As I expected, FOX News, that bastion of fair and balanced reporting, has picked up on the Amazongate kerfuffle and has posted a story on its oneline site.
Here is an excerpt from the article titled U.N.’s Global Warming Report Under Fresh Attack for Rainforest Claims
In the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4), issued in 2007 by the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), scientists wrote that 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest in South America was endangered by global warming.
But that assertion was discredited this week when it emerged that the findings were based on numbers from a study by the World Wildlife Federation that had nothing to do with the issue of global warming — and that was written by a freelance journalist and green activist.
The IPCC report states that “up to 40 percent of the Amazonian forests could react drastically to even a slight reduction in precipitation” — highlighting the threat climate change poses to the Earth. The report goes on to say that “it is more probable that forests will be replaced by ecosystems … such as tropical savannas.”
But it has now been revealed that the claim was based on a WWF study titled “Global Review of Forest Fires,” a paper barely related to the Amazon rainforest that was written “to secure essential policy reform at national and international level to provide a legislative and economic base for controlling harmful anthropogenic forest fires.”
EUReferendum, a blog skeptical of global warming, uncovered the WWF association. It noted that the original “40 percent” figure came from a letter published in the journal Nature that discussed harmful logging activities –– and again had nothing to do with global warming.
The reference to the Brazilian rainforest can be found in Chapter 13 of the IPCC Working Group II report, the same section of AR4 in which claims are made that the Himalayan glaciers are rapidly melting because of global warming. Last week, the data leading to this claim were disproved as well, a scandal being labeled “glacier-gate” or “Himalaya-gate.” [my emphasis]
The claim that the WWF study had nothing to do with global warming is pure dreck. Yes, it was titled “Global Review of Forest Fires” but that doesn’t mean it has no bearing on AGW.
Here is an excerpt from the Introduction:
Firstly, there is mounting evidence that forest fires will increase in number and size due to a link between climate change and the climate phenomenon called El Niño, which caused the drought that affected much of the forests which caught fire in 1997 and 98. The frequency and intensity of El Niño could be increasing1, which means the world faces warmer more violent weather, and more forest fires.
Here is a quote from the section on Fires and Global Warming:
Not only are forest fires a significant source of carbon emitted into the atmosphere which exacerbates climate change, but forests are an irreplaceable sink of carbon too. So when forests burn, there is a double negative effect on the climate because instead of actually absorbing carbon dioxide, the gas is emitted by the burning biomass49.
The concern is that climate change increases the frequency of El Nino, leading to more forest fires and that those fires in turn exacerbate climate change, which then leads to more forest fires in a feedback cycle.
The WWF paper was focused on fire but it cited global warming as increasing the risk of fire. The link is between increased risk to Amazonia due to fires, part of which is due to global warming and increase in ENSO events and severity.
So, no — FOX “news” got it wrong — the paper did not have “globalwarmingomg” in the title, but it clearly linked fires in the rainforests to global warming and ENSO events.
They cited Motl as an authority to explain why climate change had nothing to do with fire in the Amazon:
“Lubos Motl, a Czech physicist and former Harvard University faculty member, said the deforestation of the Amazon has occurred, but not because of global warming. He said it was due to social and economic reasons, including the clearing of cattle pastures, subsistence agriculture, the building of infrastructure and logging.”
Of course, most of the deforestation up until recently is due to human clearing, but there is a body of research that links ENSO to climate change and ENSO to increased fires in rainforests. The WWF document clearly speaks about the El Nino in 1998 and the risks to the rainforests in the future due to AGW.
Of course, the IPCC report also references Scholze et al, a peer-reviewed paper. I note that none of the deniers mention it. Scholze et al find the following, based on modelling fires and climate change:
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.
Any way you slice it, climate change is indicted — it increases the risk of fires due to increased temperature and ENSO events / severity with losses greater than 40% for a >3 deg increase in temp for parts of Eurasia, Amazonia and Canada. That’s not good.
Mountains out of molehills (use of WWF gray literature) — molehills out of mountains (risk of fire loss to significant portions of rainforests).
Like I say, deniers and contrarians are not about the evidence — they are about the spin. They cite Andrew Wheeler who worked for Sen. James Inhofe — excuse me while I laugh out loud at that.
Here’s his quote:
“If it is true that IPCC has indeed faked numbers regarding the Amazon, or used unsubstantiated facts, then it is the third nail in the IPCC coffin in less than three months,” Andrew Wheeler, former staff director for the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works Committee, told FoxNews.com. “For years, we have been told that the IPCC peer review process is the gold standard in scientific review. It now appears it is more of a fool’s gold process.”
Wheeler, who is now a senior vice president with B&D Consulting’s Energy, Climate and Environment Practice in Washington, said the latest scandal calls into question the “entire underpinnings” of the IPCC’s assessment and peer review process.
Yeah, Wheeler is now a lobbyist for B&D Consulting on climate and energy.
Say no more.
Fair and balanced.