It’s not just the threat of Himalayan glaciers disappearing by 2035.Now another headline grabbing IPCC scare story is melting away. A report in Sunday’s London Times highlights new humiliations for the IPCC.
“The most important is a claim that global warming could cut rain-fed north African crop production by up to 50% by 2020, a remarkably short time for such a dramatic change. The claim has been quoted in speeches by Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, and by Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general.”There is however one teensy-weensy little problem. As Professor Chris Field, the lead author of the IPCC’s climate impact team has now told reporters that he can find “no evidence” to support the claim in the IPCC’s 2007 report.There’s more. When the glacier story broke, IPCC apologists returned over and over again to a saving grace. The bogus glacier report appeared in the body of the IPCC document, but not in the much more carefully vetted Synthesis Report, in which the IPCC’s senior leadership made its specific recommendations to world leaders. So it didn’t matter that much, the apologists told us, and we can still trust the rigorously checked and reviewed Synthesis Report.But that’s where the African rain crisis prediction is found — in the supposedly sacrosanct Synthesis Report.So the Synthesis Report contains a major scare prediction — 50% shortfall in North African food production just ten years from now — and there is no serious, peer-reviewed evidence that the prediction is true.But there’s more. Much, much more. Readers of the Times and the Telegraph are watching the IPCC’s credibility disappear before their eyes. The former head of IPCC has publicly said the organization risks losing all credibility if it can’t clean up its act. The head of the largest British funder of environmental research has joined the head of Greenpeace UK in criticizing the IPCC. (At Greenpeace, they want Pachauri to resign.) The Dutch government has demanded that the IPCC correct its erroneous assertion that half of the Netherlands is below sea level. Actually, it’s only about a quarter. A prediction about the impact of sea level increases on people living in the Nile Delta was taken from an unpublished student dissertation. The report contained inaccurate data about generating energy from waves and about the cost of nuclear power (this information was apparently taken without being checked directly from a website supported by the nuclear power industry). The deeply environmentalist Guardian carries a story documenting the decline in both public and Conservative Party confidence in the need to address global warming.More significantly, there’s an editorial in today’s Guardian that criticizes shortcomings at the IPCC and calls for a wholesale change in the way climate scientists do their work and communicate with the public.In my February 1 post on The Death of Global Warming, I said that the movement had been killed by two things: bad science and bad politics. The Guardian hopes that the parrot isn’t dead yet, but it seems to agree with my basic diagnosis: “It is bad science and bad politics to counter scepticism with righteous indignation. In the long run, public confidence will be inspired more by frankness about what science cannot explain,” write the editors.The editors pick up another theme that is familiar to readers of this blog:
“In trying to avert dangerous climate change, governments are aiming for something extraordinary. They want to transform the global economy because of a hypothesis for which the evidence is mostly inaccessible to the layman.
It is the biggest pre-emption in history, and it relies on collective trust in science.”When the IPCC has its former chief, the Guardian newspaper, and the Dutch government demanding change, something has got to give.I just wish all these stories were a little easier to find in the American press. These stories have been and continue to be on the front pages of UK newspapers; American newspapers by and large aren’t, yet, taking them as seriously and the growing numbers of Americans who are following the scandals are mostly tracking them from internet reports like this one or directly in the British press. This too needs to change, and the sooner the better.(Flickr Photo: joroach)