The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a draft of their latest in a series of reports on climate change. The Headline Statements give a short overview of the draft's contents. The draft report arrived on 27 September 2013, only days after the SaveEC.ca web services failure. We followed the reporting on this event in the news media. Below are our notes from that time.
One might have expected there to be a huge backlash from the climate denial community to this most recent scientific update from IPCC. So, it was startling to observe the deniers fewer in number and their arguments increasingly weak. Faced with the evidence the climate denial movement may finally be disintegrating in similar fashion to the tobacco denial (and round-earth denial) movements before them.
Take, for example, this article in Financial Post by University of Guelph professor Ross McKitrick, which came before the report was released. He amusingly uses a plot from an earlier leaked draft that was improperly baselined -- something known for at least ten month's before McKitrick's missive. His claim that "models significantly over-predicted the warming effect" is completely destroyed in IPCC's new report. Why couldn't McKitrick wait another few weeks to see the final (although still unapproved) draft? This is actually a great example of how the IPCC process works: An important (and obvious) error was caught and corrected.
What's more, McKitrick completely avoids discussing the multitude of other components of the climate system that continue to respond to climate change: polar ice, permafrost, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels. More should be expected of a university professor.
Lawrence Solomon predictably came out with a piece in the Financial Post a few days before. He says "So, it’s come down to this — we now have widespread agreement from numerous true believers that the models — the only source of scary scenarios — are junk." The IPCC's report actually shows that the observations are in line with the predictions. How embarrassing!
Terence Corcoran came up with his usual drivel for the Financial Post (what is it with the Financial Post, anyway?). He relies on Ross McKitrick (oops!) and a paper by Robert Pindyck, who claims "the models are so deeply flawed as to be close to useless as tools of policy analysis." Maybe Corcoran should have waited for the report to come out which shows observations in line with the predictions.
In the National post we have Joseph Brean pointing out that the IPCC has changed the lower range of the future projections. However, changing the range is inevitable as we learn more and adjust our policies. In fact, many of the earlier scenarios tested by the IPCC -- which supposed that countries like Canada would actually try to do something meaningful about global warming -- now seem to have been hopelessly optimistic and naive. Governments are clearly paralyzed by the magnitude of the problem (not to mention oil money). He concludes by saying "It is true that little has changed since the previous report, and the grandest conclusions remain worrying." On this we can agree.
Then there is Monte Solberg from QMI, faithfully reproduced by the Calgary Sun. He says: "In 2007, leading science guys at the IPCC projected that the planet would warm at a rate of .2 degrees every 10 years. They now say the rate is only .12 degrees." Bzzzzzzzzt. Thanks for playing, Monte. The previous report said that the rate was 0.13 degrees/decade. It is a blatant mis-representation.
Mike De Souza does his typically great job of providing the facts in an accessible fashion.
Lastly there is Judith Curry's "Kill the IPCC" -- Financial Post, AGAIN. This article is particularly disappointing given that Dr. Curry is an atmospheric scientist herself. There is much in Dr. Curry's research to admire. One can even sympathize with her desire to explore areas of climate research beyond the current modelling paradigm of today. But her solution of dismantling the IPCC is quite obviously not going to achieve those ends. It would more likely give governments cover to pull out of climate change research altogether. Surely this is not what she wants.
Ultimately, the IPCC is doing exactly what it was set up to do: Provide a snapshots of climate science for consumption by the public and policy-makers. It makes little sense to abandon the IPCC process now. It can undoubtedly be improved. But tearing it down -- like the Kyoto accord before it -- will impede progress, not hasten it.