IPCC’s extreme sausage: unkosher and unsustainable treife

On the heels of the release of a draft of Working Group I (WGI)’s contribution to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Fifth Assessment Report (AR5), the U.K. Royal Society, one of the IPCC’s illustrious cheerleaders, has been holding a two-day meeting to discuss this report and the “next steps in climate science”.

The incomparable Josh, of CartoonsByJosh, was there to provide more of his brilliant sketches of a little meeting. Here’s one that I’ve lifted:


Katabasis, one of my many fellow followers of Andrew Montford’s Bishop Hill blog was also in attendance and has a guest post with his report from day one of this confab. Here are some exceptionally informative excerpts:

What “Abrupt” and “Irreversible” mean in IPCC speak

AR5 has apparently introduced very specific definitions for the above.

Inigo Montoya, in the film, ‘The Princess Bride’, says to one of the main antagonists, “You Keep Using That Word, I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means”, after he says “Inconcievable!” for the nth time that his plans are foiled. ‘Abrupt’ and ‘Irreversible’ will obviously be reported by the media in quite lurid terms. They won’t match the reality of what the IPCC means by them unless the journalist as done their homework. Both definitions can be found in the section ‘TFE.5: Irreversibility and Abrupt Change’ in the draft report and are worth repeating in full here:

Abrupt climate change is defined in AR5 as a large-scale change in the climate system that takes place over a few decades or less, persists (or is anticipated to persist) for at least a few decades, and causes substantial disruptions in human and natural systems.”

Is that quite what you thought it would mean? No, me neither. Wait, there’s more:

A change is said to be irreversible if the recovery timescale from this state due to natural processes is significantly longer than the time it takes for the system to reach this perturbed state.

Abrupt changes that aren’t really abrupt and irreversible changes that aren’t really – er – irreversible.

So, let’s see … in the world of CliSci: a “trick” is not a “trick”, “decline” is not “decline”, a “pause” – it would seem – is not a “pause”**, a “computer simulation” exercise is an “experiment”, and now … “abrupt” is not “abrupt” and “irreversible” is not “irreversible”.

** especially if you fiddle the observed data while fudging your earlier “projections” so that clarity is smothered in a plate of spaghetti sauce, and send in Richard Betts, from a “jewel in the crown, of British science and global science” to defend and deflect.

The “extreme” meme has been quite popular in MSM “churnings” over the past year or so. Hang on while I check the IPCC’s glossary to see what they really mean when they say extreme …

OK, so the preface to the Glossary for AR5 WGI (draft) is as follows:

This glossary defines some specific terms as the Lead Authors intend them to be interpreted in the context of this report.

And here’s a screen capture of the entries which indicate what the ‘Lead Authors intended’ when they used “extreme”:


Evidently, the Lead Authors of AR4 WG1 meant something somewhat different. Only one Glossary entry contains the word “extreme” and here it is:


Sure looks like something got “disappeared” ‘twixt AR4 and AR5, eh?! Did the Lead Authors of AR5, in their “finite” wisdom, determine that it is no longer “kosher” to even mention that:

Single extreme events cannot be simply and directly attributed to anthropogenic climate change, as there is always a finite chance the event in question might have occurred naturally.

Which reminds me … One of my earlier encounters of the unflavourable kind with the products of the IPCC’s sausage factory was approximately two years ago when they released to the world a report (only two years in the making!) they called “The Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation” or SREX for short.

Although, when I first became aware of this sausage in the making, the advance billing on the IPCC site – as I had noted in May 2011 – was:

“The Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change” will be available. Wait a minute … I thought they were trying to stop climate change, not “Advance” it ;-)

My recollection is that the powers that be at the IPCC (silently, of course!) changed this banner headline not too long after I had written about it! But I digress …

The background to the manufacture of the SREX sausage was interesting. Here are a few of the snippets I had noted from the April 2009 “scoping” paper (my bold):

The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) concluded that climate change has begun to affect the frequency, intensity, and length of many extreme events, such as floods, droughts, storms, and extreme temperatures [...]

However, the AR4 reviewed policies and measures that were specifically identified as adaptation and not the full range of activities undertaken to reduce the risks of extreme events and disasters.
The Special Report would contribute to the goals of the UNFCCC
The proposed Special Report [...] meets the other priority guidelines: sufficient scientific literature exists; the primary audience is the UNFCCC and the target is the development of the post‐2012 agreement and adaptation plans;

I have no idea where one might find this particular “conclusion” in AR4. For all I know, it might have been a figment of someone’s imagination! Certainly, the SREX, as Dr. Roger Pielke Jr. has often noted did not support any direct link to climate change (notwithstanding the visual imagery in the IPCC’s made for the mindless movie. Nor does the draft of AR5; as Pielke concluded:

I have no doubts that claims will still be made associating floods, drought, hurricanes and tornadoes with human-caused climate change — Zombie science — but I am declaring victory in this debate. Climate campaigners would do their movement a favor by getting themselves on the right side of the evidence.

Whatever the “goals” of the UNFCCC might be, they would be wise to recognize that harping on “extreme events” may enhance the “fear factor”, but as “science” it is, well, unsustainable!

Speaking of which … A few months after the April 2009 “scoping meeting” for the SREX, IPCC Chair, Rajendra Pachauri was articulating his “vision” for AR5. Here’s what he had to say about “sustainable development”:

Climate change needs to be assessed in the context of sustainable development, and this consideration should pervade the entire report across the three Working Groups. In past assessments sustainable development and its various linkages with climate change were seen largely as an add-on. Most governments who have commented on this issue have highlighted the need to treat sustainable development as an overarching framework in the context of both adaptation and mitigation.

So I thought it might be interesting to compare the “pervasiveness” of “sustainable” in AR4 with that found in AR5. And while I was at it, I decided to check a few other comparisons, too. Here are the word counts I found in the pdf versions of AR4 and the draft of AR5:


Well, look at that! Perhaps in Pachauri’s books an increase from 12 to 20 is “pervasive”! So much for his “vision”! But some of those numbers are interesting, don’t you think?! “Virtual certainty” has leapt from 0 to 70; “abrupt” is down but “extreme” is up! And, quelle surprise, “models” and “simulations” are way up, while “footprints” appear to have been overtaken by “fingerprints”!

Oh, drat! I forgot to count the “anomalies” … but speaking of “anomalies” … You will no doubt recall that one of the IPCC’s mantras is that it is “policy relevant” but “non-policy prescriptive”. Yet one of the “headline statements” plucked from the AR5 Summary for Policymakers (SPM), perhaps for the convenience of lazy journo-activists, reads:

Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes. This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4. It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.

Continued emissions of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and changes in all components of the climate system. Limiting climate change will require substantial and sustained reductions of greenhouse gas emissions

How they might have “detected” this “human influence” – and what this “evidence” might be – is somewhat of a mystery. Maybe it’s the “fingerprints” all over the models and simulations! Certainly hasn’t been “evident” during the “hiatus” which didn’t even rate a “headline statement” mention. But this certainly did not stop the authors from reiterating their “pervasive” and perpetual finger-pointing at CO2 as the primary “culprit”, so of course the “message” to policy makers is “must act now!”:

Cumulative emissions of CO2 largely determine global mean surface warming by the late 21st century and beyond. Most aspects of climate change will persist for many centuries even if emissions of CO2 are stopped. This represents a substantial multi-century climate change commitment created by past, present and future emissions of CO2.

As Dr. Judith Curry recently wrote regarding the quasi-official rapporteur’s account of the “deliberations” during the line-by-line approval of the SPM which produced these “headline statements”:

[I'm] not sure what to say here, other than that this is very high-level motivated sausage making indeed. But how do they claim they are policy neutral?

And these “experts” wonder why fewer and fewer are buying their “extreme” sausage? This sausage is not merely “unkosher”, it’s totally unsustainable treife!

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7 thoughts on “IPCC’s extreme sausage: unkosher and unsustainable treife

  1. Had to look it up in the dictionary, but treife does indeed mean what I guessed. But “Inconcievable” isn’t there. Which is inconceivable.

  2. Pingback: These items caught my eye – 15 October 2013 | grumpydenier

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