Bit of a weird one this, and I’m not sure it is all pieced together. I saw this via KZ, and of course was interested in what science R had got wrong, but KZ’s Werner Krauss isn’t interested in the science (explicitly so, see the comments). And it points me to RP Jr, whom he says “sums it up perfectly”, but experience suggests that is unlikely. And indeed, RP just uses it as an excuse to bash R and ride his favourite hobby-horses. Tellingly he too has no interest in the science. You’ll notice that he is very deliberately vague about what actually happened, which is a sure sign that he doesn’t want you to know.

It appears to start with an article (“AFRICA GATE The failure of climate scientists”) by Irene Meichsner (here I’m relying in part on an earlier KZ post, which I ignored at the time because it was in Foreign and therefore clearly not important. Google tells me it says): “The affair began with an article in the Frankfurter Rundschau, the web archive of the FR with the regret of the paper was removed. The article is also published by the Cologne Stadt Anzeiger , where the article is to continue to find. Apparently the article in the FR was reduced by the editors without this had been agreed with Ms. Meichsner.” So the original article has been removed by the FR; just possibly, because it was junk (WC, no relation of whom more anon, thinks so). But never mind, we can still read the KSA version and it looks like just another of the many dumb articles that appeared after the 2035/2350 Himalayan glaciers stuff, when every fool thought that sticking “-gate” on a story related to climate change made it true.

I know nothing of African drought. Wolfgang Cramer is sympathetic to Rahmstorf’s view (aha, but he too is German, it is all a conspiracy. But wait, IM is also German… aha, but WC is at PIK like R…) and says stuff like The first claim, but that the numbers were wrong about the increasing aridity… the claim itself is not new and has been refuted… [the claim] was the subject of a sensational newspaper article dated February 2010 in the Cologne Stadt Anzeiger and the Frankfurter Rundschau, which was withdrawn from the latter in April 2010 and corrected for good reason (caution: these words come from google translate. I’m not going to repeat that caution again). You can read more there, or probably find similar elsewhere (Deltoid blames in all on Leake, and who knows?). So much for the science.

The court judgement (which is the bit RP is so excited by, though you’ll notice he tells you nothing about it) appears to be that R must

to refrain from it (…) to create the impression that a) the applicant has written off by the blogger Richard North, by journalist Jonathan Leake;

and I think this, translated, means that IM had just copied junk from North and Leake. Which she probably had, given the way this stuff flows around the denialosphere. And also:

b) the applicant was the defendant by the editors of the Frankfurter Rundschau Please let Naaman should the applicant’s name from the blog post of the defendant, FR pulls product back to the IPCC remove ‘and name the Frankfurter Rundschau.

And I haven’t got a f*ck*ng clue what that is supposed to mean. Maybe someone who can read the original could help me?

There is a bit more:

Moreover, the defendant must pay the applicant € 511.58 plus interest and two-thirds the costs of the litigation over it… an action point of Mrs. Meichsner, namely the claim that it had “not read 4th Assessment Report of the IPCC,” the was rated as acceptable speech, so the costs are two-thirds to Mr. Rahmstorf and one third to the applicant.

and I think that last bit means that R saying IM had never read the IPCC report she was claiming to talk about was probably true. Either way, the court had nothing to sat about science.

Err, so there you go. Not perfectly clear, but R appears to be correct on the science, and the other stuff looks like trivia (disclaimer: R is at RC where I used to be).

Refs

* PIK responds
* Eli has some nice quotes from the EPA, who were challenged on their use of the IPCC report and vigourously rebutted those challenges.
* Von Storch invites you to discuss Extended peer review: Assumptions in Arnell’s article

Comments

  1. #1 Hank Roberts
    2011/12/12

    It was the headline writer.
    It’s always the headline writer.

  2. #2 The Bishop of Stratocaster
    2011/12/13

    I can’t make heads or tails of this.

    But maybe that’s the point.

  3. #3 Eli Rabett
    2011/12/13

    FWIW, reading the original article, she says

    The English internet blogger Richard North and the Sunday Times brought this to light after it bubbled away in the “best” blogs for a few days.

    Without translating the whole thing, she is trying to besmirch Pachaure, Bok Ki Moon and Obama. The deal is that that synthesis report included a prediction that there would be agricultural droughts at the end of the century in Africa. The origin of this prediction is unclear (at least from the article) but IM says that this was planted by one

    Ali Agoumi, who works at the Morracan Eco Ministry and the firm “Ecosecurities, that among other things earns money by trade in pollution rights” (Eli put that in quotes to indicate that salt tablets may be needed). Agoumi is the author of a report about the “Vulnerability of north African countries to climate change” that the international ecological organization ” the „International Institute for Sustainable Development, lodated in Canada published in 2003.

    Jonathan Leake picked this up and you can find a thread on Deltoid

    It gets somewhat complicated after that because the FR edited IM’s piece and there was an interchange of emails between SR IM and the FR where the FR asked SR to take IM’s name out of his blog post and just name the FR.

    Also the amounts are less than the costs, which look like 30,000 E to be split roughly 60 to SR and 40 to IM after the dust settles.

    What SR said was “Reading helps, had the author of the article IM herself once read the IPCC report she would have discovered that the accusations were false.” The court found that that was an allowable statement of belief. IM lost that one

    If you really care Eli can translate more

    [Hmm, thanks, I think that will do for now... -W]

  4. #4 Eli Rabett
    2011/12/13
  5. #5 Marco
    2011/12/13

    The badly translated part says “die Klägerin habe dem Beklagten durch die Redaktion der Frankfurter Rundschau die Bitte ausrichten lassen, er solle den Namen der Klägerin aus dem Blogbeitrag des Beklagten ‚FR zieht Artikel gegen den Klimarat zurück’ entfernen und nur die Frankfurter Rundschau nennen.“”

    Which means, combined with the first (not quoted) part of the accusation that the blog entry from Rahmstorf suggested Meichsner asked Rahmstorf, through the redaction of the FR, to remove her name in the blog entry ‘FR zieht artikel gegen den Klimarat zurück’, and to only mention the FR.

    Which, in turn, suggests Rahmstorf was asked to remove her name, and he immediately thought it would have been Meichsner herself who asked, which she denies. Quite the important thing, no?

    [Err... well, I can see why Pielke was so excited by it -W]

  6. #6 Merve
    2011/12/13

    So Pielke the guesses about Pielke were spot on.

  7. #7 Martin Vermeer
    2011/12/13

    Here is an analysis, also in Foreign I’m afraid.

    http://www.scilogs.de/wblogs/blog/relativ-einfach/wissenschaft-medien/2011-12-08/rahmstorf-im-zerrspiegel
    http://www.scilogs.de/wblogs/blog/relativ-einfach/wissenschaft-medien/2011-12-10/duerre-in-afrika

    It seems that the language that Rahmstorf lost on was

    “Wer unsere Übersicht über die angeblichen und echten IPCC-Fehler gelesen hat, der ahnt schon, von wem Frau Meichsner hier kritiklos abgeschrieben hat: vom Blogger Richard North und von Jonathan Leake von der Sunday Times.”

    “Those who have read our [i.e., SR's linked] summary of the purported and real IPCC errors, will already suspect from whom Ms. Meichsner has uncritically cribbed here: from blogger RN and from JL of the Sunday Times”.

    “[A]bgeschrieben” was taken here literally by the court as an accusation of plagiarism… I know I shouldn’t be criticizing the German judiciary, but it would be nice if they were functionally literate in German :-(

  8. #9 Martin Vermeer
    2011/12/13

    HanHank, ‘depreciated’ — not exactly. Would have been more appropriate if Ms. Meichsner had done that…

  9. #10 Boris
    2011/12/13

    Hank,
    It also means “copied.”

  10. #11 David B. Benson
    2011/12/13

    This is about something?

    Even WOnderland seems more real…

  11. #12 Hank Roberts
    2011/12/14

    OK, so ‘cribbed'; ‘uncritically cribbed’
    Yeah, that fits with the accounting use.

  12. #13 Hank Roberts
    2011/12/14

    “But now I am cabined, cribbed, confined, bound in
    To saucy doubts and fears.”
    – William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 3.4

  13. #14 Peter Hartmann
    2011/12/14

    I’ve been following this for quite a while, and notified some others that have looked at this in more depth than I have.

    Just this for now: as you’re talking about conspiracies, this is one possible scenario: Rahmstorf (SR) often lambastes factually incorrect, tendentious articles in his blog, such as those by Irene Meichsner (IM) and Axel Bojanowski (AB), the latter writing for Der Spiegel (DS). Markus Lehmkuhl (ML), who wrote the long article about the court decision, knows AB, as the latter is also writing for ML’s WPK. Hans von Storch (HS) got the verdict PDF from “a journalist” and publishes it; HS has pretty close connections to DS, so maybe it was AB, who still has an axe to grind with SR? Now Jana Hauschild (JH) publishes a really bad article about the whole thing in DS: http://goo.gl/VOavO (which is dissected here: http://goo.gl/nZq1T ; both articles in gTranslated German). Now the conspiracy theory is that some journalists don’t like SR bitching about their reporting, so they do a bit of character assassination, as a warning.

    As i see it, yes, the verdict was about some wordings that were too strong for some of the participants (including the judge, whom i cannot follow here). IM has a history of bad, tendentious articles about climate, implying that breathing contributes to CO2 buildup, smearing Pachauri on shaky grounds, that kind of stuff. Here’s her article on the CRU hack, part one: http://goo.gl/Uswm0

    p.

  14. #15 Rob Dekker
    2011/12/15

    If I recall correctly from my German class (30 years ago, so correct me if I’m wrong) “abgeschrieben” has two meanings : first “to write off” which is an accountancy term, or “to copy literally”, which is even stronger than “plagiarism”.
    Either way (plagiarism or even stronger) the German court found that Rahmstorf went too far with his accusations.

    The problem I think was not just the semantics of the word “abgeschrieben”.
    The problem is more basic than that : Meischer asserted that the IPCC statement “75 and 250 million people in Africa will be exposed to increased water scarcity due to climate change” was wrong. Rahmstorf mentions Arnell 2004 as evidence, but that paper does not mentions this range explicitly. Arnell 2004 presents a spectrum of ranges for each of the model runs, and for each of the regions in Africa.

    So, Rahmstorf was not able to directly ‘disprove’ her, and thus his allegations against her were unfounded, and thus her “report” was ‘correct’ and covered under freedom of speech.

    Do you feel where the pain is ?

    In fact, this whole argument between a scientist and a journalist reminds me of Condoleezza Rice’s statement :

    they have to be right once, we have to be right 100 percent of the time.

    In the thousands of pages of documents that the IPCC AR4 produced, some journalist will find some error or questionable statement, they can call it a “scandal”, and if there is even one other example of a previously documented minor mistake (such as 2035/2350. even if it was admitted and corrected) that journalist will attack the president of the IPCC personally of “glaring errors of his organization” and even though allegations against Pachauri have been refuted by KPMG, that journalist will still continue to claim that this scandal is “in a different league altogether” because this time Pachauri was “personally involved”.

    It does not matter how inflammatory the attacks and opinions on science are, scientists have to be correct ALL the time, even (or especially) when they engage in confronting journalists on factual correctness.

  15. #16 Jonathan Leake
    2011/12/15

    I just saw your blog and hope this may 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 other words 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.

    c) I then traced back the origins of the claim to Professor Ali Agoumi, a Moroccan climate expert 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 peer-reviewed either.

    To distill: The IPCC’s Africa claim 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.

    [Thanks for responding. I think you should read the EPA stuff I linked to -W]

    If you have better information about the origins of thes 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

    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.”

  16. #17 Jonathan Leake
    2011/12/15

    I just saw your blog and hope this may 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 other words 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.

    c) I then traced back the origins of the claim to Professor Ali Agoumi, a Moroccan climate expert 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 peer-reviewed either.

    To distill: The IPCC’s Africa claim 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 thes 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

    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.”

  17. #18 Eli Rabett
    2011/12/15

    Yes, the EPA saw that. They were not impressed.

    Watson may not have appreciated that peer-reviewed modeling studies of climate change impacts on agriculture in parts of Africa are limited. As the IPCC’s AR4 WGI report states (Christensen et al., 2007): “Several climate change projections based on RCM (regional climate model) simulations are available for southern Africa, but are much scarcer for other regions.” Accordingly, as we discuss in Subsection 2.2.4.4 of this RTP document, the IPCC references gray literature in these circumstances. We also note in Response 2-10 that these studies are not central to the TSD or the Endangerment Finding. Finally, though we discuss some additional modeling studies pertinent to Africa in RTP 2-15, those modeling studies (Parry et al., 2005 and Hulme et al., 2001) were conducted at the global and continental scales and contain limited results pertinent to northern Africa specifically.

  18. #19 Rob Dekker
    2011/12/16

    Jonathan,
    Thank you for clarifying the “key points” of your story.

    Meischner’s response suggests that you must have found something very shocking in the IPCC reports. Claims like “scandal” and “Africa-gate” and “embarrassing for the IPCC” as well her attacks on Pachauri “glaring errors of his organization” and that this scandal is “in a different league altogether” because this time Pachauri was “personally involved”.

    From this sort of responses, the innocent reader may conclude that at least the Africa section of the IPCC report was completely fabricated, and Pachauri was personally responsible for that fabrication.

    So where did your claim come from ? A bit of digging in the AR4 WGII Chapter 9 section about Africa goes like this :

    In other countries, 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)

    So that’s it ? That’s your “key point” and the core of Meischer and your argument ?
    ONE part of ONE sentence in the entire AR4 WGII report ?
    Less than 0.01 % of the IPCC report ?
    That’s “Africa-gate” ?

    Besides this, this sentence tells that there are existing volnerability risks which could be exacerbated by climate change. The way this sentence is written, the “deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture” are an existing vulnerability risk (just like “greater erosion” is an existing vulnerability risk in the marginal rain-fed North African agricultural areas). It does decidedly NOT claim that these risks are caused by global warming as you suggest.
    Besides, we don’t know which countries is talked about here.

    Let’s find the source. Agoumi 2003 :
    http://www.iisd.org/cckn/pdf/north_africa.pdf
    mentions a few more vulnerability risks linked to climage change and sources and mentions the source of the study that reports these :
    Vulnerability studies on three North African countries (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) with respect to cli-matic changes, performed within the framework of the UNEP-GEF Project RAB94G31: 2000-2001.

    At UNEP,
    http://www.unep.org/dewa/Portals/67/pdf/Facing_the_Facts_Full.pdf
    I found these studies listed as the following :

    * Water and Climatic Changes in North Africa, a book published in 1998 within the framework of the UNEP-GEF Project RAB94G31;

    * Climate and Health in North Africa, a book published in 2002 within the framework of the UNEP-GEF Project RAB94G31.

    Now, did you read these books ? If so, what do they say about existing vulnerability risks that could degrade crop yields in the first decade of the 21st Century ? And how large and where was the area that exposed the highest risk (50% reduction) ? And what was listed as the cause of that risk of yield loss ? And do they mention that that risk could be exacerbated by climate change ?

    This analysis alone shows that your claim that “The IPCC report claimed that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020″ is decidedly wrong on multiple counts and your claims (that Agoumi’s paper “was not peer-reviewed. nor was it based on modelling.” and that “He wrote a report for the International Institute for Sustainable Development, a Canadian think tank”) are completely irrelevant (since the UN performed the studies).

    And this is Africa-gate ? The only Africa-gate that I see here is journalists like you and Meischner throwing out widely overblown claims regarding subsections of a single sentence in the AR4 WG2, without providing the evidence for these claims, firing personal attacks on Pachauri, and then trumpeting your own fabrications as a “scandal” and “glaring errors of his organization”, while the only “glaring errors” are in your own article and that of Meischers.

  19. #20 Vinny Burgoo
    2011/12/17

    Rob, the scandal is that a brief, badly expressed and dodgily sourced statement hidden in the depths of WG2 Chapter 9 made it all the way to the Synthesis Report’s Summary for Policymakers despite several warnings in Chapter 9 about the limitations of the statement’s source and that, on its way to the only part of the IPCC report that most people read, the statement morphed into something bigger and scarier.

    The main blame has to fall on the IPCC’s doomsmitten summarisers but some of it belongs to whoever wrote that section of 9.4.4. It’s clunky and ambiguous. I’m sure it’s possible to exacerbate ‘greater erosion’ (greater because of an ongoing goat explosion, say) or to exacerbate ‘reductions in crop growth period’ (a govt. curfew during the best month for planting?) but I smell pleonasm.

    A reordering of the rain-fed agriculture part of the sentence:

    ‘In other countries [= African but not South Africa], deficiencies in yields from rain-fed agriculture of up to 50% during the 2000-2020 period could be exacerbated by climate change.’

    The most obvious readings are:

    (a) In some African countries (but not South Africa), non-CC factors are expected to reduce total yields for the period 2000-2020 by as much as half and CC might reduce yields further.

    (b) In some African countries (but not South Africa), bad but not catastrophic harvests (not less than 50% of the usual yield) in the period 2000-2020 could be made worse by climate change.

    That second one is close to what some people say was the intended meaning: climate change might increase the frequency of bad harvests in some African countries.

    Neither is very close to what ended up in the SYR SPM. Table SPM.2, ‘Examples of some projected regional [climate change] impacts': ‘By 2020, in some [African] countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.’

    (A suggestion for AR5: Ban the use of the weaselly modifier ‘up to’.)

  20. #21 Anonymous
    2011/12/19

    Just to be clear, the “scandal” that Vinny is talking about is about this one sentence in the SR 2007 :

    By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%

    which appears in one table labeled “Examples of some projected regional impacts”.

    That’s Africa Gate. A “scandal” according to Vinny, and Jonathan, and definitely according to Meichsner, Pielke.

    Without even going into the details of the allegations of these ‘critics’ (allegations which turn out to be mostly incorrect, misleading and/or irrelevant (see EPA response, as reported by Eli above)), one needs to realize that the SR 2007 has 22 pages, approximately 1000 sentences, so we are talking about 0.1 % of the 2007 Summary for Policymakers.

    One may wonder why they did not contest the remaining 99.9 % of the report.

    Hint : if you want to dispute something, attack the weakest link, even if it is only one sentence. Deliberately misinterpret every step and word writting that led to the sentence you dispute, and then start amplifying your messgae : Present your finding as THE conclusion of the IPCC report, that it is a “scandal”, and that the president of the IPCC is personally involved, and you handwave at prior “-gate” “scandals” that you created and inflated to stratospheric size baloons even before you pushed them into your favorite media outlets in a similar fashion, that that it is thus part of something much larger, and that it thus “morphed into something bigger and scarier”.

    Vinny. Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy, OK ?

    The real scandal is that this “scandal” emerges when you follow the money : Note that this particulat “scandal” was created by the lawyers from the legal firm Southeastern Legal Foundation, Peabody Energy and the CATO Institute. Just check out where they get their money from…

  21. #22 Vinny Burgoo
    2011/12/19

    Anonymous, the EPA response was mostly a defence of its own use of statements derived from Agoumi 2003. It was politely critical of the IPCC’s use of the report.

    (Incidentally, Agoumi 2003 claimed that the Western Maghreb would experience 1 deg C of warming between 2000 and 2020. Has such a rapid regional warming ever been even remotely credible?)

  22. #23 Neven
    2011/12/19

    I’m trying to register to the forum of a good friend of Jonathan Leake’s, CFACT’s Richard North (the guy who launched the AfricaGate molehill->mountain expedition), to ask him about a few assertions he makes about the Northern Sea Route. They are… incomplete, to put it nicely. How a journalist can trust someone like North is totally beyond me. I’d love to ask Jonathan Leake, but I don’t think he’ll answer. Maybe I’ll ask Meichsner…

    Jonathan Leake hasn’t returned to discuss some more? Too bad, I thought Rob Dekker asked a couple of interesting questions.

    Coincidentally, the same just happened to me following an article by Andy Revkin on Arctic methane. I thought it was a good question, but apparently not. There seems to be no need to worry about methane hydrates and that’s it. End of message.

    [I've replied at QS -W]

  23. #24 Rob Dekker
    2011/12/20

    Vinny wrote Incidentally, Agoumi 2003 claimed that the Western Maghreb would experience 1 deg C of warming between 2000 and 2020.

    Apart from the fact that local changes may be larger in some areas than in others, and be un-evenly spread in time, and that the IPCC does not seem to mention anywhere that the Western Maghreb would experience 1 deg C of warming between 2000 and 2020, it may be worthwhile to note that neither does the Agoumi 2003….

    You know, Vinny, if you feel it is your job to point out statements NOT made in any of the 18,000 pieces of literature that the IPCC evaluated, NOR in the IPCC AR4, then please, indulge yourself. Just don’t be surprised if here in the real world your fabrications are considered rather disingenuous.

  24. #25 Rob Dekker
    2011/12/20

    It seems that we are getting a bit distracted. Let’s re-cap :
    In Jonathan Leaks’ report (conveniently posted by Leaks himself, above), the key point of AfricaGate is that :

    The IPCC report claimed that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020

    What DID the IPCC write ? Here is the statement from SP WG2 2007 (one sentence from a 22 page document)
    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-spm.pdf
    which states (in one sentence in the the Africa section of one table about “examples” for climate vulnerability) :

    By 2020, in some countries, yields from rain-fed agriculture could be reduced by up to 50%.

    Which originates from AR4 WG2, chapter 9
    http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/wg2/ar4-wg2-chapter9.pdf
    which states :

    In other countries, 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)

    Which is referencing Agoumi 2003,
    http://www.iisd.org/cckn/pdf/north_africa.pdf

    which mentions (in the section about climate vulnerability) among others, the following risk of climate change in :

    deficient yields from rain-based agriculture of up to 50 per cent during the 2000-2020 period;

    and refers (among other reports) to the following report from the government of Morocco :
    http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/natc/mornc1e.pdf

    which reports as part of results of “the study of CC impacts on agriculture” as :

    A decrease in cereal yields by 50% in dry years and 10% in normal years

    which a good example of the vulnerability (remember IPCC’s use of this statement in the “examples of vulnerability” table ?) of North African rain-fed agriculture to weather-related variability. Some areas of the globe are simply more sensitive than others to climate change.

    Leaks did not get beyond Agoumi 2003 before venting his judgements, using the argument that it was not peer-reviewed (which is in compliance with WG2 reference policy), and was written for a Canadian think tank (which is ironic, since Leaks’ argument is a echoing the opinion previously expressed by the CATO institute and other fossil-fule funded conservative think-tanks), and that there was no climate modelling to support the claim. (which is also ironic, considering the “climate models can’t be trusted” argument used by the same fossil-fuel funded think tanks who’s opinion Leaks is echoing).

    Adding more fuel to the attacks, Meischner calls this a “scandal” and “embarrassing for the IPCC” and accuses Pachauri of “glaring errors of his organization” and that this scandal is “in a different league altogether” because this time Pachauri was “personally involved”.

    You be the judge.

  25. #26 Vinny Burgoo
    2011/12/20

    Rob, did you look at page 2 of Agoumi 2003?

    ‘The general circulation models, even though they are not accurate enough for the region because there is no mesh model focusing on the area, converge to estimate probable warming in the region of two to four degrees in the 21st century, and with more than 1°C of warming between 2000 and 2020, according to studies conducted for Morocco and Algeria.’

  26. #27 adelady
    2011/12/20

    For those who read beyond page 2 of Agoumi 2003, we find on page 8.

    “With respect to potential future climatic changes, it is
    important to note that the assessments of warming and changes in precipitation made in the initial vulnerability studies in these countries, which were incorporated into their initial national communications, are not very accurate. They are the result of assessments made using empiric models.”

    The authors continue with further comments recommending how better climate forecasting can be achieved for this area. Amazing!

    As always. Read the …… paper.

  27. #28 Rob Dekker
    2011/12/21

    Vinny, even though technically I am correct (since “Western Maghreb” is not mentioned anywhere in the text), I admit that the carefully disguised bone in your red herring got stuck in my throat. I should have let it swim.

  28. #29 Vinny Burgoo
    2011/12/21

    @Adelady: And yet this was the temperature increase that gave AR4 its ‘yields … could be reduced by up to 50%’ headline. Are you happy with that?

  29. #30 Vinny Burgoo
    2011/12/21

    Rob, in a similar spirit, I’ll admit that the sentence that ended up in the SYR SPM was consistent with the Moroccan communication, if not with Agoumi.

    Without first looking at the Moroccan report, it’s hard to tell what Agoumi was trying to say. He first presented the ‘up to 50%’ grain-yield drought-year deficiencies as the current reality then, without explanation, appended the period ‘2000-2020′ and said such deficiencies were ‘linked to’ climate change. This weirdness led some people (the Dutch environment agency, sometimes the EPA, me) to assume incorrectly that the various statements in AR4 were garbled projections of an increase in the frequency of current ‘up to 50%’ yield shortfalls during the period 2000-2020, but the Moroccan communication made it clear that CROPWAT’s ‘up to 50%’ (actually 44%, but hey …) was the decline due to climate change alone in drought-year yields under the warming (0.6-1.1 deg C) and associated precipitation changes projected by SCENGEN for 2020 (compared to 2000) – that is, the ‘up to 50%’ reflected the effects of worse droughts, not of more frequent droughts of the same severity (although droughts were indeed expected to become more frequent).

    And the SYR SPM statement was consistent with that.

    It was still misleading, though. The most obvious reading of ‘By 2020, in some countries …’ etc. is that the total rain-fed agricultural output of some countries could be consistently reduced by ‘up to 50%’ by 2020 because of climate change, whereas the projected reduction was for one (admittedly important) type of crop in bad years in (particularly vulnerable) parts of some countries.

  30. #31 Rob Dekker
    2011/12/22

    Vinny, do you have a link to the findings from CROPWAT and SCENGEN which you refer to here ?

  31. #32 Vinny Burgoo
    2011/12/22

    @Rob: I don’t think the SCENGEN/CROPWAT study (Alibou et al) is online. I just used the summaries in the first Moroccan communication (in French):

    http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/natc/mornc1f.pdf

  32. #33 Rob Dekker
    2011/12/23

    Thanks Vinny. My French is a bit rusty, but I am able to understand most of that paper. I have some remarks about the analysis done for Morocco later, but before that, let me recall what Leake wrote :

    To distill: The IPCC’s Africa claim 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.

    Considering the fact that the claim was based on a modeling study (done by FAO) using SCENGEN and CROPWAT models, shows that Leake is verifiably wrong on the text in bold. What remains is the claim that this WG2 reference was not peer-reviewed, which was know beforehand, and consistent with WGII reference policy.

    Which remaining claims by Leake are still standing now ? Or did we knock them all out already ?

  33. #34 Vinny Burgoo
    2011/12/24

    Rob, that claim didn’t appear in the article itself, which said (correctly) that the ‘up to 50%’ was based on ‘reports prepared by civil servants in each of the three countries as submissions to the UN’. In his ‘verbal claims’ comment above, Leake seems to have to forgotten what he once thought – but hey, journalists cover a lot of stories.

    My main problem with the story as written is the harping on about peer review. Some ‘grey’ literature is good and some peer-reviewed literature is bad.

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