Many things are said to be threatened by climate change — species, coastlines, farming and so on. Few, if any, have actually witnessed a deleterious impact, save perhaps the most important of all: integrity.
Gone are apolitical scientists who once told the whole story. In their place are activists who distort, omit crucial facts, cherry-pick and torment data contrary to common science ethics. I was initially prepared to write it off as incompetence, but we’ve seen so much of it, time and time again, not to grasp that some darker influence must be at work. The Climategate emails pulled back the curtain on a cabal of scientists who “hide the decline”; select a small subset of, in one infamous instance, tree ring-data that supports their claim while ignoring a broader base of survey findings; conspire to have scientific journals’ editors sacked, and discuss how to stall and stymie perfectly legal Freedom of Information requests. As those emails showed, the climate cabal even expressed joy over the death of a persistent critic.
On a wider level, every IPCC report until the most recent declined to acknowledge that many natural climate forces are poorly understood and, as any thinking person understands, that this means oracular predictions cannot possibly be made. And yet, even allowing for the nod to reality in the most recent, the IPCC promoted those same flawed models while working assiduously to ensure that its pronouncements are reported as gospel.
Here in Australia the situation doesn’t seem much better. Three documents released so far this year, all aimed at “informing” the public about climate matters, display what some must surely see as falling well short of needed scientific standards. All three draw on comments in the latest IPCC report, specifically the Working Group I component, “The Physical Science Basis”, which was published almost 12 months prior, in February 2013.
First cab off the rank was the CSIRO’s report, “Climate Change in Australia: Projections for Australia’s NRM Region“, published on January 27. It predicted a dire temperature future for Australia unless we change our carbon-emitting ways.
Much about the report was questionable, but four issues stand out.
The CSIRO report states on page 11, “The scientific context for new climate change projections includes the relevant conclusions of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report …” What it fails to mention is that the IPCC report showed that there is no certainty of warming having occurred between 1998 and 2012, the latter year being when the IPCC report was drafted. Instead of making this point very clear the CSIRO report obfuscated via the use of decadal average temperature anomalies to imply that warming has continued unabated.
The CSIRO report further says:
[The new projections] are based on the latest global climate model archive (known as the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5)). This contains simulations from more than 40 global climate models, representing the state of the art in climate modelling. [pg 11]
…. but it doesn’t say that 39 of these 40 models are among those which the IPCC, by its own admission, said were unreliable. As it conceded, of 114 ‘runs’ of those computer models, 111 wrongly predicted more warming for the period 1998 to 2012 than actual temperature data indicates. ….” [WGI contribution, chapter 9, text box 9.2, page 769, and in full Synthesis Report on page SYR-8]
The CSIRO report claims that the modelling predicts rising temperatures during this century — caused, of course, by man-made emissions of greenhouse gases
… but the IPCC report not only says that the models exaggerated warming (see above) but that “some models” – we are not told how many – “overestimate” the influence of greenhouse gases [SPM, section D.1, page 13, and full Synthesis Report on page SYR-8] and that the failure of models might be due to “missing or incorrect radiative forcing” or “model response error”, [WGI contribution, chapter 9, text box 9.2, page 769] all of which cast doubt on the supposition that greenhouse gases cause significant warming.
The CSIRO report also says
“Increasing greenhouse gases have been the dominant cause of these observed changes to the climate system, along with smaller contributions from natural and other human influences.” [pg 32].
… but fails to mention that the human contribution to warming is estimated by running climate models with and without greenhouse gases, and because the models are flawed their outputs have no credibility whatsoever. Therefore to claim that greenhouse gases are the dominant cause of warming is a statement without foundation.
The next report was from the Climate Council and titled “Quantifying the Impact of Climate Change on Extreme Heat in Australia“.
Unlike the CSIRO, the Climate Council doesn’t promote itself as a scientific organisation. Rather, it claims “to provide independent, authoritative climate change information to the Australian public”. Since that information is based on others’ science and the Council boasts of having a scientific advisor, the distinction is rather moot.
As is usual with its reports, the Climate Council demonstrates a general ignorance of weather and a specific inability to read Bureau of Meteorology summaries that describe the meteorological causes of events which the Council prefers attributing to human activity. The flaws in its report are so many that discussion of all would require a book, so let’s concentrate on some of the more risible.
The Climate Council claims “the record hot year of 2013 in Australia was virtually impossible without climate change” and later “climate change tripled the odds that the heatwaves of the 2012/2013 Australian summer would occur as frequently as they did”. Then there is this: “The new research showing the strong influence of climate change on heat events strengthens the case for strong action on climate change”.
To reach these conclusions the Climate Council relied on the output of 23 CIMP5 climate models — the same type the CSIRO used and which the IPCC admitted had wrongly predicted warming and are beset with serious flaws. The Climate Council tried to claim that the running the climate models with and without greenhouse gases produced an accurate picture of how much warming was caused by human activity. This is fallacious for the simple reason that the models are not accurate to begin with and as the IPCC states, some exaggerate the influence of greenhouse gases. The running of models with and without those gases shows only the sensitivity of those models to the inclusion of gases, nothing more.
It’s a slight saving grace that it’s the government stopped spending taxpayers’ money on the old Climate Commission and its ignorant members of the warmist-frightened public now funding its reincarnation as the Climate Council. The problem is, however, that its specious doom-and-gloom predictions are too readily broadcast by a mainstream media whose deficit in scientific background and comprehension are surpassed only by the lust for a sensational headline.
The third document is “The science of climate change: Questions and Answers” from the Australian Academy of Science. Like the CSIRO and Climate Council efforts, it makes many claims and seeks to imply even more. On both those fronts, however, it is curiously short on credible supporting evidence.
Remarkably, it makes this statement: “There is near-unanimous agreement among climate scientists that human-caused global warming is real.” (page 5). The statement is both sweeping and inadequate — sweeping in the broad characterisation of “near-unanimous” support and lacking in any explanation who these scientists might be. But why is a scientific body implying that scientific truths are determined by consensus rather than on the basis of the hypothesis that best fits the facts?
The document is also evasive when it refers to warming having “slowed since 2001, despite ongoing rises in greenhouse gases”. The latest IPCC report is frequently cited by the AAS but, like the CSIRO report mentioned earlier, the IPCC’s mention of the absence of warming for the 15 years from 1998 to 2012 is side-stepped.
Most of the document relies on the use of climate models, specifically CIMP5 climate models, to both predict future temperatures – the word ‘will’ appears 52 times, usually in regard to future climate – and in order to blame human activity for the warming since the mid-twentieth century. It claims “Climate models can correctly replicate recent warming only if they include human influences.”
Such statements ignore the IPCC’s clear and reasoned statements that climate models failed to correctly predict temperatures and that the models are flawed.
An obvious reason for the Australian Academy of Science to omit these IPCC findings is that they would undermine both the predictions of future climate and the claim that human activity has been a major cause of warming. Without those two points the document would have little to say, at least very little which might sway public opinion, government policy and access to the funding on which careers are based.
When science is served to the public by scientists it is reasonable to expect that the discussion will be honest and tell the whole story. The three documents above all cite the IPCC when it suits them but omit the far more inconvenient truths in the IPCC report — truths rooted in facts and data rather than mere opinion.
There are many words that might describe the selective omission of information in order to influence public opinion and funding, but two come immediately to mind: shameful and deplorable.
John McLean was co-author with Chris de Freitas and Bob Carter of a paper that became the centre of controversy when submitted to the Journal of Geophysical Research. Their experience with the censors of science can be read here