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United Nations Climate Change Conference Dec 07 - Dec 18, 2009

CAT | Climategate emails

Here’s the latest example of why communicating climate science is so important.  From a petition filed by Texas asking the EPA to reconsider its Endangerment Finding that “the current and projected concentrations of the six key well-mixed greenhouse gases–carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6)–in the atmosphere threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.”  Note the central roles played by CRU “Climategate” and recent errors identified in IPCC 2007:

“Despite the Endangerment Finding’s remarkably broad impact, EPA’s Administrator relied on a fundamentally flawed and legally unsupported methodology to reach her decision. And although the Administrator is legally required to undertake a scientific
assessment before reaching a decision that is supposed to be based on scientific conclusions, the Administrator outsourced the actual scientific study, as well as her required review of the scientific literature necessary to make that assessment. In doing so, EPA relied primarily on the conclusions of outside organizations, particularly the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (“IPCC”).

EPA’s reliance on the IPCC’s assessment to make a decision of this magnitude is not legally supported. Since the Endangerment Finding’s public comment period ended in June, 2009, troubling revelations about the conduct, objectivity, reliability, and propriety of the IPCC’s processes, assessments, and contributors have become public. Previously private email exchanges among top IPCC climatologists reveal an entrenched group of activists focused less on reaching an objective scientific conclusion than on achieving their desired outcome. These scientists worked to prevent contravening studies from being published, colluded to hide research flaws, and collaborated to obstruct the public’s legal right to public information under open records laws.

In addition to the improper collusion and cover-ups revealed by the release of these emails, since the public comment period ended, some of the IPCC’s methodologies and conclusions have been discredited. Not surprisingly, respected scientists and
climatologists from around the globe have roundly criticized and correctly questioned the IPCC’s process, while calling for programmatic reforms.

Indeed, there has been worldwide fallout from scandals enveloping the IPCC. In Britain, four separate investigations have been launched, and the British Broadcasting Corporation has convened an inquiry into the journalistic appropriateness of its IPCC coverage. India has announced that it will create its own climate change institute rather than rely exclusively on the IPCC. And the United States Department of Commerce has created a new Climate Science Institute—though it has remained noticeably silent on the scandals plaguing the IPCC.”

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“Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

Yesterday I got into an exchange with a person who posted a comment wishing the curse of a pox to the students writing on the UoMichigan COP15 Blog . It reminded me of Joseph Welch’s question to Senator Joe McCarthy, “You’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” (Welch-McCarthy Exchange from American Rhetoric)

In the United States we devolve into something that is more like tribalism with sides taken based on the color of your uniform or who pays you the most. Discussion is based not on ideas and solutions, but on who makes a statement. Issues are advocated, and ideas are placed into extremes that take on attributes such as good and evil, for and against. The other side is wrong, and their intentions are of hidden control or hidden profit. This threatens our credibility and our viability.

Read the whole entry “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last?”

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Paul Edwards

IPCC press briefing

I managed to get into the press briefing. RK Pachauri, the IPCC chair, led off, pointing out that the IPCC has 21 years of experience now and its process has stood the test of time. IPCC reports peer reviewed twice, and chapter authors are required to respond to all comments, and to justify their responses. (AR4 received over 90,000 comments, so that is quite a load.) After this peer review, the most widely circulated element of each IPCC report, the Summary for Policy Makers, must be approved word by word by all the world’s governments.

T. Stocker, co-chair of Working Group I (physical science basis), made a brief presentation of the evidence. Many different, largely independent data sets (he showed global temperature (+0.75°C since 1850), sea level rise (17 cm since 1900), and declining snow cover. He pointed to the AR4 statement that “warming is unequivocal,” but reminded the audience that natural variability will always be present, resulting in occasional colder and hotter than “normal” years.

Stocker emphasized that in the past century the climate system has exhibited changes that are unprecedented not only in amplitude, but also in rate, compared with what we know of the prior hundreds to many thousands of years. Widespread melting of ice margins has been observed in Greenland and the Antarctic. Emitted CO2 remains in the atmosphere for 1000s of years, causing irreversible changes in the climate and in ocean chemistry.

Chris Field, co-chair of WGII (human impacts), followed Stocker. Among other things, he mentioned that crop reductions are likely and increasing, producing substantial food insecurity, esp. in southern Africa and southern Asia. Infrastructure damage is likely and increasing, esp. in coastal areas (100s of billions of dollars). Biodiversity losses of a few percent up to as much as 30 or more percent in some key areas are likely. Field emphasized that vulnerability is not uniformly distributed: it will be concentrated on the world’s poor.

The level of impact scales with the level of emissions. At 2-3 degrees centigrade (a very real possibility by 2100), we are looking at a long term commitment to several metres of sea level rise, and impacts on the fresh water supplies for 2 billion or more people.

The briefing was only 30 minutes, so they took only about 5 questions. Inevitably, the last one regarded the stolen CRU emails: did Pachauri think the conference was being distracted by this issue? Pachauri’s reply: “I’ve been talking to all the negotiators; they don’t seem distracted. One or t countries [PNE: that would be the USA...] might like to seize on this and exaggerate the threat. This has had no impact on the findings of AR4.”

It’s a “recreational distraction,” he said. Cornered outside the briefing room, he was asked by a very insistent reporter (?) whether the IPCC would support an independent investigation into the CRU emails to see whether scientific fraud had been committed. Otherwise, the “reporter” said, your credibility is in question. “Our credibility is not in question,” Pachauri replied. I think he’s right.

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Today at noon the IPCC will hold a press briefing that will attempt a pre-emptive strike against last week’s calls from 28 US Senators for an “investigation” into the leaked CRU emails. Whoever did it, the email leak appears to have been calculated to provoke exactly this kind of response, much as the furor over the so-called hockey stick chart in the 2001 IPCC report eventually led to investigations by Congress and the National Academy of Sciences

I have been shaking my head over the “Climategate” phrase ever since I first heard it. Its namesake, Watergate, involved President Nixon’s thugs breaking into the Watergate hotel to steal documents from the Democratic Party. But we don’t remember Watergate because of whatever documents they stole — we remember Watergate because they were criminals sponsored by a sitting US president, and the outcry that resulted ended up bringing down the Nixon administration. These guys are criminals too, and far worse ones, because what they’ve done will affect not only the US, but the whole world.

I challenge the skeptic organizations and the Republican senators raising cain about this to put all of their private email on the Internet. Let’s see what they’ve said; let’s see how much the skeptics really care about scientific accuracy.

The IPCC briefing today will probably do little to stop the hell-raising. It’s media-only but I will at least stand around outside to see if any body parts come flying out the door.

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Copenhagen: What’s going on here?

In the English newspaper in Copenhagen, the Copenhagen Post, there is a front page story of the statue that sank and has been recovered. The statue is by Jens Galshoit, and is “an obese Lady Justice sitting on an emaciated African man.” A protest piece on temporary exhibit, whose toppling and sinking was a seeming act of vandalism. That is one of the themes here, protest, advocacy, and social justice.

Read the rest of this entry here.

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