Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What's going on at the IPCC?

There are some disturbing news regarding the IPCC. As Roger Pielke Jr. reports on his blog, there is a strange tendency in the IPCC to exaggerate observed disaster losses due to climate change. He lists several examples where he had made suggestions to the IPCC of how to alter the official narrative, in order to avoid such exaggerations. The reply by the IPCC is sobering: it does not even seem to acknowledge the charges made by Pielke. This begs the question if they took him seriously in the first place. It seems not. As I remarked in a comment on his blog, this looks very much like arrogance of power or bureaucratic mentality (maybe both?). One is led to believe that the IPCC reckons no one will read the issues in any detail. Perhaps they are right in this respect and  Roger is wrong in his honest belief that "Nothing below [in his account of the saga] is complicated or nuanced." How long will it take until this is exposed to a wider audience?


Günter Heß said...


You are late at the Party, but welcome anyway.
And Thanks for the Post.


hvw said...

No worries. The usual suspects are in the process of alarming the wider audience in this very moment. Welcome to the echo chamber. But this is not helpful.

Let's have a look the details:

#1: Pielke points to an obvious mistake (failure to include into AR4 a result from Pielke's just in time published "Remarks from the Seventh Annual Roger Revelle Commemorative Lecture"). The alleged answer from Rosenzweig and Casassa is utterly childish. It is really hard to see how someone involved in any kind of scientific dialogue could write such a bullshit.

#2: The IPCC statement is not wrong in a strict sense. Pielke points out that it conveys a false impression and misses the picture presented by the whole of the literature. (I trust Pielkes knowledge of the literature here). However, looking at it from a bit of a distance, considering the huge uncertainty surrounding the issue, the IPCC statement gives the approximately right impression, albeit for the wrong reasons. Everybody basically agrees that "we just don't frickin know whether there is a rising trend in normalized loss; if there is, it is really small.". Pielke is being nitpicky here, that's OK, experts are supposed to. Rosenzweig and Casassa's alleged answer is OK too. Pielke's comment on the answer is over the top.

#3: Pielke criticises a figure that plots a timeseries of global temperature against my age, no wait, against thickness of dust layer under my bed, no wait, against number of people hit by cars in San Jose, no wait .. against normalized loss from weather related catastrophes. right.

Pielkes critique centers around how this figure was not published in time, the author mis-cited it, trickstered around to get it into AR4. Well yes. Big deal. The point is "there is no scientific basis for plotting damages against temperature. "(Pielke). In my words: Such a figure is totally useless, devoid of meaning, only misleading for fools, waste of screen for the rest. So Pielke found a nice instance of failed quality control in AR4. Thats it. In the alleged answer, Rosenzweig and Casassa do not clearly admit that, but what else should they do. I find Pielke's reaction over the top again.

#4: Pielke gets carried away asking for corrections to a press release.

Why do I always write "alleged answers"? Because it is easy to make emails appear to come from someone else. Until Rosenzweig and Casassa confirm the veracity of this correspondence, or at least Pielke shows us the (hopefully signed) mails, keep your pants on.

What to make of this? Your pick:

a) The IPPC, yes, THE IPPC, they (all) are just massaging data and text to get their alarmist ideology into your head. And then they don't want to discuss their blunders in detail. FRAUD!!

b) Look Mr. Pielke, you are very smart and very important, yes. But see I am very busy right now and I am not going to waste a lot of time with your little criticisms of a half-decade old report. In particular since AR4, with respect to the topic of your criticism, has been superseded by a 2012 IPCC special report that extensively deals with impact of extreme events. So I just write to you just something that doesn't force me to spend more of my precious time on that old stuff. Too bad that I don't have a corporate communications assistant.

Werner Krauss said...


you ask "How long will it take until this is exposed to a wider audience?"

1) you post it already on Klimazwiebel;

2) so why do you want it to reach a wider audience?

bigcitylib said...

The other option is that the IPCC just thought he was wrong. Its not uncommon for other researchers to disagree with Pielke Jr. He is not, apparently, the arbiter of all knowledge.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

"He is not, apparently, the arbiter of all knowledge."

Very true!

However, I am able to understand what it means when an IPCC author says that he invented a graph from whole cloth and inserted it into the report, intentionally mis-cited it to avoid the IPCC publication deadline and admit that there is no peer-reviewed scientific basis to it before or since.

That the IPCC can/will not understand this speaks volumes.

eduardo said...

I think the response from the Coordinating Lead Authors to the alleged error #1 is simply not acceptable. The IPCC reports are meant to be important documents, and Roger'2 #1 point, at least, deserves consideration. Their response is just a pun. They should either have acknowledged the error or refute it.

The reviewer comment by Francis Zwiers to #1 is also quite clear. The paragraph about disasters losses in Cuba is clearly misleading. I may mention that Zwiers was also Coordinating Lead Author in the Fourth IPCC Working Group I Report (we are discussing here WG II) and so it is an important person in th IPCC process. Their answer to Zwiers is … not compatible with the truth.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Hi Eduardo-

I think #3 is far more important than #1. #1 is clearly an error, yes.

But #3 borders on what in other contexts would be called academic misconduct.

The response to #1 is akin to "glaciergate" the response to #3 is far more troubling in my view.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Pielke jr. has a point, but I stopped thinking about claims made by Pielke in August after reading this:

Nitpicking about Field's statements but no single word about Christy's really misleading testimony. The honest broker jumped the shark.


Roger Pielke, Jr. said...

Shorter Andreas:

I disagreed with this guy once so scientific misconduct by the IPCC is OK.


Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


Thanks, you write: "Pielkes critique centers around how this figure was not published in time"


The figure was never published anywhere except the IPCC. When the paper that the IPCC author thought would eventually contain that figure was actually published in 2008 (hence the need to falsify the reference) the figure did not actually appear and the paper instead said this:

“We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and normalized catastrophe losses.“


The only place that figure exists is IPCC AR4, which is a violation of their mandate. Not to mention misleading/bad science.

It is a good lesson in why we actually have to do the science, rather than sneaking into a major assessment a finding that you expect to reach in the future;-)

Anonymous said...


sorry, but that was too short. All I said was, that you too often cried "Wolf!!, but there were no wolves at all. Now I hear you crying again, but I don't listen to you.

What about AR5? Did you think about becoming an expert reviewer to improve the AR5? In my opinion it's not so exciting to complain about the past.


Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


There is no need to base your judgment on my say so ... all of the information is available, so check it out yourself, use your own judgment ... or not.


hvw said...


thanks for this answer.

I now understand better where you are coming from, judging #3 so harshly. What I wanted to say is that your critique centers around the process, rules and protocol that were violated here (I assume your depiction of events is correct, I can't check this now). And in a way you are right, in that this is way more grave than just a "honest mistake". And it is quite disappointing, that some ex - coordinating lead author doesn't reply honestly and seriously. I, on the other, hand focused on the figure itself, which makes no sense, regardless how it got there, but this can go through as "honest slipshot job".

What I do not like, very much so, is a certain vibe of accusation that is in your blog's article and that is exactly what Reiner "bandpass" Grundmann here extracts and amplifies. This, in my eyes, puts you both quite close to my local "Global warming caused this thunderstorm, which killed a child" - Journaille.

The minor: That "The IPCC" is answering thus carelessly, and not just one, most likely overworked volunteer, who tries to avoid more work which doesn't get her anywhere. There was no plenary session to discuss your mail. This is a scientific body, which you cannot measure to the same standard as a company with streamlined PR.

The major: That there is "tendency in the IPCC to exaggerate observed disaster losses due to climate change" (RG) and that "[IPCC] cherry picked a date to make a suggestive claim" (you).

This is completely without evidence. This is baseless alarmism. Just imagine an AR4 where all your reasons for complaints did not happen. No Figure SM 1.1. in the supporting material, acknowledgement of you work that includes Katrina, ...
Would there be a detectable difference to the actual AR4 in terms of the impression conveyed about the state of knowledge about a potential causal relationship between global warming and weather related losses? I think not. The message is clear and has not changed (also not in SREX): We just do not know!
Do you disagree?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


Thanks ... you ask "Do you disagree?"

I think so, based on my understanding of your question.

1. The IPCC failures in this case cannot be attributed to "one overworked volunteer" -- the failures are systemic, over time and involve many people including top leadership. If the integrity of the institution matters, then such a failure should be of concern -- this is not the 2035 glacier error, but far worse.

2. Does it matter to the AR4? Absolutely. The graph and related claims set back this area for about 5 years, corrected finally when the SREX redid the effort, only to see the IPCC WGII chair subsequently reject the SREX conclusions.

Now it is fair to ask if any of that matters, and it is often claimed that bad science "does not matter" (see eg hockey stick debate). For the broader climate debate, perhaps it does not. But if you care about the integrity and legitimate authority of scientific institutions, I'd say it matters a fair bit.

All best!

hvw said...


sorry, my "do you disagree?" was poorly referenced. I meant, "Do you disagree that in these events there is no evidence for the claim that 'the IPCC exaggerates observed disaster losses due to climate change'?" I can not find evidence for such a devastating claim in the faults of AR4. More importantly, this statement implies that the IPCC is doing that now, and will in the future, as part of its agenda. I find this an outrageous claim.

The IPCC failures in this case cannot be attributed to "one overworked volunteer" -- the failures are systemic, over time and involve many people including top leadership.

This claim certainly is not supported by the communication we are talking about here. Just look at the extremely stupid answer in #1: There is no way that this came not from a single volunteer, writing without consulting anybody else, on her own authority, and lacking sensitivity as to the PR effect when this gets published, and also not realizing that you will publish that for sure.

The graph and related claims set back this area for about 5 years

I don't see any fundamental differences between AR4 and SREX on this topic. But I can understand how easy one might differ here. In detail, it would be necessary to take great care what we are talking about: normalized loss trends, loss trends, extreme events - types, magnitudes, frequencies, trends from the historical record, predicted trends, ....

IPCC WGII chair subsequently reject the SREX conclusions.

Whoa, I did not notice. Can you point me to where Field or Barros do that?

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


1. "Do you disagree that in these events there is no evidence for the claim that 'the IPCC exaggerates observed disaster losses due to climate change'?"

Sorry, you lost me.

2. "There is no way that this came not from a single volunteer"

I'm not interested in wild speculation. The reply came under the name of 2 high ranking IPCC individuals, other unnamed CLAs, via the IPCC Bureau and Secretariat and overseen by the WGII Chair. These are the people responsible for the content.

3. "I don't see any fundamental differences between AR4 and SREX on this topic"

Let us to agree to disagree. This is so obvious as to be not worth debating.

4. Can you point me to where Field or Barros do that?

Field in recent Congressional testimony:


hvw said...


1. In the blog entry under which we are writing, Reiner claims that "there is a strange tendency in the IPCC to exaggerate observed disaster losses due to climate change". (Note the present tense.) That is his interpretation of your blog entry. Do you agree with this interpretation?

2. Ok, I really can't say who "is responsible" for this mail (that I never saw) and have to rely on some exegesis. Will you show us the mails?

3. and 4. Yes, lets agree to disagree, as also your interpretation of Field's testimony is not without alternative, to put it blandly. The necessity to carefully distinguish related yet different variables, as mentioned above, also applies here.

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


Thanks ...

1. I have no objections to Reiner's characterization

2. What would you like to know?

3. and 4. The various issues with Field's testimony have been debated at length ... the very few objections to my post hinge upon issues like the placement of a comma and the like ;-)

All best!

hvw said...


1. Thanks for the clear answer. I have very strong objections though. How someone is able to interpret
Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and population increases have not been attributed to climate change, but a role for climate change has not been excluded (high agreement, medium evidence). (IPCC-SREX (2012), p 234)
as an exaggeration of climate related disaster losses is beyond me.

2. If I wanted to get to the bottom of this, I would be interested in the mail headers, salutation, signature, just the whole mail. But I don't. Maybe others do. Publishing it could strengthen the case you try to make in #16.2.

3. and 4. So you were pretty lucky then, that I did not participate in this debate and tore your post to shreds ;).

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


Thanks ...

1. SREX got things right. It is, unfortunately, an exception over a very long time (TAR, AR4, Pachauri, Field to name just a few).

2. I have many emails with IPCC on this matter.

3. and 4. Lucky me, but unlucky for Field, he could have used some help;-)


hvw said...


SREX got things right. It is, unfortunately, an exception over a very long time (TAR, AR4, Pachauri, Field to name just a few).

Now even assuming that in the past IPPC statements about this particular question were biased (I still do not see this in AR4), but the latest report, a special report devoted exclusively to the subtopic at hand "got it right".

How alarmist, misleading and unfair is it, to report as "some disturbing news" "the IPCC's tendency to exaggerate disaster losses" when in fact this is about a handful of missed references and an "illegally inserted" into the Supplementary Material and totally meaningless figure in a 2007 report?

The longer I watch this whole debate, the more originally sane appearing people seem to get into a competitive "wanting-to-score-points" attitude and give up on contributing anything useful. This is not a symmetric phenomenon; childish game playing happens predominantly on the "skeptic side". I am disappointed.

Thanks for talking

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


If you think that this issue is restricted only to a handful of missed references and a falsified graph in a single report, then you have not done your homework.

As you note, the rushing to strong conclusions on very partial information is endemic in this area. Lesson: Do your homework;-)

Thanks to you as well, all best!

Reiner Grundmann said...


As you are concerned about a "wanting-to-score-points attitude" and "contributing anything useful" let me say that I find your cavalier attitude towards the IPCC reaction not useful at all. By useful I mean serving your own cause of (presumably) getting the science right and contributing to good climate policy.

You are essentially saying "Pielke has a point (or two) but this does not matter. Also, the ridiculous reply by the IPCC does not matter because it is not on the same level as some authoritative texts (AR4, SREX). Don't you realize that this undermines trust in the science and in the people who claim they understand it (such as you, the IPCC...).

You may want to believe that all that matters are the official texts. But texts without audience, readers, and interpretation do not exist.

hvw said...


let me clarify: The impact of these faults in AR4 for the overall scientific message of the report was very small. Their importance comes from them indicating problems with the processes and procedures of the IPCC, so it is a good thing to point them out. The partially childish-stupid answer to this doesn't only show lack of respect but also points to another important (and this time current) problem. Yet nobody seems to bring it up.

The problem is that IPCC's procedures for handling such "out of protocol requests", or how you want to call it, seems non-existing or horribly broken. There is a need for professionalization. Such a request may reach a professor with 2 proposals due tomorrow, the PhD badly stuck, the coffee empty and the faculty meeting started 2 mins ago. Given the attention with which her answer will be scrutinized, this is not acceptable. IPCC could for example spend more resources on streamlining public communication. (You may want to believe that all that matters are the official texts. Ha! exactly that would be good advice to the IPCC here, and a good headline for a blog article, no?)

Instead you shout a completely unrelated "IPCC exaggerates disaster losses" into the internets. All in the service of restoring "trust in the science", of course. Having drawn your attention to the message of SREX, you probably also regard this as an "exception" to the rule? In case AR5 will have the same cautious message again, will you write "Two IPCC reports in a row show that IPCC doesn't exaggerate climate disasters!"? No. you'll use some mistake somewhere and spin it into the same old direction.

So yes, Pielke has a point or two, but how this is spun is definitively hostile and misleading. Exactly like politicians at election time. I had expected this from the more rustic "skeptics"-faction, not from you both.

Anonymous said...

"True believers"?


Thema Klimawandel:

"Für 51 Prozent der EU-Bürger ist er die größte globale Bedrohung, in Deutschland sind sogar 66 Prozent dieser Meinung.
Dagegen sehen etwas weniger als die Hälfte der Europäer die wirtschaftliche Situation als größtes Problem, in Deutschland sind dies 27 Prozent."

"Welt der Wunder"-Umfrage:

"A recent poll sponsored the German magazine Welt der Wunder resulted in 89% of the respondents saying they don’t believe the US government has told the whole truth about 9/11. The poll was conducted by the Emnid Institute and questioned 1005 German men and women over the age of 14. Both the magazine and the polling organization have called the results “scary and surprising”, according to a press release from Bauer Media."

Endlich fallen auf der Klimazwiebel die Masken. Endlich zeigt der Klimafanatismus wieder einmal seine hässliche Fratze.

Abstreiten, abwiegeln, beleidigen, diffamieren und dann diese kaum verhohlene Pseudoüberlegenheit und Pseudowissenschaftlichkeit.

Saepius mentietur, qui semel mentitus erit.


Anonymous said...

@ Reiner Grundmann

thank you for this important post.

WK's question "why do you want it to reach a wider audience?" has found its answer with the buoyant debate.

Looks like some people are used to talk behind other people's back as long as there is no risk of being confronted with the concerned themselves.

Roger's first-hand intervention must have been a bad surprise for some of the habitués of say so talking.

There remains an important absentee: John Christy, unfairly attacked in contribution #8. To let him speak for himself - well worth reading ...


Reiner Grundmann said...


I dont't follow you. You admit that Pielke has a point or two but then try to explain it away complaining that people like him (and myself) would be "shouting into the internet". Let's assume you were right and this is a mistake. We should have kept quiet in order not to undermined the good cause. But then you should give us the charitable treatment you give the IPCC, don't you think? At least I do this without professional help, coming back from the dentist or a long bike ride in the rain. Maybe Roger wrote his comments between two cups of stale coffee...

Roger Pielke, Jr. said...


More like 4 ;-)

I do not understand hvw's complaint either.

Anonymous said...

It's not hard to understand hvw.

A few posts above sb posted Christy's latest testimony at US congress. Reiner, Roger, how do you feel about this kind of science communication? Really nothing to worry about?

@ hvw


hvw said...

Thanks Andreas, I was already concerned about having dropped into a parallel universe with altered semantic of the English language.

Reiner, the Summary for Policypapermakers for you:
You take Pielke's post as a cause for accusing the IPCC of misrepresenting the science in order to exaggerate climate change impacts. This slanderous claim is not exactly new, but was hitherto reserved for the zany EIKE, Heartland, WUWT, etc. industry goons.

You not only have no new information or thoughts contributing to what Pielke has posted (for example that his quotations are a selection from "many emails with IPCC on this matter", as has precipitated here), nor do you even pretend to be familiar with the current "official narrative" on that subject matter, which you reject nonetheless. So yes, keeping quiet would have been an option.

But then you should give us the charitable treatment you give the
IPCC, don't you think?

You wouldn't know what I wrote to the WG II chairs about this, wouldn't you ?

I would be very interested about statements from other people than Roger who should have an educated opinion about this:

Eduardo, Hans von Storch:
There is a strange tendency in the IPCC to exaggerate observed disaster losses due to climate change. The official narrative does not represent the scientific consensus.

Do you agree?


Reiner Grundmann said...

hvw: "when in a hole, stop digging"

You have granted Roger Pielke's points which are exactly about the misrepresentation of the science.
So what is your problem?

As you have run out of arguments you resort to ad hominem attacks, using the words "slanderous" and "industry goons". This would normally be a good reason to delete your comment.

"You wouldn't know what I wrote to the WG II chairs about this, wouldn't you ?"

No I don't, please tell us.

Werner Krauss said...

In my reading, hvw still supports a leading role of the IPCC in the climate debate. I think this is a totally legitimate point. The discussion about disaster loss has nothing to do with that; except that Reiner and Roger at a certain point in the debate use it to contradict hvw's opinion about the IPCC. As a consequence, the debate about disaster loss turns into a fake debate, in which in the end everybody calls for a superior authority to decide the discussion (netiquette - I kick you out!; reason - I don't understand what you want!, or the call for Hans and Eduardo as authorities, or whatever!). But there is no superior authority or higher power; it's just differing political opinions about the future role of the IPCC.

Werner Krauss said...

...and that's why this thread serves as another example how debates about (the conduct of) science are used to decide political conflicts.

eduardo said...

I am not an authority and even less so in the field of disaster losses, and so I may have an informed opinion, probably as good as yours. Furthermore, I have to confess that I am not very much acquainted with the WG II Report - I have already enough with WG I. Disasters are caused by extreme events, and it is very difficult to attribute trends in extremes to climate change. It is even difficult to detect trends in extremes, as the SREX report says. The signal of climate change on losses is further confounded by inflation, economic develpment, etc. Most of the economic damages are caused by landfalling atlantic hurricanes, and here the trend is actualy negative in the last couple of decades. Climate models now predict a decrease in the number of atlantic hurricanes, although an increase in the number of ghe most intense. Loss of personal lives is rather caused by typhons in Asia and maybe droughts in developing countries ( how do you compare economic and life loss? ).
So my opinion is that, so far, one cannot attribute any increase in disaster losses to climate change. If the IPCC (reports ? ) states the oposite, then i would say they are exagerating. Probably you have by now interpreted that my confidence in WG II is much lower than in WG I

hvw said...

Thank you very much, Eduardo for this extensive comment. I have to apologize for soliciting your opinion, partially, as "an appeal to authority", as Werner has pointed out. I completely share your assessment. The pivotal point of the shouting match above is whether one is able to read such an "attribution of disaster loss trends to climate change" into IPCC's conclusions or not. But that is up to everybody's individual reading comprehension skills and not worthy further debate.