Amazongate Porkies – I’ll start my collection here

I’m not defending actual mistakes — I will do a separate post on the IPCC and floods issue later, once I’ve done a bit of sleuthing myself.  But there are lies and obfuscation circulating now that I would like to track, including about the Amazongate issue.


Amazongate is gaining traction in the blogospew.  Now, there are 30,900 results for a google of “amazongate” so it has doubled since yesterday.  Many appear to be simple parroting of the Delingpole article and North article, with little if any further insight.

There are many ordinary blogs posting about this, quoting the North and Delingpole articles, and there are too many to track, but I would like to track official media coverage and any mention on news blogs, as noted below:

BBC blog written by Andrew Neil, titled “The Dam Is Cracking”:

Now after Climate-gate, Glacier-gate and Hurricane-gate — how many “gates” can one report contain? — comes Amazon-gate. The IPCC claimed that up to 40% of the Amazonian forests were risk from global warming and would likely be replaced by “tropical savannas” if temperatures continued to rise. This claim is backed up by a scientific-looking reference but on closer investigation turns out to be yet another non-peer reviewed piece of work from the WWF. Indeed the two authors are not even scientists or specialists on the Amazon: one is an Australian policy analyst, the other a freelance journalist for the Guardian and a green activist. The WWF has yet to provide any scientific evidence that 40% of the Amazon is threatened by climate change — as opposed to the relentless work of loggers and expansion of farms. [my emphasis]

Of course, as we know now, while it was wrong for the IPCC lead authors to base claims on the WWF report , it was not misleading anyone in doing so, just being sloppy. That’s bad, make no mistake.  However, the claim it inadequately sourced is backed by peer-reviewed literature.

ETA: actually, a mea culpa. I’ve heard this repeated so many times, I assumed it was true, but you know what “assume” is — when you assume something it makes an “ass” of “u” and “me”.

Here, thanks to Climateprogress, are the facts:

Interestingly, I thought that was true, too, but I decided to check with two top IPCC scientists, and they both confirmed to me that in fact, the IPCC does allow gray literature reports. And the IPCC explains this here (see Annex 2).

Lal told me:

“We were allowed to cite gray literature provided that it looked to us to be good science.” [my emphasis]

So the IPCC is able to use gray literature as long as it looked to be “good science”.

Apparently only non-journalist folks — like me — bother to check facts.

ETA: Here’s another one, from the Times of India, who I take it like to mention Pachauri, possibly to play up on popular sentiment against him, in order to sell more copy:

An article in Britian’s daily ‘Telegraph’ has made another damning case against Pachauri’s IPCC on the effects of climate change on the Amazon.

The report suggests the IPCC did not research the claims themselves. It says the claims were lifted off a report done by the WWF, an advocacy group.

Amazongate follows an embarrassing IPCC admission of false predictions on the Himalayan glacier meltdown.

What this take on Amazongate uses is the term “lifted off a report done by the WWF, an advocacy group“.  A semiotic analysis of this would point out that the term “lifted” connotates “theft” or even “plagiarism” when of course, nothing of the sort took place as the report was referenced.  The overall word choice does reflect an intent to suggest some kind of illegal or unethical activity, rather than just sloppy or lazy behavior on the part of the lead authors.  The other code word is “advocacy group” which suggests “bias”, which then questions the veracity of the claims.  Yes, WWF is an advocacy group and yes, the report is not peer-reviewed, but it does refer to peer-review literature to back its claims.

But that’s far too much nuance for a short journalistic piece.

Delingpole is at it again. When some of his commenters pointed out that the 40% number was in fact backed up in peer-reviewed literature, he considered correcting but found a convenient reason not to.

Here is a quote from his webpage:

Before I rushed to correct, I thought I’d do a bit of checking with the great and supremely thorough Dr Richard North whose original post on Amazongate I had quite shamelessly plagiarised. And guess what? The IPCC 4th Assessment report emerges EVEN LESS CREDITABLY from the tale than we had originally suggested.

Here’s what that referenced Nature article said:

Up to 40% of the Brazilian forest is extremely sensitive to small reductions in the amount of rainfall. In the 1998 dry season, some 270,000 sq. km of forest became vulnerable to fire, due to completely depleted plant-available water stored in the upper five metres of soil. A further 360,000 sq. km of forest had only 250 mm of plant-available soil water left.

Yes. Hands up. We did miss the 40 per cent reference. But what we weren’t doing, by any means, was exaggerating the skullduggery and scientific dishonesty involved – as Maurizio Morabito has noticed.

North, as ever, has the full details.

It turns out that the Nature article HAD been misrepresented. There’s a clue in the title “Large-scale Impoverishment of Amazonian Forests by Logging and Fire”. It wasn’t about the effects of climate change at all. Yet from this irrelevant article, the IPCC had decided to cherry-pick a paragraph which seemed to chime nicely with its urge to co-opt the mighty Amazon rainforest to its cause.  After all, it’s not as though anyone was likely to notice, was it?

I have a couple of responses:

1. Fire, if I understand it, is a problem when forests get dried out.

2. Climate change can lead to increased ENSO events.

3. Increased ENSO events lead to drying out of forests.

4. When forests get dried out, they are more susceptible to fire.

Let me repeat what the Nepstad et al article concluded, for the reading and thinking impaired:

Large-scale burning of tropical forest during severe ENSO episodes may impoverish vast areas of these species -and carbon-rich ecosystems; such episodes are increasing in frequency, possibly in response to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere 26. These considerations point to the need to either restrict the logging industry in Amazonia, or to replace conventional logging practices in moist tropical forest regions with low-impact harvest techniques 17,27. Cost-effective investments in the prevention of accidental forest tres by Amazonian farmers and ranchers are also needed 28. Both of these changes are unlikely to occur unless access to these forest lands provided by expanding road networks, electrical grids and water transport systems is sharply curtailed

Once again, a denialist misrepresents the evidence. Yes, the paper is about logging and fire, and their effects on the health of rainforests, but they clearly cite GHG emissions and climate change as contributing to the threat to the Amazon and other rainforests. But I guess, because OMGGLOBALWARMING was not in the title, it doesn’t count as being a paper relevant to the issue of global warming and the health of rainforests.

Next, we have Dr. North spinning a bit more and providing Watt with the idea that the paper is not about climate change after all, but logging and fire.

Here is a quote:

Answering our own question as to why the IPCC authors did not use the peer-reviewed Nature reference rather than the secondary source, the reason now becomes clear. The paper simply did not support the assertion they wished to make.

Here, context is everything. In the Nature paper, the authors are writing about the effects of logging on the rain forest. They describe how selective harvesting (as for mahogany, which is specifically identified) damages the forests so harvested, rendering the remaining trees more prone to effects of drought. Thus, increased sensitivity to reduced precipitation – should it occur – is a secondary effect, applicable only to already damaged forests.

More misrepresentation — the article’s title is “Large-scale impoverishment of Amazonian forests by logging and fire” but it clearly indicts global warming and increases in ENSO for leading to the threat of fire to large portions of Amazonia.

North then goes on to discuss the 40%.

In that context, the 40 percent on which Rowell & Moore and then the IPCC rely relates not to an area of the Amazon rain forests but to the proportion of trees damaged in individual forest tracts, which have been harvested (and the top range of the estimate at that). It cannot be taken to refer to the totality of the Amazonian forest area…

And finally:

Three points emerge from this. Firstly, these combined areas relate to a total forest area of between 4-6 million square kilometres, and thus represent perhaps as little as ten percent of the total area. Secondly, the effects are observed in relation to severe drought effects arising from an unusually strong El Nino episode, unrelated to climate change. And thirdly, the drought effect is localised. In other areas of the forest, the El Nino brings increased rainfall.

By any measure, and by any possible construction, the Nature paper cannot be taken to support the assertions made either by Rowell & Moore or the IPCC.

Dr. North failed to find the Scholze article, from which the 40% comes — not the Nepstad article.

Risks of changes in fire frequency are also widespread. Fire frequency partly depends on fuel type and availability, and its relationship to runoff is not straightforward. Reduced fire frequency, reflecting wetter conditions, is indicated for parts of the boreal region, but increased tree cover in some other parts (especially eastern Canada) promotes fire. Reduced fire frequency accompanies increased runoff in tropical Africa. Most semiarid regions, including the Sahel, central Australia, central Asia, southern Africa, and the western U.S., show a high probability of increased wildfires, especially for >3°C, reflecting increased biomass growth. Increased fire risk is also apparent in the southeastern U.S. and at high elevations (notably the Tibetan plateau). More frequent wildfires are likely (>60% for >3°C) in much of South America. Fire is a major factor in structuring vegetation (20), and some biome shifts follow these changes in fire regime, whereas others are forced directly by climate. Forests extend with high probability into the Arctic and into semiarid savannas. Extant forests are destroyed with high probability in parts of the southern boreal zone (especially southern Siberia, the Russian Far East, and the western interior of Canada) and with lower probability in eastern China, Central America, Amazonia, and the Gulf Coast of the U.S. The risks of forest losses in some parts of Eurasia, Amazonia, and Canada are >40% for >3°C.

This paper uses models to examine the effects of temperature increases on forests, and clearly indicts global warming as increasing the risks to forests from drought stress and dryness — that is where the 40% risk comes from.

Both the Nepstad and Scholze papers are about threats to the rainforests and both cite fire and climate change and increased ENSO events.

ETA: Over at “The Unbearable Nakedness of Climate Change”, Maurizio plays the telephone game:

Here are his criticisms, for what they’re worth:

First of all it should not be up to the reader to dig down in the IPCC references until anything peer-reviewed is finally found. If Nepstad et al 1999 were the primary source for the “Up to 40%” claim, that article should have been used, stated and referenced as such, no matter what Rowell and Moore understood of it.

The IPCC should have used the peer-reviewed literature instead of relying on the Rowell and Moore, yes. However, they were within their rights according to IPCC process in doing so.  It would have been stronger if they had used it and we would have had none of this braying about using gray literature.

Secondly, the IPCC AR4 WG-II Chapter 13 makes no mention of Nepstad et al 1999. As far as I can see, the Nepstad et al 1999 article is only used in AR4 in the IPCC AR4 WG-II Chapter 4:

That’s not really a good point. They cited the Rowell and Moore article as they were required. They also cited the Scholze et al article. that also mentions that up to 40% of Amazonia could be at risk at temp increase of > 3 deg.

You may note that in both cases Nepstad et al 1999 is used to mention deforestation (something one might expect out of an article titled Large-scale Impoverishment of Amazonian Forests by Logging and Fire).

It is hard not to notice that Nepstad et al 1999 were concerned about deforestation and fires possibly exarcebated by severe droughts, whilst Rowell and Moore, and the IPCC authors and reviewers, completely turned the cards around, pushing hard on the climatic side first.

That is not the first time I have seen “Chinese whispers” at play in the IPCC AR4

I’m not impressed.

There is a lot of research that is relevant to issues of climate change that doesn’t directly focus on climate change alone or primarily. Both Nepstad and Scholze do mention climate change and see its role in putting rainforests at greater risk of fire damage.

It’s not chinese whispers — it’s the fact that many of these climate and environmental variables are interrelated and so changes in one will impact others. That’s a basic fact of biology and ecology, at least as I learned both. This is so simple and self-apparent, it must be deliberate on the part of those who make such claims, or else pure ignorance.

So far, what I have seen is that given they have been called on overstatement about so-called “amazongate”, and that:

1. The lead authors were in their rights to use gray literature

2. The WWF authors did cite peer reviewed literature that bears on the issue they discussed

3. The IPCC in CH 13 did reference other peer reviewed literature (Scholze et al)

4. The 40% was backed up in several works of peer reviewed research.

Given these points, these denialist/contrarians — I hesitate to call them “skeptics” as that should be an honorable term, are left with complaining about relevance and how hard if was for them to find the 40% reference. Geeze, it took me all of 3 minutes…


So far, not many media outlets have picked up on Amazongate, but there are people busy trying to push the porkie, as MrTipster, in a comment over at the Telegraph, in a post on the IPCC quips:

The IPCC has always claimed that every paper quoted in its reports for policy makers has been subjected to ‘robust peer review.’ The glacier melt fiasco is not the only case where non peer reviewed work has been formally quoted. Yesterday we had the business of the sloppy hurricane alarmism exposed by Dr Richard North and supported by the Telegraph’s own James Dellingpole. Now Richard North has exposed yet another IPCC claim about the Amazon rain forests, based on non peer reviewed work, by non scientists working for the same pressure group, namely the WWF. See: Furthermore, I suggest this will not be the last case of such dishonesty.

Telegraph’s view suggests that the IPCC reports include papers by scientists sceptical of Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW). But as things stand this is impossible because the charter of the Panel restricts it to studying the effects of man’s actions on climate. In other words, no AGW no IPCC.

There is only one way to resolve this issue. Abolish the IPCC and set up an international panel to support the study of climate and climate change both natural and manmade.

Of course, the refrain is “abolish the IPCC”.

Look, I admit these past few revelations about the IPCC using gray literature rather than peer-reviewed literature is embarrassing and does raise questions about IPCC process being properly followed.

I know deniers and skeptics would be delighted if this would all go away by dismantling the IPCC.

The answer seems to be to make sure it follows its processes properly. More oversight, in other words. I’m not defending this poor behavior on the part of IPCC reviewers. They should be held responsible and further processes should be put in place to ensure this does not happen in the future.


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52 Responses to “Amazongate Porkies – I’ll start my collection here”

  1. I’m going to make a bold suggestion:
    DO disband the IPCC. Let the World Meteorological Organisation make a report on climate change on its own, without the politicians. No more discussions with politicians to change the wording so all agree.

    UNEP can then take on the policy stuff.

    • You would still need an intergovernmental body to deal with the policy issues and legislative concerns, but it would perhaps take the politics out of the equation. I can understand the distaste scientists have with the politicos messing with their texts.

      However, that said, it might also take any incentive out for governments to address the issue. As it is, dealing with the IPCC summary for policymakers might be one of the few times that governments actually sit down with their scientists and address global warming.

      I understand the sentiment but at the same time, from a review of government and policy over the long term, once you lose something, you never gain it back in other forms. This might be used as a convenient means to delay action even more and then we’d be faced with even more problems down the road if warming of any significant amount is on the way.

      I say, if it’s broke, fix the damn thing. The damage has already been done. Keep what is good and improve what needs improvement and move on.

  2. The IPCC is still ignoring the paper titled “Amazon rainforest green-up with sunlight during the dry season.”

    You point out in another post that the rainforest is still vulnerable during El Nino years, but they are less vulnerable during non-El Nino years. Why didn’t the IPCC say that?

    • Ron — what is it you think this paper says that demands it be included in the IPCC report?

      Do you have evidence it was purposely ignored or is that just your conclusion?

      Perhaps it’s just that it wasn’t mentioned in the report that has you upset?

      Not all work will get mentioned in the report — if the work had nothing to offer or add to existing knowledge, then I expect it might not be included.

      Again, I’m not a peer in this field so I have no real credentials to judge if it should have been included in the IPCC report. I’d defer to someone in the field who knows the literature and can judge.

      • I’d just like to note that it is a paper from 2006. Most of the writing had already finished there, and only few references from papers in 2006 have made it into the IPCC reports.

        • why, of course, Marco, there is ALWAYS an explanation…

          ETA: I’ll choose the videos that will appear in my blog, thanks.

          • oops…I guess it’s WordPress’s fault, as I just inserted a link to YouTube without any formatting.

            Anyway, it was this famous quote from Blues Brothers of course: I ran out of gas. I had a flat tire. I didn’t have enough money for cab fare. My tux didn’t come back from the cleaners. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake! A terrible flood! Locusts! It wasn’t my fault, I swear to god!.

            After the fact, one can always concoct any explanation/excuse one wants to.

  3. Little point in discussing the actual topic…you have obviously decided that a shot-in-the-dark is justified no matter what. I guess there’ll be a flood of “gray literature” now making its way into the climate debate, somehow demonstrating that proper science is not enough.

    More interesting to talk about the future: how about having an “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate”, dropping the incestuous link between “climate change” and the concept that “it’s all our fault!” that obviously makes it difficult to separate science and advice from policy-making?

    • Sorry, Maurizio, but it’s all about climate change. That’s the important issue to investigate (regardless of where it comes from).

      The “it’s all our fault” concept is only in the mind of the ‘skeptics’.

      • Marco – it is my understanding that the IPCC was specifically set up to investigate man-made climate change. Perhaps I am wrong?

        • The IPCC was set up to investigate the role of man in climate change.

          That does not mean “it’s all our fault”. That’s only in the mind of the ‘skeptics’.

          • Please explain how we can investigate the issue of climate change “regardless of where it comes from” with an international organization (the IPCC) that has been “set up to investigate the role of man in climate change“.

            • You could, of course, first read my first comment on this thread.
              Second, to study human influences, you will also have to study natural influences.

              • It is true that Messier provided a good contribution to the early study of extrasolar objects such as galaxies and star clusters, by the simple fact that he was trying to investigate comets and had to get all those fuzzy objects out of his way (hence the catalogue). But the limitations of such an approach are quite obvious.

                Analogously having only limited resources to dedicate to any task, the IPCC with its focus on man-made climate change cannot be as useful as a new organization finally free to study climate change no matter what its causes.

                As the text of the Copenhagen Accord shows, most decision-makers do not understand the fact that not all climate change is man-made. In fact they even tried to promise an upper temperature increase of 2C, tegardless where it came from.

    • Of course, I don’t see it as a shot in the dark. I agree that there are still uncertainties – about the past, about the present, about the future. Still, I find that the evidence presented by AGW supporters is more convincing that the attacks on that evidence from the skeptics/contrarians/deniers. They have no alternative to explain current warming and so they are left with attacking the existing explanation. So far, I have not been moved by those attacks and have found them to be trivial and often false.

      Given that the best evidence and arguments are on the AGW side, developing policy to address their findings about global warming seems prudent and far from a shot in the dark.

      • shewonk – I thought we were discussing the “40%” claim? That is what I was referring to as a “shot in the dark”.

        You mention a Scholze article stating “The risks of forest losses in some parts of Eurasia, Amazonia, and Canada are >40% for >3°C.”. Let’s assume 😎 you are right that Scholze is the source of the 40% claim.

        Please note that the IPCC AR4 WG2 Chapter 13 says “Up to 40% of the Amazonian forest could react drastically…”.

        I find it unlikely that you or anybody cannot spot the gigantic difference between those claims.

        But if you really need me to, I’ll explain.

        • oops

          I meant to write “or anybody else”

          • *re-reads Scholze section mentioning Amazonia forest loss due to fire at 40%”*

            *re-reads IPCC AR4 section mentioning 40% of Amazon forest could react drastically”*

            *ponders the issue of reading comprehension*

            I would think that 40% of the Amazon forest burning down due to dry conditions caused by global warming could be considered reacting “drastically”.

            But maybe I’m missing something…

            • “The risks of forest losses in some parts…of Amazonia…are >40%”

              is definitely not the same as

              “40% of Amazon forest”

              • Your parsing of this in an pitiful attempt to impute wrongdoing is ridiculous.

                • I had been pleasantly surprised by your openness to discussion but…you’re now just asserting something out of thin air. Where’s the content?

                  Please note I have nowhere implied “wrongdoing”. I am just showing that the “40% of Amazon forest” claim cannot be inferred from Scholze either (if you ask me, what ended up on the IPCC looks like a gross, unwarranted simplification).

                  I’ll try again. Even if “some parts of my old car are covered in rust >40%”, it doesn’t mean that “40% of my car is covered in rust”. The two assertions are not independent, but the former does not necessary imply the latter.

                  • Either one assumes that Scholze says “The risks of forest losses in some parts of Eurasia, Amazonia, and Canada are >40% for >3°C.”, or one does not. “Reacting drastically” is a very vague term, rendering any interpretation of percentages rather jejune.

                  • Actually Maurizio, wouldn’t the more accurate analogy be “the risk of getting rust on some parts of your car is >40% vs. up to 40% of your car could be covered in rust.

                  • Sorry, there I go assuming again — assuming that you see the IPCC as trying to deceive the world about the non-existent dangers of global warming. Isn’t that the main “skeptic” talking point on this issue? Have I got that wrong?

                    Seriously, the problem with summarizing research is that you necessarily end up … summarizing … and as such you can’t ever capture the complexities and uncertainties and nuances of the original whole or else you would end up just repeating the original whole and it wouldn’t be a summary. What you end up with — of necessity — is a simplification.

                    Could the section have been worded more clearly?

                    Doubtless. But I see it as more a semantic issue or an issue of interpretation rather than one of attempts to deliberately overstate or deceive. It comes down to our different frames of reference.

                    The way the denialosphere is presenting this is completely irresponsible and deceitful. The way this has been presented on blogs and in the press is very telling. It’s totally shameless and just reinforces my reasons for leaning towards the AGW side of the debate even more strongly.

                    • The difference in the meaning between the two statements is clear and unambiguous. There is no “semantic issue” or nuance / complexity to “capture”. The issue wrt the IPCC is credibility. Whether it is deliberate deception or incompetence is irrelevant.

                    • Isn’t that the main “skeptic” talking point on this issue?

                      I get many different people visiting my climate site with many different takes on climate and the IPCC. Some of them surely hold the view that “trying to deceive the world about the non-existent dangers of global warming”. I do not.

                      There is no such a thing as a “main “skeptic” talking point” on any issue.

                      (if you ask, I believe the IPCC has become an unmanageable Leviathan with too much political pressure at all levels to be able to move an inch from its frozen old dogma. Not much “deceit”, rather “bureaucratic and pressure-group-caused inertia”)

                      (there is another comment where I have already asked you to detail on the link between Scholze and the IPCC 40% claim so I won’t go back to that point here)

  4. Susann,
    The IPCC is supposed to present an unbiased summary of the peer-reviewed science. That’s the charter. But the AR4 and earlier reports did not come close to doing that. Good science papers are neglected whenever they do not present a unified message. Roger Pielke Sr has blogged about it repeatedly. This is just another example.

    • Pielke Sr is always complaining that his papers aren’t given equal weight to the many, many, many other papers that contradict his own. A biased summary would be to give his papers equal weight.

      • Marco, it is not just his papers that are neglected, others too which talk about land use/ land cover changes.

        • Several are referenced in the WG1 report, including Pielke. They are not neglected, despite the fact that they are found to be wanting time and time again. For example, with Pielke’s claims, suddenly the oceans can’t be warming (which they are).

          Klotzbach et al is the latest Pielke disaster. Funnily enough, analysis of that paper by others found that it actually contradicts a previous paper by Pielke (Lin et al), where they made a sign error (upon which Lin et al suddenly also contradicted a previous paper by Pielke).

          Why are people putting so much faith in Pielke? In my opinion only because he contradicts the mainstream. As soon as his ideas would be the mainstream, he’d be attacked, too, since he ALSO puts the blame of warming on human activity.

        • Ron, can you provide us with specifics rather than just general claims? I’d like to see the evidence that papers are ignored.

            • Thanks Ron — that’s a lot of material to go through and I expect it will take a while to be able to appreciate its value. I will look at it but won’t be able to comment on it for a while as you can imagine.

            • I did a quick look at your third link on the conflict of interest in the IPCC using scientists who may have to review their own work.

              Here is Pilke:

              suppose a group of scientists introduced a new cancer drug that they claimed could save many lives. There were side effects, of course, but they claimed that the benefit far out weighed these risks. The government than asked these scientist to form an assessment Committee to evaluate this claim. Colleagues of the group of scientists who introduced the drug are then asked to serve on this Committee, along with the developers.

              If this occurred, of course, there would be an uproar of protest! This is a clear conflict of interest.

              Pilke is right about his example — clearly, someone trying to sell a pharmaceutical product from which they will benefit should not be responsible for evaluating the quality of that product because they face a clear conflict of interest. This is pretty easy to understand.

              However, I am not so sure this applies to the case in question. Climate scientists are being charged with evaluating and summarizing the evidence for AGW.

              Who else would you have evaluate and summarize it? Businesspeople? Politicians?

              Climate scientists must evaluate climate science if we are to have any assurance that the evaluation will be insightful and valid. Climate scientists are not evaluating a product for sale on a market from which they will benefit in any stretch of the imagination — that is so much a stretch in the normal meaning of COI that it becomes meaningless.

              Interestingly, Pilke lists dozens of papers he feels should have been used in the AR4 including 17 of his own papers. He has done his own review and included his own work, and I bet he figures they are important and should be included. By his own account, is he not in a conflict of interest with respect to the subject matter, and thus should be excluded from making such an assessment?

              Scientists often have to reference their own work when they present new research because their work may be among the few research works in existence or may be necessary to present new findings on previous research etc.

              I expect that some scientists will have objections to any summary of the literature, especially if they feel their area of expertise or their own work is not included to the degree they think it should be. That doesn’t necessarily mean they are right.

              • Susann,
                No, not business people or politicians, but climate scientists whose work is not cited in that section. In the area of paleoclimatology, they could use statisticians, atmospheric scientists, oceanographers, forestry scientists, etc.

                And no, Pielke should not be excluded from making an assessment that important work is being excluded. This is a good point, actually, because Mann, Briffa and others could complain during the review process if they thought their work was being neglected. The lead authors, whose own point of view is not at stake, would be free to evaluate that claim without bias.

                • Then you would have less qualified or eminent people evaluating the work of more qualified. Doesn’t make sense.

                  Sorry, but it seems to me that “skeptics” are working very hard to find whatever inconsequential issue they can in order to try to discredit the whole because they do not accept IPCC findings. Since they can’t argue the case on its own merits or present a convincing alternative, they find trivialities to debate, blowing them up all out of proportion so that they appear consequential, figuring if they can bombard the public with trivialities, the eventual weight will cause the whole to come crashing down.

                  Like water torture.

                  • it seems to me that “skeptics” are working very hard

                    Some of the people that don’t buy the AGW credo indoubtedly are doing what you accuse all of doing, but trying to consider all “skeptics” as a single group is as huge a logical fallacy as it gets.

                    In a normal world, Jones would have shared his data from day one, and Pachauri would have welcomed feedback and organized the publication of corrigenda at regular intervals. But no: Jones was too worried somebody would destroy his pet project, and Pachauri was too worried somebody would dent the credibility of the IPCC.

                    Sadly, the results of their actions have proved to be far worse than their worries: even Monckton is now having a field day despite his strange ideas…

                    ps according to a quick internet search, the corresponding English proverb is “As you make your bed, so you must lie in it“. Alternatively, try the Bible (Galatians, 6:7).

                  • No, they are not less qualified or less eminent. They may be less familiar with the field but that is the purpose of the IPCC reviewer. Prior to publication, the expert reviewers can bring up the issues they think are neglected or wrong and they can be reevaluated.

                    It is simply wrong to have people evaluating their own work. This is no excuse for it.

            • Ron, try and find the 2010 paper by Menne et al, and see why people put so little credibility on Pielke Sr. He’s still defending Watts’ surfacestations project as showing evidence of a warm bias, against all the evidence!

              • There is pretty good rebuttal of Menne et al on WUWT. Particularly troubling Watt’s suggestion that they proceeded with an unchecked old subset of “surfacestations” data rather than co-operate and get the latest (are we going OT?).

                Throughout history people put little credibility on a whole bunch of smart scientists that turned out to be right. Can we move away from that stale mindset please?

                • LOL! A pretty good rebuttal? The one example you mentioned is already invalidated by Menne et al’s article using stations that were independently checked…

                  Oh, and try asking Watts when he will do his analysis. He’s claimed that he would do his analysis when he had 75% or more. They’ve passed that number long ago (also ask him why he, without doing the data analysis, already has come with a conclusion).

                  Watts isn’t a smart scientist. He’s shown complete and utter incompetence on many occasions. Examples of hilarious Watts-disasters are not realising the difference in base periods of the different temperature sets (and thus anomalies not being the same), CO2 snow on Antarctica, and thinking one of Qing Bing Lu papers disproved CFC’s affected the ozone layer (just as a hint: QBL actually does the opposite).

                  Why oh why is Maurizio putting any credibility in this guy? Because he comes with a desirable message.

                  • I am almost sure we are OT at the moment.

                    Marco – it’s my opinion against yours. Feel free to take the last word on this thread 😎

                    But please do avoid pop-psychology. What would you say if I wrote: “why oh why wouldn’t Marco have spotted how totally incorrect was the IPCC 2035 end-of-Himalayan-glaciers claim? Because it came with a desirable message”.

                    This all sounds incredibly childish and am not going to spend another minute on it.

                    • It would indeed be childish, since I have not used this claim, ever. I didn’t even know it.
                      However, you put credibility on a person who’s been shown wrong time after time after time after time.

  5. Some more points in need of clarification:

    (a) The IPCC AR4 WG2 Chapter 13 at page 596 says “Up to 40%of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation” – how can this possibly be linked to Scholze writing of what might happen “for >3°C”?

    I don’t think anybody believe there would be anything just slight for a 3°C change.

    (b) You write: “The IPCC should have used the peer-reviewed literature instead of relying on the Rowell and Moore, yes. However, they were within their rights according to IPCC process in doing so“. But one of my points was/is that the IPCC should of course always refer to the primary sources. If the 40% claim comes from Scholze, the reference should be to Scholze, not Rowell and Moore. If it comes from Nepstad et al, the reference should be to Nepstad et al.

    As we know, both papers were known to the IPCC authors. At best, reliance on Rowell and Moore was definitely not their finest hour (we know they’re all volunteers and all that. Perhaps a last-minute rush job?).

    (c) The Annex II of the IPCC Principles you mentioned above says that “in particular, information about the experience and practice of the private sector in mitigation and adaptation activities, are found in sources that have not been published or peer-reviewed”.

    How Rowell and Moore can be considered to fall in the categories described above?

    (d) Finally, the same Annex II states “Non-peer-reviewed sources will be listed in the reference sections of IPCC Reports. These will be integrated with references for the peer-reviewed sources. These will be integrated with references to the peer reviewed
    sources stating how the material can be accessed, but will be followed by a statement that they are not published”.

    Have you seen any such “integration”? And where is the “statement that they are not published”? Is there any way a reader of the IPCC AR4 report can understand for sure if a reference is peer-reviewed or gray literature? (just asking, uh)

    • Actually, I found the wording of the IPCC section to be pretty weasely — “Up to 40%” could mean 30% or even 10% — it indicates that the precise quantity is not certain but could reach as high as 40%. It does not state “40%” will. As well, the IPCC wording included the term “could” instead of “will” so that is also contingent and uncertain. “Could” means “might but also might not”. Reacting drastically — well, what does that mean? It’s really unclear and indeterminate. The wording imparts a sense of potential risk to rainforests from global warming — that is the essence of the wording in my view and it does reflect the literature it cites.

      The annex refers to unpublished works, as well as non-peer reviewed works. So if a private corporation developed a technology to mitigate CO2 and the IPCC wanted to cite their internal non-published report, they could do so. With published but not peer reviewed work,like the WWF report, I expect the process for citation would be different since it was published. I’d have to go back and review the annex again.

      • shewonk –

        (I’ll split the comments for ease of reading and writing)

        “Reacting drastically — well, what does that mean?”

        Are you sure you want to go that way? The IPCC was supposed to report on the Literature, not to interpret it as much as making original research. If Scholze talks of “>3°C”, the IPCC when referring to Scholze should talk about “>3°C”.

        Anyway…it would be nice to hear more about how you infer that “react drastically to even a slight reduction” reflects the cited literature if the source is an article that talks about “>3°C”.

        I am not saying that you are wrong in indicating Scholze as the source of the “40%” claim: all I am saying is that I don’t understand how you manage to make the connection. Please elaborate here or in a separate blog entry, if you have time.

      • I found the wording of the IPCC section to be pretty weasely

        I have noticed that too, and blogged about the “weasel words” of the IPCC some time ago (actually, I prefer to say “wise words”).

        What I am not sure about, is sure that rhetorical gymnastics can make the IPCC authors look any good. Their predictions will be right no matter what, I agree: but that also makes them mostly useless.

      • if a private corporation developed a technology to mitigate CO2

        I think everybody would agree that inclusion of that kind of “non-peer-reviewed” and/or “non-published” work can make very good sense. But we are talking about mitigation and adaptation, whilst the “40%” claim refers to vulnerability.

        And statements such as ““We were allowed to cite gray literature provided that it looked to us to be good science.”” sound positively dodgy. Who’s controlling the controllers, and all that (you can find a similar sentence as a footnote of the AR4 WG-III Technical Summary)

        I am looking forward for any further detail you will find about Annex II and the practice of using grey literature in the IPCC AR4 report.

  6. shewonk wrote: “More misrepresentation — the article’s title is “Large-scale impoverishment of Amazonian forests by logging and fire” but it clearly indicts global warming and increases in ENSO for leading to the threat of fire to large portions of Amazonia.”

    I believe you have the relationship of climate change and Amazon forests from the Nepstad, et al paper on Large-scale Impoverishment backwards. He wasn’t referring to the effects of climate change on Amazonian forests, but how logging and fires impact the climate (via carbon emissions). From the abstract:

    “Both logging and fire increase forest vulnerability to future burning and release forest carbon stocks to the atmosphere, potentially doubling net carbon emissions from regional land-use during severe El Nino episodes.”

    From the paper itself:

    “Forest impoverishment through logging and surface fire causes a significant release of carbon to the atmosphere that is not included in existing estimates of the Amazonian carbon balance. We made a preliminary estimate of the carbon released from logging by multiplying the area of logging within each harvest intensity class (low, moderate and high, Table1) by a biomass reduction of 5, 10 and 20%, respectively. (We assumed that half of the biomass that is killed or damaged either remains alive or makes its way into long-lived wood products.) In 1996, logging released approximately 4-7% of the net annual carbon release estimated for deforestation in Brazilian Amazonia (about 0.3 X 10^9 Mg yr^-1). The potential for carbon release from forest surface fire, however, is much bigger. For example, if just one-fifth of the forests that had depleted soil water in 1998 (Fig. 1b) had caught fire (killing 20% of forest biomass), net carbon emissions from this region would have more than doubled current estimates, thus rising to a total of 10% of the net annual carbon emissions stemming from human activities worldwide. This fire-mediated release of carbon to the atmosphere adds to the carbon release that may be provoked by changes in forest metabolism during ENSO events, as predicted by ecosystem models [25].”

    The reference [25] for the last sentence is from a paper published in Nature titled “Effect of interannual climate variability on carbon storage in Amazonian ecosystems”.

    The last part of the “Effects” abstract reads:

    “In El Niño years, which bring hot, dry weather to much of the Amazon region, the ecosystems act as a source of carbon to the atmosphere (up to 0.2 petagrams of carbon in 1987 and 1992). In other years, these ecosystems act as a carbon sink (up to 0.7 Pg C in 1981 and 1993). These fluxes are large; they compare to a 0.3 Pg C per year source to the atmosphere associated with deforestation in the Amazon Basin in the early 1990s. Soil moisture, which is affected by both precipitation and temperature, and which affects both plant and soil processes, appears to be an important control on carbon storage.”

    As for “clearly indicts global warming and increases in ENSO for leading to the threat of fire to large portions of Amazonia”, I’d disagree. Here’s what Nepstad, et al says:

    “The forest openings created by logging and accidental surface fires are visible in Landsat TM images, but they are covered over by regrowing vegetation within 1 to 5 years, and are easily misclassified in the absence of accompanying field data. Although logging and forest surface fires usually do not kill all trees, they severely damage forests. Logging companies in Amazonia kill or damage 10-40% of the living biomass of forests through the harvest process. Logging also increases forest flammability by reducing forest leaf canopy coverage by 14-50%, allowing sunlight to penetrate to the forest floor, where it dries out the organic debris created by the logging. Fires ignited on agricultural lands can penetrate logged forests, killing 10-80% of the living biomass and greatly increasing the vulnerability of these forests to future burning. Fires from agricultural lands can also penetrate those undisturbed forests that have lost portions of their leaf canopies because of severe seasonal drought.”

    The conclusion Nepstad comes to, and where any clear indictment lies, is:

    “the need to either restrict the logging industry in Amazonia, or to replace conventional logging practices in moist tropical forest regions with low-impact harvest techniques. Cost-effective investments in the prevention of accidental forest fires by Amazonian farmers and ranchers are also needed.”

    I don’t doubt there is circular effect between climate change and tropical forests, each feeding into the other, and more recent papers have discussed this. However, the focus of this specific paper is not about the impact of AGW/ENSOs on Amazonia.

    • UAN2001, your quote appears to be different from the one I used:

      Here is the Nepstad quote:

      Large-scale burning of tropical forest during severe ENSO episodes may impoverish vast areas of these species -and carbon-rich ecosystems; such episodes are increasing in frequency, possibly in response to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere 26.These considerations point to the need to either restrict the logging industry in Amazonia, or to replace conventional logging practices in moist tropical forest regions with low-impact harvest techniques 17,27. Cost-effective investments in the prevention of accidental forest tres by Amazonian farmers and ranchers are also needed 28. Both of these changes are unlikely to occur unless access to these forest lands provided by expanding road networks, electrical grids and water transport systems is sharply curtailed

      Clearly, the purpose of the paper was to explore threats to the Amazon forest posed by logging and fire, indicting both for impoverishing the forests. But they also link the risk of fire to ENSO and to climate change. That is why this paper would be seen to speak to the issue of climate change impacts.

      • [reposting-sorry for the formatting problems, please delete other post]

        Sorry for the delayed reply, sick kids and work take priority!

        Here’s the section of the quote you are referring to:

        “Large-scale burning of tropical forest during severe ENSO episodes may impoverish vast areas of these species -and carbon-rich ecosystems; such episodes are increasing in frequency, possibly in response to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere 26”

        The first part of the sentence is irrelevant to your point, it is referring to burning “during” severe ENSO which “may” impoverish vast areas. The issue here, related to climate, is the part that it may impoverish vast areas of “carbon-rich ecosystems”. Again, it’s the impact of fires on carbon emissions, not impact of CC/ENSOs on fire that is at issue. And it’s the stated concern in the abstract and paper itself. Not to mention that ENSOs are part of the natural variability in the region. I think it’s worth mentioning, that the fire discussed here is from land-use slash and burn farming practices, not from lightning strikes, etc. ENSOs do not, on their own, cause any fires.

        The link of fire to ENSO comes from the second part of the sentence, about the frequency of severe ENSO episodes and the “possible” relation to greenhouse gases. First, if you look at the reference for this, it’s from a paper by Trenberth which is a response to 2 papers that contradicted a statistical analysis that he had done 2 years before. Hardly resolved science. The purpose of Nepstad’s use of the reference wasn’t to make an argument for, or show a link between, CC and fires, but to reinforce the risk of increased carbon emissions from the forest into the atmosphere if logging and agriculture practices weren’t changed.

        If you look at a more recent work from Nepstad, it would seem to confirm that direction (the impact of deforestation on climate). Nepstad was an author on a paper “Tropical Forests and Climate Policy” (Science, May 18, 2007, Raymond E. Gullison, et al) that looked into the issue of deforestation and its impact on climate. From the introduction:

        “Tropical deforestation released ~1.5 billion metric tons of carbon (GtC) to the atmosphere annually throughout the 1990s, accounting for almost 20% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions (1). Without implementation of effective policies and measures to slow deforestation, clearing of tropical forests will likely release an additional 87 to 130 GtC by 2100 (2), corresponding to the carbon release of more than a decade of global fossil fuel combustion at current rates. Drought-induced tree mortality, logging, and fire may double these emissions (3), and loss of carbon uptake (i.e., sink capacity) as forest area decreases may further amplify atmospheric CO2 levels (4).”

        Deforestation in the tropics has the potential to release huge amounts of carbon, equivalent to 10 years of current global fossil fuel emissions. Conversely, preserving them would provide a carbon sink. And land-use is the key driver in that deforestation.

        In addition, other research in the Amazon also focuses on deforestation caused by land-use. A paper from Science “The Future of the Brazilian Amazon” (Jan 19, 2001 – William F. Laurance,* Mark A. Cochrane, Scott Bergen, Philip M. Fearnside, Patricia Delamônica, Christopher Barber, Sammya D’Angelo, Tito Fernandes) predicts massive changes in the Amazon by 2020:

        From the abstract (

        “The Brazilian Amazon is currently experiencing the world’s highest absolute rate of forest destruction and is likely to suffer even greater degradation in the future because of government plans to invest $40 billion from 2000 to 2007 in dozens of major new highways and infrastructure projects. We developed two computer models that integrate spatial data on deforestation, logging, mining, highways and roads, navigable rivers, vulnerability to wildfires, protected areas, and existing and planned infrastructure projects, in an effort to predict the condition of Brazilian Amazonian forests by the year 2020. Both models suggest that the region’s forests will be drastically altered by current development schemes and land-use trends over the next 20 years.”

        The supplemental materials page is an interesting read (;291/5503/438/DC1). It states that “there are at least four key proximate and ultimate drivers of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon”:

        1. Rapid population growth;

        2. Industrial logging and mining;

        3. Changing spatial patterns of deforestation;

        4. Wildfires. To be clear on the wildfires, here is what the paper states:

        “Tens of thousands of fires are lit each year by Amazonian ranchers and slash-and-burn farmers, leading to many serious wildfires, especially during periodic El Niño droughts (4-5). Logging and habitat fragmentation greatly increase the vulnerability of Amazonian forests to fires (6-8).”

        While it “cites” El Nino drought, it’s clearly not the key driver for deforestation or even lost of forest areas from fires, nor a cause of fires. However, deforestation of the Amazon could have significant impact on the global climate.

        Here’s a link to some reviews and comments on the Laurance, et al paper:

        But, if for the sake of argument, you still want to draw that conclusion–linking risk of fires to ENSO and CC–then that conclusion may, in fact, be factually wrong. Filed under the heading of “Weather is not Climate” and “Climate is complex and nonlinear”, more recent research is starting to show the effects of CC may actually be MILDER ENSO episodes:

        In a paper “Future changes of El Niño in two global coupled climate models” (Meehl, Teng, Branstator, Climate Dynamics Vol 26, #6, May, 2006):

        With increased CO2 in the models, there is a reduction of amplitude of El Niño events. This is particularly apparent with larger forcing in the stabilized 4×CO2 experiment in PCM and the stabilized greenhouse gas A1B experiment in CCSM3, where the reduction of amplitude is outside the range of the inherent multi-century variability of El Niño in the control runs of the models and is statistically significant. With moderately increased forcing (stabilized 2×CO2 in PCM and the stabilized B1 experiment in CCSM3), the reduction in amplitude is evident, but it is not significant. The change in El Niño behavior with larger forcing is attributed to the change in base state temperature in the equatorial Pacific, which is similar with increased greenhouse gases (GHGs) in both models. Positive temperature anomalies in and below the thermocline, associated with a reduction of the trade winds, and weakened Pacific Ocean subtropical cells, produce a less intense thermocline, and consequently lower amplitude El Niño events. The previously noted intensification of El Niño tropical precipitation anomalies in a warmer mean base state that applied when there was no appreciable change in El Niño amplitude does not hold in the present study where the El Niño events decrease in magnitude in a future warmer climate.”

        So what does the future hold for ENSOs? May be more severe. May be weaker. So what is the effect of CC on the Amazon via ENSOs? Certainly the Nepstad paper doesn’t provide any information, nor any primary data or analysis to show this. Beyond the trends in the research, trying to use the Nepstad paper on logging to show an impact of CC on the Amazon is a case of cherry-picking, as bad as what many skeptics do to validate their positions and obfuscates the real concerns folks like Nepstad have.

        “shewonk wrote: That is why this paper would be seen to speak to the issue of climate change impacts.”

        If the WWF wants to use this info as part of a campaign effort, sure what the hay, but as state of the science on the impact of CC on the Amazon rainforest for use in the IPCC report? No. I can’t imagine, with all the literature available, that any scientist would use the Nepstad quote in the way you described, nor do I think a scientist would see this paper speaking to the issue of cc change in the way you’re describing, either.

        There are actually other Nepstad papers that could be used, that actually looks into drought and vulnerability of the Amazon, and is more indicative of the type of paper appropriate for trying to make the CC connection, including “Interactions among Amazon land use, forestsand climate: prospects for a near-termforest tipping point” (Phil. Trans. Soc. B, 2008) or “Amazon drought and its implications for forest flammability and tree growth: a basin-wide analysis” (Global Change Biology, 2004). The latter paper concludes (

        “We present these findings as a preliminary assessment of the spatial and temporal patterns of drought in the Amazon and their implications for forest flamm-ability and forest tree growth. There are many uncertainties present in this analysis that should be the themes of further research. We have validated our PAW model with field measurements from only two forests. We have assumed, conservatively, that theforests of the Amazon do not have root-impeding layers that would make them more susceptible to drought except for small patches of Lithosols (Fig. 4).And we have not attempted to map those forests that have shallow water tables supplied by subsurface flowfrom regions of high rainfall, where our model would underestimate PAW, nor have we estimated surface runoff. These are some of the topics warranting further investigation to better understand drought and its effects on Amazon forests.”

        As you can see, much more relevant to the point the IPCC was trying to make, and a more legitimate source from the same author. And available at the time the IPCC report was being worked on. Note the caution on what can and can’t be said, not to mention what a paper discussing the impact of drought on the Amazon should look like, in terms of methodology and analysis, rather than the paper on logging.

        If you look at the 2008 paper, while building on some of this works, clearly separates out the immediate dangers of deforestation, the impact of that deforestation on the climate, and potential long term impact of temperature change at >2C. ( :

        “7. Conclusion

        Synergistic trends in Amazon economies, forests and climate could lead to the replacement or severe degradation of more than half of the closed-canopy forests of the Amazon Basin by the year 2030, even without invoking fire or global warming. Counteracting these trends are emerging changes in landholder behaviour, recent successes in establishing large blocks of protected areas in active agricultural frontiers and practical techniques for concentrating livestock production on smaller areas of land that could reduce the likelihood of a large-scale self-reinforcing replacement of forest by fire-prone brush. In the long term, however, the avoidance of an Amazon forest dieback may depend upon worldwide reductions of greenhouse gas emissions that are large enough to prevent global temperatures from rising more than a degree or two.”

        More than half the Amazon could be gone by 2030 WITHOUT fire or global warming. The immediate effort from land-use change can bring about huge changes:

        “Since most of the Amazon carbon emissions are caused by forest conversion to cattle ranching with low profitability (Arima & Uhl 1997; Kaimowitz et al. 2004; Margulis 2003), such a mechanism could restrict the expansion of this land use to the remaining forest regions of the Amazon, thus reducing the risk of a near-term forest dieback scenario. We estimate that deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon could be brought to approximately zero within 10 years within the context of a 30-year programme costing $8 billion, or less than $2 per tonne of reduced carbon emission (Nepstad et al. 2007b).”

        If the program he talks about is implemented, and combined with more current information and impact of CC on ENSO (milder? more severe? the same?), then a new study would need to be done to address the new calculus brought about by the changes.

        As for the Scholze paper, and something to keep in mind when talking about computer models in general, as has been pointed out by many studies, there may not be an Amazon forest around by the time a >3C increase happens that might impact 40% of the Amazon forest.

  7. Maurizio and Layman Lurker are quite right.
    The IPCC claim is about 40% of the Amazon forests.
    The Scholze paper is about risks and probabilities. It says the risk of forest losses can be 40%. It says nothing about the amount of forest loss.
    The two are completely different things.

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