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Climategate: The Wheels Come Off for the IPCC

Back in December 2009, Madhav Khandekar, in a guest posting on the blog of Dr. Roger Pielke, Sr., questioned the IPCC AR4 report’s conclusion that glaciers in the Himalayas — vital to the water supply of the whole Ganges Valley — would disappear by 2035.  (This was first reported by PJM on December 1.) The problem was that this really couldn’t be verified in the “peer-reviewed” literature. In fact, as it was investigated, it looked more and more suspicious.


Tom Maguire at JustOneMinute followed the footnotes and tracked the suspicious 2035 number down to a World Wildlife Fund report, which mentioned (without citing a source) the 2035 number. The earliest source anyone could find for that number was an article in the New Scientist that quoted “Syed Hasnain of Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi, the chief author of the ICSI report.”

The result was that the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) — after Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, chair of the IPCC, called the 2035 story “voodoo science” — eventually had to withdraw that section of the report. (The full statement is here.)

Bad enough.What had been revealed was that the IPCC had put this inflammatory (and physically impossible) date into the IPCC report, even though it hadn’t been peer-reviewed and couldn’t actually be sourced to anything more than an offhand remark in a casual phone interview.

Naturally, everyone involved was shocked, utterly shocked, that such a thing could happen. There were calls for Pachauri to resign, but Pachauri refused on Jan 23.

The IPCC’s problem is that it wasn’t the last issue. One of the effects of the Climategate files has been that a lot of complaints that had been dismissed by the scientific world and the world at large as unbelievable and perhaps even a little paranoid turned out to be true. Some of those complaints had to be taken seriously, and the IPCC’s reports had to be re-evaluated.


One question was whether anthropogenic global warming (AGW) was causing more violent storms and more storm damage. This had been received wisdom in the AR4 report; Time connected AGW to the damage from Katrina in 2005, and similar things were reported throughout the mainstream media.

Only it turns out that was no better sourced than “2035” had been. In fact, as Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr. has documented extensively, the original AR3 and AR4 reports also depended on non-peer-reviewed material to infer that storms were stronger and causing more damage than in the past, thanks in large part to AGW. In fact, as Roger Pielke, Jr. puts it, the treatment of the effect of AGW on storm damage reveals:

[T]he systematic misrepresentation of the science of disasters and climate change in major science assessments. … [T]here is a pattern of behavior taking place in this community that should be of concern to anyone who cares about the integrity of science, regardless of their position on climate policies and politics.

Roger Pielke, Jr. had been raising this issue for quite a while, including papers published as early as 2006, to little effect. But in the new post-Climategate world, suddenly these complaints were taken more seriously, and the blows to the IPCC’s credibility arrived thick and fast.


From the TimesOnline.com on January 24 (“UN wrongly linked global warming to natural disasters“):

The United Nations climate science panel faces new controversy for wrongly linking global warming to an increase in the number and severity of natural disasters such as hurricanes and floods.

It based the claims on an unpublished report that had not been subjected to routine scientific scrutiny — and ignored warnings from scientific advisers that the evidence supporting the link too weak. The report’s own authors later withdrew the claim because they felt the evidence was not strong enough.

Another suspicious report, claiming great risks, based on what turns out to be poor science. (The same poor science about which Roger Pielke, Jr. complained. He has a good summary posting on this on his own blog.)

All in all, not a good week for the IPCC. Two major errors, both of them integrating inflammatory, un-reviewed results into what had been advertised as the most authoritative peer-reviewed summary of the state of climate science. This follows the collapse of Copenhagen, and the Climategate emails’ evidence of pressure to influence the results of climate science. All of them working in the same direction: to slant the evidence presented to the world toward the conclusion that AGW is a current crisis, a world cataclysm.


Now, suddenly, those conclusions are hard to credit.The wheels have begun to come off.

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