To: Richard Somerville <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Re: [Wg1-ar4-clas] Responding to an attack on IPCC and ourselves
Date: Thu, 8 Mar 2007 08:16:33 +0100
just a quick reply. I am in on this, and will respond to a draft letter, in the hope that
you will make the first, Richard? I agree that it can be short. It is strange to see this,
knowing that the delegations I spoke to in/after Paris clearly said that the CLAs got it
their way, and that I believe this is the strong common perception we also had as CLAs
about the outcome.
Den 8. mar. 2007 kl. 03.11 skrev Richard Somerville:
Dear Fellow CLAs,
The British magazine *New Scientist* is apparently about to publish several items critical
of the IPCC AR4 WGI SPM and the process by which it was written. There is an editorial, a
column by Pearce, and a longer piece by Wasdell which is on the internet and referenced by
I think that this attack on us deserves a response from the CLAs. Our competence and
integrity has been called into question. Susan Solomon is mentioned by name in
unflattering terms. We ought not to get caught up in responding in detail to the many
scientific errors in the Wasdell piece, in my opinion, but I would like to see us refute
the main allegations against us and against the IPCC.
We need to make the case that this is shoddy and prejudiced journalism. Wasdell is not a
climate scientist, was not involved in writing AR4, was not in Paris, and is grossly
ignorant of both the science and the IPCC process. His account of what went on is
factually incorrect in many important respects.
New Scientist inexplicably violates basic journalistic standards by publicizing and
editorially agreeing with a vicious attack by an uncredentialed source without checking
facts or hearing from the people attacked. The editorial and Pearce column, which I regard
as packed with distortions and innuendo and error, are pasted below, and the Wasdell piece
My suggestion is that a strongly worded letter to New Scientist, signed by as many CLAs as
possible, would be an appropriate response. I think we ought to say that the science was
absolutely not compromised or watered down by the review process or by political presure of
any kind or by the Paris plenary. I think it would be a mistake to attempt a detailed
point-by-point discussion, which would provoke further criticism; that process would never
Please send us all your opinions and suggestions for what we should do, using the email
I am traveling and checking email occasionally, so if enough of us agree that we should
respond, I hope one or more of you (not me) will volunteer to coordinate the effort and
submit the result to New Scientist.
Best regards to all,
Richard C. J. Somerville
Scripps Institution of Oceanography
University of California, San Diego
9500 Gilman Drive, Dept. 0224
La Jolla, CA 92093-0224, USA
Here's the editorial that will appear in New Scientist on March 10.
Editorial: Carbon omissions
IT IS a case of the dog that didn't bark. The dog in this instance was the
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
For several years, climate scientists have grown increasingly anxious about "positive
feedbacks" that could accelerate climate change, such as methane bubbling up as
permafrost melts. That concern found focus at an international conference organised by
the British government two years ago, and many people expected it to emerge strongly in
the latest IPCC report, whose summary for policy-makers was published in Paris last
It didn't happen. The IPCC summary was notably guarded. We put that down to scientific
caution and the desire to convey as much certainty as possible (New Scientist, 9
February, p 3), but this week we hear that an earlier version of the summary contained a
number of explicit references to positive feedbacks and the dangers of accelerating
climate change. A critique of the report now argues that the references were removed in
a systematic fashion (see "Climate report 'was watered down'").
This is worrying. The version containing the warnings was the last for which scientists
alone were responsible. After that it went out to review by governments. The IPCC is a
governmental body as well as a scientific one. Both sides have to sign off on the
The scientists involved adamantly deny that there was undue pressure, or that the
scientific integrity of their report was compromised. We do know there were political
agendas, and that the scientists had to fight them. As one of the report's 33 authors
put it: "A lot of us devoted a lot of time to ensuring that the changes requested by
national delegates did not affect the scientific content." Yet small changes in language
which individually may not amount to much can, cumulatively, change the tone and message
of a report. Deliberately or not, this is what seems to have happened.
Senior IPCC scientists are not willing to discuss the changes, beyond denying that there
was political interference. They regard the drafting process as private. This is an
understandable reservation, but the case raises serious doubts about the IPCC process. A
little more transparency would go a long way to removing those qualms.
Here's the Pearce column:
Climate report 'was watered down'
* 10 March 2007
* From New Scientist Print Edition. Subscribe and get 4 free issues.
* Fred Pearce
BRITISH researchers who have seen drafts of last month's report by the Intergovernmental
Panel on Climate Change claim it was significantly watered down when governments became
involved in writing it.
David Wasdell, an independent analyst of climate change who acted as an accredited
reviewer of the report, says the preliminary version produced by scientists in April
2006 contained many references to the potential for climate to change faster than
expected because of "positive feedbacks" in the climate system. Most of these references
were absent from the final version.
His assertion is based on a line-by-line analysis of the scientists' report and the
final version, which was agreed last month at a week-long meeting of representatives of
more than 100 governments. Wasdell told New Scientist: "I was astounded at the
alterations that were imposed by government agents during the final stage of review. The
evidence of collusional suppression of well-established and world-leading scientific
material is overwhelming."
He has prepared a critique, "Political Corruption of the IPCC Report?", which claims:
"Political and economic interests have influenced the presented scientific material." He
plans to publish the document online this week at www.meridian.org.uk/whats.htm.
Wasdell is not a climatologist, but his analysis was supported this week by two leading
UK climate scientists and policy analysts. Ocean physicist Peter Wadhams of the
University of Cambridge, who made the discovery that Arctic ice has thinned by 40 per
cent over the past 25 years and also acted as a referee on the IPCC report, told New
Scientist: "The public needs to know that the policy-makers' summary, presented as the
united words of the IPCC, has actually been watered down in subtle but vital ways by
governmental agents before the public was allowed to see it."
"The public needs to know that the summary has been watered down in subtle but vital
ways by governmental agents"
Crispin Tickell, a long-standing UK government adviser on climate and a former
ambassador to the UN, says: "I think David Wasdell's analysis is very useful, and unique
of its kind. Others have made comparable points but not in such analytic detail."
Wasdell's central charge is that "reference to possible acceleration of climate change
[was] consistently removed" from the final report. This happened both in its treatment
of potential positive feedbacks from global warming in the future and in its discussion
of recent observations of collapsing ice sheets and an accelerating rise in sea levels.
For instance, the scientists' draft report warned that natural systems such as
rainforests, soils and the oceans would in future be less able to absorb greenhouse gas
emissions. It said: "This positive feedback could lead to as much as 1.2 �C of added
warming by 2100." The final version does not include this figure. It acknowledges that
the feedback could exist but says: "The magnitude of this feedback is uncertain."
Similarly, the draft warned that warming will increase atmospheric levels of water
vapour, which acts as a greenhouse gas. "Water vapour increases lead to a strong
positive feedback," it said. "New evidence estimates a 40 to 50 per cent amplification
of global mean warming." This was absent from the published version, replaced elsewhere
with the much milder observation "Water vapour changes represent the largest feedback."
The final edit also removed references to growing fears that global warming is
accelerating the discharge of ice from major ice sheets such as the Greenland sheet.
This would dramatically speed up rises in sea levels and may already be doing so. The
2006 draft said: "Recent observations show rapid changes in ice sheet flows," and
referred to an "accelerating trend" in sea-level rise. Neither detail made the final
version, which observed that "ice flow from Greenland and Antarctica... could increase
or decrease in future". Wasdell points out recent findings which show that the rate of
loss from ice sheets is doubling every six years, making the suggestion of a future
decrease "highly unlikely".
Some of the changes were made at the meeting of government invigilators that finalised
the report last month in Paris. But others were made earlier, after the draft report was
first distributed to governments in mid-2006.
Senior IPCC scientists contacted by New Scientist have not been willing to discuss how
any changes took place but they deny any political interference. However, "if it is
true, it's disappointing", says Mike Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center
at Pennsylvania State University in University Park and a past lead author for the IPCC.
"Allowing governmental delegations to ride into town at the last minute and water down
conclusions after they were painstakingly arrived at in an objective scientific
assessment does not serve society well."
From issue 2594 of New Scientist magazine, 10 March 2007, page 10
Wg1-ar4-clas mailing list
Eystein Jansen, prof., Director
Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research
phone: +47-55583491, fax. +47-55584330
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