The IPCC gets better. Climate alarmists freak out.

Summary: The IPCC is the only organization of its kind today, and so the best that we have to deal with the critical problem of climate change (with warming now starting its third century). The leaked draft of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) shows that they’re improving in response to criticism. Here we look at a prominent activist’s reaction (not what you might expect), and some areas in which the IPCC needs more reform.

Other posts in this series about second order draft (SOD) of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC):

Truth changes the world


  1. About the Intergovernmental Panel
    ….. on Climate Change (IPCC)
  2. About the leak of the AR5
  3. About the Draft AR5
  4. Update: comments about the leak
  5. Joe Romm blows his top
  6. Suggestions for the future
  7. For More Information

(1) About the IPCC

The IPCC has always had difficulty managing its dual mission: report the state of climate science and advocate for public policy action to mitigate effects of rising CO2. One of their best critics, Monckton of Brenchley, describes the results in the opening to his review of AR5:

The IPCC’s credibility has already been damaged by its premature adoption and subsequent hasty abandonment of the now-discredited “hockey-stick” graph as its logo; by its rewriting its Second Assessment Report after submission of the scientists’ final draft, to state the opposite of their finding that no discernible human influence on climate is detectable; by its declaration that all Himalayan ice would be gone in 25 years {see this summary}; and by its use of a dishonest statistical technique in 2007 falsely to suggest that the rate of global warming is accelerating.

Even more telling are critics showing systematic misstating by IPCC authors of the climate science literature (eg, chapter lead authors often showcasing their own work and ignoring their critics). While just business as usual in academic science, the IPCC should not tolerable this when writing the foundation for high-stakes and high-cost public policy. It shows a lack of internal controls at the IPCC, and weakens their credibility — which is their greatest asset.

For more about the IPCC’s weaknesses:

(2) About the leak of the Draft AR5

Alex Rawls leaked the draft of the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), bringing sunlight to the IPCC’s secretive workings. He deserves our applause. The IPCC releases its advice for policy-makers long before the science summaries which are its foundation, which makes review and response impossible. Such behavior, that of propagandists, diminishes their credibility. Rawls has forced the IPCC to defend its draft report before policy-makers (and the news media) get its prescriptions.

Update:  Climate Scientist Judith Curry comments on the leak (she is chair of the School of Earth & Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology):

The leak of the SOD {second order draft of AR5} was a good thing; the IPCC still has the opportunity to do a much better job, and the wider discussion in the blogosphere and even the mainstream media places pressure on the IPCC authors to consider these issues; they can’t sweep them under the rug as in previous reports.

(3)   The Draft AR5

What about the AR5 draft? We’ll wait for expert reviews. My impression (FWIW) is that AR5 is a great improvement, in many ways, over their previous work. The IPCC is defending its franchise and learning from experience, both commendable qualities. To see one piece of AR5 read The IPCC sees the pause in global warming!, 18 December 2012.

Also see this honest graphic about one of the potential climate game changers: release of methane (a powerful greenhouse gas). How well have IPCC’s models forecast actual results?


Methane (CH4) in the atmosphere


Caption (references omitted):

Figure 1.7: Observed globally and annually averaged methane concentrations in parts per billion (ppb) since 1990 compared with projections from the previous IPCC assessments. Estimated observed global annual CH4 concentrations are shown in black. The shading shows the largest model projected range of global annual CH4 8 concentrations from 1990–2015 …

The IPCC models shown are:

  • FAR: 1990, the IPCC’s First Assessment Report
  • SAR: 1995, the IPCC’s Second Assessment Report
  • TAR: 2001, IPCC’s Third Assessment Report
  • AR4: 2007, the IPCC”s Fourth Assessment Report
From Climate Change Dispatch
From Climate Change Dispatch

(4) Joe Romm blows his top

Another way to judge the IPCC is by looking at the reactions of “activists” (ie, propagandists), cheerleaders for drastic public policy action. Such as Joe Romm: “Leaked IPCC Draft Report: Recent Warming Is Manmade, Cloud Feedback Is Positive, Inaction Is Suicidal“, ThinkProgress, 16 December 2012 — Excerpt:

That multiply-hedged morass is pretty much the mildest statement that could possibly be made. … For me, the leaked draft, which has not yet been peer reviewed — and thus still has time to be watered down yet more – underscores how pointless the IPCC has become. Like the 4th assessment before it, this ultra-conservative and instantly obsolete report ignores the latest science … And like the AR4, the AR5 scenarios low-ball future impacts … Once again, the authors twist themselves in pretzels to over-hedge every statement with their precise (but inaccurate!) terminology.

… But all AR5 can muster up for the probability of future “increases in frequency and/or intensity of drought” is “Likely [>66% probability] in some regions” — which I guess means the IPCC thinks there is 1 in 3 chance it won’t happen anywhere! How could that be with the kind of warming we will see in the RCP8.5 scenario, which, it must be added is really just business as usual emissions and far from the worst-case? This failure to warn the public and policymakers echoes the great failing of their 2011 extreme weather report.

After years of chiding skeptics for daring to question the IPCC’s work, suddenly Romm discovers that he — not the IPCC — is the ur-source of climate information. He displays one of the great rules of alarmist climate propaganda: Scientists and the IPCC are authorities, unless they disagree with alarmists. Then they’re cranks. Here’s my favorite example: High school science facts prove global warming! Skeptical scientists humiliated by this revelation!.

(5) Suggestions for the future

The IPCC has taken steps to improve their credibility. In the opening to his review of AR5 Monckton of Brenchley suggests other improvement, leading with these:

(a) All alterations by governments to the scientists’ final draft must be referred back to all expert reviewers for comment before publication, and if included must be visibly flagged.

(b) To limit politicization of Assessment Reports, all material from non-peer-reviewed sources, such as environmental lobby groups, should be excluded. Reason:

30% of all references listed in AR4 were not from reviewed papers in the learned journals but from the “gray literature”. … Example: For six months the IPCC’s climate-science chairman, Dr. Pachauri, asserted that anyone who doubted the conclusion in AR4 that all the ice in the Himalayas would be gone within 25 years was “anti-science”. Yet the conclusion had no scientific basis. It came from a polemic by a travel journalist. The lead author of the relevant chapter said he had known of the error but had decided not to correct it.

Mockton’s review also has long (very long) lists of peer-reviewed science overlooked by the IPCC (and ignored by the news media), because it ruins the narrative. This goes to the most serious criticisms of the IPCC: it’s narrow selection of sources, and blindness to many threads of research in the climate sciences.

For other ways to improve our ability to see and respond to climate change see My “wish list” for the climate sciences in 2009, (equally valid today as then).


(6) For More Information

FM posts about shockwaves and other geo-science related issues:

  1. We are so vulnerable to so many things. What is the best response?, 30 December 2008
  2. About our certain doom from the Yellowstone supervolcano, 11 January 2008
  3. My nomination for a top priority shockwave, 19 January 2009
  4. A serious threat to us – a top priority shockwave – a hidden danger …, 20 January 2009
  5. More about shockwaves of the volcanic kind, 21 April 2010
  6. How good are our global senses, watching our changing world?, 15 October 2010




12 thoughts on “The IPCC gets better. Climate alarmists freak out.

    1. CJ,

      “Like Al Gore they have been tripped up by the reality of their lies.”

      Speaking of Romm, he is an activist. LOTS OF ALL CAPS. Plus exaggeration a, misrepresentations, grossly one-sided analysis. I don’t read him often, but I haven’t seen lies.

      As for the IPCC, it works pretty much like most academic organizations. Moderately well, biased, lurching towards the truth at an irregular pace. Lies here and there, as with most groups of people, but in a minor sort of way (eg, “all IPCC sources are peer-reviewed literature”, when almost 1/3 were not).


  1. Thanks for the graph on methane modeling.
    I did modeling for a chemistry Phd and if any of mine would have had such bad agreement, my profs would have laughed me out of the place.
    The level of “scientific excellence” displayed by these climate “scientists” is pathetic.


    1. Wkevinw,

      I believe that is too harsh a verdict. Climate scientists are building models to forecast complex natural phenomena, where the dynamics are often poorly understood and the input datasets of low quality.

      Getting reliable forecasts will take time and sustained funding — to some degree substitute inputs. So far they have had little time (modeling these phenomena adequately has only been feasible in the last decade or so), and the funding has been grossly inadequate relative to the importance of the subject.

      An interesting question is why the underfunding, and lack of coordination? People say that climate science research is the input to public policy decisions that can save the world! They should be calling for massive programs, beyond the garage-scale research of much climate sci today. Such as data quality for the major global temperature datasets, and research I to sea level changes.

      I think the answer to that question tells us much about the debate.


  2. Sorry Fabius, I did modeling with weak computers, out of date instrumentation for the experimental data to match, etc. I wouldn’t publish the garbage if it was too weak.

    When you don’t have good conclusions, you say so by admitting to wide (poor) confidence (intervals in stat speak).

    They just don’t do that.

    Thus the poor scientific ability and/or integrity.


    1. Ok! Thanks for the professional evaluation.

      Can you site other professionals (in broadly relevant fields) giving similar evaluations of any IPCC work? I find the narrow range of review on the IPCC’s work to be quite odd. Givin it’s importance and high profile, why aren’t journals in a dozen field filled with analysis of the IPCC’s data and methods.


  3. A lot of the hard science fields don’t want the political headache, is what I think. I have a hard time believing the chemical physicists, physical chemists, spectroscopists, molecular modelers, etc., could not understand the climate scientists’ models.

    The real scientists don’t like the public spotlight. Beware any “scientist” that seeks publicity or publishes in popular journals. That’s not what real scientists do.


    1. wkevinw,

      That’s a powerful point! From A look at global warming written in a cooler and more skeptical time, giving us a better understanding of climate science:

      The saddest aspect of the climate science debate is that this is a regression from the 1970’s, to varying degrees. We had transparency and replication of climate science research — but lost them when climate science was politicized (which I somewhat arbitrarily date to the publication of “Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions“, Carl Sagan et al, Science, December 1983 (for an analysis of this sorry spectacle see “Nuclear winter: science and politics“, Brian Martin, Science and Public Policy, October 1988).

      Martin describes how scientists were intimidated into silence about the nuclear winter theory. To question it meant you wanted nuclear war.


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