Thursday, February 4, 2010

The bandwagon

So Pachauri thinks that there is a campaign by the British Times and The Daily Telegraph to undermine his credibility and to smear the IPCC. He may have believed that the main supporters of the current climate policies (such as the BBC and the Guardian) would lend their support unconditionally. And he may have had some reason for thinking so: The Guardian was nearly silent in the post-CRU world. And the conservative media seem to have expolited the scandals for political gain, quite predictably. But this has now become a fast moving field.
On Tuesday, BBC Newsnight had the IPCC crisis as top story with Roger Pielke Jr and Chris Field on show. Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark tried to get an apology from Dr Field and somehow hoped to interpret his response in the affirmative. But he did not acknowledge Pielke’s point about the misrepresentation of disaster loss in the IPCC report.
The same day (Tuesday 2 Feb) in The Guardian, Fred Pearce, from the New Scientist, had a front page story under the headline ‘UK scientist “hid” climate data flaws’, followed by a double page feature of the CRU scandal. These double spreads were continued over the next two days. The next day (3 February), the Guardian carried the title ‘Climate chief: I won’t say sorry for glacier error’. George Monbiot who had called for the resignation of Phil Jones and then reverted to his usual attack on climate change deniers, now showed signs of seeing the light.
It is also noteworthy that The Scottish Sun had a headline ‘Climate change is a con’. Before that there was little skepticism shown by the ‘red tops’.
The Economist has an interview with Pachauri where they confront him with the disaster loss blunder. Roger Pielke Jr has posted an excerpt here.
Today , in the Guardian's Comment is free, we see comments from various experts in the field on the IPCC crisis, for example from Monbiot (above), Richard Tol, Mike Hulme, Myles Allen, Bjorn Lomborg and Ed Miliband. Elsewhere in the same paper, the former head of the IPCC, Bob Watson, who ‘said it remained unclear how the Himalayan glacier claim, that all could melt by 2035, was published. "Was it missed by all experts and all governments? Or did someone spot it and comment on it and then it was ignored by the authors?" he told the Guardian. "And, if so, why didn't someone react to it? All of this is meant to be heavily documented."’
After remaining silent for so long, there seem  to be more bubbling stories than in any other paper.

There is more to come, not only from the Guardian. The bandwagon has started to roll.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not rubbing my hands. In order to prevent further damage, the IPCC will have to make a set of urgent and fundamental changes. The sooner this is done, the better. Public trust in climate science and -policy is eroding fast. Alas, some people still think that they can stop the rot by retreating into the trenches.

36 comments:

Falk Schützenmeister said...

Well Pachauri crisis management is a disaster and I think it will be a negative textbook example for generations of communication students to come.

However it is an interesting observation, I have been making since a few weeks, that the discussion is indeed surprisingly British (a Google News search will reveal this fact).

Here in the US it just does not happen in this extent. Of course there are news but not even Fox got the topic really started.

My assumption is that in the US people on both sides are used to similar discussions about science (HIV, evolution, etc.). Everyone considers it as just a new round of an old game that became a little bit boring, like "Here they go gain." or "We always knew." etc.

Maybe Europe faces changes in policy, in the media, in the public, in science that happened here about 10 years ago.

Don Shor said...

It seems to me that having a term limit for IPCC Chair would be a useful change.

Mathis Hampel said...

I appreciate to read your comments. I think Klimazwiebel is a much-anticipated blog; also I believe that we have to make many but small steps and actively try to involve more cultural students.

Falk Schützenmeister mentions an interesting observation that this debate finds surprisingly little echo in foreign-here Austrian and Italian- media. How local is the current debate? I see papers simply paraphrasing the Guardian's main climate-"news".

Im Übrigen bin ich der Meinung dass das epistemologisches Monstrum IPCC reformiert werden sollte.
muss.

Steve said...

You said "Alas, some people still think that they can stop the rot by retreating into the trenches."

I think this is spot on.

Unfortunately, although the science behind most of the IPCC reports is very strong, the "management" of the IPCC has chosen - for a long time - to paint the worst possible picture of the future, no matter how slim (or non-existent) the evidence.

It's been pretty obvious. The glacier-gate problems of Pachauri just demonstrate it to anyone who didn't already know.

As a result, the climate science "brand" - to use a marketing term - has been damaged, maybe destroyed, in the process.

But the cheerleaders of the "old way" think more of the same is necessary and will work.

Don't they read The Guardian?

For the climate scientists out there it's time to speak out. Don't keep your head down. No one else is going to save "the brand".

Werner Krauss said...

Here a short excerpt from Mike Hulme's comment in the Guardian:

'But scientific knowledge can never determine policy. Policy emerges through political processes, where interpretations, judgments and compromises are made by individuals and groups of individuals as they weigh uncertain and changing scientific knowledge against normative criteria. It is foolish to state "the science demands" anything. It is people who demand things, not science.'

Of course, it is important to keep the IPCC reliable and functioning. But climate policy and public trust are not affected per se by the irregularities recently found in the IPCC - except you willingly want to turn this crisis of the IPCC into a political weapon.

Marco said...

There's also a storm brewing on the other side of the ocean. Ben Santer has written a very interesting open letter in which Douglass and Christy get some major whooping:
http://www.desmogblog.com/sites/beta.desmogblog.com/files/SanterOpenLetter3_v5.pdf
Also partly answers Hans von Storch's question to McGregor (IJoC editor).

Richard Tol said...

Note that the Financial Times, Economist, and Wall Street Journal have now also reported on the IPCC. US media will now follow the UK.

Note also that this story is big in the Netherlands after the minister of the environment prematurely backed Pachauri.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Falk, you are partly right about the uniqueness of the UK situation. Remember that climate change alarm is only a few years old in the UK mainstream media. It has been one the quickest rising issues. This was an excited discovery, married to a catastrophist viewpoint. But the trajectory is volatile, and easier to unsettle compared to other countries. In the US, as you rightly say, the debate is more than 20 years old and has been giving much more space to skeptical voices until about 2005. In Germany the catastrophic interpretation is part of deep popular culture, ever since that famous Spielgel cover of 1986. Here we will see less excitement, less volatility.
This is why the UK is so important at the moment. I can already sense that the term 'climate change' is becoming a liability for politicians to use.

Anonymous said...

"Ben Santer has written a very interesting open letter in which Douglass and Christy get some major whooping:"

How appropriate. Presumably this is the same Ben Santer who wrote "Next time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I’ll be tempted to beat the crap out of him."

P Gosselin said...

"...the IPCC will have to make a set of urgent and fundamental changes."
They ought to disban.

P Gosselin said...

Now add CBS.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTuf3eC3eIE
And Sen Inhofe:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BEH2lHIUiqQ&feature=channel

Marco said...

@anonymous:
odd, isn't it, how a human being gets so angry when people are telling lies.
First Pat Michaels with dishonesty, now Douglass and Christy being dishonest. And yet...no investigation from *their* universities!

ghost said...

@Reiner, you said:
In order to prevent further damage, the IPCC will have to make a set of urgent and fundamental changes. The sooner this is done, the better

do you think that will help? I am pessimistic. The smear will start again with new targets. Fred Pearce, surprisingly in this email hack hype, wrote a comment about scientists who have been harassed, threatened, attacked by so called "skeptics" for the last 10-15 years. It is just disgusting and frightening how fanatic this people are.

You have to see, IMHO, this email hack is not the start it is a new low-point in the "skeptical" propaganda. Of course, improvements should and have to be made to the IPCC process. But that is not the goal of the so-called "skeptics".

Reiner Grundmann said...

@Ghost
The AGW camp has brought this crisis upon themselves. I know it sounds harsh but had Mann et al. sat together with their critics 10 years ago and debated the issues we would have avoided this distaster.
Why did they not do it? Because they both agreed that IF the MWP was warmer than present day temps, there would be no justification for climate policy. So they stupidly entered an arms race (with unequal resources of course).

The difference between both was that one had the power over other, and thus could exclude them from access to the most important resources. This went well for a while until the most valuable resource, public trust, shifted away. The victory in the arms race is thus worth nothing (a so called Pyrrhic victory) and we will see (and need) debates about the rationale for climate policy.

Leigh Jackson said...

In the BBC Newsnight report Pielke Jr. says that there would be outrage if pharmaceutical companies or vaccine maufacturors behaved like the IPCC.

Is he not aware that there are groups amongst the public who are outraged by the behaviour of drug and vaccine producers and those amongst the medical world who suport their use?

Leigh Jackson said...

Reiner, Chris Field stated on Newsnight that the IPCC had blundered on the Himalayan glaciers and they regret any mistakes deeply. Field addressed Roger Pielke's criticism and said that the question of disaster loss required a balanced and nuanced response. Pielke disagreed claiming that the question was clear-cut.

Is there not an ironic role reversal here? The IPCC are usually accused of dogmatism by sceptics.

Marco said...

@Reiner, you stated
"I know it sounds harsh but had Mann et al. sat together with their critics 10 years ago and debated the issues we would have avoided this distaster.
Why did they not do it? Because they both agreed that IF the MWP was warmer than present day temps, there would be no justification for climate policy."

This is a rather grand claim. First of all, it suggests *without any evidence whatsoever* that a) Mann et al deliberately tried to remove the MWP, and b) that they did so to affect climate policy.

Second, it suggests the critics were willing to listen. Perhaps(!) Steve McIntyre was, but many simply are not. Just as a reminder of what climate scientists are up against, take what happened to Ben Santer right after the second IPCC report:
http://www.ucar.edu/communications/quarterly/summer96/insert.html
It would be like thinking that the tobacco industry, or the asbestos industry, and its supporters would be willing to listen to anything that rocks their 'beliefs'. With very few exceptions they would not, as long as they have sufficient support from the general population (and that's not necessarily a majority! A vocal minority can be a major driving force of policies).

Leigh Jackson said...

There are otherr examples one could use Marco:
http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2010/02/05/solution-to-anti-vaccination-controversy-build-bridges/

ghost said...

@Reiner
"The AGW camp has brought this crisis upon themselves. Mike Mann blah, blah"

Nice idea, but I think, you are naive. That does not mean: there were no errors on science side, especially in this Hockeystick debate.

BUT: there were no Mike Mann or Hockeysticks in 1988 or 1984 or 1991, but there was already denying, lying, schemes against politicians and scientists in this debate. The debate did not start in 1998/9 or 2001.

Marco gave you an example from 1996. I give you an earlier example. You should try to find information about the Gore-Revelle-Singer cosmos paper affair. Ask J. Justin Lancaster about it. It was around 1990/91. I assume if you do your homework you will find a lot more examples.

You wrote a book about the Ozone hole debate. The Ozone "skeptics" and Climate "skeptics" are the same people and organizations. Don't you see this? They even use the SAME vocabulary, inclusive science fascists (Sen. Sensenheini said this). These persons and organizations lied at least twice and were wrong at least twice. There is a fucking ozone hole and smoking causes damn cancer. Do you really think they are right now? The evidence is not on your side.

They are professional deniers. It is not about MWP, LIA, or not. It is about denying to get personal advantages. What do you think about Joe Barton, Sensenheini, Inhofe? About think tanks like General Marshall Institute (Seitz, Soon, Baliunas, Michaels, Spencer, Christy), Singers SEPP, CEI, Heartland Institute (McIntyre, Watts, D'Aleo), Frasier Institute (McKitrick), Monckton, Plimer and so on? Are you really that naive that the Hockeystick debate is the cause? Give me details, what do you think about these organizations and persons?

In my opinion, these and similar persons and organizations poisoned deliberately the debate.

A last example to explain why: McIntyre and Watts and other are fighting against Hansen and the GISS team and saying GISTEMP is fraud or at least bullshit. Of course, they have not received a warm welcome from GISS. The open clearclimatecode.org project offered help to re-implement GISTEMP. They got good, fast responses and help from GISS and many thank yous for found bugs. Probably, GISS will even use the open CCC code in the future. Do you see the difference?

Hans von Storch said...

Marco/6 - thanks for pointing out the Ben Sánter's description of the episode described in "American Thinker". It is good to see that facts dealing with the various myths in this field are coming forward. Let's see if there will be a counter-description by "the other side". Not just of the categorical, speculative and anonymous type, but real stuff.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Werner @5
"Of course, it is important to keep the IPCC reliable and functioning. But climate policy and public trust are not affected per se by the irregularities recently found in the IPCC - except you willingly want to turn this crisis of the IPCC into a political weapon."

What would need to happen that you would see trust eroded?

Reiner Grundmann said...

Leigh Jackson @16:
"Field addressed Roger Pielke's criticism and said that the question of disaster loss required a balanced and nuanced response. Pielke disagreed claiming that the question was clear-cut."
Just by stating that the IPCC was "balanced and nuanced" does not mean that its report regarding disaster losses was right. You would need to show that the IPCC was right on substance.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Marco @17
The evidence I refer to is contained in the CRU emails.
The fact that the MWP was inconvenient can be seen through various statements by Mann and others. With the MWP the IPCC statements after the third assessment report would have looked different. Only the hockey stick enabled a rhetoric of "unprecedented warming". It also made it plausible that the observed warming was anthropogenic (which would have been more difficult otherwise).
My point is that neither critics nor AGW scientists were prepared to listen to each other. This is why we are in the current mess.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Ghost @19
You ask me about the trusworthiness of 'skeptics' and suggest that I somehow think that they are right now. Nowhere do I say this. But I think we will have to see what independent reconstruction of historical temperature records will show.
But most importantly, it is not important what I think about this: the public and policy makers might change their views as a result of the IPCC shenanigans.

ghost said...

@reiner
what are AGW scientists? What does this mean?

Hans von Storch does not support the Hockeystick. Not at all, I think. But Hans von Storch defends the scientific foundations of the greenhouse effect. Is he a critic or an AGW scientist?

ghost said...

@Reiner

I think, I agree with you in one point. The Hockeystick was over advertised. It was so simple to show the great warming and some "forgot" the uncertainties in the reconstruction: not in the scientific literature, but in the media. That was an error, I believe.

But I wanted to say: the Hockeystick
debate is not the cause of the mess. The mess started earlier. I am convinced, "skeptics" would use another point if the hockeystick would not exist. It would be the same. Maybe they would also have the same "success".

Independent reconstructions??? There are lot of independent reconstructions: with tree rings, without, with different statistical methods, with boreholes, with sediment proxies, etc, etc. Some show more variability, some less.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Ghost @25
You need to ask HvS about his take on this. I used AGW as a proxy for those who wanted to make a stark claim that there is proof about man made global warming. AGW is not a precise definition, I know. Neither is skeptic. All scientists should be skeptics and be proud of it (otherwise there would be no new knowledge production). But this escaped those who started using the label against their critics.
When I wrote my Ozone book the common terms were 'backlash' and 'contrarian scientists'. Much better definitions I think. We now witness the start of a backlash as a result of the IPCC's overselling the science. And being contrary to the mainstream need not be be a negative thing.

Hans von Storch said...

I consider the hockeystick just a manifestation of the problem, not the problem itself. It had two dimensions, one that a young scientist (MM) suggested a clever way of dealing with a relevant question, and second that the IPCC jumped prematurely on this suggestion and employed it as a brute force tool in the political arena. The (now no longer) young scientist is not to be blamed for that his method suffered from some problems (underestimation of low-frequency variability) - even though his behaviour within science as a gatekeeper for his own benefit was really bad - but first "nature" had only sloppily reviewed the paper and then IPCC mad a serious error, namely of adopting it as "truth" even if the results was still under examination by the community - which I am afraid may have been made because of the perceived political utility of the "icon" hockeystick.

Marco said...

@Reiner:
The CRU e-mails suggest in no way what you are claiming! They show
a) a desire of Mann in particular to contain (=include) the MWP in the temperature chronology
b) disagreement between e.g. Briffa and Mann on the MWP's relative temperature. Thus, rather than indicating a conspiracy to hide the MWP, there was a significant debate on the temperatures during the MWP in the e-mails.

Unless you can point me to any quotes from the e-mails that show otherwise, I will have to call your bluff on this one. I think Hans von Storch summarises the story quite well.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Marco @29
May I refer you to a previous discussion on this blog about the meaning of the word 'contain'

http://klimazwiebel.blogspot.com/2009/12/containing-medieval-warmerr-climate.html
The English langiage speakers point out that the meaning can only be 'limit', not 'include'
(it occurs to me that he could actually have meant both!)

Another word Mann used was 'putative MWP' i.e. e did not believe in it.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Marco, regarding your second point, have a look at the mail from Briffa:

"I know there is pressure to present a nice tidy story as regards 'apparent unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more in the proxy data' but in reality the situation is not quite so simple. We don't have a lot of proxies that come right up to date and those that do (at least a significant number of tree proxies ) some unexpected changes in response that do not match the recent warming. I do not think it wise that this issue be ignored in the chapter.
For the record, I do believe that the proxy data do show unusually warm conditions in recent decades. I am not sure that this unusual warming is so clear in the summer responsive data. I believe that the recent warmth was probably matched about 1000 years ago."

You say they had intensive discussions among themselves which shows that no conspiracy was taking place. Well exactly, among themselves...

Marco said...

@Reiner:
I think you would actually benefit from reading some of the e-mails. Look for example through 938018124 (long discussion on the various reconstructions).
But especially look at 1054736277, which contains the "contain" issue. It is clear, to me, that he discusses "contain" as in "include". But even more interesting, it refers to the article discussing the Soon&Baliunas paper!

And the IPCC 2007 report actually has lengthy discussions on the issue. Once again, something openly shown, and yet claimed to be "hidden" by certain people.

Leigh Jackson said...

@Reiner 22
I am not a scientist. I am a layman with a science degree. I was reporting what was said by the two parties on Newsnight. I could no more demonstrate the accuracy of what Field said than I could of Pielke.

It is for Pielke to demonstrate to the IPCC that they are wrong. The IPCC had to admit their error on the glaciers because glaciologists were telling them that they were wrong. Pielke stated that all scientists familiar with the literature agreed with his position. If this is true the and the IPCC are ignoring the consensus that is far more serious than the glacier issue where the IPCC have admitted their error.

I am obliged to trust the IPCC unless scientists en masse start tearing their reports to shreads. One or two dissenting voices here and there is to be expected.

Reiner Grundmann said...

Leigh @33
Pielke says the IPCC has misrepresented his work and the work of disaster experts, by claiming exactly the opposite of what the peer reviewed literature says.
On Friday he discussed the matter at the Royal Institution in London in a public debate.

Here is an audio link
http://www.rigb.org/contentControl?action=displayEvent&id=1000
Have a look at Roger's blog
http://rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com/2010/01/what-does-pielke-think-about-this.html

There is a report from the RI debate on Bishop Hill
http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2010/2/6/has-global-warming-increased-the-toll-of-disasters.html

Leigh Jackson said...

Reiner @34
First, to be more accurate I should make a correction. On Newsnight Pielke said that "anyone who takes a look at the literature can see that it is not ambiguous".

If that is true there should be no problem in getting a collection of authors of the literature together to state that the IPCC is in error, in a letter to Science, for example, as was done in the case of the Himalayan glaciers.

Otherwise, he can only properly be said to be speaking for himself.

Anna said...

I have a question for Hans von Storch about the hockey stick:

you write:"then IPCC mad ;-) a serious error, namely of adopting it as "truth" even if the results was still under examination by the community".

Does this mean that there were people in the community actually investigating the robustness of the hockey stick even before the IPCC report of 2001?

McIntyre didn't start working on the hockey stick until 2003, and at least he has the impression that nobody had "audited" Mann's work before him.