After Denier Disinfo Faceplant: What We Now Know about the Next IPCC
December 17, 2012
First, we know that journalists are not as gullible as they were in 2006, or 2009. Having been burned and made to look foolish by climate denial distortions of previous IPCC reports, and cherry picked emails, mainstream media is not quite so easily manipulated these days.
At long last, we are seeing a general acknowledgement of what we, in the reality based community, have long known – there is a right wing information bubble – a heretofore impenetrable, seamless, logic loop of epistemic closure in the incestuous tribal pack behavior of the Fox news/right wing blog/talk radio alternative universe – finally, catastrophically, and hilariously revealed to all in Fox News’ unbelievable live melt-down as Mitt Romney’s predicted landslide failed to materialize last month. There is, at last, some agreement among mainstream news sources that in those fevered swamps, there be madness.
Many of the leading journalistic gatekeepers for climate information have, for some time in fact, been checking the science-centric blogosphere, even this blog and the climate crocks video series, for the reasoned, informed framing of disinformation attacks like that attempted last week.
See video above for a brief clip of my interview with Climate model expert Ben Santer – one of a number of interviews I conducted at this fall’s American Geophysical Union Conference in San Francisco. A longer video is coming this week from the Yale Forum.
This has been a matter of discussion among scientists, journalists, and communicators over the past year or more. The early dissemination of factual corrective responses to deliberate distortions is now proven to largely dampen these cheap attempts before they bubble onto the intended Fox News/Limbaugh/Beck circuit and become talking points of the day for the low-info army. The game has changed.
An attempt by climate sceptics to hijack the latest UN report on global warming by selectively leaking claims that it is caused by sunspots rather than man-made emissions of carbon dioxide has backfired.
Sceptics described the forthcoming report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) as a “game changer” because of its apparent support for the controversial theory that solar activity, interacting with cosmic rays from deep space, can explain global warming.
Alec Rawls, a Republican blogger in the United States who signed himself up as an expert IPCC reviewer, decided to leak the panel’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) on the grounds that it is a taxpayer-funded document.
Mr Rawls claimed the report suggests that the IPCC has finally come round to the idea that solar activity – sunspots – is partly responsible for the observed global temperatures rise seen over the past half century.
However, climate scientists pointed out that Mr Rawls has selectively quoted from the draft report and has ignored other parts of the document stating that solar activity and cosmic rays cannot explain the increase in global temperatures seen over the past half century, as sceptics have repeatedly claimed.
The AR5 draft report states that although there is “some evidence” that solar activity combined with cosmic rays may influence the formation of clouds, and therefore temperatures, but the phenomenon is “too weak” to influence the climate in any significant way.
The other major problem with the sunspots idea is that solar activity has largely flat-lined over the past 50 years, whereas average global temperatures have continued to rise, the IPCC report says.
“The lack of trend in the cosmic ray intensity over the last 50 years provides another strong argument against the hypothesis of a major contribution of cosmic rays to on-going climate change,” the draft report says.
Professor Bill McGuire of University College London said that the IPCC report reiterates the widely accepted view among scientists that climate change is not a natural process but the consequence of human activities.
“Alec Rawls’ interpretation of what IPCC5 says is quite simply wrong. In fact, while temperatures have been ramping up in recent decades, solar activity has been pretty subdued,” Professor McGuire said.
Something rather cataclysmic has being happening among anti-global-warming enthusiasts. A growing number admit they’ve been wrong. An Associated Press poll found four of every five Americans said climate change will be a serious problem for the United States if nothing is done about it. That’s up from 73 percent three years ago.
Personal experience, not the complicated formula of science measurements is winning new converts. That includes extraordinary changes in the rise of sea levels as The New Journal has been tracking, accelerated patterns of wildfires that are destroying entire communities in the country’s western regions and shorter cold weather patterns during winter.
Indeed, as this summary from Climate Progress shows, the draft report, though couched in as conservative and homogenized language as possible, in fact reinforces the ever-more-dire story that climate science is continuing to flesh out.
The draft 2013 Fifth Assessment report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change leaked this week makes clear inaction on climate change would be devastating to modern civilization. The report finds that the human fingerprint on climate has grown more obvious, concluding “it is virtually certain” the energy imbalance that causes global warming “is caused by human activities, primarily by the increase in CO2 concentrations. There is very high confidence that natural forcing contributes only a small fraction to this imbalance.”
Yes, I know, the easily-duped deniers and their media stooges have reported the opposite is true, that solar forcing has been a significant driver of recent warming, but the deniers are as likely to be right as the flat earthers. The only question is why anyone still listens to them. I’ll repost a debunking of their nonsense below.
The draft Summary for Policymakers (the only thing 99% of people will ever read) finds:
It is extremely likely [">95% probability"] that human activities have caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature since the 1950s. There is high confidence ["About 8 out of 10 chance"] that this has caused large-scale changes in the ocean, in the cryosphere, and in sea level in the second half of the 20th century. Some extreme events have changed as a result of anthropogenic influence.
That multiply-hedged morass is pretty much the mildest statement that could possibly be made. A December 2011 study found it’s “Extremely Likely That at Least 74% of Observed Warming Since 1950″ was manmade; it’s highly likely all of it was (see Figure 1 below).
For me, the leaked draft, which has not yet been peer reviewed — and thus still has time to be watered down yet more – underscores how pointless the IPCC has become. Like the 4th assessment before it, this ultra-conservative and instantly obsolete report ignores the latest science — see “Fifth Assessment Report Will Ignore Crucial Permafrost Carbon Feedback!” Note that including the permafrost feedback would probably make the RCP8.5 scenario in the top figure as much as 1.5°F warmer!
And like the AR4, the AR5 scenarios low-ball future impacts — “Arctic sea ice area is projected to decrease by 28% for September” for the 2016–2035 period vs. 1986–2005. Seriously IPCC, a 28% drop is the scenario your touting? In fact, as we have reported, many experts warn of “Near Ice-Free Arctic In Summer” in a decade if recent ice volume trends continue.
Even so, the uber-conservative AR5 draft makes clear to anyone who reads between the lines that inaction would be suicidal for humanity, with devastating warming and sea level rise that could hit a half a foot a decade by 2100. How precisely does one adapt to that?
Indeed, the report guts the one remaining myth of those who downplay future impacts, that clouds would act as a negative (or weakening) feedback. It finds:
The net radiative feedback due to all cloud types is likely positive.