21 January 2010

A Primer on Egregious Errors in IPCC WG2 on Disasters

In response to Lauren Morello's Greenwire article today, which also was published at NYTimes.com I've had a few requests for information about the following:

Roger Pielke, Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado, said scientists make mistakes all the time "and it isn't a big deal."

But Pielke also said he was concerned that, in this case, "a non-peer reviewed source [was] elevated to a finding by the IPCC," especially given Austrian glaciologist -- and IPCC Working Group I author -- Georg Kaser's recent assertion that he warned Working Group II of the error in 2006, and was ignored. That suggests "a breakdown in the peer-review process," Pielke said.

Pielke said his concern is heightened because he believes Working Group II also misrepresented his research about the link between climate change and monetary damages of natural disasters, highlighting a white paper produced for a conference he organized -- when ultimately, attendees at the conference "came up with a contrary conclusion to what the background paper said."

So for those interested in the details or following up, here are a few pointers.

1. An overview of the systematic misrepresentation of the science of disasters and climate change.

2. What I said when the IPCC report was released in 2007:
Can anyone point to any other area in the IPCC where one non-peer-reviewed study is used to overturn the robust conclusions of an entire literature?
Details here.

3. The figure at the top of this post was included in the WGII report and purports to show a relationship between rising temperatures and economic losses from weather disasters. It is extremely misleading. When it was released I had this t0 say about it:
I am shocked to see such a figure in the IPCC of all places, purporting to show something meaningful and scientifically vetted. Sorry to be harsh, but this figure is neither. . . I am amazed that this figure made it past review of any sort, but especially given what the broader literature on this subject actually says. I have generally been a supporter of the IPCC, but I do have to admit that if it is this sloppy and irresponsible in an area of climate change where I have expertise, why should I have confidence in the areas where I am not an expert?
4. A reviewer of WGII, Laurens Bouwer, had this to say when the report was released:

As reviewer for WG2 I have repeatedly (3 times) asked to put a clear statement in the SPM that is in line with the general literature, and underlying WG2 chapters. In my view, WG2 has not succeeded in adequately quoting and discussing all relevant recent papers that have come out on this topic — see above-mentioned chapters.

Initial drafts of the SPM had relatively nuanced statements such as: “Global economic losses from weather-related disasters have risen substantially since the 1970s. During the same period, global temperatures have risen and the magnitude of some extremes, such as the intensity of tropical cyclones, has increased. However, because of increases in exposed values …, the contribution of these weather-related trends to increased losses is at present not known.”

For unknown reasons, this statement (which seems to implicitly acknowledge Roger’s and the May 2006 workshop conclusion that societal factors dominate) was dropped from the final SPM. Now the SPM has no statement on the attribution of disaster losses, and we do not know what is the ‘consensus’ here.

5. Just this week I learned that the IPCC simply made up a false response about my views when directly queried on this subject by an expert reviewer.

The IPCC treatment of the science of disasters and climate change is an even worse breech of scientific standards than the errors associated with Himalayan glaciers.


  1. The implosion of AGW can be compared with the collaps of the financial market. It was overinflated and based on hot air (no pun intended) for long time and no regulators in sight.
    It much be highly rewarding for Roger Pielke Jr. and his father to see that their statements in the past now come finally true after been bullied by the AGW clique for such a loooong time.

  2. re: "5. Just this week I learned that the IPCC simply made up a false response about my views when directly queried on this subject by an expert reviewer."

    That seems to a common characteristic of warmists - putting their words in others mouths.



  3. There is a somewhat larger issue looming.

    The EPA based it's finding that CO2 was a danger to humanity citing the IPCC as evidence.

    Obviously, various interests are going to attempt to have that finding overturned in a court of law.

    If I understand the legal ramifications correctly,(I am not a lawyer), about the only possible winning argument the various interests have is that the IPCC report does not meet the standards of 'admissible scientific evidence'.

    So it may very well work out, that in the IPCC's zealousness to win in 'the court of public opinion' they actually gift wrapped the evidence various CO2 spewing interests to prove that the evidence supporting global warming fails to meet the 'standards of admissible evidence'.

    The Himalaya's melting clearly is out, the economic damage caused by global warming is in doubt, the surface temperature record is probably out as well. Tree rings are out.

    At some point a Federal judge has to throw out the entire IPCC report.

    Which leaves EPA nothing.

    In a nation governed by law, the quality of the evidence has to meet the standards of legal admissibility.

    Including 'questionable' evidence in the written testimony package risks having the entire package thrown out in the inevitable evidentiary hearing.

  4. In this case, the dubious reference by Muir-Wood was not in the earlier drafts - it couldnt have been because it wasn't written till mid 2006. It was inserted into the final version, presumably by the chapter author Muir-Wood himself. So reviewers didn't get the chance to comment on it. Right?

  5. -4-PaulM

    The Muir-Wood study appears in the Comments on the First Order draft where it first appears on p. 185:

    "This dataset [Munich Re] has been employed extensively within forthcoming RMS publication on ‘Global Normalized Catastrophe costs’ paper – to be referenced in this section."

    RMS is Risk Management Solutions, Muir-Wood's employer.

    The "new RMS study" is subsequently discussed in the review comments no less than a half-dozen times.

    The "new RMS study" at that point was not public, nor was it peer-reviewed. (Its first public appearance was at our Hohenkammer workshop). Yet, the IPCC relied on it as the definitive work on this topic, in contrast to what the peer reviewed literature actually said. The "RMS publication" has never appeared in the peer reviewed literature.

    It is worth noting that the Stern Review Report also relied on Muir-Wood (in error) as I have documented in a peer-reviewed publication.

  6. I received a query today about IPCC WGII Figure TS.15. I have discussed that here:


  7. It's as though the IPCC has a scientific arm and an activist arm and the right arm doesn't know what the left arm is doing.

  8. A bit off topic. Is there any word on who leaked the emails? It has been 2 months.

  9. Roger - I'm timing out on some of your links. "Details here" under #2 is one of them. No problem with any other web sites.

  10. Re the Stern Review, the other day I went looking for the worst misrepresentation of a paper on drought that was included in AR4 WG1 Chapter 10. The press put in a strong showing, as of course did NGOs, but the Stern Review scooped the pot. It wholly and unambiguously misunderstood the paper and claimed that by 2100 80% of all land will suffer from drought at any one time. (One newspaper actually said 120% of all land but did so with sufficient ambiguity to deny it top place.)

    Wandering even further off-topic ... The paper in question (Burke et al. 2007) appeared in WG1 Chapter 10 without important caveats. It was inserted by one of its authors during the review process (on the somewhat odd grounds for a strictly scientific chapter that he thought it 'very policy relevant information'). Is such conscienceless self-promotion usual?

  11. =====
    Experts said the gaffes that came to light in recent weeks don't undermine the IPCC report's main conclusion -- that evidence for global warming is "unequivocal," and human activities are driving the climate shift.

    Wasn't the message much more than this or at least the one given to the public. Didn't the message include that the effects of tis warming were serious and that major remedial action should be undertaken and would be effective

  12. Roger - not sure if you've seen this:


    It's the same topic and quotes you.

  13. Correction: Burke et al. 2006.

    (_Modelling the recent evolution of global drought and projections for the twenty-first century with the Hadley Centre climate model_, Journal of Hydrometeorology.)

  14. I am afraid there is an egregious error of spelling in the html title of your post....


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