Science not settled, still in a state of flux – IPCC AR5 in disarray. It is looking like my single word quote in Rolling Stone “stillborn”, will be accurate.
The title is my twist on what Dr. Judith Curry said in an email to David Rose in his latest article about the upcoming IPCC AR5 report:
Last night Professor Judith Curry, head of climate science at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said the leaked summary showed that ‘the science is clearly not settled, and is in a state of flux’.
She goes on to say:
She said it therefore made no sense that the IPCC was claiming that its confidence in its forecasts and conclusions has increased.
For example, in the new report, the IPCC says it is ‘extremely likely’ – 95 per cent certain – that human influence caused more than half the temperature rises from 1951 to 2010, up from ‘very confident’ – 90 per cent certain – in 2007.
Prof Curry said: ‘This is incomprehensible to me’ – adding that the IPCC projections are ‘overconfident’, especially given the report’s admitted areas of doubt.
Professor Myles Allen also got in a few licks, Prof Allen said:
‘The idea of producing a document of near-biblical infallibility is a misrepresentation of how science works, and we need to look very carefully about what the IPCC does in future.’
Rose also took Dana Nuccitelli and John Abraham to task at the Guardian over ugly death threat type comments that remain about their rebuttal to his article last week, while other comments are removed for not meeting “standards”.
BTW, Rose is Jewish.
And finally, he calls out Bob Ward, but unfortunately doesn’t mention his past as a punk rocker before he became a climate activist:
Another assault was mounted by Bob Ward, spokesman for the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at the London School of Economics.
Mr Ward tweeted that the article was ‘error-strewn’.
The eminent US expert Professor Judith Curry, who unlike Mr Ward is a climate scientist with a long list of peer-reviewed publications to her name, disagreed.
On her blog Climate Etc she defended The Mail on Sunday, saying the article contained ‘good material’, and issued a tweet which challenged Mr Ward to say what these ‘errors’ were.
He has yet to reply.
As for the state of climate science, this summary by Rose of the IPCC situation is worth sharing:
‘A REFLECTION OF EVIDENCE FROM NEW STUDIES’… THE IPCC CHANGES ITS STORY
What they say: ‘The rate of warming since 1951 [has been] 0.12C per decade.’
What this means: In their last hugely influential report in 2007, the IPCC claimed the world was warming at 0.2C per decade. Here they admit there has been a massive cut in the speed of global warming – although it’s buried in a section on the recent warming ‘pause’. The true figure, it now turns out, is not only just over half what they thought – it’s below their lowest previous estimate.
What they say: ‘Surface temperature reconstructions show multi-decadal intervals during the Medieval Climate Anomaly (950-1250) that were in some regions as warm as in the late 20th Century.’
What this means: As recently as October 2012, in an earlier draft of this report, the IPCC was adamant that the world is warmer than at any time for at least 1,300 years. Their new inclusion of the ‘Medieval Warm Period’ – long before the Industrial Revolution and its associated fossil fuel burning – is a concession that its earlier statement is highly questionable.
What they say: ‘Models do not generally reproduce the observed reduction in surface warming trend over the last 10 – 15 years.’
What this means: The ‘models’ are computer forecasts, which the IPCC admits failed to ‘see… a reduction in the warming trend’. In fact, there has been no statistically significant warming at all for almost 17 years – as first reported by this newspaper last October, when the Met Office tried to deny this ‘pause’ existed.In its 2012 draft, the IPCC didn’t mention it either. Now it not only accepts it is real, it admits that its climate models totally failed to predict it.
What they say: ‘There is medium confidence that this difference between models and observations is to a substantial degree caused by unpredictable climate variability, with possible contributions from inadequacies in the solar, volcanic, and aerosol forcings used by the models and, in some models, from too strong a response to increasing greenhouse-gas forcing.’
What this means: The IPCC knows the pause is real, but has no idea what is causing it. It could be natural climate variability, the sun, volcanoes – and crucially, that the computers have been allowed to give too much weight to the effect carbon dioxide emissions (greenhouse gases) have on temperature change.
What they say: ‘Climate models now include more cloud and aerosol processes, but there remains low confidence in the representation and quantification of these processes in models.’
What this means: Its models don’t accurately forecast the impact of fundamental aspects of the atmosphere – clouds, smoke and dust.
What they say: ‘Most models simulate a small decreasing trend in Antarctic sea ice extent, in contrast to the small increasing trend in observations… There is low confidence in the scientific understanding of the small observed increase in Antarctic sea ice extent.’
What this means: The models said Antarctic ice would decrease. It’s actually increased, and the IPCC doesn’t know why.
What they say: ‘ECS is likely in the range 1.5C to 4.5C… The lower limit of the assessed likely range is thus less than the 2C in the [2007 report], reflecting the evidence from new studies.’
What this means: ECS – ‘equilibrium climate sensitivity’ – is an estimate of how much the world will warm every time carbon dioxide levels double. A high value means we’re heading for disaster. Many recent studies say that previous IPCC claims, derived from the computer models, have been way too high. It looks as if they’re starting to take notice, and so are scaling down their estimate for the first time.
Rose also mentions the new paper from Nic Lewis taking the Met office climate model to task for having an ECS of 4.6C, which is greater than even the IPCC is claiming:
Lewis’s paper is scathing about the ‘future warming’ document issued by the Met Office in July, which purported to explain why the current 16-year global warming ‘pause’ is unimportant, and does not mean the ECS is lower than previously thought.
Lewis says the document made misleading claims about other scientists’ work – for example, misrepresenting important details of a study by a team that included Lewis and 14 other IPCC experts. The team’s paper, published in the prestigious journal Nature Geoscience in May, said the best estimate of the ECS was 2C or less – well under half the Met Office estimate.
He also gives evidence that another key Met Office model is inherently skewed. The result is that it will always produce high values for CO2-induced warming, no matter how its control knobs are tweaked, because its computation of the cooling effect of smoke and dust pollution – what scientists call ‘aerosol forcing’ – is simply incompatible with the real world.
This has serious implications, because the Met Office’s HadCM3 model is used to determine the Government’s climate projections, which influence policy.
Mr Lewis concludes that the Met Office modelling is ‘fundamentally unsatisfactory, because it effectively rules out from the start the possibility that both aerosol forcing and climate sensitivity are modest’. Yet this, he writes, ‘is the combination that recent observations support’.
We live in interesting times.