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.

The Independent:

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.

Delaware Online:

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.

Climate Progress:

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.

18 Responses to “After Denier Disinfo Faceplant: What We Now Know about the Next IPCC”

  1. omnologos Says:

    Good for you not to quote from the Guardian hit-job (written by Dana Nuccitelli) where they tried not to discuss the leaked text at all, launching in an improbable self-made reviewing of the Literature.

    If all we needed were Dana’s reviews, the IPCC could close down and redirect its URL to SkS 😉

    ps I have stayed away from this topic. I understand the main point of contention is that the draft states at some point: “Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system (e.g., Bond et al., 2001; Dengel et al., 2009; Ram and Stolz, 1999).“. The draft then proceeds to leave these empirical relationships unexplained. I wonder if Santer denies their existence?

    • philip64 Says:

      I think the salient words here are “have been reported” (that’s IPCC-speak for ‘claimed’) and “some aspects of the climate system”. No doubt more work will be done on the aspect, but as s significant driver of climate change it’s looking about as likely as ice cream on Mars.

      • omnologos Says:

        that’s a good answer philip64. Perhaps there’s too many people making a living out of controversy.

        • Martin Lack Says:

          Congrats on being the second person to comment on Rawls’ catastrophically-misjudged leakage of AR5 on WUWT.

          Are you going to attempt to defend any of the claims Rawls makes (that are completely discredited above) – or are you too busy “making a living out of controversy”?

          Hint: I think your time is just about up. There is no game-changer for you; just game-over. Climate change denial is rapidly becoming transparently anachronistic. If I were you, I would get out now before the house of cards comes crashing down on your head.

          • uknowispeaksense Says:

            Maurizio being hypocritical? Who’d have thought? Of course he can claim that he isn’t “making a living out of controversy” and is merely a commentator. He does however have a pattern of moderating his tone dependent on where he is commenting. Over at WTFIWWAW he knows he is in an echo chamber whereas over here he knows his comments will be critically analysed. he probably needs a hug.

          • omnologos Says:

            Only a rabid proselytizer wouldn’t moderate his tone according to the blog he’s commenting to. As far as I’m concerned this is Pete r’s home and he doesn’t wake up wondering what I think of any topic..

            That’s why I’m in no way describable as a “troll”.

            I still think there’s too many arguments based on “we can’t think of anything else so it’s CO2”.

          • Martin Lack Says:

            I think you will find that the scientific argument is “we have eliminated everything else so it must be CO2″.

  2. prokaryotes Says:

    In this recent video at minute 43:00 somebody points out that the IPCC shows the land+surface temps, instead of the land surface temps alone. Temps over land rise much faster, so why not show the land surface temps trends?

  3. prokaryotes Says:

    Initial IPCC Predictions on Global Temperature Rise Remarkably Accurate

    Now just past the midway point for the 1990-2030 period over which the IPCC issued its initial predictions for global temperature as part of its First Assessment Report (AR 1), two researchers decided it was an opportune time to evaluate their accuracy and performance. The results: the increase in global mean temperature predicted for the period 1990-2010 have turned out to be somewhat surprisingly and unexpectedly accurate.

  4. “I still think there’s too many arguments based on ‘we can’t think of anything else so it’s CO2’”. – Maurizio (I missed you)

    “Physicists can calculate the radiative forcing of CO2 but not the madness of people.” – (Homage to Isaac Newton)

    • omnologos Says:

      GCharles – your homage applies in a different way that you expect. Co2 as God of the Gaps is related to what scientists cannot compute. If they could they would have a positive argument to make.

      • What gap in scientific knowledge do you think CO2 is achieving?

      • My question was unclear, Maurizio. (Too much good Spanish wine last night.)

        Does “Co2 as God of the Gaps” mean that scientists use the atmospheric CO2 concentration as a fudge factor – and that their computation/measurement of CO2 related radiative forcing is insufficiently accurate?

        If so, what are the phenomena that scientists can compute that have an underlying knowledge gap which they explain with CO2?

        If not so, please correct my misinterpretation of your comment.


  5. One common problem with reports about what the IPCC has said is that is not even reliably reported. It is rich, then, to expect rebuttal of the proposition that one can foretell the future based on a simplistic representation of incalculable complexity of unknown processes and unmeasured readings. Why would anyone expect you could .
    Nor does science `rebut` argument and discussion by prior fiat, aka Talking Points. That is not the province of Scientific Method, but of debater`s fraud. One would not expect non-scientific representations to be rebutted by logic, but aspersions of the ethics of those with other ideas can be met with similar political logic.
    And if you want the so-called denierism frame respected, the first problem is that it is a fantasy. Science works by exploration, not by acceptance of Authority.

  6. pendantry Says:

    Not sure this would be the right place to ask this, but:

    Is it a stupid question to ask on what date the cut-off point is (assuming there is one) for the data that is being considered for the IPCC report scheduled to be released in 2014?

    The reason I ask is that I have had it suggested to me that the IPCC reports are ‘always out of date’ (with the implication being that they can always be dismissed as irrelevant). It’s this kind of question that tends to stop me in my tracks, since I don’t know (and can’t find) the answer.

  7. […] After Denier Disinfo Faceplant: What We Now Know about the Next IPCC (Climate Crocks) […]

  8. […] 2012/12/17: PSinclair: After Denier Disinfo Faceplant: What We Now Know about the Next IPCC […]

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