The media greeted the release of the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report with predictable hysteria. “In a report published today by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),” blared the Independent newspaper of London, “hundreds of the world's leading scientists give their unqualified support to the view that global warming is real and that the release of man-made greenhouse gases is largely responsible.” Moreover, the Independent reported, “The latest three-volume report, amounting to 2,600 pages of detailed analysis, leaves the reader in little doubt that the scientific uncertainties of the previous decade are being resolved in favor of an emerging, and increasingly pessimistic consensus.”
The preceding quotes, and many that followed in the Independent’s report, came from the Third Assessment’s “Summary for Policymakers.” In fact, the media based much, if not all, of its reporting on the summary itself. It did this even though, in some respects, the Summary distorted the actual contents of the full report. The National Academy of Sciences, in its 2001 report, criticized both how the Summary was written and how the media portrayed it.“The IPCC Summary for Policymakers,” the NAS wrote, “could give an impression that the science of global warming is settled, even though many uncertainties still remain.” This clearly contradicts the claim that, in the Independent’s words, there is “little doubt that the scientific uncertainties of the previous decade” are settled.
Another claim the media featured prominently was that temperature increases over the last century are unprecedented, at least when considered on a time-scale of the last 1,000 years. According to the IPCC, the 1990s were the warmest decade on record, and 1998 was the warmest year since temperature records began in 1861. The basis for this claim is the so-called hockey stick graph, which has become the iconic symbol of global warming alarmism.
The graph was constructed by Dr. Michael Mann of the University of Virginia and his colleagues using a combination of proxy data and modern temperature records. The hockey stick curve showed a gradual cooling beginning around 1400 AD (which is the hockey stick handle) then a sharp warming starting about 1900 (the hockey stick blade). Its release was revolutionary, overturning widespread evidence adduced over many years confirming significant natural variability long before the advent of SUVs. The IPCC was so impressed that the hockey stick was featured prominently in its Third Assessment Report in 2001.
As Dr. Roy Spencer, the principal research scientist at the University of Alabama, noted, “This was taken as proof that the major climatic event of the last 1,000 years was the influence of humans in the 20th century.” One of its authors, Dr. Michael Mann, confidently declared in 2003 that the hockey stick “is the indisputable consensus of the community of scientists actively involved in the research of climate variability and its causes.”
The hockey stick caused quite a stir, not just in the scientific community, but also in the world of politics. It galvanized alarmists in their push for Kyoto. It is supposedly ironclad proof that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are warming the planet to an unsustainable degree.
But here again, one of the essential pillars of alarmism appears to be crumbling. Two Canadian researchers have produced the most devastating evidence to date that the hockey stick is bad science. Before I describe their work, I want to make a prediction: the alarmists will cry foul, saying this critique is part of an industry-funded conspiracy. And true to form, they will avoid discussion of substance and engage in personal attacks. That’s because one of the researchers, Stephen McIntyre, is a mineral exploration consultant. Dr. Mann already has accused them of having a conflict of interest. This is nonsense. First, Stephen McIntyre and his colleague Ross McKitrick, an economist with Canada’s University of Guelph, received no outside funding for their work. Second, they published their peer-reviewed critique in Geophysical Research Letters. This is no organ of Big Oil, but an eminent scientific journal, the same journal, in fact, which published the version of Dr. Mann’s hockey stick that appeared in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report. Apparently the journal’s editors didn’t see much evidence of bias. The remarks of one editor are worth quoting in full: “S. McIntyre and R. McKitrick have written a remarkable paper on a subject of great importance. What makes the paper significant is that they show that one of the most widely known results of climate analysis, the ‘hockey stick’ diagram of Mann. et. al., was based on a mistake in the application of a mathematical technique known as principal component analysis.” Further, he said, “I have looked carefully at the McIntyre and McKitrick analysis, and I am convinced that their work is correct.”
What did McKitrick and McIntyre find? In essence, they discovered that Dr. Mann misused an established statistical method called principal components analysis (PCA). As they explained, Mann created a program that “effectively mines a data set for hockey stick patterns.” In other words, no matter what kind of data one uses, even if it is random and totally meaningless, the Mann method always produces a hockey stick. After conducting some 10,000 data simulations, the result was nearly always the same. “In over 99 percent of cases,” McIntyre and McKitrick wrote, “it produced a hockey stick shaped PCI series.” Statistician Francis Zwiers of Environment Canada, a government agency, says he agrees that Dr. Mann’s statistical method “preferentially produces hockey sticks when there are none in the data.” Even to a non-statistician, this looks extremely troubling. But that statistical error is just the beginning. On a public web site where Dr. Mann filed data, McIntyre and McKitrick discovered an intriguing folder titled “BACKTO_1400-CENSORED.” What McIntyre and McKitrick found in the folder was disturbing: Mann’s hockey stick blade was based on a certain type of tree—a bristlecone pine—that, in effect, helped to manufacture the hockey stick.
Remember, the hockey stick shows a relatively stable climate over 900 years, and then a dramatic spike in temperature about 1900, the inference being that man-made emissions are the cause of rising temperatures. So why is the bristlecone pine important? That bristlecone experienced a growth pulse in the Western United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. However, this growth pulse, as the specialist literature has confirmed, was not attributed to temperature. So using those pines, and only those pines, as a proxy for temperature during this period is questionable at best. Even Mann’s co-author has stated that the bristlecone growth pulse is a “mystery.” Because of these obvious problems, McIntyre and McKitrick appropriately excluded the bristlecone data from their calculations. What did they find? Not the Mann hockey stick, to be sure, but a confirmation of the Medieval Warm Period, which Mann’s work had erased. As the CENSORED folder revealed, Mann and his colleagues never reported results obtained from calculations that excluded the bristlecone data. This appears to be a case of selectively using data—that is, if you don’t like the result, remove the offending data until you get the answer you want. As McIntyre and McKitrick explained, “Imagine the irony of this discovery…Mann accused us of selectively deleting North American proxy series. Now it appeared that he had results that were exactly the same as ours, stuffed away in a folder labeled CENSORED.”
McIntyre and McKitrick believe there are additional errors in the Mann hockey stick. To confirm their suspicion, they need additional data from Dr. Mann, including the computer code he used to generate the graph. But Dr. Mann refuses to supply it. As he told the Wall Street Journal, “Giving them the algorithm would be giving in to the intimidation tactics that these people are engaged in.”
Just a second: Who are “these people”? And what “intimidation tactics”? Mr. McIntyre and Mr. McKitrick are trying to find the truth. What is Dr. Mann trying to hide? For many scientists, McIntyre and McKitrick’s work is earth-shattering. For example, Professor Richard Muller of the University of California at Berkeley recently wrote in the MIT Technology Review that McIntyre and McKitrick’s findings “hit me like a bombshell, and I suspect it is having the same effect on many others. Suddenly the hockey stick, the poster-child of the global warming community, turns out to be an artifact of poor mathematics.” Dr. Rob van Dorland, of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, and an IPCC lead author, said, “The IPCC made a mistake by only including Mann’s reconstruction and not those of other researchers.” He concluded that unless the error is corrected, it will “seriously damage the work of the IPCC.”
Or consider Dr. Hans von Storch, an IPCC contributing author and internationally renowned expert in climate statistics at Germany’s Center for Coastal Research, who said McIntyre and McKitrick’s work is “entirely valid.” In an interview last October with the German Newspaper Der Spiegel, Dr. von Storch said the Mann hockey stick “contains assumptions that are not permissible. Methodologically it is wrong: rubbish.” He stressed that, “it remains important for science to point out the erroneous nature of the Mann curve. In recent years it has been elevated to the status truth by the UN appointed science body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). This handicapped all that research which strives to make a realistic distinction between human influences and climate and natural variability.”
If McIntyre and McKitrick’s work isn’t convincing enough, consider the recent paper published in the Feb. 10 issue of Nature. The paper, authored by a group of Swedish climate researchers, once again undercuts the scientific credibility of the Mann hockey stick. The press release for the study by the Swedish Research Council says, "A new study of climate in the Northern Hemisphere for the past 2000 years shows that natural climate change may be larger than generally thought.”
According to the paper’s authors, the Mann hockey stick does not provide an accurate picture of the last 1,000 years. “The new results,” they wrote, “show an appreciable temperature swing between the 12th and 20th centuries, with a notable cold period around AD 1600. A large part of the 20th century had approximately the same temperature as the 11th and 12th centuries.”
In other words, here’s evidence of the Medieval Warm Period and the Little Ice Age, demonstrating that climate, long before the burning of fossil fuels, varied considerably over the last 2,000 years. The researchers note that changes in the sun’s output and volcanic eruptions appear to have caused considerable natural variations in the climate system. “The fact that these two climate evolutions,” they contend, “which have been obtained completely independently of each other, are very similar supports the case that climate shows an appreciable natural variability—and that changes in the sun’s output and volcanic eruptions on the earth may be the cause.”
ECONOMICS AND THE IPCC
Another important development chipping away at the so-called scientific consensus has to do with economics and statistics, and how both are used by the IPCC.
To determine how man-made greenhouse gases might affect the climate over the next century, the IPCC had to predict 100 years’ worth of greenhouse gas emissions. Predicting emissions rates depends on several factors, including population growth, technological advances, and future economic growth rates in developed and developing countries. Based on these and other factors, the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report projected an average global temperature increase by 2100 ranging between 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius (that’s about 2.7 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit).
This temperature range was determined from several different emissions scenarios. In each of those scenarios, the IPCC arbitrarily assumed that incomes in poor countries and rich countries would converge by 2100. According to Warren McKibbin of Australia National University’s Center for Applied Macroeconomics and the Brookings Institution, this assumption is unwarranted. Even if it were to happen, McKibbin and his colleagues write, “the empirical literature suggests that the rate of convergence in income per capita would be very slow.” Even the IPCC agrees: “It may well take a century (given all other factors set favorably) for a poor country to catch up to [income] levels that prevail in the industrial countries today, never mind the levels that might prevail in affluent countries 100 years in the future.”
Nevertheless, the IPCC assumed poor and rich countries would achieve parity by the end of the century. To measure that growth over time, the IPCC had to compare what income levels look like today. It did that by using market exchange rates. But this raises a major problem: Relying on exchange rates fails to account for price differences between countries. This has the effect of vastly overstating differences in wealth. “This comparison is invalid,” said Ian Castles, formerly head of Australia’s National Office of Statistics, now with the National Center for Development Studies at Australian National University.
Castles, along with his colleague David Henderson, former chief economist with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, now of the Westminster Business School, discovered the IPCC’s error last year, and have published their findings in the distinguished scientific journal Energy and Environment. Castles and Henderson note that using exchange rates is invalid because it is based on the assumption that “[a] poor Bangladeshi family has converted the whole of its income into foreign currency, and spent it on goods and services at average world prices rather than [at much lower] Bangladeshi prices.”
Through the use of exchange rates, the IPCC concluded that average income of rich countries right now is 40 times higher than the average income in developing countries in Asia, and 12 times higher than the average income in other non-Asian developing countries.
As you can see, there’s a huge gap here, which raises a significant point: if the initial income gap is large, then poor countries will have to grow incredibly fast to catch up. And according to the IPCC, the greater the economic growth, the greater the emissions released into the atmosphere, and hence higher temperatures. But the IPCC, as the Economist magazine wrote, is simply wrong. “The developing-country growth rates yielded by this method [market exchange rates] are historically implausible, to put it mildly. The emissions forecasts based on those implausibly high growth rates are accordingly unsound.”
Castles and Henderson have shown convincingly that the IPCC’s temperature range rests on a major economic error, and therefore is wildly off the mark. Because of this error, even the IPCC’s low-end emissions scenario is implausible. As the Economist wrote, “But, as we pointed out before, even the scenarios that give the lowest cumulative emissions assume that incomes in the developing countries will increase at a much faster rate over the course of the century than they have ever done before.”
“Disaggregated projections,” the Economist continued, “published by the IPCC say that—even in the lowest-emission scenarios—growth in poor countries will be so fast that by the end of the century Americans will be poorer on average than South Africans, Algerians, Argentines, Libyans, Turks and North Koreans. Mr Castles and Mr Henderson can hardly be alone in finding that odd.”
Let’s get a better sense of why that’s odd. Under the IPCC’s low-end scenario, the amount of goods and services produced per person in developing countries in Asia would increase 70-fold by 2100, and increase nearly 30-fold for other developing countries. To put that in perspective, the United States only achieved a five-fold increase in per-capita economic growth in the 19th century and Japan achieved a nearly 20-fold increase in the 20th century.
The IPCC’s mistakes are fatal. Jacob Ryten, a leading figure in the development, evaluation, and implementation of the U.N.’s International Comparisons Programme, said the IPCC suffers from “manifest ignorance of the conceptual and practical issues involved in developing and using intercountry measures of economic product.” The Economist said the IPCC’s methods proved it was guilty of “dangerous economic incompetence.”
THE IPCC AND POLITICS
Castles and Henderson, along with the Economist and other scientists, have pressed the IPCC to abandon its use of market exchange rates in its upcoming Fourth Assessment Report. This is essential, they say, to provide a more accurate projection of future emissions. Thus far, the IPCC has ignored their request. But this is no surprise. The IPCC has become politicized and appears more intent on pursuing propaganda over science.
Consider the case of Dr. Christopher Landsea, the world’s foremost expert on hurricanes. Dr. Landsea accepted an invitation to provide input on Atlantic hurricanes for the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, due out in 2007. But over time, Dr. Landsea realized that certain key members of the IPCC were bent on advancing a political agenda rather than providing an objective, fact-based understanding of climate change. As a result, he resigned from the IPCC process.
Dr. Landsea was outraged that Dr. Kevin Trenberth, the lead author on Observations for the upcoming Fourth Assessment, and other scientists participated in a politically-charged press conference at Harvard University on the supposed causal link between global warming and extreme weather events. The press conference was promoted this way: “Experts to warn global warming likely to continue spurring more outbreaks of intense hurricane activity.”
As Dr. Landsea explained, the topic was bogus. It has no scientific basis and none of the scientists who participated had any expertise on the matter. In his resignation letter, Dr. Landsea wrote: “To my knowledge, none of the participants in that press conference had performed any research on hurricane variability, nor were they reporting on any new work in the field…It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming.”
What is the real state of the science on this topic? “All previous and current research in the area of hurricane variability has shown no reliable, long-term trend in the frequency or intensity of tropical cyclones, either in the Atlantic or any other basin,” Dr. Landsea wrote. “Moreover, the evidence is quite strong and supported by the most recent credible studies that any impact in the future from global warming upon hurricanes will likely be quite small.” Dr. Landsea noted that the most recent science shows that “by around 2080, hurricanes may have winds and rainfall about 5% more intense than today. It has been proposed that even this tiny change may be an exaggeration as to what may happen by the end of the 21st century.”
Dr. Landsea concluded that because the IPCC process has been compromised, resigning was the only option. “I personally cannot in good faith continue to contribute to a process that I view as both being motivated by pre-conceived agendas and being scientifically unsound.”
As with Castles and Henderson, the IPCC leadership has brushed off Dr. Landsea’s concerns. This is outrageous. In doing so, the IPCC is seriously undermining its credibility. One can only hope that the IPCC will change its ways. Otherwise, we can expect yet another Assessment Report that is unsupported by facts and science.
It is not surprising that alarmists want to fabricate the perception that there is consensus about climate change. We know the costs of this would be enormous. Wharton Econometrics Forecasting Associates estimates that implementing Kyoto would cost an American family of four $2,700 annually. Acknowledging a full-fledged debate over global warming would undermine their agenda. And what is that agenda? Two international leaders have said it best. [chart 10] Margot Wallstrom, the EU’s Environment Commissioner, states that Kyoto is “about leveling the playing field for big businesses worldwide.” [chart 11] French President Jacques Chirac said during a speech at the Hague in November 2000 that Kyoto represents “the first component of an authentic global governance.”
Facts and science are showing that the catastrophic global warming consensus doesn’t exist. The IPCC has been exposed as a political arm of UN’s Kyoto Protocol, with a mission to prop up its flawed scientific conclusions.
The Mann hockey stick, the flagship of the IPCC’s claims that global warming is real, has now been thoroughly discredited in scientific circles. Projections of future carbon emissions – which drive temperature model conclusions – have been proven to be based on political decisions that, by the end of the century, countries like Bangladesh will be as wealthy, or wealthier, than the United States.
A world renowned scientist has just resigned from the IPCC because it is too politicized, saying that the IPCC plans to make claims that contradict scientific understanding. Increasingly, it appears that the scientific case for catastrophic global warming is a house of cards that will soon come tumbling down.
Despite this, there are still some who choose to ignore science. In a speech last week, Duke Energy CEO Paul Anderson advocated a tax on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. In doing so, the company has seemingly bought into the spurious notion that the science is settled. But perhaps not. Unfortunately, to some global warming advocates, the science is irrelevant.
As Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute says “Duke Energy has now admitted that the costs will be significant. But the fact is it will only be expensive for their competitors. Nuclear plants don’t emit carbon dioxide and Duke is already one-third nuclear generation. Moreover, the company has announced plans to build even more nuclear plants, giving it an even bigger competitive edge.”