Monthly Archives: November 2013

Van Ypersele on BBC Radio 5 Live

IPCC vice chair Jean-Pascal van Ypersele was on BBC Radio 5 live this morning on the Victoria Derbyshire programme. The recording of the programme is available for the next week; wind forward to 40 minutes.

The first part is about the Kyoto agreement, signed in 1997, aiming to cut emissions by 5%. There are quotes from Clinton, Bush and Blair. 13 countries, including  Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Spain, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland and Italy have failed to hit reduction targets.   Eight have actually increased emissions –  the US by 8%. Canada had 20% higher emissions and pulled out in 2011. There’s a clip of a Canadian spokesman saying it would be impossible to meet the Kyoto targets.  There is a lengthy clip of Yeb Sano talking about the typhoon and  his hunger strike at the recent Warsaw COP19 meeting.

The interview with JPvY starts at about 46 minutes. Victoria Derbyshire keeps asking, in different ways,  the question of how can there be any real prospect of a significant follow-up agreement to Kyoto, given the number of major countries who have not ratified it or dropped out. He never really answers this, presenting a rather naive optimism throughout.

The most misleading  part was  when he said that we were looking at a rise of up to 5 degrees from present temperatures by the end of the century.  To get this number he has to take the highest of the four RCPs from AR5, and then go to the very top of the band, see SPM fig 7a.

Here’s a transcript:

Q: How do you assess the impact of the Kyoto treaty?

A: Well, it is a small step in a long journey, because as the last IPCC report has shown at the end of September, if humanity really wants to stay under its agreed ultimate objective, that is to stay under a warming of 2 degrees centigrade above the pre-industrial temperature, basically greenhouse gas emissions would need to be reduced to approximately zero on a net basis before  the end of the century, so the Kyoto protocol which only concerns a limited number of countries and for a limited time period is only the first very small step on that long journey.

Q: What do you make of the countries who either pulled out of it when it was clear they weren’t going to meet their targets or those who signed it but then decided not to ratify it, how much does that matter?

A: Well as IPCC vice chair I represent the IPCC and it’s not the mandate of the IPCC to give good marks or bad marks to countries, so I prefer not to comment on  the political aspect of it…

Q: But it’s hugely disappointing is it not?

A: Well, you know, for climate scientists in general, the speed at which climate negotiations attempting to reduce global emissions progress is extraordinarily frustrating, but I wouldn’t like to blame any particular country as the source of that frustration.

Q: No, and nor do you need to, because I read out the list of those who’d either not met their targets or pulled out at the last moment, but doesn’t it undermine the credibility of the Kyoto protocol?

A: Well, in any case, the Kyoto protocol has basically lived its useful life, I mean the first commitment period between 2008 and 2012 was the first period in the history of humanity for which a number of developed countries had decided that they would change their course in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and it was not an easy step, so it’s very important but at the same time its only symbolic because much more would be needed for the climate and this is actually the challenge of the coming two years, the challenge is to design a new agreement that will be much more comprehensive than the Kyoto protocol, which would deal with all aspects of the climate issue, not only the mitigation aspect but also the adaptation aspects, and that is due, if everything goes well, to be agreed in Paris in 2015.

Q: But but but because you have the experience with what happened with the Kyoto protocol, how can you approach the next lot of talks, the next protocol, with any sense of confidence, because you have the record of what happens when a country either doesn’t want to meet it, doesn’t want to ratify it or pulls out because they’r going to miss their targets hugely?

A: Well, you know, I’m an optimistic person and I hope that at some point  a sufficiently large number of countries and citizens in the world and business leaders and policy leaders will understand that we are on a single boat, we don’t  have another one, and that the boat might be in deep trouble if we don’t change the way the energy is used and produced in the world, because the climate has been stable for the last 10,000 years
basically, plus or minus one degree if you look at the global average temperature, and during that 10,000 years agriculture and civilisations have developed now we are talking about gaining before the end of the century up to 5 degrees above the present temperature, even almost 6 above the pre-industrial temperature,  three times the agreed target of Copenhagen and this will change radically the habitability of our only planet.

Q: Only if people follow it though, only if countries stick to it?

A:  Well, it’s the contrary (?), it’s only if countries don’t agree that we really have to protect our climate and reduce emissions in a very significant way, much more significant than Kyoto, I mean if you stand back Kyoto is an average reduction for the developed countries which committed to it of only  5% over a 20 year period, we are talking now about much more significant reductions that will be needed to protect climate in the future.

Q: I understand that, but you have told me that what was achieved by Kyoto was only symbolic, yet if a symbolic reduction can’t even be achieved by all those countries, you must feel incredibly weary if nothing else?

A: Well, on the other hand, let’s look at the half full part of the glass. The Kyoto protocol agreement has also served to put in place a huge institutional machinery which was hard to put in place, to monitor the emissions, to verify them, to have countries and economic
sectors report them in a proper way, in a standardised way, all of that, which took a lot of time to put in place is now ready to be recycled, if I may use that word, for a more ambitious agreement which is the agreement being prepared in the run-up to the Paris conference in 2015, so its true that a lot of time has been spent around limited objectives, but the machinery built around and the culture of emission reductions and the  carbon markets which have been implemented, they can serve an agreement that will be more ambitious.


Q: Good luck. Thank you very much for talking to us.

AR5 WG1: The Movie

There’s a new video out: Climate Change 2013 Working Group I: The Physical Science Basis. It’s nine minutes of climate cliché bingo. I lost count of the number of crumbling blocks of ice, dried out lake beds, floods, and dark backlit water vapour shots, all delivered in a fast, almost “subliminal advertising” style.  The only disappointment was the lack of stranded polar bears on ice floes. The commentary regurgitates all the usual mantras: “The scientific evidence is stronger than ever”, “Human influence on the climate system is clear” (twice), “Many of these changes are unprecedented”.

There’s a lot of emphasis on ice and the Arctic (no mention of the Antarctic of course), sea level rise, and climate projections.  It’s quite interesting to see some of the main IPCC protagonists such as Qin Dahe, Comiso and Knutti. Thomas Stocker says that they know warming is human-caused because of the combination of observations and models. He also tells us (06:45) that “We have a choice to live in a world in which climate change is limited to less than 2°C, or in a world that is warmer than 4°C”, so apparently anywhere between 2 and 4 is not an option. There are also some confident claims about regional projections, described as “for the first time”.

But there’s little real data presented. The distinctly un-scary temperature record is briefly flashed up for about two seconds at 02:05, with the unconvincing claim that it fits the rising CO2 curve, so if you blink you might miss it. There’s no mention of the pause/slowdown/hiatus.

Hilary Ostrov has also blogged on the movie.

It is also being discussed at Klimazwiebel

The skillful predictions of climate science

Smith et al (2007): 0.3°C in 10 years

In 2007, a team of climate scientists from the UK Met Office led by Doug Smith wrote a paper “Improved Surface Temperature Prediction for the Coming Decade from a Global Climate Model”, published in the journal Science.  Although published in 2007, the paper made predictions for the decade 2004-2014. (Presumably the work was started around 2004 and it took some time for the paper to be published). The paper made claims about the “skill” of the model, for example “Having established the predictive skill of DePreSys…

The Smith et al paper made the following specific predictions:

  • There would be 0.3°C warming over the decade 2004-2014
  • At least half of the years after 2009 would be warmer than the record year of 1998.

Note that at that time, 2007, the warmest year was thought to be 1998; subsequent adjustments to the method made 2005 warmer than 1998.

The predictions were spread far and wide. They were included in a Met Office Press release, and a glossy brochure on “Informing Government policy into the future”, with the almost obligatory scaremongering background pictures of black clouds and people wearing facemasks.  Vicky Pope gave a talk on these predictions, saying that “these are very strong statements about what will happen over the next 10 years.”
And of course the faithful media reported the story without questioning it.

These predictions have turned out to be wrong.  We are almost into 2014 and there has been no warming at all since 2004. Of the years since 2009,  none of them have broken the record of 1998 according to HADCRUT3 data. Using HADCRUT4, 2010 is warmer by a meaningless 0.01°C (that’s one tenth of the error estimate). 2011 and 2012 were cooler and it’s now clear that 2013 will be cooler also.

The warming prediction was for  0.30° ± 0.21°C [5 to 95% confidence interval (CI)], so unless we get some significant warming over the next few months it looks as though the observations will be outside the CI of the model.

COP19, Warsaw 2013: pause “expected”

The Met Office had a stand at the recent COP19 climate conference in Warsaw.
Here are two interesting pictures from this (HT Leo Hickman)

Apparently a slowdown in warming is “expected”. Although the Smith et al 2007 paper did say that natural variation would partially offset warming over the next few years, but then went on to make the incorrect predictions above, there was no mention of such an expectation in the Met Office press release or the talk by Vicky Pope (in fact she said “over the next ten years we are expecting to see quite significant changes occurring”).

The second graph is interesting since the axes are unlabelled, failing the first rule of elementary graph-plotting. I asked on twitter what might be plotted against what. Thanks to Gerry Morrow for suggesting that it showed trust in climate science against time. Presumably it is supposed to show the number of times per century that a pause of a certain length is likely to occur, according to climate models.  The text talks of a ten year pause, but the current pause is now more like 15 years, expected only twice a century if the models are correct.

Smith et al (2013): skillful models

A new paper, Smith et al (2013), “Real-time multi-model decadal climate predictions”, has been published in Climate Dynamics. This one has 22 authors, reflecting the fact that it involves many more climate models. The tone is somewhat more cautious than the previous one; for example it says that “We stress that the forecast is experimental”, but it also claims that the models “have undergone rigorous evaluation and individually have been evaluated for forecast skill”.

The paper muddles up predictions and hindcasts, something the Met Office has been criticised for before, for example by claiming that “forecasts of the year 2011 agree well with observations”. Reading the paper, it is not clear when these ‘forecasts’ were carried out.

There is no headline figure of a warming prediction over the next decade, but here is the graph showing the predictions in graphical form:

The uninitialised forecasts seem to start about 0.3C higher than present, while the initialised ones (red curve) show a rise of about 0.3C in about three years. One forecast from the Reading group (green curve) has for some reason been singled out, and shows a more gradual rise (Ed Hawkins tells me that’s because it is a statistical forecast rather than a GCM-based one).

But what is most remarkable about Smith et al 2013 is that there is no attempt to assess the accuracy or otherwise of the previous paper Smith et al 2007, even though that earlier paper is cited, and despite the statement in the Introduction that “Assessing discrepancies between forecasts and subsequent observations can reveal weaknesses in initialization strategies, model simulations of internal variability, model responses to external forcing, and uncertainties in future forcing factors, all of which are invaluable for improving future forecasts”.

Here’s a reminder of the famous one-minute summary of how science works, from a guy called Richard Feynman.

Update: Ed Hawkins says there is a paper in preparation on examining the prediction biases in a version of DePreSys.

The IPCC’s muddled definitions of climate change

In my first post, I criticised Peter Stott for muddling the IPCC’s definition of climate change. It seems that I owe Stott an apology: it’s not he who got the definitions confused, it’s the IPCC itself.

I gave a link to the IPCC’s definition of climate change, from the 2007 AR4 synthesis report. This states that

Climate change in IPCC usage refers to a change in the state of the climate that can be identified (e.g. using statistical tests) by changes in the mean and/or the variability of its properties, and that persists for an extended period, typically decades or longer. It refers to any change in climate over time, whether due to natural variability or as a result of human activity.

So it’s quite clear that when the IPCC says climate change, it means either man-made or natural change. And this is what the IPCC studies, since of course CC = “climate change”. The closest thing I can find to a definition in AR5 is Chapter 1 page 5, which again refers to any change, regardless of cause.

But hang on. There’s another document called “Principles Governing IPCC Work”. This says

The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change, its potential impacts and options for adaptation and mitigation.

So now it appears that the IPCC is only concerned with man-made climate change! This was probably the statement Peter Stott was referring to.

Related confusion arose in a twitter conversation between Richard Tol, Andy Revkin and Roger Pielke Jr:

The link leads to a 2005 paper by Pielke, Misdefining ‘‘climate change’’: consequences for science and action,  which draws attention to the confusion between the narrow definition used by the UNFCC and the broader one used by the IPCC, and also notes the “schizophrenic”  internal inconsistency of definitions within the IPCC.

The reference here to WGII and a note refers to the recently leaked WGII report, see this Bishop Hill thread, where Hilary Ostrov comments on a footnote,

[2] Attribution of observed impacts in the WGII AR5 links responses of natural and human systems to climate change, not to anthropogenic climate change, unless explicitly indicated.

This of course is in contradiction with the second blockquote above, that says the IPCC’s role is to assess the impacts of human-induced climate change.

What a shambles.

Cyclones, typhoons and cherry-picking

Since Typhoon Haiyan is in the news, it seems timely to look at what the IPCC AR5 WG1 report says on this subject. The word “typhoon” is used to describe strong cyclones in the West Pacific – apparently it is just the Chinese for “big wind”.

The key graph plotting the numbers of cyclones and typhoons is Figure 2.34:

It is quite clear from this graph that there has been no increase. The IPCC says so:

The Executive Summary at the start of Chapter 2 says

“Confidence remains low for long-term (centennial) changes in tropical cyclone activity”

and page 2-60 says

“Current datasets indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century”.

In the Summary for Policymakers, the IPCC says that there has been an increase in intense tropical cyclones in the North Atlantic since 1970. Looking at the above graphs, this seems to be a severe case of “start-date cherry-picking”, combined with “regional cherry-picking”.

Update: It has been pointed out that the concern is more that the intensity of cyclones may increase, rather than their frequency. Here’s what the IPCC says in Ch 14 (which is about regional projections):

“it is likely that the global frequency of occurrence of tropical cyclones will either decrease or remain essentially unchanged, concurrent with a likely increase in both global mean tropical cyclone maximum wind speed and precipitation rates.”

It goes on to say that there is low confidence in regional projections of frequency and intensity.

Elsner et al  (2008)  gives some evidence of increasing intensity in the Atlantic over the last 30 years, but their graphs show no trend in the Pacific region.

See also:

Some historical perspectives on Typhoon Haiyan-Yolanda

Deeply conflicted about weather extremes

Are Typhoon Disasters Getting More Common?

Update 2: Paul Homewood has a post Most Intense Typhoons On The Decline

Government inquiry: IPCC 5th Assessment Review

The Energy and Climate Change Committee is conducting an inquiry into the IPCC 5th Assessment.

Written submissions can be made to the committee of up to 3,000 words and must be submitted by 10th December.

The questions raised by the inquiry are:

  • How robust are the conclusions in the AR5 Physical Science Basis report? Have the IPCC adequately addresses criticisms of previous reports? How much scope is there to question of the report’s conclusions?
  • To what extent does AR5 reflect the range of views among climate scientists?
  • Can any of the areas of the science now be considered settled as a result of AR5’s publication, if so which?  What areas need further effort to reduce the levels of uncertainty?
  • How effective is AR5 and the summary for policymakers in conveying  what is meant by uncertainty in scientific terms ? Would a focus on risk rather than uncertainty be useful?
  • Does the AR5 address the reliability of climate models?
  • Has AR5 sufficiently explained the reasons behind the widely reported hiatus in the global surface temperature record?
  • Do the AR5 Physical Science Basis report’s conclusions strengthen or weaken the economic case for action to prevent dangerous climate change?
  • What implications do the IPCC’s conclusions in the AR5 Physical Science Basis report have for policy making both nationally and internationally?
  • Is the IPCC process an effective mechanism for assessing scientific knowledge? Or has it focussed on providing a justification for political commitment?
  • To what extent did political intervention influence the final conclusions of the AR5 Physical Science Basis summary?
  • Is the rate at which the UK Government intends to cut CO2 emissions appropriate in light of the findings of the IPCC AR5 Physical Science Basis report?
  • What relevance do the IPCC’s conclusions have in respect of the review of the fourth Carbon Budget?

The committee itself is chaired by Tim Yeo, notorious for his conflicts of interest arising from his payments from green companies. It was reported in June that Yeo was to stand down as chair of the committee, following a Sunday Times sting where reporters pretending to represent a green energy company  were told by Yeo that he could help them influence the committee in return for a fee. What happened to that story? Was there an independent inquiry that exonerated Tim Nice-but-dim of any wrongdoing?

Climate sceptic Peter Lilley has been a member of  the committee since October 2012, and just in the last few days Labour’s  Graham Stringer has been appointed. Stringer took part in the House of Commons investigation into climategate, taking a critical view and voting against the other MPs on several issues, for example, voting no to the idea that “the reputation of CRU remains intact”.

Is it worth making a submission to the inquiry? Well, that’s for you to decide, so I won’t advise either way or suggest what to say.

But remember that your submission will be published, so if you do send one in, please give it careful thought and make sure it looks professional.

Thomas Stocker tries to hide the decline

Hilary Ostrov has a post with a video of Thomas Stocker, the co-chair of the IPCC WG1, speaking at the launch of AR5 WG1 in Stockholm at the end of September.

After an introduction, the first graph Stocker shows is the decadally averaged, ‘hide the decline’ graph, the lower half of Fig SPM 1a, that I discussed in an earlier post.

He spends about two minutes on the graph, from about 07:45 to 09:45. At no point in his presentation does he show the actual annual temperature graph (the upper half of Fig 1a), which of course would have shown the levelling out in the last decade.

When I cut out the upper half of the figure for my post on it, I was criticised by Richard Betts for doing so. I wonder if he will join me in criticising Stocker?

Today, Stocker gave a talk at a meeting CORDEX 2013 in Brussels on regional climate change. I wonder if he did the same thing there? This tweet from WMO suggests that he did.

By the way, if you tweet with the hashtag #CORDEX2013, your tweet will appear in the box on the meeting webpage.

Stocker’s slides are here.