A sermon from the Climate Church (sorry, Council)

I wrote about the Climate Council the other day, and it is still not clear to me exactly what it is, other than a pretentiously named private organisation. It has now issued its first report, which you can read here. It is entitled Unpacking the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, and it is an awful piece of work, a sloppy scissors-and-paste version of the Summary for Policy Makers that I wrote about rather earlier.

Remember, the purpose of the Climate Council is to give us ‘independent’ advice on our changing climate. What this document is thought to be independent of is clear enough — it is independent of any critical analysis whatever. Worse, it tries to overcome the inadequacies of the SPM by waving problems away and subterfuge.

Here is an example. How does it deal with the pause, or cessation in global warming? It calls it a ‘myth’ that needs busting:


Myth: The Earth has stopped warming since 1998.

Reality: The Earth has warmed significantly over the last century, and particularly strongly since 1970. 

Now just think about that little section. Does ‘Reality’ deal with the ‘Myth’? Well no, it doesn’t, does it. It could be true both that the Earth has stopped warming since 1998, and that the Earth has warmed since 1901 and 1970. And indeed that seems to be what has happened. No one on the dissenting side, to my knowledge, has any trouble with a warming of the Earth over the 20th century of around 0.7 degrees Celsius.

But they do suggest that there has been a much slower rate of warming since 1998 or even earlier, indeed, there seems to have been some cooling over the past few years. You can see that here:

Figure-3Take no notice (much) of the captions, which are slightly ironical, in my opinion. But the data are from one of the major temperature datasets, from the Hadley Centre of the UK Met Office in collaboration with the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia. It wouldn’t matter much which of the several datasets you used — they all show both the rise of the global temperature anomaly and the decline in that rise at about 1998 (the year of the el Nino spike).

If the pause, or decline in the rise, were a myth, pointing out that there has been a rise since 1950 is not myth-busting at all. It is what we call an ‘irrelevance’, or ‘dodging the issue’. I would think that most first-year students in any subject would wrinkle their brows at the notion that the one disposes of the other. Yet this bucket of guff is authored not by a first-year student but by a professor at a university that likes call itself Australia’s best.

Worse, he offers his own graph, which comes from an academic paper written by two supporters of the orthodoxy. Try as I might, I can’t download it (perhaps I need instruction), but it shows essentially the same time period, and all five of the major datasets. But they don’t look at all like the graph above. Why not? If you read the small print, it says that the data have been ‘adjusted’ — ‘corrected for short-term temperature variability’. Why? We don’t know, because the paper doesn’t tell us. What’s wrong with the standard graphs? We don’t know, because they don’t tell us.

The same intellectually shoddy behaviour is demonstrated in the handling of the second ‘myth’:

Myth: The climate is less sensitive to increases in greenhouse gas concentrations than we earlier thought.

Reality: There has been no significant change in the estimates of climate sensitivity reported by the IPCC. 

To the best of my knowledge, the correct way to refashion the so-called Myth would be to say that there is increasing literature to suggest that ‘climate sensitivity’ may be smaller than the IPCC authors thought it was in 2007. The supposed Reality is best expressed by saying, as the IPCC has done, that the bottom or lower end of the range put forward by the IPCC in 2007 —  2.0 to 4.5 degrees Celsius — has been extended downwards to 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius. In short, the IPCC concedes that there is something to the possibility that its estimates might be a bit on the high side.

If you read the WG1 Report, and I am struggling through it, you will see that the IPCC no longer puts a best guess as to the most likely value of climate sensitivity. It is probably the case that faced with an increasing number of papers putting that value low, it is simply not prepared to get into arguments about the ‘most likely value’. What then? You just avoid the issue.

Parson Steffen, I have to say that this paper of yours is not independent, and it is not ‘authoritative, expert advice to the Australian public on climate change’. I can’t imagine to whom it could be helpful, and it is not science as I understand it, while it is shoddy intellectually and absurd as an analysis. I don’t know what your parishioners expect, but this document  is hardly worth writing about.

And I haven’t even discussed the complete lack of argument for your claim that ‘substantial and sustained reductions in global carbon emissions are required’. Maybe I should, but not today: I really hate this sort of stuff masquerading as science.


Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Malcolm Miller says:

    Thanks for keeping up the good fight against the religion of human-caused climate change.

  • Peter Kemmis says:

    This climate council (more worthy of intellectual decapitalisation than capitalisation) could benefit from the services of Winston Smith in Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”. Thorough revision of all previous IPCC reports will then demonstrate their inviolable quality, “all projections” will become proven predictions, and our future will once again be brightened by an impending doom.

  • dlb says:

    Don, you can find that “adjusted” graph at http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2011/12/global-temperature-news/
    It would look even more alarming if they also took into considertion the missing heat going into the deep ocean 🙂
    I’ll try and paste it below.

  • Robert Gunning says:

    Thanks for the analysis. Often, for me, it’s not so much that I disagree with the conclusions of these “independent experts” as I’m smocked to think the advocates hold academic positions and have the gall to tell us they are “independent”.

Leave a Reply