A CLIMATE sceptic blogger Alec Rawls has taken it upon himself to leak the current draft of an entire major Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report, which is not due for publication until September next year.
For those not au fait with the machinations of the IPCC (I mean, what do you lot do all day?) historically this United Nations organisation has produced reports every five years or so which pull together and summarise all the scientific research into climate change.
The next one - Assessment Report 5 - will begin to be published next year. They're undeniably important reports because practically every government on the face of the earth has used them to help inform their policies and their position domestically and internationally on climate change.
The AR5 comes via three working groups. WG1 looks at the physical science on climate change and its report will be first out of the traps in September 2013. WG2 looks at climate change impacts, adaptation and vulnerability and comes out in March 2014. WG3 looks at ways to mitigate climate change and comes out in October 2014.
But back to the leak.
Alec Rawls runs a blog called “stopgreensuicide” and he registered himself as an “expert reviewer” for WG1. As I've pointed out in the case of climate science mangler Lord Christopher Monckton, practically anyone can register for these positions using an online form. Nobody appoints “expert reviewers”, even though Lord Monckton likes to make out that he was “appointed”.
Once Rawls was registered, this gives him access to the draft reports of the AR5 as they wind their way through the protracted process of formulation and review. Work on the AR5 actually started back in July 2009. The IPCC states that
The IPCC considers its draft reports, prior to acceptance, to be pre-decisional, provided in confidence to reviewers, and not for public distribution, quotation or citation.
Each page of the drafts are also marked with the words “Do not cite, quote or distribute”. This did not deter Mr Rawls from discussing the first draft of the report on climate change sceptic blog Watts Up With That. At the time, Mr Rawls wrote:
Like everyone else who participated in this review, I agreed not to cite, quote or distribute the draft. The IPCC also made a further request, which reviewers were not required to agree to, that we “not discuss the contents of the FOD (First Order Draft) in public fora such as blogs.
Well Mr Rawls' itchy blogging finger has got the better of him. He decided to upload the entire second draft of the AR5 WG1 report and popped it on his blog, which as I write is now down, most likely due to the traffic from other bloggers, including New York Times' Andy Revkin, The Daily Telegraph's James Delingpole, and Watts Up With That.
Mr Rawls' main point appears to be that in Chapters 7 and 8 of the draft WG1 report (you still with me?), the IPCC is about to make a “game-changing” admission, to quote the WUWT headline, that observed global warming has more to do with the sun than previous reports have suggested. Rawls then quotes one paragraph from Chapter 7, discussing galactic cosmic rays (GCR), which states
Many empirical relationships have been reported between GCR or cosmogenic isotope archives and some aspects of the climate system (e.g., Bond et al., 2001; Dengel et al., 2009; Ram and Stolz, 1999). The forcing from changes in total solar irradiance alone does not seem to account for these observations, implying the existence of an amplifying mechanism such as the hypothesized GCR-cloud link. We focus here on observed relationships between GCR and aerosol and cloud properties.
What this is actually talking about, is a fringe theory that cosmic rays have an important influence on the climate. What neither Mr Rawls, Watts Up With That or the climate sceptic blogger James Delingpole did, was to point out that the paragraphs on the chapter which follow the one which Rawls quotes, go on to explain why these theories were not robust.
Professor Steve Sherwood, of the University of New South Wales Climate Change Research Centre, is a lead author on Chapter 7. Commenting on the publicly-quoted paragraph about cosmic rays (the one cited by Delingpole as a “game changer) Professor Sherwood told me
The single sentence that this guy pulls out is simply paraphrasing an argument that has been put forward by a few controversial papers (note the crucial word “seems”) purporting significant cosmic-ray influences on climate. Its existence in the draft is proof that we considered all peer-reviewed literature, including potentially important papers that deviate from the herd. The rest of the paragraph from which he has lifted this sentence, however, goes on to show that subsequent peer-reviewed literature has discredited the assumptions and/or methodology of those papers, and failed to find any effect. The absence of evidence for significant cosmic-ray effects is clearly stated in the executive summary. This guy's spin is truly bizarre. Anyone who would buy the idea that this is a “game changer” is obviously not really looking at what is there.
Skeptical Science has also looked at Rawls' cherry-picking and offers a more detailed summary of the “cosmic ray” theory.
So what can we conclude from this?
Andy Revkin on the New York Times suggests that this leak shows how the IPCC's processes are a “terrible fit for an era in which transparency will increasingly be enforced on organizations working on consequential energy and environmental issues”.
As if to demonstrate this, Revkin continued to update his blog pointing readers to new locations for the leaked files when Mr Rawls website went down under the weight of hits.
What this leak also shows is the tendency by some to dishonestly engage in an open process and to cherry-pick “facts” about climate change to suit their own arguments, while failing to consider the full body of evidence.
Or in this case, failing to bother to read the very next paragraph.