The Magazine

In Denial

The meltdown of the climate campaign.

Mar 15, 2010, Vol. 15, No. 25 • By STEVEN F. HAYWARD
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Peer reviewers in the formal IPCC process had flagged many of these errors and distortions during the writing of the 2007 report but were ignored. For example, the IPCC claimed that the world is experiencing rapidly rising costs due to extreme weather related events brought on by climate change. But the underlying paper, when finally published in 2008, expressly contradicted this, saying, “We find insufficient evidence to claim a statistical relationship between global temperature increase and catastrophe losses.” Perhaps the most embarrassing walkback was the claim that 55 percent of the Netherlands was below sea level, and therefore gravely threatened by rising sea levels. The correct number is 26 percent, which Dutch scientists say they tried to tell the IPCC before the 2007 report was published, to no avail. And in any case, a paper published last year in Nature Geoscience predicting a 21st-century sea level rise of up to 32 inches has been withdrawn, with the authors acknowledging mistaken methodology and admitting “we can no longer draw firm conclusions regarding 21st century sea level rise from this study without further work.” The IPCC ignored several published studies casting doubt on its sea level rise estimates.

The IPCC isn’t the only important node of the climate campaign having its reputation run through the shredder. The 2006 Stern Review, a British report on the economics of climate change named for its lead author, Lord Nicholas Stern, was revealed to have quietly watered down some of its headline-grabbing claims in its final published report because, as the Telegraph put it, “the scientific evidence on which they were based could not be verified.” Like rats deserting a sinking ship, scientists and economists cited in the Stern Review have disavowed the misuse of their work. Two weeks ago the World Meteorological Association pulled the rug out from under one of Gore’s favorite talking points—that climate change will mean more tropical storms. A new study by the top scientists in the field concluded that although warmer oceans might make for stronger tropical storms in the future, there has been no climate-related trend in tropical storm activity over recent decades and, further, there will likely be significantly fewer tropical storms in a warmer world. “We have come to substantially different conclusions from the IPCC,” said lead author Chris Landsea, a scientist at the National Hurricane Center in Florida. (Landsea, who does not consider himself a climate skeptic, resigned from the IPCC in 2005 on account of its increasingly blatant politicization.)

It was a thorough debunking, as Roger Pielke Jr.’s invaluable blog (rogerpielkejr.blogspot.com) noted in highlighting key findings in the study: 

What about more intense rainfall? “[A] detectable change in tropical-cyclone-related rainfall has not been established by existing studies.” What about changes in location of storm formation, storm motion, lifetime and surge? “There is no conclusive evidence that any observed changes in tropical cyclone genesis, tracks, duration and surge flooding exceed the variability expected from natural causes.” Bottom line? “[W]e cannot at this time conclusively identify anthropogenic signals in past tropical cyclone data.”

When Pielke, an expert on hurricane damage at the University of Colorado at Boulder, pointed out defects in the purported global-warming/tropical storm link in a 2005 edition of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, the lead author of the IPCC’s work on tropical storms, Kevin Trenberth, called the article “shameful,” said it should be “withdrawn,” but in typical fashion refused to debate Pielke about the substance of the article. 

Finally, the original Climategate controversy over the leaked documents from the University of East Anglia’s Climate Research Unit (CRU) (see my “Scientists Behaving Badly,” The Weekly Standard, December 14, 2009) is far from over. The British government has determined that the CRU’s prolonged refusal to release documents sought in 95 Freedom of Information requests is a potential criminal violation.

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