Scientists seek better way to do climate report

Feb 10, 2010 By SETH BORENSTEIN , AP Science Writer
In this Feb. 19, 2001 file photo, Briton Robert Watson, right, then-chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) accompanied by James J. McCarthy, USA, IPCC's co-chairman, gestures during a news conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Some climate scientists are calling for drastic changes in how future United Nations climate reports are done. (AP Photo/Donald Stampfli)

(AP) -- A steady drip of unsettling errors is exposing what scientists are calling "the weaker link" in the Nobel Peace Prize-winning series of international reports on global warming.

The flaws - and the erosion they've caused in public confidence - have some scientists calling for drastic changes in how future United Nations climate reports are done. A push for reform being published in Thursday's issue of a prestigious scientific journal comes on top of a growing clamor for the resignation of the chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The work of the climate change panel, or IPCC, is often portrayed as one massive tome. But it really is four separate reports on different aspects of , written months apart by distinct groups of scientists.

No errors have surfaced in the first and most well-known of the reports, which said the physics of a warming atmosphere and rising seas is man-made and incontrovertible. So far, four mistakes have been discovered in the second report, which attempts to translate what global warming might mean to daily lives around the world.

"A lot of stuff in there was just not very good," said Kevin Trenberth, head of climate analysis at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and a lead author of the first report. "A chronic problem is that on the whole area of impacts, getting into the realm of social science, it is a softer science. The facts are not as good."

It's been a dismal winter for climate scientists after the high point of winning the 2007 Nobel, along with former Vice President Al Gore, for championing efforts to curb global warming and documenting its effects.

-In November, stolen private e-mails from a British university climate center embarrassed a number of scientists for their efforts to stonewall climate skeptics. The researchers were found to have violated Britain's Freedom of Information laws.

-In December, the much anticipated of world leaders in Copenhagen failed to produce a meaningful mandatory agreement to curb greenhouse gases.

-Climate legislation in the United States, considered key to any significant progress in slowing global warming, is stalled.

-Some Republican U.S. senators, climate skeptics and British newspapers have called for Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the IPCC, to resign. They contend he has financial conflicts of interest involving his role with the climate panel and a green-energy foundation he set up. He has vigorously denied any conflicts.

-And in recent weeks, a batch of mistakes have been uncovered in the second of the four climate research reports produced in 2007.

That second report - which examines current effects of global warming and forecasts future ones on people, plants, animals and society - at times relied on government reports or even advocacy group reports instead of peer-reviewed research. Scientists say that's because there is less hard data on global warming's effects.

Nine different experts told The Associated Press that the second report - because of the nature of what it examines - doesn't rely on standards as high or literature as deep as the more quoted first report. And they say cite communication problems between lead authors of different reports so it is harder to spot errors.

The end result is that the document on the effects of climate change promotes the worst of nightmares and engages in purposeful hyping, said longtime skeptic John Christy of the University of Alabama, Huntsville.

David King, Britain's former chief scientific adviser who once lectured at the University of East Anglia, home to the climate center where scientist e-mails were hacked said that scandal laid bare the weaknesses in the IPCC. In a telephone interview, he said those who challenged the IPCC's assessment "are seen to be rocking the boat, and this in my view is extremely unfortunate."

Scientists - including top U.S. government officials - argue that the bulk of the reports are sound.

"The vast majority of conclusions in the IPCC are credible, have been through a very rigorous process and are absolutely state of the science, state of the art about what we know of the climate system," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration chief Jane Lubchenco, who runs the agency that oversees much of the U.S. government's climate research.

The problems found in the IPCC 2007 reports so far are mostly embarrassing:

-In the Asian chapter, five errors in a single entry on glaciers in Himalayas say those glaciers would disappear by 2035 - hundreds of years earlier than other information suggests - with no research backing it up. It used an advocacy group as a source. It also erroneously said the Himalayan glaciers were melting faster than other glaciers.

-A sentence in the chapter on Europe says 55 percent of the Netherlands is below sea level, when it's really about half that amount.

-A section in the Africa chapter that talks about northern African agriculture says climate change and normal variability could reduce crop yields. But it gets oversimplified in later summaries so that lower projected crop yields are blamed solely on climate change.

-There's been a longstanding dispute about weather extremes and economics. The second report says that there are more weather disasters than before because of climate change and that it is costing more. The debate continues over whether it is fair to say increased disaster costs are due to global warming or other societal factors such as increased development in hurricane prone areas.

Scientists say the nature of the science and the demands of governments for a localized tally of effects and projections of future ones make the second report a bit more prone to mistakes than the first report. Regional research is more often done by governments or environmental groups; using that work is allowed by IPCC rules even if it is seen as less rigorous than traditional peer-reviewed research, said Martin Parry, chairman in charge of the report on effects.

The second report includes chapters on each region, which governments want to be mostly written by local experts, some of whom may not have the science credentials of other report authors. That's where at least three of the errors were found.

In Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, four IPCC authors call for reform, including Christy, who suggests the outright dumping of the panel itself in favor of an effort modeled after Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia. A fifth author, writing in Nature, argues the IPCC rules are fine but need to be better enforced.

In response, Chris Field of Stanford University, the new head of the second report team, said that he welcomes the scrutiny and vows stricter enforcement of rules to check sources to eliminate errors in future reports; those are to be produced by the IPCC starting in 2013.

Many IPCC scientists say it's impressive that so far only four errors have been found in 986 pages of the second report, with the overwhelming majority of the findings correct and well-supported.

However, former IPCC Chairman Bob Watson said, "We cannot take that attitude. Any mistakes do allow skeptics to have a field day and to use it to undermine public confidence, private sector confidence, government confidence in the IPCC."

Explore further: EU leaders seek last-minute climate deal

More information: Nature: http://www.nature.com
U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: http://www.ipcc.ch

3.4 /5 (14 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Glacier alarm 'regrettable error': UN climate head

Jan 23, 2010

The head of the UN's climate science panel said Saturday a doomsday prediction about the fate of Himalayan glaciers was "a regrettable error" but that he would not resign over the blunder.

Netherlands adds to UN climate report controversy

Feb 05, 2010

The Netherlands has asked the UN climate change panel to explain an inaccurate claim in a landmark 2007 report that more than half the country was below sea level, the Dutch government said Friday.

Recommended for you

EU leaders seek last-minute climate deal

53 minutes ago

European Union leaders came under pressure Thursday to strike a deal aimed at bolstering Brussels as a trailblazer in fighting global climate change as negotiations went down to the wire.

Research team studies 'regime shifts' in ecosystems

3 hours ago

The prehistory of major ecological shifts spanning multiple millennia can be read in the fine print of microscopic algae, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

User comments : 34

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

joefarah
2.9 / 5 (13) Feb 10, 2010
How did they manage to keep the errors in the first report from surfacing? There are many.
mckddd
1.3 / 5 (9) Feb 10, 2010
>How did they manage to keep the errors in the first >report from surfacing? There are many.

Didn't you know, it's a conspiracy. These scientists don't really know what they are talking about anyway.
JayK
2.4 / 5 (8) Feb 10, 2010
@mckddd

they should have just read Joe Farah's World Nut Daily, they would have known a long time ago about all of those "errors" and the conspiracy would have crumbled beneath its own weight!
JerryPark
3 / 5 (14) Feb 10, 2010
Of course, since the IPCC and its reports were never predicated on facts but only use global climate as a tool to redistribute wealth and power, "errors" in the report are irrelevant.

The reports themselves are dishonest and deserve to be discredited.
JayK
2.8 / 5 (14) Feb 10, 2010
Then do it. Publish. What is stopping you? Where are your journal reviews showing your work and proving all of this? The world is waiting on you, JerryPark. Get cracking!
Quantum_Conundrum
3 / 5 (16) Feb 10, 2010
Then do it. Publish. What is stopping you? Where are your journal reviews showing your work and proving all of this? The world is waiting on you, JerryPark. Get cracking!


JayK:

Have you not yet learned to think for yourself?

Do you only believe what you read in "peer reviewed journals"?

I hope not...
freethinking
2.5 / 5 (13) Feb 10, 2010
QC, dont bother JayK with facts or the truth. Just repeat after him, no matter what you say, AGW is true no matter how much evidence you show.
JayK
2.5 / 5 (11) Feb 10, 2010
Have Joeseph Farah start a journal for you, if you think your science can weigh up against the climate scientists. Otherwise you're all just puffing hot air and not helping.

Maybe Anthony Watts will publish something soon.
RogerB34
3.5 / 5 (10) Feb 10, 2010
One damaging disclosure after another isn't a drip.
Global Warming science is Political Science.
Claudius
3 / 5 (8) Feb 10, 2010
No errors have surfaced in the first and most well-known of the reports


This may be due to the deletion of sections which concluded there is no scientific evidence of AGW. Neat way to get rid of "errors."
RJB26
3.8 / 5 (6) Feb 10, 2010
heres an idea, keep politicians and big green investors out of the process and leave it to actual scientists. dont "misplace" raw data or forge graphs and have an open and transparent process. problem solved.
GrayMouser
3.8 / 5 (10) Feb 10, 2010
How did they manage to keep the errors in the first report from surfacing? There are many.

When the errors were found by the reviewers, and commented on, the lead authors either rejected or ignored the input from the reviewers.
This has been around on icecap.us, wattsupwiththat.com, and www.drroyspencer.com (among many sites) for years. The normal response has been to ridicule those scientists in the public press or to fall back on the claim of some proclaimed consensus. Until Climategate it wasn't PC to question the IPCC, NOAA, NASA, the British Met, etc. Now the media is playing catch-up.
CarolinaScotsman
4.8 / 5 (11) Feb 11, 2010
Climate change science has become one of the most politisized areas of research in the last few hundred years. A lot of us would like to see the true believers on both sides step back, shut up and let actual science investigate the facts and see where they lead.
StillWind
3.5 / 5 (8) Feb 11, 2010
@ JayK, I hardly see any reason to start another journal with so many other researchers proving that AGW and "greenhouse Theory" are myths.
BTW, this should be a discussion about science, you should take your religion elsewhere.
freethinking
3.2 / 5 (11) Feb 11, 2010
Why is the earth getting warmer? How about removing temperature measuring stations in cool areas. NOAA wouldn't do that would they?

http://www.foxnew...-hansen/

More and more AGW is being shown to be a fraud. JayK your religion of AGW is falling.
Dan_K
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 11, 2010
"There's been a longstanding dispute about weather extremes and economics. The second report says that there are more weather disasters than before because of climate change and that it is costing more. The debate continues over whether it is fair to say increased disaster costs are due to global warming or other societal factors such as increased development in hurricane prone areas."

This paragraph in the article is an outright lie. In fact the IPCC report said that "We know that climate change is causing more disasters and that is costing money". But the report they quoted in reality came to the conclusion "Disasters are not any more frequent then they have ever been". There is no "Continuing debate". The science on this is in fact settled. There is no increase in disasters that can be linked to global warming.

This article also completely omitted the faulty IPCC claims regarding the amazon rain forest.

Shameful reporting
3432682
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 11, 2010
The UN IPCC is thoroughly discredited. None of their predictions have come true. They are the Enron of science. Start over with all new management and procedures. Use real science instead of political science. Keep the eco-fanatics out, they lie for their religious cause.

Fortunately, since we are entering 20 more years of cooling, we have plenty of time to study fairly and correctly.
frenchie
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 11, 2010
Yeah Fixed News is a GREAT source of unbiased information clearly. Wait wait...next thing you'll tell us how you get all your facts from opinion-based sources and how it could NEVER possibly be a lie made to serve a narative of evil socialist-communist-marxist empire hell bent on destroying the true american way of life.

/sarcasm off

I just love how so many of you can just dismiss peer reviewed journals. Journals in which contributors have enabled the very technology you're using today in all aspects of your life. Every scientists gets peer-reviewed. Think its something new? Newton, einstien, maxwell, eddison (which was often wrong incidently), ect ect. Name them, they were peer reviewed during their time.

But whatever, us evil elitist scientists will keep drinking our cappucinos, and make crazy predictions like the earth being round instead of square and try to destroy the world, cause that's what we do, don't we Pinky.
frenchie
3.5 / 5 (8) Feb 11, 2010
@ freethinking
I was curious so i looked more into the article.

It's funny that the article that you link is:
1 - Labeled as Opinion
2 - Authored by someone with "over 90 peer reviewed published papers" - most about guns
3 - Authored by an economist refered to as the "gun guru"
4 - PDFpPresents no link to sources
5 - If you follow affiliations and look into the report a bit you find that:

the authors have been sponsored regularly by the The Heartland Institute,an American conservative free market-oriented public policy think tank. Suprise suprise, look into that and their main sponsors are....wait for it: BIG OIL, with exxon leading the charge!

Latest report referenced (Jan 29) is an ongoing feud between noaa and said paper writer. Noaa's latest response to monitoring stations quality and quantity can be found here:

http://www.ncdc.n...e-v2.pdf

Do people really gobble this crap up without doing their own research?
trekgeek1
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 11, 2010
I don't care if the Earth is heating up, cooling down, or not changing at all. We need to reduce emissions and invest in alternative energy simply to supply humans with cleaner air and water. I see the layer of smog over the city, that is not a forged report. I know that the exhaust from a huge truck is being sucked in by me. Forget temperature, think about air quality.
jet
3 / 5 (8) Feb 11, 2010
"Yeah Fixed News is a GREAT source of unbiased information clearly"

Slurring the messenger will not make the data go away, well unless you work at CRU.

"In the 1970s, nearly 600 Canadian weather stations fed surface temperature readings into a global database assembled by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Today, NOAA only collects data from 35 stations across Canada."

http://www.vancou...ory.html

"Do people really gobble this crap up without doing their own research?"

Read it, its a nice "talking points memo" but since none of the values used to "correct" for the various effects are given or even published in journals the claims of accuracy are not very believable.
MikeyK
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 11, 2010
Have Joeseph Farah start a journal for you, if you think your science can weigh up against the climate scientists. Otherwise you're all just puffing hot air and not helping.

Maybe Anthony Watts will publish something soon.


Hasn't he published his 'long awaited' report on weather station siting being entirely responsible for global warming (ironic that the bias has been shown to be cooling..anyway)? Oh yeah, its published by them good ol' boys at The Heartland Institute, standing up for the REAL constitution..yeee hah!!
Shame he couldn't bother to publish it in a peer-reviewed journal, mind you if you have read the report you would know why....its anti-science at its very best.
JayK
3 / 5 (8) Feb 11, 2010
http://gis.ncdc.n...ewer.htm

Visible acknowledgement of the actual sources of temperature data used in the NOAA calculations. Looks horrible, at least to a denialist.
MikeyK
2.4 / 5 (11) Feb 11, 2010
The UN IPCC is thoroughly discredited. None of their predictions have come true. They are the Enron of science. Start over with all new management and procedures. Use real science instead of political science. Keep the eco-fanatics out, they lie for their religious cause.
Fortunately, since we are entering 20 more years of cooling,...


Hey, actually impressed how you could cram so many cliches in one post. Very entertaining, especially the bit about 20 years of cooling. The nutjobs at WUWT where predicting 20 years of cooling 3 years ago, what's the real story (not your made up fantasy bites fantasy)...well, despite -ive to neutral PDO, despite the longest solar minimum in over a hundred years, despite...well you get the picture, we have just had the warmest January recorded and February looks like it might well be the warmest February recorded..http://discover.i...sutemps/
Don'y you hate it when facts get in the way of your conspiracy theory fantasies!
JayK
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 11, 2010
@MikeyK

But can you answer the snowmogedon challenge? Lots of snow, man!
MikeyK
3 / 5 (6) Feb 11, 2010
http://gis.ncdc.noaa.gov/website/ims-cdo/gsod/viewer.htm

Visible acknowledgement of the actual sources of temperature data used in the NOAA calculations. Looks horrible, at least to a denialist.


Hey, there isn't any in the middle of the north of Greenland...it's a TRICK!!
Nice link JayK, just shows that the information is there.
MikeyK
2.3 / 5 (6) Feb 11, 2010
@MikeyK

But can you answer the snowmogedon challenge? Lots of snow, man!


...don't forget Frankenstorm, or Ireland last year having broken the record for their wettest year recorded...by November...
Lots of precipitation there, now I'm sure that was predicted somewhere....
vanderMerwe
2.3 / 5 (12) Feb 11, 2010
Please! The "errors" were deliberate fraud just like the whole global warming scam.
MikeyK
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 11, 2010
Please! The "errors" were deliberate fraud just like the whole global warming scam.

Shouldn't you be of to your compound before spouting such regurgitated botty water
GrayMouser
1 / 5 (1) Feb 12, 2010
Latest report referenced (Jan 29) is an ongoing feud between noaa and said paper writer. Noaa's latest response to monitoring stations quality and quantity can be found here:

http://www.ncdc.n...e-v2.pdf

Do people really gobble this crap up without doing their own research?

Well, yes they do. Here's the response to NOAA's paper:
http://dotearth.b...-trends/
frenchie
3.7 / 5 (6) Feb 12, 2010
[Quote] As for the Menne paper itself, I’m rather disturbed by their use of preliminary data at 43 percent, especially since I warned them that the data set they had lifted from my Web site (placed for volunteers to track what had been surveyed, never intended for analysis) had not been quality controlled at the time. Plus there’s really not enough good stations with enough spatial distribution at that sample size. [/Quote]

Directly from your linked article and by Mr Watts. So basicly he says his data may be flawed and has not been verified. Yet from this data, it has been SHOWN (and obviously people are widely convinced) that NOAA has manipulated data?

[Quote}... the poor stations tend to have a slight cool bias, not a warm one. [/Quote]

Unless, I'm reading this incorrectly, the only thing I see is a confirmation of bs aka debunking of this "weather station data has been tweaked to fit AGW" theory. Who knows?
Anyway...back to trying to take over the world. Come on Pinky!
frenchie
2.8 / 5 (4) Feb 12, 2010
**Quote* As for the Menne paper itself, I'm rather disturbed by their use of preliminary data at 43 percent, especially since I warned them that the data set they had lifted from my Web site (placed for volunteers to track what had been surveyed, never intended for analysis) had not been quality controlled at the time. Plus there's really not enough good stations with enough spatial distribution at that sample size. **/Quote**

Directly from your linked article and by Mr Watts. So basicly he says his data may be flawed and has not been verified. Yet from this data, it has been SHOWN (and obviously people are widely convinced) that NOAA has manipulated data?

**Quote**... the poor stations tend to have a slight cool bias, not a warm one. **Quote**
Unless, I'm reading this incorrectly, the only thing I see is a aknowledgment of wrong aka debunking of this "weather station data has been tweaked to fit AGW" theory. But who knows.

Anyway, back to plotting to take over the world.
Skeptic_Heretic
2.3 / 5 (3) Feb 12, 2010
I have a novel idea for the UN.

How about when you write a report on any topic you make sure it's accurate. I like to call it, "double checking my work", and last I heard, it was a big piece of the peer review process as well.
toyo
3.7 / 5 (3) Feb 13, 2010
Back to the article chaps - sorry!
To David King:
quote
[those who challenged the IPCC's assessment "are seen to be rocking the boat, and this in my view is extremely unfortunate."] unquote.

I would say, no, 'unfortunate' is NOT the word to describe that behaviour, DISHONEST is the word.
For that is how science advances, by challenge to 'accepted fact'.
ANY science that is not transparent with its data and methods, is NOT science. A true scientist will NEVER accept someone else's conclusions without that full transparency.
Let's face it, Climate Science is already at a disadvantage wrt the 'hard' sciences. It cannot put up theories that can be proved or disproved in a laboratory, dealing with an open-ended system as it does.
That makes it even more important, I would say essential, that its findings and methods be available for scrutiny.
So when 'skeptics' get impeded from accessing information, that is not 'unfortunate' Mr King, that is, in fact, DISHONEST, and you know it!