. It’s brief (25 pages) and available as a free pdf download.

Dealing in Doubt has just been released by Greenpeace international. The report provides a brief history of attacks on climate science, climate scientists and the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It starts with the 1990s, describing the prehistory of the organisations involved (campaigning against the science on the dangers of tobacco) and the formation of the denial networks. And the history is described up until the last few weeks.

Even little old New Zealand gets a mention:

“The campaign has made it to New Zealand, where the Business Roundtable has regularly hosted a slew of denial tours, from Fred Singer in the early ‘90’s to Lord Lawson as recently as 2007134. The New Zealand government’s international stance on climate change is one of the weakest in the industrialised world.

The New Zealand and Australian deniers have joined forces with Canadian deniers to form the International Climate Science Coalition. The New Zealand Climate Science Coalition, formed in 2006, has given international fame to a small group of retired colonels and scientists, who managed to get the Heartland Institute to pay for them to attend conferences, and were supported, in part, by Heartland to go to the Bali climate negotiations in 2008.”

It’s heavily referenced for any reader who wants to dig deeper. The resources listed include useful blogs and some excellent books.

There are lots of details in this report but it still only skims over the surface of the climate denjial networks and their funding. I would love someone to dig deeper into the New Zealand situation. To reveal the links between the ACT Party, The Climate Science Coalition, the Climate Conversation Group , and the Centre for Political Research. These organisations certainly coordinated their activity recently in attacking New Zealand NIWA scientists. They will also be  linked to the usual overseas conservative organisations like The Heartland Insitute and conservative media like The American Thinker, and Quadrant.

But this report is a great start.

See also:
Dealing in doubt: 20 years of attacks on climate science
Greenpeace Says Climate Denialism a 20–Year Industry

Crescendo to Climategate Cacophony

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