Anatomy of IPCC’s Mistake on Himalayan Glaciers and Year 2035″ is well worth a read. Especially interesting is their taking-apart of the revisions of 10.6.2 – in brief, these mistakes were spotted before tape-out but those revising that section couldn’t be bothered to make any changes (and/or didn’t want to quote some embarassingly good research which would have pointed up the pap elsewhere).

[Hat tip: Deltoid]

Comments

  1. #1 Alastair
    2010/02/06

    With that care taken over the dangers from the melting of the glaciers in the Himalayas, it is little wonder that India wants to set up its own IPCC.

  2. #2 Marco
    2010/02/06

    Oddly, that ‘Indian IPCC’ was apparently already set up in October 2009. BEFORE the whole glacier issue!

    Interestingly, however, the Minister for the Environment in India did acknowledge concerns for water resources in North India due to melting glaciers…

  3. #3 David B. Benson
    2010/02/06

    Yawn.

    Or “let them eat cake”.

  4. #4 windansea
    2010/02/06

    From The Sunday Times February 7, 2010

    Top British scientist says UN panel is losing credibility

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

    [No, he doesn't. That is just the Times headline. If you read the actual quote from him in the text, you'll find he says nothing of the sort -W]

    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.

    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.

    [That would be more interesting. Where do they appear? -W]

    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.

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article7017907.ece

  5. #5 PeteB
    2010/02/07

    Apologies for the off topic post but found this

    http://www.campaignstrategy.org/makepoliticsworkforclimate.pdf

    (in the comments here of all places http://www2.politicalbetting.com/index.php/archives/2010/02/06/might-the-snow-have-given-dave-a-headache/ )

    Thought it was an interesting perspective

  6. #6 P. Lewis
    2010/02/07

    It’s in Section 3.3.2 of the Synthesis Report. It mirrors the WGII summary of Ch 9 on Africa (IIRC).

  7. #7 P. Lewis
    2010/02/07

    I note the Times piece says:

    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)”.

    The actual quote in WGII says:

    In other countries [than South 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 2000-2020 period, and reductions in crop growth period (Agoumi, 2003).

    With regard to desert(ification) in Africa, so far as I’m aware the Synthesis Report makes one mention of “desert”, in a global map concerned with annual runoff (on p. 39).

    With regard to WGII and desert(ification) in Africa, in Ch 9, apart from the refs listing, the string “desert” is mentioned twice so far as I’m aware.

    WGII (p. 439) says:

    Approximately half of the sub-humid and semi-arid parts of the southern African region are at moderate to high risk of desertification

    And on p. 442 WGII says:

    The African continent also suffers from the impacts of desertification. At present, almost half (46%) of Africa’s land area is vulnerable to desertification (Granich, 2006).

    So, perhaps they’ve added “Approximately half” to “almost half (46%)” to arrive at “all Africa faces a long-term threat from farmland turning to desert”. Who knows? It would be interesting to see where this “all Africa” will be a desert arises from.

    Then, on p. 444 (also as a footnote on p. 436, i.e. the Ch 9 summary) of WGII we have:

    Note that several authors (e.g., Agoumi, 2003; Legesse et al., 2003; Conway, 2005, Thornton et al., 2006) warn against the over-interpretation of results, owing to the limitations of some of the projections and models used. For other assessments see also Biggs et al. (2004), Muriuki et al. (2005) and Nkomo et al. (2006).

    On p. 446 of WGII we have:

    Assessments of impacts on water resources, as already indicated, currently do not fully capture multiple future water uses and water stress and must be approached with caution (see, e.g., Agoumi, 2003; Conway, 2005).

    Also on p. 448 we have:

    However, not all changes in climate and climate variability will be negative, as agriculture and the growing seasons in certain areas (for example, parts of the Ethiopian highlands and parts of southern Africa such as Mozambique), may lengthen under climate change, due to a combination of increased temperature and rainfall changes (Thornton et al., 2006).

    which is also at odds with the Times piece mention of African desertification.

    Where the Times piece has a point probably in regard to the Synthesis Report is in regard to the footnote to the Africa section, which says:

    Unless stated explicitly, all entries are from WG II SPM text, and are either very high confidence or high confidence statements, reflecting different sectors (agriculture, ecosystems, water, coasts, health, industry and settlements). The WG II SPM refers to the source of the statements, timelines and temperatures. The magnitude and timing of impacts that will ultimately be realised will vary with the amount and rate of climate change, emissions scenarios, development pathways and adaptation.

    I’d suggest that that is probably not an interpretation that Agoumi may have proffered, but I’ve not read his reference and so cannot be categoric about this point.

    But, in reading the Synthesis Report, especially when one wants to see the evidence supplied, one surely has to follow the reference to Section 9.4 (pp. 444-451) to appreciate the context and caveats.

    Does anyone other than me not do this then when reading the Synthesis Report and chapter summaries?

    You don’t use summaries or abstracts other than to give you a way in to the actual research and data, surely.

  8. #8 bigcitylib
    2010/02/07

    The Times Story was fed to them by this guy:

    http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2010/02/and-now-for-africagate.html

    …and then I suppose Field was ambushed with it. I see nothing to this but the grey lit accusation.

  9. #9 Vinny Burgoo
    2010/02/07

    P. Lewis: ‘But, in reading the Synthesis Report, especially when one wants to see the evidence supplied, one surely has to follow the reference to Section 9.4 (pp. 444-451) to appreciate the context and caveats.’

    It doesn’t always help, though, does it? Vast swathes of the IPCC’s reports are denuded of context and caveats. All that’s left is a bald rolling wasteland of scariness and asserted certainty (a bit like Scotland, only more numerate).

    [That doesn't sound very plausible. Indeed, it sounds totally wrong. Lets see if you find any evidence... -W]

    A quick example. In the AR4 Synthesis Report, the second claim after the one you’re discussing says, ‘By 2080, an increase of 5 to 8% of arid and semi-arid land in Africa is projected under a range of climate scenarios (high confidence). {WGII Box TS.6, 9.4.4}’ Those references say no more than SYR says: no extra context, no caveats. Nor do they explain why the ’5-8%’ projection merits the ‘high confidence’ tag. (Nor does anywhere else in AR4.) IPCC guidelines say that the reasons for such tagging should be ‘carefully explained’. But no. Zilch.

    [That doesn't appear to support your assertion re "vast swathes". Perhaps you might tone down the hyperbole a bit, to the level where what you say can be believed. Provide a link to the WGII Ts.6 9.4.4 please -W]

    And no wonder. The tag is wholly unjustified. For the full context and caveats, see the source of the ’5-8%’ projection, Fischer 2005. On a blog like this, it’s surely enough to quote AR4 WG2 Chapter 5, which says that the Fischer model projections are ‘highly uncertain’.

  10. #10 windansea
    2010/02/07

    [No, he doesn't. That is just the Times headline. If you read the actual quote from him in the text, you'll find he says nothing of the sort -W]

    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.

    nothing of the sort? What part of “no data supporting the IPCC report” do you not understand? If there is no supporting data, the report is not credible, it is a blunder that needs to be addressed or the IPCC will indeed lose credibility.

    [I mean, he didn't say "Top British scientist says UN panel is losing credibility A LEADING British government scientist has warned the United Nations’ climate panel to tackle its blunders or lose all credibility." The Times just made that up -W]

  11. #11 Vinny Burgoo
    2010/02/07

    ‘That doesn’t appear to support your assertion re “vast swathes”.’

    I did say it is was a quick response. If it wasn’t so late, I’d quickly tap out something about such-and-such in chapter so-and-so. (Assuming I found I was right. If not, it would take all night.)

    ‘Provide a link to the WGII Ts.6 9.4.4 please’

    I don’t think they’re available as HTML. ‘Ts’ is the Technical Summary. 9.4.4 is in Chap 9. Both available here:

    [Ah, no wonder I didn't understand you. I assumed "TS.6 9.4.4 was a reference to section 9.4.4 of the TS." Now I know what you mean, I'm still baffled. Section 9.4.4 says:

    "Other recent assessments using the FAO/IIASA Agro- Ecological Zones model (AEZ) in conjunction with IIASA’s world food system or Basic Linked System (BSL), as well as
    climate variables from five different GCMs under four SRES emissions scenarios, show further agricultural impacts such as changes in agricultural potential by the 2080s (Fischer et al., 2005). By the 2080s, a significant decrease in suitable rain-fed
    land extent and production potential for cereals is estimated under climate change. Furthermore, for the same projections, for the same time horizon the area of arid and semi-arid land in Africa could increase by 5-8% (60-90 million hectares)."

    That, very clearly, does give you extra info. It tells you that the 5-8% is coming from 5 GCMs under 4 SRES scenarios. In turn, F will tell you those models are HADCM3 ECHAM CSIRO CGCM2 NCAR-PCM.

    So, I'm really not sure what you point is. Unless it is "IPCC carefully refs everything"? -W]

    http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/ar4-wg2.htm

    And Fischer 2005 is available here:

    http://ncsp.va-network.org/UserFiles/File/…/Agriculture/Fischer_agriculture.pdf

  12. #13 Kooiti Masuda
    2010/02/08

    Vinny Burgoo (#11): IPCC AR4 is now available in HTML format. The new index page for the IPCC WG2 report is here.
    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/contents.html

    There is also a new index page of the PDF version, whose name is quite lengthy, linked from there.

    The index page which Vinny Burgoo linked seems obsolete. Its links to the PDF files are still good, but other links are broken.

  13. #14 ICE
    2010/02/08

    i think the “50% yield decrease in Africa by 2020″ story is most embarassing for the IPCC WGII.
    Despite the more nuanced tone about climate impacts on crops in the actual report (see comment #7), only this “result” appears in the Synthesis Report… and then gets widely publicized.
    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/syr/en/spms3.html
    The point is, even if this claim was substantiated and based on a peer-reviewed article – which it does not seem to be -, given the uncertainties in climate scenarios (especially on such short time-scales) and in combined climate/crop modelling, i think it’s obvious it shouldn’t appear as such in the SPM.

    Incidentally, we discussed the subject on my blog a few months ago: I clearly missed an opportunity… ;-)

    Note that there IS some proeminent scary litterature on dramatic short-term impacts of climate change on crops:
    http://iis-db.stanford.edu/pubs/22098/Lobell_et_al_Science_2008.pdf
    (weeell, actually its not that scary – mostly uncertain…)

  14. #15 Carl C
    2010/02/08

    Maybe the problem is just having the UN involved in the first place. If 10 IPCC scientists laughed about the “glaciers gone in 2035″ or even wondered about the old “hockey stick” from Mann et al; they would still get ridden over due to political considerations (“well we don’t want to offend the head guy from India, or the UEA CRU” etc).

    They seem to screw up everything, and obviously political ploys will get more “play” than the science. This is the same group that can’t send any peacekeepers to Sudan, and will have Sudan on their “Human Rights Council.”

    Plus in the US you automatically have half the country (i.e. Republicans, Fox News viewers, Sarah Palin fans) laughing at anything the UN puts out. Perhaps it would better if the scientists kept to their national bodies for reports & publicity, i.e. NERC in the UK etc.

    [I don't think we should pander to the black-helicopter people. Not that IPCC is really UN; it is really a hard core of a few competent scientists; the political layering doesn't do too much damage -W]

  15. #16 Eachran
    2010/02/08

    WMC (incidentally thank you from liberating me from Dr Connolley, the best I can do is 11+. Did you read The Economist stuff on titles?)

    Well, I wouldnt otherwise have read the Yale stuff so thanks.

    But all of my friends dont respond to Himalayan glaciers retreating at a rate of knots that Mr Schumacher would envy.

    We (a large number – more than 15) are stuck on CO2e and sensitivity. Nice Annan and Hargreaves point to 3 minus on sensitivity and that gives me a good feeling.

    We dont do complicated things like models because that just gets us into trouble. On the other hand we do things like biosphere changes and elements of modelling, like for example El Nino.

    Stacking everything up makes our environment look a bit ropey. (Sorry for the technical terms.)

    Still, how about an answer to the IPCC : dissolve or not?

    My own view for what it is worth is that the science is settled, falling off a log stuff.

    Why do you need to be told periodically how bad things are? Is angst and masochism all the rage now?

  16. #17 Vinny Burgoo
    2010/02/09

    ‘That, very clearly, does give you extra info. It tells you that the 5-8% is coming from 5 GCMs under 4 SRES scenarios.’

    Your paraphrase is unlucky (one of the GCMs disagreed) but yes, I concede that one of the references does supply a bit of extra context. No caveats, though.

    ‘In turn, F will tell you those models are HADCM3 ECHAM CSIRO CGCM2 NCAR-PCM.’

    Fischer 2005 also tells you that these GCMs ‘present significant uncertainties’, especially at a regional level, and warns that one of the SRES scenarios it used was based on obsolete, inflated population-growth estimates and any results based on it (presumably the 8%) should be considered a ‘worst case scenario’ (italicized). (There are other major unmentioned caveats, but they mostly apply to the rest of the paragraph you partially quoted, not the ’5-8%’.)

    The 4/5 GCMs score (I’m fairly sure about this but the sentence is ambiguous and there’s no SI to clarify it) is superficially consistent with ‘high confidence’, which in IPCC-speak means an 80% chance of a finding being correct, but what about the other uncertainties? 80% times ‘significant uncertainties’ times ‘inflated growth estimates’ times ‘whatever uncertainties are intrinsic to the AEZ model itself’ does not equal 80%. As already mentioned, elsewhere AR4 describes Fischer 2005′s modelled projections as ‘highly uncertain’. And yet one of them ended up in the AR4 Synthesis Report tagged with ‘high confidence’. Why such confidence? We’re not told.

    The tag was supplied to the SYR by the first reference, a box in the WG2 Technical Summary. The ’5-8%’ projection also appears in Chapter 9′s Executive Summary, underneath a more general claim tagged with ‘very high confidence’. Perhaps someone saw that and thought that claims that are printed close to a claim tagged ‘very high confidence’ must merit ‘high confidence’.

    Or perhaps the ‘high confidence’ is a judgment on the competence of the source material rather than the likely correctness of that particular projection. The IPCC guidelines seem to allow for both interpretations. (If that’s what it means, it shouldn’t have been included in the SYR like that. If it refers to likely correctness, it’s unjustifiable.)

    But we’ll never know. The mandatory explanation wasn’t supplied.

    ‘So, I’m really not sure what you point is. Unless it is “IPCC carefully refs everything”?’

    I had two points. One was the confidence level thing; the other was the lack of important caveats in the AR4. Sillily, I shoe-horned one into the other and tried to use the same example for both. I should really have supplied a few proper snaphots of these alleged ‘large swathes’. Maybe later.

    (Kooiti: Thanks!)

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