Review of submissions to IPCC Inquiry

This post takes a look at the written submissions to the Energy and Climate Change Committee‘s  IPCC 5th Assessment Review.  A few of these were mentioned in the previous post.  See also blog posts on the submissions at Bishop Hill and Climate Etc.

Support or criticism?

There are 44 submissions – really 43 since one is an a supplement. Of these, roughly 13 are supportive of the IPCC, 26 are critical and 4 are neutral.

Most of the supportive ones come from organisations, including the Met Office, DECC, Roy Met Soc, Grantham Institute (Both LSE and Imperial branches), the Royal Society, Reading,  NERC and  EDF.   The critical submissions are mainly from individuals, although there are two from organisations, the Friends of Science Society and the NIPCC.  Notably absent is the GWPF, allegedly so influential in the UK climate debate. The GWPF also did not submit anything to the recent inquiry on public understanding of climate (presumably this is because the GWPF has a direct but untraceable hotline to the heart of government, unlike all other organisations, so has no need to take part in these inquiries).

The four that I have categorised as neutral are: two submissions from social scientists, Brigitte Nerlich on media reporting and language used, and James Painter on the communication of uncertainty and risk; one from meteorologist Ian Strangeways, which is cautious   (“Models are still in the developmental, academic stage and are not proven tools”,  “The cause of the ‘pause’ in rising temperatures over the last 15 years is not known”) and raises the interesting suggestion that “It is also possible that some (many) scientists may not wish to voice any concerns or doubts of any kind for fear of being labelled ‘sceptical’”; and one from atmospheric scientists Alan Gadian, which although broadly supportive, expresses doubts over the lack of understanding of clouds and the emphasis on CO2 over methane and water vapour.

It’s robust

The favourite word of the IPCC supporters seems to be “robust” (to be fair, this does appear once in the list of questions posed by the committee).  DECC uses “robust” 7 times, e.g. “one of the most robust reports ever written”, and the University of Reading uses it 8 times.  But first prize goes to the Met Office who use “robust” 13 times in their submission. Someone buy them a thesaurus.

There is little of interest in the supportive submissions. They re-iterate the party line, regurgitate quotes from the report itself or its authors, and give the obvious answers (for example   “Does the AR5 address the reliability of climate models?” ,  “Yes, in Chapter 9”).

Many of them claim that AR5 has stronger conclusions than AR4 (for example NERC, Grantham Institute, Royal Met Soc and the Met Office). This claim is false, as noted in my own submission and in Judith Curry’s recent post, so it is not surprising that those who make this claim do not attempt to justify it.

Critical submissions

There are some familiar names but also some new ones in the critical submissions to the inquiry. There are too many to mention all of them individually.

Richard Lindzen comments on the fudging of high climate sensitivity models plus unknown aerosol cooling to fit observed warming, and attaches a paper discussing climate models and low sensitivity.

Roger Pielke senior supplies a list of his papers under his usual theme, that the IPCC focuses too narrowly on greenhouse gases and does not pay enough attention to other man-made and natural factors. He also says the IPCC failed to discuss adequately the inability  of models to match observations.

Michael Kelly’s comments focus on economic and practical factors, that may catch the eye of the politicians reading it. He draws attention to previous scares, points out the impracticality of renewable energy schemes, criticises the ‘truculent’ way in which the IPCC mentioned the warming pause, and ends with “who takes legal responsibility if it proves that the expenditure in pursuit of the Climate Change Act is shown to be ineffective, unnecessary or counterproductive?” (Robin will like that).

Nic Lewis’s submission, described by Judith Curry as a “tour de force”, concentrates on the exaggerated climate sensitivity values used by the IPCC and the associated poor statistical methods that use a subjective prior distribution. He suggests the IPCC estimates of future warming should be roughly halved.

Philip Richens says that the IPCC has not adequately discussed (a) the literature on natural variability, (b) the comparison of models with observations, and (c) the recent pause in warming.

Ruth Dixon talks in detail about the review process for the IPCC – how this differs from standard scientific peer review – and the IAC Review of IPCC processes. She calls for the introduction of a “red team” of scientists from other fields to scrutinise the IPCC reports.

Robin Guenier criticises claims of consensus and concludes that it is not really possible to answer the committee’s question about whether a full range of views has been considered.

Donna Laframboise, not one to mince words, titles her contribution “The Lipstick on the Pig” and criticises the politicisation and bias of the IPCC.

Pierre Darriulat is a new name to me. He is a physicist and former Research Director at CERN. He wrote a post at Climate Etc in October. His comments are very critical of the IPCC and have  been discussed at Donna’s blog. This comment echoes my own view:  “What we are witnessing are successive distortions of the scientific message of the AR5 report on the Physical Science Basis: first from the report to the SPM by those who wrote and/or amended the SPM, then from the SPM to the press by those who speak in the name of the IPCC (including the IPCC chairman) then from the press to the general public by green activists who too often behave irresponsibly in misrepresenting the findings of the work.” I would add that there is a previous level of distortion from the scientific literature to the main body of the report.

Update January 9: 

Five more submissions have just been published.

Alex Henney (who already made two submissions!) attempts to summarise and categorise the submissions as I have done here. His categories are “The British warmist establishment”, “Sceptic scientists” and “Public policy critics”.  He ends with a summary of the main criticisms.

Judith Curry raises concerns about uncertainty, reliability of models  and the bias of the IPCC’s consensus-seeking approach.

John Christy draws attention to the lack of trend in extreme events, with several examples, and the evidence showing that models exaggerate warming. He says he is baffled by the IPCC’s ‘extremely likely’ attribution statement.

Clive Best says that AR5 is good news, with indications of lower climate sensitivity and lower risk of extreme events.

The WWF describes AR5 WG1 as exhaustive, authoritative, compelling… and calls for ‘immediate action’.

Updating the numbers, I make it 47 submissions (not counting Henney’s summary), 14 supportive, 5 neutral (including Clive Best) and 28 critical.

5 thoughts on “Review of submissions to IPCC Inquiry

  1. One more submission has been published, from Lucian Platt, making a brief comment about ice ages and natural climate cycles. He says he got his PhD in geology in 1960, so I think he must be about 80.

  2. The next stage of the process of the Review will be the sessions of oral evidence. The first of these will be on January 28th. The Committee is not being very informative about this. On their website it only states that there will be a meeting at 9.30 on January 28th. We know that this will in fact be an oral evidence session because Donna Laframboise has announced on her blog that she has been invited to present evidence, and is flying over from Canada just for this.

    Quite how people are selected to give evidence is a bit mysterious. For the previous inquiry on public opinion, there were some rather odd choices.

  3. Two more submissions: from the youngster (relative to Lucian Platt) Norman Page, who got his Geology PhD in 1961, on the failure of models, and from Piers Corbyn, also on the failure of models and predictions.

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