The climate change game … Monopoly: the IPCC version

The IPCC Process

The IPCC Process

If you don’t have your reading glasses on, the text at the bottom is: “Peer reviewed and internationally available technical and socio-economic literature, manuscripts made available for IPCC review and selected non-peer reviewed literature produced by other relevant institutions including industry”.

Hmmmm …. this diagram almost has a Monopoly board “look and feel” to it, don’t you think?

Let’s roll the virtual dice and see what goes on inside the innovative boxes of this Nobel Peace Prize-winning game. If you follow the Publications and Data link from their website, you will learn that:

The main activity of the IPCC is to provide at regular intervals Assessment Reports of the state of knowledge on climate change. The latest one is “Climate Change 2007”, the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.

The IPCC produces also (sic) Special Reports; Methodology Reports; Technical Papers; and Supporting Material, often in response to requests from the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC, or from other environmental Conventions.

The preparation of all IPCC reports and publications follows strict procedures agreed by the Panel. The work is guided by the IPCC Chair and the Working Group and Task Force Co-chairs. Hundreds of experts from all over the world contribute to the preparation of IPCC reports as authors, contributors and reviewers. The composition of author teams reflect a range of views, expertise and geographical representation. Review by governments and experts is an essential element of the preparation of IPCC reports. [emphasis added -hro]

It is important to note that the strict procedures – which actually constitute Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work [.pdf] – include the following statement:

The purpose of these reviews is to ensure that the Reports present a comprehensive, objective, and balanced view of the areas they cover.

Can’t argue with that. Or at least I couldn’t until I noticed in a discussion over at ClimateAudit, a comment from Steve Mosher in which he mentioned:

The Mosher Timeline

BUT, there is something interesting that I didnt notice before. It points to, is consistent with, Briffa destroying mails. Now, how does briffa destroy a mail and STILL have it preserved in the record. hehe. easy.

[…] If people want to putter around looking through the mails to see what I’m talking about DAFS on “6-737″

Oh, better yet, START your investigation by looking at the online reviwer comments of chapter 6 of AR4. Start with comment “6-737″

Mosher (who, btw, has now co-authored and published a book on Climategate) was referring to an earlier discovery of another of the CRU crew’s misdeeds in which Phil Jones had initiated a request that individuals delete their emails in which Assessment Report 4 was discussed.

So I decided to “putter” around. My first stop was the incriminating E-mail. It would appear that CRUdite Keith Briffa had deleted an E-mail he’d sent to Eugene Wahl (another noble “climate scientist”), but had neglected to delete Wahl’s reply.

The “OMG …why didn’t I delete ths E-mail” is 1153470204.txt, and if you search for yourself, you’ll see that it is the only E-mail which mentions “6-737”. Subject is “Re: Confidential” and it contains Wahl’s July 21/06 reply to Briffa’s July 18/06 request:


I am taking the liberty (confidentially) to send you a copy of the reviewers comments (please keep these to yourself) of the last IPCC draft chapter.

I am concerned that I am not as objective as perhaps I should be and would appreciate your take on the comments from number 6-737 onwards , that relate to your reassessment of the Mann et al work. I have to consider whether the current text is fair or whether I should change things in the light of the sceptic comments. In practise this brief version has evolved and there is little scope for additional text , but I must put on record responses to these comments – any confidential help , opinions are appreciated.[…]


[…] I am also attaching a review article Caspar and I plan to submit to Climatic Change in the next few days. [The idea is that this would accompany the Wahl-Ammann article, to summarize and amplify on it — given all the proper and non-proper interpretation WA has received and the need for subsequent analysis that WA only lightly touches on. Steve Schneider is aware that it is coming.] I think a read through this, especially the part on PCs and Bristlecones, can say about all I might offer additionally. It is not lengthy.

Please note that this Ammann-Wahl text is sent strictly confidentially — it should not be cited or mentioned in any form, and MUST not be transmitted without permission. However, I am more than happy to send it for your use, because it succinctly summarizes what we have found on all the issues that have come up re: MBH. As you can see, we agree at some level with some of the criticisms raised by MM and others, but we do not find that they invalidate MBH in any substantial way.[…] [emphasis added-hro]

MBH, for any newcomers to the “climate wars”, is the scientists’ acronym for the notoriously iconic “hockey stick” team papers. But, there you have it, folks, the much vaunted IPCC “peer-review” process in action. Briffa, btw, was a “Lead Author” on Chapter 6; and among the “scientific” papers discussed were not only his own, but those of Wahl (and his buddy Caspar Amman). As far as I can tell, these “Lead Authors” get the final word on what appears in the Assessment Reports (and perhaps the “Synthesis” report, and/or the “Summary for Policymakers” …. which – apart from very carefully crafted Press Releases – is probably the most many will ever read. But they know that. In fact, they seem to count on it. It might even be one of the IPCC’s unwritten “principles”.

IOW, once the Reviewer Comments have been compiled at IPCC HQ, courtesy of the “Technical Support Unit” (TSU), the work of deciding the worthiness the Comments is divied up amongst the lead authors (who are instructed not to include their names in their judicious application of “Accepted”, “Rejected”, “Noted” etc. because “responses to the comments should represent the entire chapter team”).

In case you’re wondering how I know this, I found it in the Climategate files, in a document called AR4SOR_BatchAB_Ch06-KRB-1stAug.doc. This 1stAug. date strongly suggests that Briffa completed this document after receiving Wahl’s July 21 helpful input.

I’ll try to be as brief as possible in highlighting the implications of all this – with the benefit of insight. Perhaps part of the problem is best illustrated by two comments from Steve McIntyre (and the “chapter team” responses thereto), as part of his review of the “Second Order Draft of Chapter 6”, that appears in the document Briffa had sent to Wahl:

[Comment No. 6-1114 No specified page or line]:

As a matter of prudence, it seems risky to me for IPCC to permit section lead authors to publicize and rely heavily on their own work, especially when the ink is barely dry on the work. In particular, Osborn and Briffa 2006, which is by one of the section lead authors, was published only in February 2006 and is presented in the Second Order Draft without even being presented in the First Order Draft. Nonetheless, it has been relied on to construct the important Box 6.4 Figure 1. This is risky. Osborn and Briffa 2006 uses some very questionable proxies, including the infamous Mann PC1. I have also been unable to verify some of the claimed correlations to gridcell temperature. One of the authors’ excuses is that they incorrectly cited the HadCRU2 temperature data set, while they actually used the CRUTEM2 data set and that the some of the HadCRU2 data was spurious. This hardly gives grounds for comfort. The point made in Box 6.4 Figure 1 is also argumentative. If the relative warmth of MWP and modern periods is inessential to any conclusions reached by IPCC, I would urge you to delete this Figure and related commentary. [Stephen McIntyre (Reviewer’s comment ID #: 309-11)]

The “chapter team’s” response:

“Noted. MWP figure changed. Although much of the claims in the comment concerning the proxies are not share, (sic) we have chosen to change the figure somewhat to reduce reliance on a specific paper.”

From where I’m sitting, I’d say that the “chapter team” succeeded in missing the point by a country mile. Surely they deserve to draw a “Go directly to jail … and do not collect $200” card. Conflict of interest must be an entirely foreign concept to these “climate scientists”.

Steve McIntyre’s second illustrative Comment:

[Comment No. 6-1115 No specified page or line] (click the -> in the navigation bar to see rest of it in this “official” record if you don’t believe me!):

It seems very unwise to me to waive IPCC WG1 policies on publication guidelines, especially for lead authors. For example, Osborn and Briffa 2006 did not meet the December deadline for being published or in print; it was not even mentioned in the First Draft nor was it available from TSU as part of the First Draft process. Other citations in the chapter did not meet the December deadline for being published or in press as at the December draft meeting (Osborn and Briffa 2006; Wahl et al 2006; Wahl and Ammann 2006; Hegerl et al “accepted”); several did not meet the February drop-dead date for providing TSU with a preprint (Wahl and Ammann 2006; Hegerl et al “accepted”). The version of Wahl and Ammann 2006 as accepted differeed dramatically from the version provided to TSU for both the First Order and Second Order Drafts, notably in respect to the inclusion of their calculation of MBH verification statistics confirming the results of McIntyre and McKitrick showing failure of MBH verification statistics that had previously been denied.. [Stephen McIntyre (Reviewer’s comment ID #: 309-12)]

The “chapter team’s” response:

“Rejected, guidelines used for preparing the draft have been followed and new guidelines do not pose problems”

Colour me very extremely puzzled at this non-responsive obfuscation. On second thoughts, in the lofty world of Carbon Trade Place – aka Pachauri’s IPCC – obfuscation always seems to trump reason (please pardon my mid-cloud switch in metaphor) But I digress …

Briffa was the “chapter team” responder on 292 Comments. Of these, he Accepted (in full or in part) only 58. One paragraph [Page 29, Lines 40 to 51] had resulted in 37 comments from 8 Reviewers:


Reviewer Comments
Eva Calvo  1
Gavin Schmidt  1
Govt. of United States of America  9
Jeff Kueter  3
Michael Mann  2
Richard B. Alley  1
Ross McKitrick  8
Stephen McIntyre  12

The paragraph on which they were commenting is may have been (reason for change will be evident later in this post!) as follows:

Second-Order Draft Chapter 6: Paleoclimate IPCC WG1 Fourth Assessment Report

[I have removed the line numbers for ease of reading in this format, and have taken the liberty precaution of grabbing a screen capture]

McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) reported that they were unable to replicate the results of Mann et al. (1998). Wahl and Ammann (accepted) demonstrated that this was due to the omission by McIntyre and McKitrick of several proxy series used by Mann et al. (1998). Wahl and Ammann (accepted) were able to reproduce the original reconstruction closely when all records were included. McIntyre and McKitrick (2005) raised further concerns about the details of the Mann et al. (1998) method, principally relating to the independent verification of the reconstruction against 19th century instrumental temperature data and to the extraction of the dominant modes of variability present in a network of western North American tree-ring chronologies, using Principal Components Analysis. The latter may have some foundation, but it is unclear whether it has a marked impact upon the final reconstruction (Von Storch et al., 2004; Huybers, 2005; McIntyre and McKitrick, 2005). However, subsequent work using different methods to those of Mann et al. (1998, 1999), also provides evidence of rapid 20th century warming compared to reconstructed temperatures in the preceding millennium.

This was the Second Order Draft, which – according to the climate change game rules – required that it be submitted for “Expert and Government Review”. For the record, the total number of reviewers of this particular draft was 75, of which 10 were unidentified representatives of 10 different governments. We cannot know how many of the 75 actually read the paragaph. But we do know that it was read by at least 8 of them.

With the exception of Eva Calvo’s suggested (and Accepted) cosmetic change Comment and the three comments from Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt (a NASA gatekeeper who always makes sure that the dice land on a pro-AGW Alarmist property), all the comments took substantive issue with the content.

By way of example, here’s one of Jeff Kueter’s three comments [In this part of the discussion, my source is AR4SOR_BatchAB_Ch06-KRB-1stAug.doc which, as mentioned above, is found in the Climategate files]:

[Comment 6-731]

The statement: “McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) reported that they were unable to replicate the results of Mann, et al.” is a misrepresentation. McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) states that the authors had “… substantial success in replicating the MBH98 methodolgy, but some differences remain, possibly due to undisclosed variations in their procedures and assumptions.” The specific claim was that the calculations of proxy principle components in Mann at al (1998) were “erroneous.” McIntyre and McKitrick concluded that the tempertaure indexes computed using Mann et al (1998) data and methodology were unreliable and could not be used for comparisons betwene current climate and that of past centuries. [Jeff Kueter (Reviewer’s comment ID #: 137-66)]

Briffa’s (post Wahl “consultation”) response:

Rejected – the current text represents a factual report of the substantive content of the McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) paper.

A similar comment was made by the (unidentified) representative of the Govt. of United States of America:

[Comment 6-743]

In fact, MM03 stated that there was “substantial success in replicating the MBH98 methodology, but some differences remain, possibly due to undisclosed variations in their procedures and assumptions.” Their specific claims were that the calculations of proxy principal components in Mann et al [1998] were “erroneous”. They concluded that the temperature indexes computed using Mann et al [1998] data and methodology were unreliable and could not be used for comparisons between the current climate and that of past centuries. [Govt. of United States of America (Reviewer’s comment ID #: 2023-410)]

Briffa’s (post Wahl “consultation”) response:

See response to comment 6-1157

This is not particularly helpful to the reader. But Briffa did use this response (or a variant thereof) in reply to at least eighteen (18) comments. Here is the comment:

[Comment 6-1157]

You say that Wahl and Ammann were able to “reproduce the original reconstruction” implying that the reproduced the “rsults”. This is completely false. They categorically failed to “reproduce” the MBH claims of statistical skill and MBH claims of robustness to presence/absence of dendro indicators. Their reproduction of a hockey-stick shape used a method almost identical to what we had previously used in our emulations, where e had been emulate the hockey stick shape but only with the flawed PC method OR using a lot of PC series – which enabled the bristlecones to imprint the result. [Stephen McIntyre (Reviewer’s comment ID #: 309-53)]

Briffa’s (post Wahl “consultation”) response:

The reviewers opinion is noted and in part accepted – the text in this paragraph is intended to convey a brief and basic assessment of the current balance of evidence regarding the features and likely reliability of the original ‘hockey stick’. It is not intended to provide a detailed elucidation of the criticisms or responses, but rather to provide an indication that aspects of the Mann et al (1999) methodology have been challenged and these challenges addressed. This list of references has been extended to include McIntyre and McKitrick 2005b and other minor wording changes made in response to other comments. The reader is also referred to the responses to comments 6-732, 6-734, 6-736, 6-1154 and to the comment 6-740 made by another reviewer.

Hmmm … Briffa certainly doesn’t make it easy to determine which “part” has been “accepted” … and then he sends the reader on a wild goose chase to find other comments and responses. The first of these happens to be Ross McKitrick’s:

[Comment 6-732]

The opening sentence of this paragraph is a misrepresentation. McIntyre and McKitrick reported that the data as used by Mann et al differed in material respects from what was reported in MBH98, a finding that was upheld by Nature and which led to the Corrigendum of Mann et al (2005), which this paragraph conspicuously fails to mention. As for the inability in M&M03 to reproduce the results of Mann et al 1998, this paragraph fails to cite McIntyre and McKitrick (2005b) which updated the subject and provided a detailed, explanatory reconciliation between the M&M03 results and the MBH98 results. In this respect, the suggestion that Wahl and Ammann diagnosed the source of the differences between the M&M and MBH results as an omission of data is false and pejorative, by suggesting that it resulted from a deliberate omission of data. The issues were far more complex, including the failure by MBH98 to explain all their computational steps and a difference in final weighting on a small but influential portion of the (entire) data set. This was all explained in MM05b, more than a year before the Wahl and Amman paper was in press. [Ross McKitrick (Reviewer’s comment ID #: 174-27)]

Briffa’s (post Wahl “consultation”) response:

Accepted – because current text is apparently open to misinterpretation, though the subject is too involved and periferal (in the context of further papers regarding the Mann et al (1998,1999) methodology and further papers providing other reconstructions) to justify over emphasising the many details of the subsequent debate. The text will be further modified to remove the implication the reviewer sees in the use of the word “omission” and to include reference to other MM papers

Internal consistency is clearly not Briffa’s forte. But, it’s the Final written-in-stone version that really counts, isn’t it? This is available in pdf and online. The following is an excerpt from one paragraph and the full paragraph immediately following in the pdf version (page 34, of 66, second column:) What Do Reconstructions Based on Palaeoclimatic Proxies Show

The ‘hockey stick’ reconstruction of Mann et al. (1999) has been the subject of several critical studies. […]

[One such study is briefly described and, in effect, dismissed due to factors the “chapter team” deemed as “limiting the value of [the authors’] review”]

McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) reported that they were unable to replicate the results of Mann et al. (1998). Wahl and Ammann (2007) showed that this was a consequence of differences in the way McIntyre and McKitrick (2003) had implemented the method of Mann et al. (1998) and that the original reconstruction could be closely duplicated using the original proxy data. McIntyre and McKitrick (2005a,b) raised further concerns about the details of the Mann et al. (1998) method, principally relating to the independent verification of the reconstruction against 19th-century instrumental temperature data and to the extraction of the dominant modes of variability present in a network of western North American tree ring chronologies, using Principal Components Analysis. The latter may have some theoretical foundation, but Wahl and Amman (2006) also show that the impact on the amplitude of the final reconstruction is very small (~0.05°C; for further discussion of these issues see also Huybers, 2005; McIntyre and McKitrick, 2005c,d; von Storch and Zorita, 2005).

Your mileage may certainly vary, but it appears to me that the best that can be said about this “Final” version is that, yes, the “chapter team” did delete the word “omission” (as Briffa had indicated) only to replace it with several additional words that, in effect said the same thing. The observant reader will also note that what had appeared in the draft as “Wahl and Amman (accepted)” is now cited as “Wahl and Amman (2007)”.

Given the outcome of the example I followed above, one can be forgiven for wondering if any of the Lead Authors were even aware of the strict procedure which requires them to “ensure that the Reports present a comprehensive, objective, and balanced view.”

No too much evidence of any concern amongst the IPCC Monopoly players for their own rules, is there? One might be inclined to conclude that they make them up as they go along – and count on the fact that few if any will ever bother to verify anything for themselves. Some might read the “Synthesis Report” that forms the basis of the “Summary for Policymakers” but my guess is that most will not read anything beyond the carefully crafted News Release (or a reporter’s interpretation of the News Release).

There are some differences between the online Final version and the pdf Final version that jumped out at me. While the text in the two paragraphs I noted above appears to be the same, they are no longer contiguous. They appear to have been “smoothed” by the insertion of a box containing several graphics – more than one of which bear a remarkable likeness to a … wait for it … hockey stick.

And speaking of hockey sticks, you’ll never believe this, but I found one that had actually “disappeared” in some text.

I had stumbled across a link that would let me search the archives, so I did a search on “hockey stick” and randomly picked a link from the 31 results. Here’s here’s where it led:

Expert Review Comments on First-Order Draft (16 November 2005) IPCC Working Group I Fourth Assessment Report

[Comment 1-402, Page 13, lines 29 to 36]

Macintyre and McKittrick replicated the Mann et al results; the issue is not replication, but whether the statisitical devices used are appropriate. They suggest that Mann et al did not use valid statistical manipulations and that their work is suspect, and that has not yet been addressed in the published literature that I have read. A denigrating statement that Mc and Mc ‘s work is of no consequence owing to a new replication is not germane. [Lee C. Gerhard]

The response of this “chapter team”:

The Mann debate is primarily post-TAR and we leave to Chapter 6.

For the record, Gerhard was one of four whose comments generated a response similar to this. That aside the question that occurs to me is if this is being dealt with in Chapter 6, what on earth was it doing in Chapter 1 (the Introduction)? But I wanted to see for myself what Gerhard and others had read in this First Order Draft. Here’s what I found:

First-Order Draft Chapter 1 IPCC WG1 Fourth Assessment Report

[Again, for ease of reading, I’ve reformatted without the line numbers, but in case this “disappears” I’ve also grabbed a screen capture]

An extended multi-proxy network was used by Mann et al. (1995) to estimate global temperatures for the past five centuries, while a similar network was used by Mann et al. (1998) to estimate spatial patterns of temperature anomalies over the past six centuries by regression models for the leading principal components of the temperature field. Jones et al. (1998) used averaged normalized paleoclimatic series from various proxies to estimate hemispheric temperatures over the last millennium. The approach of Mann et al. (1998) was extended back to 1000 AD by Mann et al. (1999). This study, which merged instrumental data from 1902 to 1999 with multi-proxy paleoclimate reconstructions from 1000 to 1980, was presented in the TAR 36 (IPCC, 2001a).

Look, ma! No hockey stick – and no mention of McIntyre and McKitrick, either. Were Gerhard and others commenting on a different First Order Draft? Or did someone edit this draft after comments had been received and compiled?

Difficult to know what all the rules are in Monopoly: the IPCC version. But that’s the climate change game, I suppose. One other little tidbit I picked up while perusing the Climategate files. Something called “the rules of the game” [all lower case, but big bold print!]. Developed in and for the U.K., by a “sustainability communications” company called “futerra”, one of the “principles” espoused therein is quite revealing:

Forget the climate change detractors

Those who deny climate change science are irritating, but unimportant. The argument is not about if we should deal with climate change, but how we should deal with climate change.

Yep, sounds like the rules of the climate change game to me. I wonder if they picked this up from watching the IPCC in action.


7 thoughts on “The climate change game … Monopoly: the IPCC version

  1. Pingback: uberVU - social comments

  2. … we agree at some level with some of the criticisms raised by MM and others, but we do not find that they invalidate MBH in any substantial way.[…] (Wahl in an email defending the “hockey stick” fraud.)

    “Propaganda must not investigate the truth objectively and, in so far as it is favourable to the other side, present it according to the theoretical rules of justice; yet it must present only that aspect of the truth which is favourable to its own side. (Hitler in “Mein Kampf”.)

    Some things never change!

    • Yes, I saw that one earlier today … and there’s another of their follies (which is even more serious from an ethical perspective, not that they seem to have any concern about ethics at Carbon Trade Place) that’s been posted over at WUWT:

      The IPCC: Hiding the Decline in the Future Global Population at Risk of Water Shortage

      More Insidious than the Himalayan error

      Guest post by: Indur M. Goklany


      I want to spotlight another error in the IPCC report. This is an error, based not on blunders or poor scholarship but on selective reporting of results, where one side of the story is highlighted but the other side is buried in silence. In other words, it’s a sin of omission, that is, it results, literally, from being economical with the truth. It succeeds in conveying an erroneous impression of the issue — similar to what “hide the decline” did successfully (until Climategate opened and let the sunshine in).

  3. In another Futerra publication (Branding Biodiversity) all about ‘communicating it

    They choose to highlight themselves the quote:

    – “Our audience are emotional rather than rational” – !!!

    Click to access Branding_Biodiversity.pdf

    Well worth a read, As is:

    Sell the Sizzle – The New Climate Message
    New Rules New Game
    Words That Sell (they were even focus grouping ‘Carbon Footprint’ years ago)

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