16 September 2013 — Climate scientists have criticised an article on climate change appearing in The Australian today [Monday 16 September], with one describing it as “riddled with errors”.
The article, by environmental editor Graham Lloyd and entitled ‘We got it wrong on warming, says IPCC’, sourced content from stories published in the UK tabloid press over the weekend and said the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had “drastically overestimated” rising temperatures, and that the yet-to-be-released IPCC Fifth Assessment Report confirmed that the world has only been warming at “half the rate” claimed in the IPCC’s previous report in 2007.
“The 2007 assessment report said the planet was warming at a rate of 0.2°C every decade, but according to Britain’s The Daily Mail the draft update report says the true figure since 1951 has been 0.12°C,” The Australian reported.
Professor David Karoly, professor of atmospheric science at the University of Melbourne and a review editor of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, said that The Australian should publish a correction entitled “The Australian gets it wrong on global warming and the IPCC, again”.
“First, the latest assessment report has not been finalised, so no conclusions are final,” he said.
“Second, the observed global average warming of surface air temperature over the last 60 years of 0.12°C per decade is almost identical to the value reported in the IPCC report in 2007 of 0.13°C per decade (likely range 0.10 to 0.16°C per decade) for the period 1956–2005.
“The Australian got it wrong again on what the IPCC reported in 2007 and what is happening to global average temperatures.”
Like four Hiroshima bombs-worth of heat every second
Dr John Cook, research fellow in climate communication at the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland and creator of skepticalscience.com, said that The Australian had misrepresented the IPCC.
“The Australian discusses a slowdown in surface temperature but fails to consider that the planet as a whole continues to build up heat at an accelerating rate, currently at a rate of four Hiroshima bombs-worth of heat every second, he said.
“The Australian also fails to report the growing body of research indicating that the slowdown in surface temperature is due to more heat accumulating in the ocean, indicated by direct ocean heat measurements.”
British scientists recently reported that a slowdown in the upward march of global temperatures was likely due to the slow warming of the deep oceans. They said higher ocean temperatures could be devastating for marine life and could also contribute to increases in sea levels as sea water expands.
Riddled with errors
Professor Steven Sherwood, professor of physical meteorology and atmospheric climate dynamics at the University of New South Wales, said The Australian’s article was “riddled with errors”.
The IPCC does not do climate forecasts on its own “computer”, as stated in the lead paragraph of the article, but analyses forecasts submitted to them by two dozen or so research organisations worldwide, including NASA and CSIRO.
He said a quote attributed to Matt Ridley from the Wall Street Journal, which said most experts believed warming of less than 2°C from pre-industrial levels would result in no net economic and ecological damage, was incorrect.
“Instead, 2°C is often taken to be the maximum ‘safe’ warming before which dangerous thresholds, such as the warming needed to guarantee the eventual melting of the Greenland ice sheet, may be crossed,” he said.
Professor Sherwood also criticised using a quote by controversial climate figure Judith Curry saying “the science is clearly not settled” to try to undercut IPCC conclusions about climate change.
“It is possible for a report on this or any similar topic to reach firm conclusions about important questions even when some aspects of the science are well known to be ‘unsettled’ or in a ‘state of flux’,” he said, “just as it is possible to know that a cancer patient is likely to die without treatment, even if the date or particular symptoms cannot be predicted accurately.”
The IPCC has had to issue a statement after myriad tabloid press said the IPCC would now hold a “crisis meeting”.
“Contrary to the articles the IPCC is not holding any crisis meeting,” the statement said. “The IPCC will convene a plenary session to finalise the Working Group I contribution to the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report, in line with its normal procedures, in Stockholm on 23-26 September 2013. The session has been scheduled for several years and this timetable has been repeatedly publicised by the IPCC.”