Climate pause takes a wallop as IPCC comes out swinging

 
Floyd Mayweather vs Saul Alvarez Ker-pow! The IPCC was sheepish on the pause in its draft report; but more bullish in the final publication

In the heady atmosphere of the old Munich brewery where they had been ensconced for the past four days, there was a real sense of determination among the scientists of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

With the release of their eagerly anticipated report on Friday, the UN climate panel didn't just want to warn the world that warming was unequivocal, and that humans were responsible. No, they wanted to have a go at the people who have made their lives a bit miserable in recent times, the climate sceptics and deniers.

And while not renowned for their skills in matters pugilistic, at the launch of the summary for policymakers in Stockholm, the grey men definitely came out swinging.

The panel has been on the back foot for some time, as interest in global warming waned, and focus had been fixed by sceptical voices on the so-called pause or hiatus. This refers to the observation that, since 1998, there has been no significant global warming despite ever increasing amounts of carbon dioxide being emitted.

Even in the final draft of this report, the IPCC was putting forward a number of theoretical ideas behind the fall-off in temperature rises over the last 15 years, and was sheepishly acknowledging that its models failed to predict the slow-down.

But over the four days of negotiations with governments here in the Swedish capital, the UN body discovered its backbone.

So the pause was not ignored or buried, but was, in science terms, given a ferocious kicking.

Come and have a go...

"Due to natural variability," the report says, "trends based on short term records are very sensitive to the beginning and end dates and do not, in general, reflect long term trends". Biff!

Start Quote

I am far enough advanced in my career that I can say what I like”

End Quote Dr John Church IPCC report co-author

And the ladies and gentlemen of the press also get a bit of a battering for making too much noise about the pause.

"I don't think it was the IPCC fighting back," said Prof Arthur Petersen, a member of the Dutch government's team.

"But we had a co-chair who said we should really look at the science and not look at what's out there in the media."

Climate sceptics were also on the mind of several other scientists involved with this first working group of the IPCC.

But they weren't talking about bloggers or newspaper columnists, they were talking about governments.

Most of the 13 Australians among the lead authors and contributing authors were selected in the time of a Labour government that favoured action on climate change and a carbon tax.

But now they have been replaced by a more avowedly sceptical Liberal party.

"My attitude is I'm interested in the science and I'm going to report what I believe the science is telling us regardless of what the government says," said Dr John Church, the Australian convening lead author on sea level rise.

This chapter is one of the big improvements in this report compared to 2007. There is much more detail on the likely ranges of the rising waters, as the models now take the impact of Greenland and Antarctica into account.

And Dr Church embodies the new combative spirit of the IPCC.

"You won't have any effect on adaptation or mitigation of climate change, if you keep quiet - you have to speak out," he says.

But he conceded that the recent change of government in Australia had crossed his mind.

"Yeah I have thought about that issue - but I am far enough advanced in my career that I can say what I likeā€¦ I can speak the truth."

It will be interesting to see how the sceptics respond.

 
Matt McGrath Article written by Matt McGrath Matt McGrath Environment correspondent

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 56.

    @55 voted down for stating the obvious.

    Dr B Lomborg- "Since 1980, the ave of all climate models have overestimated actual temperature increases by 71 - 159%. This does not mean that there is not some global warming, but it likely means that temperature rises will be lower than originally expected. That fact makes alarmist scenarios ever more implausible."

    But the certainty increases, go figure!

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 55.

    It's been 25 years since the IPCC started saying AGW was real. Time after time they've claimed this or that would happen, and it usually hasn't. The Arctic ice-free in summer by 2013? No. Continued warming since 1998? Nope.

    In 25 years they've managed to lose the belief of many (most?) people, because they can't prove what they say. Not then, not now. And I'm bored with hearing it.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 54.

    53. striplar - "...we can wait & sit on our hands until it's too late to prevent an unfolding catastrophe, but is that sensible? That's one very high stakes game to be playing when we're pretty sure of the outcome..."

    Where is the 'unfolding catastrophe'? How are you so 'sure of the outcome' when the IPCC predictions have been wrong 4 times out of 4 so far?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 53.

    Releasing millions of tons of CO2 into the atmosphere is clearly not a smart thing to do since we know that it may well change the climate.
    Sure, we can wait and sit on our hands until it's too late to prevent an unfolding catastrophe, but is that sensible? That's one very high stakes game to be playing when we're pretty sure of the outcome. Are we prepared to gamble that we're wrong?

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 52.

    44.Sagacity-"@39 the best way to deal with denialism is to explain how it works, - primarily using logical fallacy & claiming its valid logic combined with constantly switching argument"

    OK, this is more subtle than 'you have a serious mental problem' (see 37), but is still just a variation on 'you are an idiot for not agreeing with me'.

    Condescension, is seldom a successful method of argument.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 51.

    49. OddJobLot - "...Sticking to the method of single issue debating favoured (in particular by American) 'sceptics' (or liars) as we call them where I live reduces the argument to who causes it and not what needs to be done to prepare or mitigate."

    I think you should give up on the insults & practice use of brackets/commas, it would make your point more understandable.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 50.

    @ Sagacity 46

    "you have a predilection for start dates around a particularly strong El Nino & an end date fixed in a potential Maunder minimum".

    I notice you are careful to use the word 'around'. I suspect you know as well as I do that by starting in 1997, I have completely avoided that peak. By starting before the peak rather than at the peak I am purposely doing the opposite of cherry picking.

  • Comment number 49.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 48.

    The 'warming' statistics are based on air temperature and frankly that's not the best guide whichever side of the argument you are on.

    The two measurements that are much more robust are these :
    - Gulf stream salinity, this is going down
    - Sea level, this is going up

    Both these measurements are known with very great precision over a long period. And there has been no 'pause' with them.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 47.

    Well it doesn't matter how many victory claims are made, or whatever humiliation and opprobrium are attributed to the asserted losing side.

    The facts are just that, and unaltered by any of this.

    The long term signal is aperiodic, unlike a pulsar's, so cannot with confidence be dug out of much larger short-term variations.

    I think we should reduce CO2 emissions, but let's use real science.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 46.

    @43.Scute
    ..Hardly cherry-picking. I could change the start date if you like. How about 1997?

    you have a predilection for start dates around a particularly strong El Nino & an end date fixed in a potential Maunder minimum

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 45.

    41. BatinHolland - "...Change/agreement wont happen until it is blindingly obvious that the race faces extinction in the current lifetime."

    The climate is changing. It 'might' be influenced by man, it 'might' be primarily driven by CO2 - but there seems to be a lot we don't understand yet. The IPCC models have been consistently inaccurate.

    The catastrophe is not proven, no extinction.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 44.

    @40.Drunken Hobo
    37 Sagacity - There are several arguments:

    Yes thats what I said, & they switch from one argument to another incompatible one when it suits & then back again

    @39 the best way to deal with denialism is to explain how it works, - primarily using logical fallacy & claiming its valid logic combined with constantly switching argument

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 43.

    @ Robbyn Graves 38 says:


    "@36.Scute
    looks likeyou're cherry picking one 13 year period to get the result you want & ignoring the rest".

    I always cite the present as my end date. I'm at the mercy of whatever last month's temperature was. Hardly cherry-picking. I could change the start date if you like. How about 1997? That's a 16-year stretch which is statistically indistinguishable from zero.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 42.

    The first paper to use the term "global warming" in 1975 pretty accurately predicted the level of warming up to 2000 & said after that the increase would slow as part of "40-year periods of more rapid increase followed by 40-year periods of less rapid increase"
    The specific natural cycles he thought responsible for modulating the Co2 increase in this way are now known not to be responsible tho

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 41.

    Is something changing in global climate ? YES
    Does it matter why ? NO
    Is it desireable change ? NO
    Can the human race change this ? MAYBE but only if all of the individuals comprising the race agree and activly DO something.
    Is this agreement likely to happen ? NO

    Change/agreement wont happen untill it is blindingly obvious that the race faces extinction in the current lifetime .

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 40.

    37 Sagacity - There are several arguments:
    It's not happening.
    It's happening but it's not CO2, it's the Sun.
    It's happening & it's CO2 but it's from volcanoes.
    It's happening & it's CO2 from fossil fuels but it's beneficial.
    It's happening & it's CO2 from fossil fuels, it's not beneficial but it's China's fault.

    Pick & choose at your leisure.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 39.

    @ 37 - The alarmist lobby start telling everyone what the skeptic argument is, is a sign of desperation.

    Granted perhaps I should have said 'mostly' not 'all'. Anyway, nice ad hominem, I'm off to Asda to buy my Halloween costume.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 38.

    @36.Scute
    looks likeyou're cherry picking one 13 year period to get the result you want & ignoring the rest

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 37.

    @35.Peter N
    "If skeptics were that simple, the argument would be easily won...but somehow its not"
    I explained why it cant' be won, as soon as they're beaten they switch arguments then the folowing day switch back again
    if you think "its not happening" & "it is happening but we can't stop it" are the same arguemt then you have a serious mental problem

 

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