We’ve already seen how Jonathan Leake fabricates his stories by quote mining his sources and
stovepiping claims from Global Warming deniers. His story on “Africagate” provides another example:

The most important is a claim that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, a remarkably short time for such a dramatic change. …

The African claims could be even more embarrassing for the IPCC because they appear not only in its report on climate change impacts but, unlike the glaciers claim, are also repeated in its Synthesis Report.

I guess this is closest that Leake is likely to come to admitting that he was wrong to pretend that mistake about Himalyan glaciers was a “central claim” in the IPCC report.

Anyway, what’s Leake’s beef with this part of the IPCC report?


The claims in the Synthesis Report go back to the IPCC’s report on the global impacts of climate change. It warns that all Africa faces a long-term threat from farmland turning to desert and then says of north Africa, “additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-20 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003)”.

“Agoumi” refers to a 2003 policy paper written for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian think tank. The paper was not peer-reviewed.

Its author was Professor Ali Agoumi, a Moroccan climate expert who looked at the potential impacts of climate change on Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. His report refers to the risk of “deficient yields from rain-based agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-20 period”.

So, Agoumi supports what the IPCC says.

These claims refer to other reports prepared by civil servants in each of the three countries as submissions to the UN. These do not appear to have been peer-reviewed either.

And that’s it. Do these reports support Agoumi? Leake doesn’t tell us? Is there good evidence for the claim? Leake doesn’t seem to care. His only objection is that Agoumi’s paper wasn’t peer-reviewed. Now we know that Leake gets his material from Richard North, so let’s see what North has on his blog. Sure enough, the day before Leake’s story was published, North has an ‘Africagate’ post containing much of the source material that Leake used. But Leake has followed his usual dishonest practice of concealing facts that undercut the story he is spinning. North found that one of the reports did support Agoumi:

The report from the Moroccan government is quite explicit, and seems to lend some support to Agoumi. It states that it expects by 2020, “a decrease in cereal yields by 50% in dry years and 10% in normal years.”

and North concedes that official government reports are legitimate sources for the IPCC:

Agoumi’s primary references – which would have qualified as acceptable for the IPCC report

This, too, is not reported by Leake. Now, there is a slight mistake in the IPCC report, which refers to “countries” suffering from a decline of up to 50%, when the underlying reports only support this for one country, but this seems pretty trivial.

Leake also claims that

A leading British government scientist [Robert Watson] has warned the United Nations’ climate panel to tackle its blunders or lose all credibility.

But since Leake routinely misrepresents his sources, we don’t know what Watson really said.

So we have another case where there was scientific support for what was written in the IPCC report and Jonathan Leake deliberately concealed it.

Comments

  1. #1 guthrie
    February 20, 2010

    “Is there godd evidece for the claim?”
    typo in your third paragraph.
    Sorry to be a nitpicker.

  2. #2 JamesA
    February 20, 2010

    Having been an admirer of Bob Watson’s straight-talking attitude, I followed his supposed quote in Leake’s article:

    > Watson said such claims should be based on hard evidence. “Any such projection should be based on peer-reviewed literature from computer modelling of how agricultural yields would respond to climate change. I can see no such data supporting the IPCC report,” he said.

    Regardless of whether he was misquoted or misrepresented, I agree with the statement on the face of it; such projections should be based on peer-reviewed literature. However, when such material doesn’t exist, it’s only right to report the best of what’s available. Leake’s mistaken premise is to assume that the IPCC’s role is to advocate a particular stance, not report the state of the science.

    I think can see the way this is headed – when the dust eventually settles and people start behaving rationally about all of this, the deniers are going to corral all the uncertainty in WG2 and use it as a basis for inaction pending further investigations (tobacco science anyone?). This is more or less the excuse GWB had when faced with WG1 in the 2001 report. Extrapolate that and it’s WG3 that will face the deniers’ collective ire in AR5.

  3. #3 Andrew30
    February 20, 2010

    The ice caps melt. The water is pulled to the Equator, this raises the tides. With the increased mass at a slightly increased distance from the rotational axis of the Earth the Earths rotation slows to maintain angular velocity. Since the force of gravity is inversely proportional to distance; the pull on the Moon in increased slightly by the bulge of water at the Equator. This combined with the slowing of the rotation of the Earth increases the pull on the Moon and slows the Moons orbit. The Moons orbit decays and it slowly begins to fall into the Earth. It eventually strikes the Earth and the combined mass of the Earth and the Moon in the existing Earth orbit, with the orbital velocity of the Earth, are not sufficient to maintain an orbit around the Sun, so the Earth is pulled into the Sun.

    If we do not stop breathing the Earth will fall in to the Sun.

    Let’s see the IPCC top that one!

  4. #4 Erasmussimo
    February 20, 2010

    Andrew30, your physics is good right up to the point where the moon crashes into the earth. If the moon and the earth merge, it won’t change the net orbit of both. Moreover, there is a bit of a time issue: we’re talking many millions of years for the moon’s orbit to decay due to tidal forces.

    Perhaps, however, my tone-deafness for sarcasm deprives me of the ability to appreciate the true intent of your post… ;-)

  5. #5 Lotharsson
    February 20, 2010

    The force of gravity is inversely proportional to the square of the distance.

    Sheesh, can’t these alarmists get anything right? ;-)

  6. #6 Andrew30
    February 20, 2010

    Erasmussimo | February 20, 2010 9:53 PM

    “it won’t change the net orbit of both”

    What if it hits just right, sort of a retrograde hit (but not a glancing blow) and slows the earth orbit while introducing a velocity vector towards the Sun? It could work.

    “Moreover, there is a bit of a time issue: we’re talking many millions of years for the moon’s orbit to decay due to tidal forces”

    I know, but the IPCC put an upper limit of 2040 for publication of disasters caused by a warm Earth for AR5. You think I should add in the LHC creating a black hole as a sub-plot to speed up the process?

    Posted by: Lotharsson

    “square of the distance”

    Square, shmare, picky, picky pickcy.
    It does not have to be that accurate, I’m only trying to get into AR5-I, not the summary report.

    You guys let in the glaciers, rainforests, coral, sea level rise, drought, floods, famine, disease and the rest; but if someone tries to smash the Moon into the Earth and throw the Earth into the Sun the all of a sudden it becomes ‘all about the science’, and ‘you missed a square’, missed a square! What do you think this is hop-scotch!! This is serious, next thing you will be saying is that the Earth is flat and the turtles could easily support the weight of both the Sun and the Moon.

    Critics, who needs em!

  7. #7 rossn2282
    February 20, 2010

    Wow, I never thought I’d see more irrelevant conversation on an AGW blog than the deranged ravings of denialists. Turns out I’m wrong, and now we’re arguing over the applicability of a sarcastic exaggeration…someone call Jonathan Leake with the story.

  8. #8 Brian Schmidt
    February 20, 2010

    The tides actually push the Moon away from the earth, so the whole scenario is bunk. Sorry. We now return to the blog post topic, that Leake is an embarrassingly bad liar who can’t even meet the standard of a denialist blogger that he copies from.

  9. #9 Andrew30
    February 20, 2010

    rossn2282 (February 20, 2010 11:36 PM)
    “…someone call Jonathan Leake with the story”

    The next thing you know ‘New Scientist’ will be publishing a article titled “Global warming could change Earth’s tilt”

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn17657-global-warming-could-change-earths-tilt.html

    Of course, as a follower, you would not call that a sarcastic exaggeration.

  10. #10 Andrew30
    February 21, 2010

    *[stupidity filter applied - Tim]*

  11. #11 Andrew30
    February 21, 2010

    [stupidity filter applied - Tim]

  12. #12 MikeH
    February 21, 2010

    Andrew30 @ 11
    I think Tim’s stupidity filter is broken.

  13. #13 Shorter Andrew 30
    February 21, 2010

    Shorter Andrew30:

    *If climatologist discuss potential bias in methodologies and data, they are biased.*

  14. #14 Thers
    February 21, 2010

    In news that will shock no one, George Will is telling appalling lies in the Washington Post editorial section. Oy.

    Also RealClimate seems to be down, which one hopes does not mean Very Bad Things.

  15. #15 rossn2282
    February 21, 2010

    I don’t know about you, but a piece of grey literature about a piece of white literature discussing the possibility of centimetre changes in Earth’s tilt doesn’t lead me to the conclusion that discussion of a collision with Luna is sensible. I actually assumed Andrew30’s original post was a Poe — after all, what ELSE could it be?

    Back on topic, I’d be interested to know where the Moroccan government got their numbers.

  16. #16 Paul H
    February 21, 2010

    Just noticed that someone else is apparently claiming to have looked at this prior to Richard North. Ben Pile of the Climate Resistance blog wrote something on this back in January [here](http://www.climate-resistance.org/2010/01/the-ipcc-and-the-melting-glaciers-story.html), and it also got published by Roger Pielke Jr [here](http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/01/more-laundered-literature-guest-post-by.html). Ben claims that Richard North picked it up from them in [this](http://www.climate-resistance.org/2010/02/africagate-–-worse-than-previously-thought.html) post.

  17. #17 Dominion
    February 22, 2010

    Just to reiterate #8 the moon is actually moving away from the earth.

    From Curious About Astronomy

    The reason for the increase is that the Moon raises tides on the Earth. Because the side of the Earth that faces the Moon is closer, it feels a stronger pull of gravity than the center of the Earth. Similarly, the part of the Earth facing away from the Moon feels less gravity than the center of the Earth. This effect stretches the Earth a bit, making it a little bit oblong. We call the parts that stick out “tidal bulges.” The actual solid body of the Earth is distorted a few centimeters, but the most noticeable effect is the tides raised on the ocean.

    Now, all mass exerts a gravitational force, and the tidal bulges on the Earth exert a gravitational pull on the Moon. Because the Earth rotates faster (once every 24 hours) than the Moon orbits (once every 27.3 days) the bulge tries to “speed up” the Moon, and pull it ahead in its orbit. The Moon is also pulling back on the tidal bulge of the Earth, slowing the Earth’s rotation. Tidal friction, caused by the movement of the tidal bulge around the Earth, takes energy out of the Earth and puts it into the Moon’s orbit, making the Moon’s orbit bigger (but, a bit paradoxically, the Moon actually moves slower!).

    If Andrew can’t even get this simple bit of science right, why would anyone listen to him on climate science….

    Just sayin’.

  18. #18 Majorajam
    February 22, 2010

    Good luck puncturing the cacophony of kaka with this one Tim. American movement conservatism has thoroughly murdered sanity in political discourse- sledgehammer over the head, ice picks through the eyes and carcass tossed into the gears of a combine. The savage intensity of its pseudo-intellectual anti-intellectualism has by now inspired the likeminded globally; it’s a world-wide raging inferno. One need only have witnessed last week’s conference of American conservatives, CPAC, to see just how certifiably whack it has become.

    As with Mao’s red guards, the flames of this euphoric mass delusion cannot be extinguished but by burning themselves out. Plying things like science, reason, facts or the nose on one’s face against it has about as much a chance of success as trying to hold back a tsunami with a cocktail umbrella. In short order, you can expect Leake’s latest manifesto to become accepted truth amongst the believers, together with the CRU/temp record fraud, the busted hockey stick, the agenda driven IPCC fraud, etc. etc. etc.

    It’s a surreal time we are living in, no question.

  19. #19 Lotharsson
    February 22, 2010

    Yes, it’s surreal.

    Here in Australia we’re not quite as bad as the USA, where there is a well-developed ability to persuade a significant portion of the population of a special brand of “facts”. (Check out the questions in that poll that are of a factual nature rather than about policy.)

    On global issues that persuasive ability in the USA can be used to have an international impact.

    And then there’s the UK press and ours…

  20. #20 Luna_the_cat
    February 26, 2010

    @Majorajam — while I agree with your general sentiment, it’s your metaphors I particularly admire. Sheer poetry. I may re-use some of those, if you don’t mind.

    In other news, earth and Luna already collided, this winter — very icy pavements, here, I took a header on my way to work one day….what? Wrong Luna?

  21. #21 Lotharsson
    February 26, 2010

    Sheer poetry.

    I’ll second that.

    I hope to enjoy such great writing again in the future.

  22. #22 Jonathan Leake
    December 15, 2011

    I just saw your blog and hope this may offer some belated help. Below is the original story, from Feb 2010.

    The key points are:
    a) The IPCC report claimed that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, a remarkably short time for such a dramatic change. The claim has been quoted in speeches by Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, and by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.

    b) This report did not appear to have any scientific basis. In particular there was no climate modelling to support the claim. Climate models are the accepted basis of such claims. I put this point to Prof Chris Field who had then just taken over the IPCC’s impacts panel. He agreed the claim was unsupported – and is quoted saying that. (After writing the story I called him again and read the whole thing back to him before publishing to ensure he was happy with this quote.)

    c) I then traced back the origins of the claim to Professor Ali Agoumi, a Moroccan agro-economist, who looked at the potential impacts of climate change on Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. He wrote a report for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian think tank. This paper was not peer-reviewed. Nor was it based on modelling.

    I tried to call Agoumi but he did not reply to messages or emails. However, his own report suggests that the claim was based on verbal presentations made at a UN climate COP by civil servants from each of the three countries. These do not appear to have been based on modelling and were also not peer-reviewed.

    To distill: The IPCC’s Africa claim, that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, was based ultimately on verbal claims made by delegates from three of the North AFrican countries potentially affected.

    There appears to have been no peer review of these claims and no modelling to support them. One idea is that those countries may have had a vested interest in talking up the issue to generate international aid.

    If you have better information about the origins of these claims please let me know and I will add the information and references to our story on the Sunday Times Website. http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/news/article15071.ece

    None of this means the IPCC’s overall conclusions about anthropogenic climate change were wrong. The evidence suggests it is a huge threat. But this was an odd, and exceptionally strong, claim that needed better support.

    Here’s the original story.

    Top British scientist says UN panel is losing credibility.
    The former head of the IPCC warns that people will stop listening if exaggerated claims continue

    Jonathan Leake, Environment Editor Published: 8 February 2010

    A LEADING British government scientist has warned the United Nations’ climate panel to tackle its blunders or lose all credibility.

    Robert Watson, chief scientist at Defra, the environment ministry, who chaired the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) from 1997 to 2002, was speaking after more potential inaccuracies emerged in the IPCC’s 2007 benchmark report on global warming.

    The most important is a claim that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, a remarkably short time for such a dramatic change. The claim has been quoted in speeches by Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, and by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.

    This weekend Professor Chris Field, the new lead author of the IPCC’s climate impacts team, told The Sunday Times that he could find nothing in the report to support the claim. The revelation follows the IPCC’s retraction of a claim that the Himalayan glaciers might all melt by 2035.

    The African claims could be even more embarrassing for the IPCC because they appear not only in its report on climate change impacts but, unlike the glaciers claim, are also repeated in its Synthesis Report.

    This report is the IPCC’s most politically sensitive publication, distilling its most important science into a form accessible to politicians and policy makers. Its lead authors include Pachauri himself.

    In it he 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.” The same claims have since been cited in speeches to world leaders by Pachauri and Ban.

    Speaking at the 2008 global climate talks in Poznan, Poland, Pachauri said: “In some countries of Africa, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by 50% by 2020.” In a speech last July, Ban said: “Yields from rain-fed agriculture could fall by half in some African countries over the next 10 years.”

    Speaking this weekend, Field said: “I was not an author on the Synthesis Report but on reading it I cannot find support for the statement about African crop yield declines.”

    Watson said such claims should be based on hard evidence. “Any such projection should be based on peer-reviewed literature from computer modelling of how agricultural yields would respond to climate change. I can see no such data supporting the IPCC report,” he said.

    The claims in the Synthesis Report go back to the IPCC’s report on the global impacts of climate change. It warns that all Africa faces a long-term threat from farmland turning to desert and then says of north Africa, “additional risks that could be exacerbated by climate change include greater erosion, deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-20 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003)”.

    “Agoumi” refers to a 2003 policy paper written for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian think tank. The paper was not peer-reviewed.

    Its author was Professor Ali Agoumi, a Moroccan climate expert who looked at the potential impacts of climate change on Tunisia, Morocco and Algeria. His report refers to the risk of “deficient yields from rain-based agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000–20 period”.

    These claims refer to other reports prepared by civil servants in each of the three countries as submissions to the UN. These do not appear to have been peer-reviewed either.

    The IPCC is also facing criticism over its reports on how sea level rise might affect Holland. Dutch ministers have demanded that it correct a claim that more than half of the Netherlands lies below sea level when, in reality, it is about a quarter.

    The errors seem likely to bring about change at the IPCC. Field said: “The IPCC needs to investigate a more sophisticated approach for dealing with emerging errors.”