The Climate Commission scores an own goal

The Climate Commission has issued what I take to be its last report: The Critical Decade 2013. Climate Change Science Risks and Responses. Its most recent earlier report was on extreme weather, and in reviewing it I said: ‘ I wrote critically on an earlier ACC report a little while ago. This one is worse, if that is possible. As an example of mis-spent public money the Australian Climate Commission is outstanding. It is akin to a Ministry of Propaganda, and I would get rid of it tomorrow.’ This new report is worse still. It purports to be ‘authoritative and relevant information’ about ‘climate change’ and foreshadows the coming Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC . The authors say that the Climate Commission will provide ‘briefings’ on the three working papers of AR5. I fervently hope that it will have been dissolved before then.

I return for a moment to its earlier report on extreme weather, responsibility for which the Climate Commission put squarely at the door of greenhouse gas emissions, despite the fact that the IPCC itself, in its own report on Emissions Scenarios, said that our present knowledge could not directly ascribe extreme weather to human activities. No matter, this new report continues that theme as though all received wisdom supported it. In fact, the best peer-reviewed assessment says that extreme weather is not more common than it once was, and that if you take account of increased populations and GDP, the costs of  extreme weather events are also not increasing. There’s not a word about any of that in this report.

I looked to see what the authors would say about the current pause in apparent warming, about which I will write more extensively in a day or two. They say that there has been  ‘some discussion in the scientific community recently about the so-called “plateau” in the surface air temperature trend over the last 10-15 years…. Occasional plateaus of this type are very much expected in a warming world, and decade-long pauses in warming can occur in the long-term rising temperature trend …. A range of human and natural factors can influence air temperature in the shorter term, masking longer term trends related to a warming climate’. Well, who would have thought that a few years ago, when the linearity of the rise in temperature along with a rise in CO2 emissions was taken for granted? Indeed, that linearity was the stimulus for the great scare about global warming, tipping points, and catastrophe.

And the authors do not speculate at all, as a reader might, on the possibility that the ‘range of … natural factors’ might have had something to do with the apparent rise in temperature in the 1990s, not just with with  ‘masking’ the supposed rise in the last fifteen years. And wherever I chanced to look, the report cherry-picked its way around data. Take snow cover, for example, which in the northern hemisphere is said to have decreased from 1996 to 2005. We know that the last five years in Europe have been particularly cold and snowy, with snow hanging about almost to summer this year. But there’s no mention of that. Why weren’t the data brought up to the present? The Arctic ice data are shown up to October last year (but not up to April this year, which show a great increase in Arctic sea-ice relative to past years). If you can do it for ice, why not for snow?

A casual reader would think that something really bad must be going on in Greenland, where the Report’s Figure 17 shows that the whole of Greenland was melting on July 12th last year. Yes it was, at the very surface of the ice, and that stopped at once. The text conveys the impression that the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are rapidly losing their mass, to our great peril — and that the loss is accelerating. Claims like this rest on measurements that are clouded by the fact that as the ice melts the bedrock rises, because there is less mass on it — the Glacial Isostatic Adjustment. We don’t know the extent to which the ice is melting and the rock is rising. Estimates are made, but several papers (Wu et al., 2010, for example) argue that the real loss of ice in Greenland is much smaller than is often claimed.  Even if the higher figure were real, it would take a thousand years for Greenland to lose  5 per cent of its ice mass. As for that in Antarctica, apart from the Antarctic Peninsula, which is a tiny proportion of the whole, it is doubtful that there has been any loss at all. Does the reader get any sense of the uncertainty in all this? No.

The point of this Report is not the data, which are highly selective, but the message. Listen to it: ‘To stay within the 2°C limit, the trend of increasing global emissions must be slowed and halted in the next few years and emissions must be trending downward by 2020 at the latest. Investments in and installations of renewable energy must therefore increase rapidly. And, critically, most of the known fossil fuel reserves must remain in the ground. This is the critical decade to get on wIth the job.’ And we in Australia are going to do all this — on our own?

This not science. It is politics.It’s not even politics — it’s a kind of religious fervour, and the feeling came through when one of the authors spoke to the media. I will not mention who they are, but wish only that they had left ‘Professor’ off their names in the foreword. This is not professorial quality stuff. It is just propaganda, masquerading as science. And it is unworthy of any true professor.



Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Malcolm Miller says:

    This ‘report’ was startlingly alamrist, and is not even good science fiction. I was disgusted that my tax money has been used to produce such biased drivel.

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