Big Picture News, Informed Analysis

This blog is written by Canadian journalist Donna Laframboise. Posts appear Monday, Wednesday & Friday.

Cutoff Dates, What Cutoff Dates?

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) may be a science body. But it is also an organization. Organizations have rules. When they refuse to abide by their own rules we learn they cannot be trusted. When they flout their rules outrageously – yet insist they’ve followed them religiously – their chances of regaining our confidence are minuscule.

A few weeks ago, IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri declared in an essay that one of the reasons the 2007 IPCC report (also called AR4 – which stands for Fourth Assessment Report) is perceived as being too conservative in some respects is because it:

…was based on scientific studies completed before January 2006, and did not include later studies…[this] other published material will be assessed in the AR5, which is scheduled to be completed in 2014. [bold added]

As I observed shortly afterward, the above statement is false. The Stern Review, a UK government document, was first released on October 30, 2006. It was by no stretch of the imagination completed prior to January of that year. Yet the AR4 cites it 26 times in 12 different chapters.

Pachauri attempts to impress us in the same essay by reminding us that 2,500 expert reviewers provided feedback on two different drafts of the AR4. But the startling reality is that after all the reviewers had made their contributions, after the deadlines to submit their review comments had passed, certain other people continued to mess with the report in extravagant fashion.

By adding in material the reviewers had been given no opportunity to assess these people undermined the integrity of the entire review process. There’s little point asking thousands of souls to share their thoughts with you (which they did, in good faith) if afterward you’re going to sit around in a back room and insert all sorts of brand new content.

Indeed, to do so would seem – and I use this word with great care and for the first time ever in my writings on this topic – fraudulent. If you claim your report should be trusted because you involved thousands of people and because you followed a particular process you cannot substantially subvert that process and yet still boast about the reputable nature of your report.

Yet that is what appears to have happened. It’s not just the Stern Review that got added in, but responses to the Stern Review are also cited. A conversation occurs in the pages of AR4 about documents that weren’t published until nearly a year after the December 2005 cutoff date Pachauri insists was honoured. The following reference is cited in Chapter 1 of the Working Group 3 report:

Dasgupta, P., 2006: Comments on the Stern Review’s Economics of Climate Change. <; accessed 15. December 2006. [see it in the list here]

If one follows the link provided in the above reference one arrives at a 9-page PDF dated November 2006. That same AR4 chapter cites another document which challenges parts of the Stern Review:

Nordhaus, W.D., 2006: The Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change. National Bureau of Economic Research, Working Paper 12741. Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. [see it in the list here]

An abstract of the above paper reveals that it wasn’t released until December 2006. (And please note that not one of these documents was published in a peer-reviewed academic journal – despite the IPCC chairman’s repeated claims that the AR4 is based solely on peer-reviewed literature.)

But this is only the beginning. In Chapter 2 of Working Group 1’s report, six papers are cited that weren’t published prior to January 2006 – despite Pachauri’s assurances to the contrary. Nor were they published prior to January 2007. Rather, they all appeared sometime during the 2007 calendar year (see them in the list here):

  1. Betts, R.A., P.D. Falloon, K.K. Goldewijk, and N. Ramankutty, 2007: Biogeophysical effects of land use on climate: model simulations of radiative forcing and large-scale temperature change. Agric. For. Meteorol., 142, 216-233.
  2. Feng, Y., and J. Penner. 2007: Global modeling of nitrate and ammonium: Interaction of aerosols and tropospheric chemistry. J. Geophys. Res., 112(D01304), doi:10.1029/2005JD006404.
  3. Menon, S., and A. Del Genio, 2007: Evaluating the impacts of carbonaceous aerosols on clouds and climate. In: Human-Induced Climate Change: An Interdisciplinary Assessment [Schlesinger, M., et al. (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, in press.
  4. Ming, Y., et al., 2007: Modelling the interactions between aerosols and liquid water clouds with a self-consistent cloud scheme in a general circulation model. J. Atmos. Sci., 64(4), 1189–1209.
  5. Muscheler, R., et al., 2007: Solar activity during the last 1000 yr inferred from radionuclide records. Quat. Sci. Rev., 26, 82-97, doi:10.1016/j.quascirev.2006.07.012.
  6. Penner, J.E., et al., 2007: Effect of black carbon on mid-troposphere and surface temperature trends. In: Human-Induced Climate Change: An Interdisciplinary Assessment [Schlesinger, M., et al., (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, in press.

If you think that’s bad, Chapter 11 of Working Group 1’s report cites 17 papers with a 2007 publication date (see them in the list here):

  1. Angeles, M.E., J.E. Gonzalez, D.J. Erickson, and J.L. Hernández, 2007: Predictions of future climate change in the Caribbean region using global general circulation models. Int. J. Climatol., 27, 555-569, doi:10.1002/joc.1416.
  2. Beniston, M., et al., 2007: Future extreme events in European climate: An exploration of regional climate model projections. Clim. Change, doi:10.1007/s10584-006-9226-z.
  3. Chapman, W.L., and J.E. Walsh, 2007: Simulations of Arctic temperature and pressure by global coupled models. J. Clim., 20, 609-632, doi: 10.1175/JCLI4026.1.
  4. Chou, C., J.D. Neelin, J.-Y. Tu, and C.-T. Chen, 2007: Regional tropical precipitation change mechanisms in ECHAM4/OPYC3 under global warming. J. Clim. 19, 4207-4223.
  5. Christensen, J.H., T.R. Carter, M. Rummukainen, and G. Amanatidis, 2007: Evaluating the performance and utility of regional climate models: the PRUDENCE project. Clim. Change, doi:10.1007/s10584-006-9211-6.
  6. Déqué, M., et al., 2007: An intercomparison of regional climate simulations for Europe: assessing uncertainties in model projections. Clim. Change, doi:10.1007/s10584-006-9228-x.
  7. Furrer, R., S.R. Sain, D.W. Nychka, and G.A. Meehl, 2007: Multivariate Bayesian analysis of atmosphere-ocean general circulation models. Environ. Ecol. Stat., in press.
  8. Graham, L.P., S. Hagemann, S. Jaun, and M. Beniston, 2007: On interpreting hydrological change from regional climate models. Clim. Change, doi:10.1007/s10584-006-9217-0.
  9. Jacob, D., et al., 2007: An intercomparison of regional climate models for Europe: design of the experiments and model performance. Clim. Change, doi: 10.1007/s10584-006-9213-4.
  10. Kattsov, V.M., et al., 2007: Simulation and projection of Arctic freshwater budget components by the IPCC AR4 global climate models. J. Hydrometeorol., 8, in press.
  11. Kjellström, E., et al., 2007: Variability in daily maximum and minimum temperatures: recent and future changes over Europe. Clim. Change, doi: 10.1007/s10584-006-9220-5.
  12. Leckebusch, G.C., et al., 2007: Analysis of frequency and intensity of winter storm events in Europe on synoptic and regional scales from a multi-model perspective. Clim. Res. 31, 59–74.
  13. Lenderink, G., A. van Ulden, B. van den Hurk, and E. van Meijgaard, 2007: Summertime inter-annual temperature variability in an ensemble of regional model simulations: analysis of the surface energy budget. Clim. Change, doi: 10.1007/s10584-006-9229-9.
  14. Rockel, B., and K. Woth, 2007: Future changes in near surface wind speed extremes over Europe from an ensemble of RCM simulations. Clim. Change, doi: 10.1007/s10584-006-9227-y.
  15. Ruosteenoja, K., H. Tuomenvirta, and K. Jylhä, 2007: GCM-based regional temperature and precipitation change estimates for Europe under four SRES scenarios applying a super-ensemble pattern-scaling method. Clim. Change, doi: 10.1007/s10584-006-9222-3.
  16. van Ulden, A., G. Lenderink, B. van den Hurk, and E. van Meijgaard, 2007: Circulation statistics and climate change in Central Europe: Prudence simulations and observations. Clim. Change, doi: 10.1007/s10584-006-9212-5.
  17. Vidale, P.L., D. Lüthi, R. Wegmann, and C. Schär, 2007: European climate variability in a heterogeneous multi-model ensemble. Clim. Change, doi: 10.1007/s10584-006-9218-z.

Given that numerous sources cited by the AR4 were published well after the IPCC’s expert reviewers were out of the picture, how much of the final report could actually have been evaluated by them?

Is there any rule the IPCC’s inner circle did follow? And has chairman Pachauri ever read this report?

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