Watt about prosecuting the IPCC?

Christopher Monckton has a new post at Watts Up With That (WUWT) called is it time to prosecute the IPCC for fraud? In case you have a short attention span, the simple answer to Christopher’s question is “no”.

So, why does Christopher think we should consider prosecuting the IPCC for fraud. Well, it’s because he objects to the figure below that was included in the IPCC’s 4th Assessment Report.

Figure from IPCC's 4th Assessment report.

Figure from IPCC’s 4th Assessment report.


He seems to object for two reasons. One seems to be that if the temperature anomaly was simply following some kind of sine wave like oscillation, you could get this result (by fitting to the rising portion of the sine wave) even if the mean trend was flat. Sure, but there is no evidence that it is following some kind of long timescale sinusoidal variation. Just because you could get this if the variation was the rising part of a long timescale sine wave, doesn’t mean that that is the reason. There is no known mechanism that could produce such a variation in the temperature anomaly data. The other issue is that the trend has been flat for the last decade. Sure, the mean has been close to zero, but the errors are large and the trend for the last decade or so is strongly influence by the large ENSO event that occurred in the late 90s.

Personally, I do have one issue with this figure which is that by considering ever shorter time intervals, the error in the trends get larger. They do include the errors, so this isn’t hidden. The argument that could be made is that with large errors you can’t claim with certainty that the trend has been getting larger (or, at least, the trends for the last 25 and 50 years are statistically consistent with each other). In an earlier post (is global warming accelerating), I suggested that what they should have done is fixed the start year, but varied the end year. This way not only do you show that the trend is getting larger, the errors get smaller and so the acceleration is statistically significant.

So, what else does Christopher say. Well, he says

The conclusion the IPCC draws by superimposing multiple trend-lines on the HadCRUt curve of global mean surface temperature anomalies since 1850 is that because the trend-lines starting more recently are steepest the world is warming ever faster and we are to blame. The caption to the graph makes this clear:

I disagree. That isn’t actually what the caption says. Firstly, it refers to the trend lines as simple fits, so doesn’t make any claim that these are some kind of detailed analysis. When it discusses our influence, it actually says

Results from climate models driven by estimated radiative forcings for the 20th century (Chapter 9) suggest that there was little change prior to about 1915, and that a substantial fraction of the early 20th-century change was contributed by naturally occurring influences including solar radiation changes, volcanism and natural variability. From about 1940 to 1970 the increasing industrialisation following World War II increased pollution in the Northern Hemisphere, contributing to cooling, and increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases dominate the observed warming after the mid-1970s.

So, the report does not use the trends getting steeping as the evidence that we are to blame. What the report does is show that the change in surface temperature is accelerating (and I would argue that this is indeed correct) and then reports that detailed modelling indicates that increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases dominate the observed warming after the mid-1970s. So, the data is consistent with this, but it isn’t the data alone that is leading scientists to conclude that we have been significantly influence global warming since the mid-1970s. Furthermore – as I’ve mentioned in many posts – changes in the global surface temperature is not the only indicator of global warming. Global warming is, fundamentally, about increasing energy and there are many other indicators that global warming is indeed happening.

So, to suggest that the IPCC should be prosecuted because they’ve included a figure that is not actually incorrect but (according to Christopher) could be misleading if the temperature anomaly is actually following some kind of long-term variation that cannot be explained by any known physics, is absurd. Personally, I think that making such a suggestion is a very risky thing to do. If we were to start prosecuting people and/or organisations who’ve presented misleading information about global warming/climate change (and I’m not suggesting here that the IPCC has done this) it could really come back to haunt Christopher and others at WUWT.

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13 Responses to Watt about prosecuting the IPCC?

  1. This is something he’s been repeating for years and something I’ve dealt with in one of my videos: http://www.realsceptic.com/climate-changes-but-facts-dont-debunking-monckton/07-the-2007-ipcc-report-uses-a-statistical-fraudulent-technique/

    The most interesting part I find is that the IPCC blows his argument out of the water with the following on page 246 of WG1 (chapter 3):
    “…only in the last decade is an overall warming signal clearly emerging. Therefore, the recent strong warming appears to be related in part to the AMO [Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation] in addition to a global warming signal.”

    That alone shows they are not using it for what Monckton claims as they already say that it isn’t only us that caused the strong increase. Yes, we are responsible for most of the warming but the IPCC isn’t doing what Monckton says they are doing. Not to mention that attribution is an entirely different Working Group report…

    I also wonder what the full response was to point 4, as this looks heavily edited:
    IPCC: From the context it is clear that the authors emphasize that the global mean is not the complete picture (“ … with important regional variations”) and that trends are not smooth (“… has occurred in two phases …”, and “… more strongly from the 1970s …”), and that all these statements are factually correct and discuss in words what is visible in the graph. “Therefore, the claim is not warranted.”

    It looks like the IPCC is pointing out the same thing you did in this blog post. But I can’t be sure with the amount of editing done.

  2. A really good video, thanks. We seem to be saying roughly the same thing and it appears to be similar to the response to Monckton by the IPCC (although – as you say – that’s been sufficiently edited so as to make it a little unclear).

  3. Fragmeister says:

    When I first read what Monckton was saying, I wondered why he didn’t post the whole IPCC response. Then I realised, it probably makes him look an idiot and he’s cherry picked the least worst bits. Why go to all that trouble? Monckton manages it all on his own.

  4. We are indeed roughly saying the same. Although there are some interesting little snippets of extra information, for example Monckton has said this in the past:

    “This is a statistical lie known as the start point or end point fallacy. Where you take a jiggly up and downy data set like temperature, where you don’t know which way it’s going to go next, a stochastic data set. If you choose your start point and your end points carefully enough you can make it look as though any trend you want is happening. Here they’ve tried to show a rising trend.

    I’m now going to take the same data set, but i’m going to take the more recent end of it, between 1993 and the present, and i’m going to choose my own start points. Look at this.
    Top left, 1993 to the present. Top right , 2000… 1997 to the present. Bottom left, 2001 to the present. Bottom right, two thousand and five to the present. We’re heading for a new ice age.”

    And then read what he said in the WUWT article:

    “In fact, the global temperature trend is not increasing. In the 101 months since January 2005, the benchmark date for the IPCC’s forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), there has been no global warming.

    The bright blue trend-line on the HadCRUt dataset shows cooling.”

    He should know by now that picking those short time frames can be very deceptive, something he demonstrated himself a while back.

  5. Indeed, but what’s also frustrating is that he continues to make the claim that since global temperatures have not risen since 2005 (which is a statistically incorrect statement to make any) that there’s been no global warming. He’s clearly ignoring much more data (ocean heat content, for example) that indicates that global warming has indeed continued. So, his statement is demonstrably incorrect, I actually read some more of the IPCC report to see if, by chance, the use the same terminology, and they don’t. They don’t – as far as I can see – equate rising global temperatures with global warming.

  6. Marco says:

    We’re talking about this guy:
    http://bbickmore.wordpress.com/lord-moncktons-rap-sheet/

    The Wattsians should by now know that threats of lawsuits coming from Monckton are empty threats. He’s claimed he would file a suit on many occasions, but I think he only did it once…and lost (against the BBC).

    However, I am afraid it doesn’t matter to them. Just the idea that someone is possibly, perhaps, maybe, who knows, willing to take on “the enemy” is enough.

  7. BBD says:

    You beat me to it. All mouth and no trousers, is our Christopher.

  8. Thanks. I have read about some of what Christopher has been up to in the past. It’s remarkable (at least I find it remarkable) that anyone can take him seriously. As you say, it probably is simply an example of people seeing him as taking on the enemy.

  9. dana1981 says:

    Moncky has been making this dumb argument for ages. I debunked it over a year ago.
    http://skepticalscience.com/monckton-misleads-CA-lawmakers-now-its-personal-part2.html

  10. This guy is no more than a buffoon seeking attention for his lack-fact blubbery. If someone should be doing the prosecuting, it should be climate scientists against Monckton. The British laws for libel are pretty strict and Monckton has clearly committed false libel and slander against an essential science.

  11. Thanks, very interesting. I don’t think you used the word absurd too often 🙂

  12. dana1981 says:

    Monckton is the living embodiment of absurdity, after all.

  13. Pingback: Another Week of GW News, June 30, 2013 – A Few Things Ill Considered

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