Tag Archives: IPCC

New IPCC Chair

The previous chairman of the IPCC, railway engineer and soft porn writer Rajendra Pachauri, faces allegations of sexual harassment and has at last been replaced after 13 years in post.

Hoesung-Lee
After an election involving representatives of 134 different countries, his replacement has been announced as Hoesung Lee, an economist from Korea, see IPCC press release.  His CV reveals the intriguing fact that he worked for Exxon for three years in the 1970s.  He has been involved with the IPCC since 1992, as part of IPCC WGIII, Mitigation of Climate Change.

 

 

Lee appears already to have got himself in something of a muddle regarding the IPCC’s remit.  The IPCC principles say that  “The work of the organization is therefore policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive”. However in an interview quoted here he makes a clear policy call for a carbon tax: “Climate change is a typical example of externalities and the way to correct the externality problem is to have a price on certain activities that cause those externalities. In our case, that is a price on carbon emissions – what you may call a carbon tax”.

Mike Shellenberger is not impressed:

mikes

Runner-up in the election Jean-Pascal van Ypersele might have been expected to congratulate Lee, but does not appear to have done so, though he did retweet someone describing himself as “the best IPCC Chair the IPCC never had”.

See coverage elsewhere from the BBC, Climate Home, Revkin in NYT, Carbon Brief, Bishop Hill, Nature, WUWT.


Update 7 Oct:

There is a hilarious video of a press conference with the new chair of the IPCC here:

It shows Hoesung Lee and the IPCC’s Head of Communications (who does not communicate his name). After a short introductory statement from Lee, the communications man asks (at about 06:30) “So are there any questions from journalists in the room?”. This is met with a silence so stony that one wonders whether there is anyone else in the room at all. He then asks “Do we have any questions yet from outside the room”. Again, there is silence, so apparently not. So the HoC asks his own question. At about 08:40 the process is repeated. Finally the “press conference” is put out of its misery by an emailed question from Megan Darby at 12:00, who asks about criticism that supporting carbon pricing as a priority represents a politicisation of the IPCC.

Has the Royal Society abandoned science?

The Royal Society, formerly a highly regarded institution, is increasingly abandoning science in favour of political propaganda.  Its latest piece of scaremongering, Resilience to extreme weather, is packed full of emotive images of floods

 

and completely vacuous graphics like this:

(there are at least 4 such meaningless diagrams) but contains virtually no science.

In the introduction, Paul Nurse claims that “By presenting evidence of trends in extreme weather and the different ways resilience can be built to it, we hope this report will galvanise action by local and national governments…”.
But unfortunately Nurse and his chums seem to have forgotten to include any evidence of trends in extreme weather. All we get is examples and anecdotes. Throughout the entire 100+ page report, there is not a single graph showing past trends in extreme events (there are plenty showing the results of speculative computer models for the future).

Graphs of UK rainfall are often shown at Paul Homewood’s blog, for example in his recent post Rainfall Patterns In The South West, relevant to the Somerset flooding, where it can be seen that there is no trend in rainfall and the wettest month occurred in 1929. I wonder why no such graphs are shown in the Royal Society report?

Similarly there is no data provided in the report on hurricanes and typhoons, despite there being a suitable figure on this in IPCC AR5 WG1 Chapter 2:

Hurricane Sandy is mentioned several times in the report, but there is no mention of the current record-breaking lull in hurricane activity.

Tucked away in the middle of the report are the distinctly un-alarming remarks from the IPCC SREX (2012), such as “Low confidence that anthropogenic warming has affected the magnitude or frequency of floods at a global scale”.

Roger Pielke has a useful summary of what the IPCC AR5 had to say about extreme events. He ends with “Of course, I have no doubts that claims will still be made associating floods, drought, hurricanes and tornadoes with human-caused climate change — Zombie science…” I wonder what he would make of this report by the Royal Society?

On P.109 of the report we are told that it was reviewed by a panel of eight experts before being accepted by the Royal Society. So it is curious that amateur blogger Andrew Montford managed to find a basic error in it so quickly. Maybe they should employ him in future to check their reports for errors?

 

 

Climategate Anniversary

Today is the 5th anniversary of the start of the ‘Climategate’ incident. Here’s a brief summary of what happened, plus IPCC-related issues raised and some thoughts on how it affected the opinion of scientists and the public.

On 17th November 2009, comments appeared on a number of sceptic blogs such as here at the Air Vent. The comment started with the text

“We feel that climate science is, in the current situation, too important to be kept under wraps.
We hereby release a random selection of correspondence, code, and documents.
Hopefully it will give some insight into the science and the people behind it.
This is a limited time offer, download now:”

This was followed by a link to the file of emails and a brief summary of some of the contents.

Two years later, a second file was released, with links posted on six blogs. This included a README.txt file (converted to pdf since wordpress does not allow .txt files) which gives some insight into the motivation:

“Over 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day.”
“Every day nearly 16.000 children die from hunger and related causes.”
“One dollar can save a life” — the opposite must also be true.
“Poverty is a death sentence.”
“Nations must invest $37 trillion in energy technologies by 2030 to stabilize
greenhouse gas emissions at sustainable levels.”
Today’s decisions should be based on all the information we can get, not on
hiding the decline.

This included about 5000 emails, plus an encrypted file containing over 200000 emails.

A third announcement was made in March 2013. This said that the person who hacked/leaked the emails acted alone, without any oill funding or political support, and hints at a past academic career.

Climategate and the IPCC

Here are some of the emails relating to the IPCC:

Phil Jones writing to Michael Mann:
“The other paper by MM is just garbage – as you knew. De Freitas again. Pielke is also losing all credibility as well by replying to the mad Finn as well – frequently as I see it. I can’t see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report. Kevin and I will keep them out somehow – even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is !”
[MM = McIntyre & McKitrick. In fact their paper was cited by IPCC AR4!]

Jones to Mann again:
“Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise… Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same?”

Tom Wigley says that
“In my (perhaps too harsh) view, there have been a number of dishonest presentations of model results by individual authors and by IPCC.”

Climate scientists Heinz Wanner says that he was a reviewer of the IPCC TAR (2001) and criticised it’s extensive use of the Mann Hockey Stick picture, but his comments were ignored.

Peter Thorne writes in regard to preparation of IPCC AR4,
“I also think the science is being manipulated to put a political spin on it which for all our sakes might not be too clever in the long run.”

IPCC TAR Chapter 3 author Phil Jones repeatedly breaks the IPCC rules
“I’m not supposed to send these out, so you got them from Albert.”

Hans von Storch writes
“Stupid, politicized action by IPCC, not MBH’s responsibility. IPCC did one more of these silly oversellings – by showing the damage curve by Munich Re without proper caveat in the fig caption”

Phil Jones comments on political bias in the IPCC SPM
“He says he’ll read the IPCC Chapters! He hadn’t as he said he thought they were politically biased. I assured him they were not. The SPM may be, but not the chapters.”

Climategate and opinion

Contrary to the nonsense on the subject in the Wikipedia article, Climategate had an impact on the opinion of both scientists and the general public.

Climate scientist Judith Curry described in an interview how “Climategate and the weak response of the IPCC and other scientists triggered a massive re-examination of my support of the IPCC, and made me look at the science much more sceptically”.

Berkeley physicist Richard Muller discusses the notorious “hide the decline” graph here, saying that you don’t do this and that there’s now a group of scientists whose work he doesn’t trust.

At a meeting in Nottingham, Physicist Philip Moriarty said that he and colleagues were shocked by Climategate, and used the word “anathema” in relation to the withholding of data.

Mike Hulme wrote an interesting essay After Climategate … Never the Same in which he discusses the impact on science and scientists. He also notes the impact on the opinion of Guardian writer George Monbiot (who called for Phil Jones to resign) and the general public, saying that a survey soon after the event showed a significant decline in concern about climate change and public trust in climate science.

A paper by Leiserowitz et al, “Climategate, Public Opinion, and the Loss of Trust” found a significant decline in Americans’ climate change beliefs between 2008 and 2010 (from 57% saying human activity was causing warming to 47%). They also asked specific questions about climategate, to confirm that this was a significant factor.

Other papers on Climategate include Reiner Grundmann’s “Climategate” and The Scientific Ethos, which discusses the issue in relation to traditional (“Mertonian”) and more policy-linked ways of thinking about science; The legacy of climategate, by Maibach et al, who say that it increased the partisan divide in US politics; and Climate change and ‘climategate’ in online reader comments by Koteyko, Jaspal & Nerlich.

Climategate did not change my own views very much, but made me more confident that my assessment that climate change is exaggerated and politicised was correct. To me, the real scandal was not so much that two or three climate scientists behaved badly, but that virtually the entire climate science community tried to pretend that nothing was wrong.

IPCC Synthesis Report – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The last gasp of IPCC AR5, the Synthesis Report, was published on Sunday, Nov 2nd. There is a full report , 116 pages, and a concise 40-page Summary for Policymakers. There’s also a short press release. The idea of this report is to summarise and collate the main points from the reports of the three working groups that have already been published, so there shouldn’t really be anything new here, though there may be a change in tone or emphasis.  The comments here are based on the full report.  There seems to be a sequence of non sequiturs between the different sections of the report, and between the report and the way it has been reported in the media – the usual game of climate chinese whispers.

Good

The report starts well on “Topic 1”, the basic observational data. It says there has been a warming of about 0.85 [0.65-1.06] C since 1880.  It acknowledges that there’s been virtually no warming over the last 15 years, and that Antarctic sea ice has increased. It says that the current rate of sea level rise is very similar to that in the early 20th century.

On extreme weather events, the report claims very little. It says that warming causes warming – the number of cold days has decreased and warm days have increased, which reminds me of this quote. In a similar vein they say that heat-related deaths have increased while cold-related deaths have decreased.  There is a rather tentative claim about heavy precipitation events, saying that it is likely that there have been more increases than decreases.  But exactly what is a heavy precipitation event, how is it measured, and how accurately and when and where have they been measured? They say there’s ‘low confidence’ in anything to do with flooding, droughts and tropical cyclones, which ought to quieten down the Green Blob claims of storms being caused by global warming, but probably won’t.

Bad

The report deteriorates sharply when it gets on to Topic 2, “Future Climate Changes, Risks and Impacts” (p 18). This starts with the bold claim that “Continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems”.  No uncertainty is expressed, there’s just the word “will”. No mention is made of the fact these are projections based on speculative computer models that have completely failed to predict the slow-down in warming or the increase in Antarctic ice discussed in the previous section.

There’s a prediction of 0.3-0.7C of warming over the period 2016-2035, which they say does not depend on emissions but would depend on any major volcano’s or changes in the sun’s output.  The scare-quote above about “severe, pervasive, and irreversible impacts” is repeated, leading on to claims of severe ill-health, food and water insecurity, loss of ecosystems, droughts and floods, and even violent conflict.

Topic 3 on adaptation and mitigation makes similar overconfident claims, repeating yet again the threat of severe impacts scare unless we undertake mitigation. Here the IPCC comes close to breaking its own guidelines, that it is “policy-relevant and yet policy-neutral, never policy-prescriptive”.

Ugly

The next step in the exaggeration game is how the report is described in the media. The BBC said

“Fossil fuels must be phased out by 2100”

This was the headline of an article on the BBC website. The IPCC said no such thing (which would have been a clear breach of their policy guidelines) – the word ‘must’ does not appear anywhere. The BBC changed the word ‘must’ to the slightly less misleading ‘should’ – possibly as a result of a tweet I sent to them. But this incorrect statement has been widely copied, for example in the Mail. The Guardian headline is “rapid carbon emission cuts vital”, with the obligatory misleading picture of white water vapour from a cooling tower back-lit to make it look black. The Independent says it’s a “final warning” and also picks up on the fossil fuel phase-out by 2100. Even the normally more reliable Emily Gosden in the Telegraph writes incorrectly that “Global emissions must fall by at least 40 per cent by 2050 and be cut to zero by the end of the century, the report from the UN’s Intergovernment Panel on Climate Change warns”.

What the IPCC actually said about phasing out fossil fuels was (main report p 51, SPM p 19): “In the majority of low‐concentration stabilization scenarios… fossil fuel power generation without CCS is phased out almost entirely by 2100.”

Update Nov 4: Coverage elsewhere

In Spiegel Online, Axel Bojanowski says the IPCC has put alarm before accuracy, citing examples where the summary is more alarmist than the main report, in particular on the danger of extinction (comments in English here).

Jo Nova says the IPCC is recycling its message of doom, despite being consistently wrong.

Carbon Brief reports on “What’s new and interesting in the IPCC synthesis report” – which ought to be a very short blog article.

RTCC has several articles, including a summary in tweets and a claim that the report was watered down.

James Delingpole summarises the IPCC message as “Buy our snake oil or the world gets it”.

Marcel Crok has a blog post “IPCC bias in action”, saying that there is much less discussion of climate sensitivity than in AR4 (no mention at all in the SPM).

Matt Ridley says the IPCC high emission scenario “makes wildly unrealistic assumptions” and exaggerates future warming.

IPCC meeting to prepare Synthesis Report

The world’s news media have been agog with excitement this week over the latest IPCC meeting, taking place in Copenhagen. Well, I found one BBC article about it.  The purpose of the meeting is to finalise the AR5 Synthesis Report – an overall report that summarises and synthesises the main points of the AR5 reports from the three working groups that have been published over the last year. The Synthesis report will be published on Sunday, and the BBC article says it’s to be the guiding document for the save-the-planet climate talks in Paris next year.

There is a press release which includes the rallying cry “it is not hopeless”, and an opening statement by the IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri that ends with the famous Gandhi quote “First they ignore you … then you win”. In view of the absence of media coverage, I wonder if it’s the other way round.

Even the Green Blob organisations seem to have little enthusiasm, either not discussing it at all or adopting a jaded tone – at RTCC, Richard Black says “You may think that you’ve been here before” and wonders why he should bother to read the report; the blog comments underneath are mostly dismissive.

 

Energy and Climate Change Committee report on IPCC AR5

The House of Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee has today published its report following their review into IPCC AR5 WG1.

A brief recap with links to earlier posts: the Committee is chaired by Tim Yeo (Con) who has been criticised for his green energy interests, was caught in a lobbying sting and has been de-selected by his local party. There are two openly climate-sceptical members, Peter Lilley (Con) and Graham Stringer (Lab). The inquiry was announced last November with a call for written submissions by December. The remit covered robustness, range of views, climate models, the pause, and policy. Over 50 written submissions were sent in, IPCC-supportive ones from institutions such as the Met Office and Royal Society and many critical ones from individuals (the allegedly influential GWPF did not make a submission). From January – March, three oral evidence sessions were held, the first of which featured three mainstream climate scientists followed by three sceptics. The second session had some interesting clashes between Yeo and Lilley. The third session included science advisors and members of DECC.

Given the disparity of opinion between Yeo and Lilley, it was hard to imagine how they could come up with a written report that both could put their names to. It turns out that they couldn’t.

The two sceptics on the committee, Lilley and Stringer, voted against the main report and issued their own short statement yesterday evening. They said that “The Summary for Policy Makers is far less balanced than the report it purports to summarise”, that it’s hard to justify the IPCC claim of increased confidence, given the current pause in warming and the fact that the IPCC is this time not able to give a best estimate of climate sensitivity. They also draw attention to recent lower estimates of climate sensitivty and the fact that climate models are too warm, before describing the IPCC SPM as “politicised”.

The main report, here in html or here in pdf, regurgitates the main conclusions of AR5 and issues a call to action (“must work to agree a binding global deal in 2015”) but also calls for a small team of non-climate scientists to oversee the process. This picks up on a suggestion by Ruth Dixon in her submission to the inquiry.

The rest of the report proceeds predictably. Climate scientists Peter Stott, Myles Allen and Brian Hoskins tell the committee that climate scientists aren’t biased. There are some comments about the increasing size of the IPCC reports and the long, slow timescale. There is more unquestioning regurgitation of the statements made by Stott, Hoskins and Shuckburgh. The pause in warming is claimed to be “consistent with earlier IPCC assessments”. There is a final section on domestic and international policy, issuing the call for “rapid, drastic action”.

The most spectacular piece of idiocy I’ve found so far is paragraph 50: “Subsequent evidence has confirmed that a number of witnesses supported the conclusions of the IPCC. For example, Dr Stott told us that…”. Peter Stott is coordinating Lead Author of Chapter 10 of the IPCC AR5 report. Myles Allen, also quoted at length, is also an author on the same chapter.

The dissent of Lilley and Stringer is noted at the end of the report, in the “Formal Minutes”, p 50-54. Stringer proposed an amendment to insert “We have received evidence which gives us cause for concern of chronic political and “activist” interference. The procedures to safeguard against this influence are either non-existent or ineffective.”

All in all, another rather pointless exercise in circular reasoning, confirmation bias and division (see previous post).

Articles elsewhere:

Matt McGrath for the BBC, MPs bicker over IPCC report on causes of climate change, discusses the main report and the dissenting views of Lilley and Stringer.

The Guardian, predictably, only presents one side of the story, IPCC climate change report’s findings must be accepted, MPs say

On twitter, climate scientist Mark Brandon sinks to a new low by saying that Lilley and Stringer are a bit like astrology-believing Tredinnick.

Bishop Hill describes the report as Climate’s parliamentary cheerleaders.

Carbon brief, UK Parliament says IPCC report is an “unambiguous picture of a climate that is being dangerously destabilised” claims that the report “deals with” the criticisms of the sceptics.

Judith Curry has a post Politicizing the IPCC Report, quoting a chunk of this post.

Lewis Page at The Register focuses on the qualifications with Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees

IPCC needs a rethink, say academics

A new paper, Towards a Reflexive Turn in the Governance of Global Environmental Expertise. The Cases of the IPCC and the IPBES (open access) looks into the organisation of the IPCC. It’s written by a large team of environmental and social science researchers from many countries, including Mike Hulme and others from the UK. It results from a meeting held in Leipzig last year.

The paper makes some criticisms of the IPCC, but some of these are rather odd:
“The IPCC has also largely failed to engage with alternative forms of expertise such as local knowledge, or to evaluate and facilitate more radical forms of civic action”.
I don’t think facilitating radical civic action is really within the IPCC remit.

There are some interesting remarks about climategate, the IAC review and the issues of transparency and public trust. They also comment on the aim for consensus and the consequent exclusion of minority views. This paragraph near the end of the section on the IPCC sums up their concerns:

The events surrounding “climategate” demonstrated that public trust cannot be reduced to a function of the quality of science or the breadth and depth of consensus on science alone, as the IPCC had assumed. They showed that trust in science is related to the performance and persuasive power of the people and institutions who speak for science – and that not all countries interpret or trust the IPCC in similar ways (Hajer 2012). The IPCC’s chosen style of risk assessment and communication has also contributed to a unitary approach to representing scientific consensus as a single voice. Not acknowledging or inviting diverse voices to speak will fail to assuage the sense of mistrust. In response, the IPCC plenary has not yet adopted a process of full public disclosure, and it continues to rely upon its existing knowledge-making processes mediated by national delegations. In addition, current discussions about the future of the IPCC continue to be conducted largely behind closed doors, even if the formal positions of countries are somewhat more transparent. It is very likely that in the future the panel will be exposed to scrutiny from more diverse and lively publics and that it will have to respond to forms of distributed or uninvited public participation”

Unfortunately, although the paper raises some interesting questions, there are no clear proposals for improvement of the IPCC beyond the general suggestion of continuously reviewing its own procedures.

IPCC undermines UK Climate Change Act

Oliver Geden, an energy and climate policy analyst from Germany, has given an interview “EU’s climate policy has lost its scientific basis”. He explains that the specific target that developed countries should aim for at least an 80% reduction in emissions by 2050, which was explicitly stated in IPCC AR4 (2007), is not present in AR5. This means that there is no longer any basis for EU emissions reduction policies targets.

The relevant section of AR4 is this table on page 776, chapter 13.

(thanks to Oliver for pointing me to this – I had never been sure where these targets came from). In the latest IPCC WG3 report published in full yesterday, there is no such table with specific targets. The relevant chapter is again chapter 13, where there are only rather vague discussions of “Climate policy architectures” (Sec 13.4) and proposed policies in Sec 13.13.2.

From the UK perspective, this is very relevant for the UK Climate Change Act. The act was passed in 2008, a year after AR4, and proposes exactly the same target as in the above table, an 80% reduction from 1990 levels by 2050. Since there is no equivalent statement in AR5, it appears that the IPCC has undermined the basis for the Climate Change Act.

IPCC Working Group III Report published

The report of IPCC WGIII, Mitigation of climate change, is now out.

The Summary for Policymakers (released on April 13) starts with a useful definition of what they mean by mitigation: “Mitigation is a human intervention to reduce the sources or enhance the sinks of greenhouse gases.”  But the first of the key points listed sets the tone of vague waffle and political correctness:  “Sustainable development and equity provide a basis for assessing climate policies and highlight the need for addressing the risks of climate change”. There is talk of “value judgements” and “other societal goals”. 

The report claims that without mitigation we will have a temperature rise of 3.7 to 4.8°C by 2100 (relative to “pre-industrial”) of which we have had 0.6°C. In other words they are predicting 3.1 to 4.2°C rise this century.  They even claim “high confidence” in this statement.  The fact that there has been no temperature rise at all over the first 1/7th of the century does not seem to be a concern to the IPCC authors, since they don’t mention it. There is an excessively long account of different scenarios and the associated claimed temperature rises. When it comes to the details of what mitigation actually means, the report is very vague. There is talk of energy efficiency and behaviour changes. Nuclear power is mentioned, but very hesitantly, with a list of  of “barriers and risks”. The report is  also rather hesitant about CCS, saying only that it could reduce emissions.  They are surprisingly positive about switching from coal to gas, describing it as a “bridge technology”.  There is a final section on “International cooperation” that is very vague, saying that the Kyoto Protocol “offers lessons”.

The BBC discusses the WGIII report under World must end ‘dirty’ fuel use.  The Guardian reported the press conference and summarised responses from carefully selected on-message commentators, and then issues a desperate self-righteous call to arms from Leo Hickman.  The Mail picks up on the surprising IPCC endorsement of gas and fracking. Robert Wilson criticises the report, saying that the IPCC needs a good kick up the arse”, in regard to what it says about bio-energy.  James Delingpole says that the report is ordering us to give up meat, coal, oil, growth and sovereignty. 

When the SPM was first released, it was directly available. But on 15 April, the following bizarre statement was placed on the page: The designations employed and the presentation of material on maps do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries. In order to get the SPM, you have to click “I agree” to proceed.

 

The main report was published a couple of days later, 15 April. Again, you have to “agree” to the disclaimer to get access to the full report.  There are 16 chapters, starting off with the vague concepts mentioned above (“Sustainable Development and Equity”) and going on to the more specific topics of Energy, Transport, Buildings and Industry.

One point of note is that in the Introductory chapter 1 there is a section
1.4.5 Rising Attention to Adaptation
that says: “For a long time, nearly all climate policy has focused on mitigation. Now, with some change in climate inevitable (and a lot more likely) there has been a shift in emphasis to adaptation”. Andrew Lilico and Robin Guenier might be interested to see this.

 

 

Warren Pearce et al. on IPCC tweets

Warren Pearce and Brigitte Nerlich,  from the University of Nottingham Institute for Science and Society, in collaboration with two researchers from Amsterdam, have published an interesting new paper looking at the twitter response to the launch of the IPCC WG1 Report (see also MSP blog post).  They collected tweets sent between September 17th and October 8th 2013 (recall that the IPCC Summary report was published on Sept 27th).  They included all tweets containing the term IPCC, whether or not they used the hashtag #IPCC, giving over 150,000 tweets. They then weeded this down (for example removing those that were about police complaints, and removing duplicates, retweets and ‘via’ tweets). They then cut down the number further, by focussing on ‘conversational’ tweets, i.e. those that included another @username, bringing the number down to about 60,000, involving about 11,000 twitter users.

There is a thoughtful discussion of ethical issues, where they say they decided not to mention any individuals in the paper, as doing so may “have unwanted side-effects” and “may bring them unwanted and disproportionate attention from those holding opposing views”.  A lot of nonsense could have been avoided if such ethical considerations had been adopted more widely.

For the 239 most connected twitterers, a network analysis was carried out, giving colour-coded network diagrams.  Some tweets were generated by a one-click campaign by an NGO called Avaaz – but apparently these don’t really influence the results. The network plots are colour coded and grouped. In one plot (fig 3), the colour indicates different types of communities; I don’t fully understand this (I guess the ‘communities’ are something the software does automatically), but they say that in the UK there are more connections between people with different viewpoints than in other countries. A second figure (fig 4) colour codes the network map according to whether the tweeter was supportive, neutral or critical of the IPCC. About half of the users were supportive, and a quarter critical. These results suggests that there is more ‘intermingling’ from the sceptic side: as they put it “attempts by unsupportive to connect with supportive were not always reciprocated”. In the conclusions there is a nice little dig at a very silly paper by Elsasser and Dunlap who claimed that climate sceptics live in an echo chamber.

From the maths point of view, there’s an interesting power law dependence in the graphs in Fig 1 and Fig 2 (the central sections of both log-log graphs form almost perfect straight lines).

Overall, I think this is quite interesting, and it studies the subject with a scientific, data-driven objectivity, which is more than can be said for some of the  social science research in the field.  As with Amelia Sharman’s paper on the sceptic blogosphere, some will say “we could’ve told you that”, but it’s good to see large data sets confirming general impressions.